Ecological and population characteristics of the seashell Conus princeps on the Pacific coast of central Mexico

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Jesus Emilio Michel-Morfín
Gilberto A Medina-Vargas
Víctor Landa-Jaime
Judith Arciniega-Flores
Manuel B Aguilar
Edgar P Heimer de la Cotera

Abstract

Marine snails of the genus Conus have acquired remarkable biomedical importance because of the high number of toxins they produce for feeding and self-defense. One of these toxins gave way to a new medication and two other are under development for clinical and cosmetic purposes. Nevertheless, there is little basic knowledge about this group of species, particularly in Mexico. This study aimed to determine the relative abundance, spatial distribution, bathymetric distribution, and habitat preference of the snail Conus princeps along the southern coast of Jalisco (Mexico). To achieve this goal, we conducted direct samplings by snorkeling or scuba diving at 13 beaches, covering the intertidal, shallow subtidal, and deep subtidal zones. Relative density was between 0.021 and 0.418 snails per 100 m2, with an average value of 0.152 snails per 100 m2. The population showed an aggregated spatial distribution pattern according to the nearest neighbor index. Snails had shells that measured between 23.1 mm and 52.2 mm long, with an average shell size of 39.7 mm. Conus princeps was mainly distributed in the intertidal and shallow subtidal zones. The smaller organisms were present at shallower depths, while the larger organisms were distributed throughout the sampled depth habitats. In general, snail abundance decreased as depth increased. From the underwater photography analysis, we determined that Conus princeps snails prefer rocky bottom habitats covered with brown seaweed.

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