Conus Geographus – To Die For?

When researching for undetectable venom (as you do), it’s important to look for the unusual and unremarkable.

The Geographer Snail, found in the warmer waters of the Red Sea as well as coastal regions around Madagascar and Mozambique, has a very attractive shell. Those without local knowledge can unwittingly pick them up and be stung. Researchers found that the venom is unique in that it also contains a protein pain killer, 10,000 times more effective than Morphine but without any of the side effects or addictive traits of the opiate drug.

At between 10cm and 12cm in length, it is one of the larger taxonomic clades of the Caenogastropoda, first established by the eminent scientist Leslie Cox back in 1960. I digress.

Science sets out to determine how to isolate naturally occurring painkillers for the benefit of mankind. Such a non-toxic and non-addictive painkiller has many benefits. And a project to isolate the most effective proteins, in a laboratory, would be just the kind of research that Leila’s best friend Suze would do at Stanford Labs in California. Indeed, she has already done so and tested its painkilling qualities on her close friends with great effect. The paralysis lasted no longer than a couple of hours and it was great fun.

Stanford Lab also carries out research for the USA Government and the very same cute crustacean produces a very deadly payload to administer to its paralysed victims. They originally estimated a Lethal Dose (LD)70 value (in humans). Other figures estimate LD50 values of 0.012-0.03 mg/kg. These latter estimates make the geographic cone snail the most venomous animal in the world.

Conus Geographus uses the pain relief element to disguise the injection that delivers its venomous poison. The victim doesn’t even know it has been stung.

Locals call it the cigarette snail. This is usually how long the victim has before succumbing to the venom and dying.