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This web site is part of a National Science Foundation-sponsored project aimed at expanding knowledge of systematics of the unusually diverse marine gastropod genus Conus. The project goals are to integrate species-level revisionary systematics of the major regional faunas, contribute to molecular-based phylogenetic hypotheses, expand predictive classifications, and promulgate the results in both electronic and print media.

Conus is an unusually important candidate for revisionary studies because of its

  1. Biodiversity: With more than 500 extant species Conus is the largest genus of marine invertebrates and a major contributor to biodiversity in the sea;
  2. Distribution and abundance: Conus occurs throughout the tropical and subtropical oceans but is most diverse in the Indo-West Pacific region. It attains maximum density of 40 individuals per square meter but is usually much less abundant.
  3. Ecology: Large size, abundance, high local diversity (up to 36 spp./habitat), and rather uniform trophic position as primary carnivores make Conus ecologically important;
  4. Limited prior revisionary synthesis: Only the Indo-Pacific taxa have been monographed recently, while those of other regions remain poorly known;
  5. Practical significance: Applications of Conus in neurobiology and medicine are increasing rapidly, as the conotoxins produced to subdue prey are widely used to identify specific ion channels, and about 80 patents for medical uses have been awarded to date;
  6. Evolutionary diversification: Conus has diversified more rapidly than any other marine gastropod genus, doubling species number on average every 6 million years since its origin about 55 million years ago.

Because a taxonomic catalogue is a sine qua non for research in systematics, the main feature of this web site is a searchable database comprising a catalogue of all available species-level names proposed in Conus see (Catalogue). The site includes entries for 3,253 available species published between 1758 and 2009. Each entry includes the citation of the original description. Many include photographic images of primary type specimens, pdf copies of original descriptions, literature records of fossils, and links to sequences of genes reported to GenBank. The site also includes 15 short videos of feeding behavior in vermivorous, molluscivorous and piscivorous species of Conus, citations of publications resulting from the project to date, and updates and corrections to the Manual of Living Conidae, Vol. 1: Indo-Pacific Region, by Röckel, Korn and Kohn (1995). When complete, the site will include taxonomic histories, descriptions, morphometrics, and range maps, as well as additional photographs of type specimens, shells and living animals to illustrate variability in form and color patterns. It will also incorporate data from prior and new character sets, including shell and radular tooth morphometry, ecological and developmental attributes, and gene sequences.

If you would like to suggest contributions to this web site or have questions about it, please contact us.

Alan J. Kohn
Principal Investigator
Trevor Anderson
Research Technologist