© Joseph Dougherty. All rights reserved.
Purple Sea Fans
Flamingo Tongue snail (Cyphoma gibbosum) on a large Purple Sea Fan (Gorgonia ventalina) at the crest of the reef. Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Ambergris Caye, Belize.
The flamingo tongue snail is a species of small but brightly-colored sea snail, a marine gastropod mollusk in the family Ovulidae, the cowry allies. Although the live animal is brightly colored, that color is only in the fleshy mantle of the snail; the shell itself is rather plain.
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.