Friday mystery object #199 answer

On Friday I gave you this rather beautiful object to identify,which came to light during our mollusc Bioblitz last week:


It turns out that it didn’t prove much of a challenge and was identified to species level in no time. So well done to Kevin, Anna Pike, @benharvey1 and Carlos Grau!

In fact, Carlos went a step further than identifying the specimen and told the very story I was planning to tell in this post. It’s great to hear stories like this about specimens or species, so I’ll share it with you in Carlos’ words:

This picture immediately brought back memories of my old seashell-collecting guide I had when I was about 12 and haven’t looked at for years and years (I will look for it next time I’m at my parent’s). The book said that this species was considered so valuable that fakes were made in rice paste by Chinese artisans, and that the counterfeits are now more rare and valuable than the actual shell! I remember finding that bit of information amazing.

It’s been so long I had to Google the book, it’s “Guide to Seashells of the World” by R. Tucker Abbott.

The animal is…

… a Precious Wentletrap Epitonium scalare (Linnaeus, 1758).

It turns out that this story and the delicate shell have inspired artisans into the 21st Century, with some remarkable demonstrations of skill being produced as a result.

This marine snail is an active predator, feeding on sea anemones in tropical waters. The fragile shell gets its structural support from the distinctive ribs (or costae if you want to be fancy). Those supporting ribs are also what gives this species and it’s relatives the common name “Wentletrap”, which is derived from the Dutch word for a spiral staircase.

I hope you enjoyed the change from vertebrates – I may start broadening my horizons as more interesting specimens come to light during out collections reviews!

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