Have you ever seen a white shell with yellow spots precariously attached to a sea rod or sea fan? That’s a Flamingo Tongue snail!
Although their shells appear beautifully patterned with colorful spots, these spots are only visible while the snail is alive. A Flamingo Tongue’s shell is actually white. The vibrant spots come from the snail’s mantle which is extended over the shell.
What do they eat?
Only ¾ to 1 inch in size, these little snails feed on the polyps of sea rods as well as other gorgonians (soft corals). As gastropods, aka stomach-footed snails, Flamingo Tongues use their foot to eat!
Who eats them?
Flamingo Tongues only have a few predators, such as the hogfish, pufferfish, and the Caribbean Spiny lobster. Apparently their mantle is not too tasty to fish, so it acts a defense mechanism.
Commonly found in Florida, the Bahamas, and the Caribbean, Flamingo Tongues can be seen anywhere from 6 to 45 feet, although I have seen them much deeper.
Based on this tid-bit from National Geographic, it appears the Flamingo Tongues can ingest toxic sea fan polyps without being injured, but in turn they become toxic themselves. Scientists believe the toxic chemicals ingested by the snails are the cause for their distastefulness.
Flamingo Tongues are becoming less common due to over-collecting by divers and snorkelers. Please do NOT collect LIVE Flamingo Tongues…take only pictures!
“Don’t take Florida for granted” (Pura Vida Divers).