Flamingo tongue snail

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Flamingo tongue snail
Cyphoma gibbosum (living) 2.jpg
Cyphoma gibbosum feeding on a soft coral; siphon visible at the top, tip of the tail visible at the bottom. A large feeding scar is visible as a brown stripe on the coral.
Cyphoma gibbosum 01.JPG
Five views of a shell of Cyphoma gibbosum (Linné, 1758)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Mollusca
Class: Gastropoda
(unranked): clade Caenogastropoda

clade Hypsogastropoda
clade Littorinimorpha

Family: Ovulidae
Genus: Cyphoma
Species: C. gibbosum
Binomial name
Cyphoma gibbosum
(Linnaeus, 1758)
  • Bulla gibbosa Linnaeus, 1758
  • Cyphoma dorsata Röding, 1798
  • Cyphoma gibbosa (Linnaeus, 1758) (error in gender ending)
  • Cyphoma precursor Dall, 1897
  • Ovula pharetra Perry, 1811

The flamingo tongue snail, scientific name Cyphoma gibbosum, is a species of small but brightly colored sea snail, a marine gastropod mollusk in the family Ovulidae, the cowry allies.


This Cyphoma is the most common of several species in the genus which lives in the tropical waters of the western Atlantic Ocean from North Carolina to northern coast of Brazil, including the Bermuda, the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and the Lesser Antilles .[2]


When it is living, the snail appears bright orange-yellow in color with black markings. However, these colors are not in the shell, but are only due to live mantle tissue which usually cover the shell. The mantle flaps can be retracted, exposing the shell, but this usually happens only when the animal is attacked.

The shells reach on average 25–35 millimetres (0.98–1.38 in) of length, with a minimum size of 18 millimetres (0.71 in) and a maximum shell length of 44 millimetres (1.7 in).[3] The shape is usually elongated and the dorsum shows a thick transversal ridge. The dorsum surface is smooth and shiny and may be white or orange, with no markings at all except a longitudinal white or cream band. The base and the interior of Cyphoma gibbosum shell is white or pinkish, with a wide aperture.


Flamingo tongue on a sea fan

The minimum recorded depth is 0 m; the maximum recorded depth is 29 m.[3]

The flamingo feeds by browsing on the living tissues of the soft corals on which it lives. Common prey include Briareum spp., Gorgonia spp., Plexaura spp., and Plexaurella spp. Adult female C. gibbosum attach eggs to coral which they have recently fed upon. After roughly a week and a half, the larvae hatch. They are planktonic and eventually settle onto other gorgonian corals. Juveniles tend to remain on the underside of coral branches while adults are far more visible and mobile. Adults scrape the polyps off the coral with their radula, leaving an easily visible feeding scar on the coral. However, the corals can regrow the polyps, and therefore predation by C. gibbosum is generally not lethal.

Survival status[edit]

This species used to be common, but it has become rather uncommon in heavily visited areas because of over-collecting by snorkelers and scuba divers, who make the mistake of thinking that the bright colors are in the shell of the animal.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Gary Rosenberg (2013). "Cyphoma gibbosum (Linnaeus, 1758)". World Register of Marine Species. Retrieved 15 October 2013. 
  2. ^ http://www.gastropods.com/2/Shell_442.shtml
  3. ^ a b Welch J. J. (2010). "The "Island Rule" and Deep-Sea Gastropods: Re-Examining the Evidence". PLoS ONE 5(1): e8776. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0008776.

Further reading[edit]

  • Burkepile D. E. & Hay M. E. (2007). "Predator release of the gastropod Cyphoma gibbosum increases predation on gorgonian corals". Oecologia 154(1): 167–173. doi:10.1007/s00442-007-0801-4
  • Whalen K. E., Lane A. L., Kubanek J., Hahn M. E. (2010). "Biochemical Warfare on the Reef: The Role of Glutathione Transferases in Consumer Tolerance of Dietary Prostaglandins". PLoS ONE 5(1): e8537. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0008537

External links[edit]