Posted: Aug 24 2010

 Conus jaspideus Gmelin, 1791, And Discussion of the Jaspideus Complex

By Marlo F. Krisberg, August 23, 2010

The perspective taken in my presentations of the Jaspideus-like shells found in Florida is that true Conus jaspideus Gmelin, 1791 is not found in Florida. The following slides present a description of the neotype of C. jaspideus, excerpts from the presentations of C. pealii Green, 1830 and C. stearnsii Conrad, 1869, and comparative comments. There then follows a discussion of the chain of events leading to this presentation.

This topic is a patchwork of slides from other presentations prepared to address the shells of the "Jaspideus Complex" that occur in Florida. As a result, I apologize that there may be some repetitive explanations. This presentation is oriented around the work of Danker L. N. Vink, The Conidae of the Western Atlantic Part XV, La Conchiglia, Year XXII - N 261 (October/December 1991). Vink found that apparently no type specimens of Gmelin’s C. jaspideus ever existed. So, in order to stabilize this species, he deposited a neotype (a type specimen that is selected subsequent to the description of a species to replace a preexisting type that has been lost) in the Museum d’Histoire naturelle, Geneva. The neotype was collected off Monos Island, Trinidad, which is believed to be the locality for Gmelin’s C. jaspideus.

                                         Mystery Shell Generates Issue of Conus Jaspideus in Florida

This is a long and involved story. It started on a

rainy night (June 15, 2010) when I had in my

possession photos of a Cone shell photographed

by Anne DuPont in the dark of night on June 12,

2010 at the north end of Lake Worth, Palm Beach

County, Florida, and identified by Anne as Conus

anabathrum. I’d never heard of C. anabathrum

Crosse, 1865 and immediately became suspicious.

Mysteriously (or coincidentally), on June 15th

Marien Faber posted the following query on

Conch-L:

“is there any (first hand) information on Conus

anabathrum Crosse from south of Florida,

perhaps from as south as the Dutch leeward

Islands? Please check your collections. The

species is perhaps better known as C. floridanus

Gabb, and C. floridensis Sowerby.”

Marlo responded with the following post on Conch-L:

“Coincidentally a friend has just a few days ago sent me some images of a live cone from the north end of Lake Worth, Palm Beach Co., FL identified as Conus anabathrum. My first reaction was ‘this sure looks like C. stearnsii.’ Having never worked much with cones, I was wondering what the Cone community might opine as to them being the same; or, if not, what distinguishes them?”

Via direct email,
Lyle Therriault suggested:

“Usually the biggest difference is the size.....anabathrum are larger averaging 25-45mm, while stearnsi is small averaging 15-18mm. Coloration differs, anabathrum being a yellow brown with blotches and spiral line usually always broken. Stearnsi is usually grayish to brown, with only some specimens being toward black, and spiral lines which in some shells are not broken. The animal itself in most cases is the same reddish pink, but upon slight magnification I am told the siphonal canals are different in terms of banding and or color."


John Tucker, contributor to The Cone Collector, replied on Conch-L:

“The name stearnsii is considered by many to be a species of Jaspidiconus related to J. jaspideus. It is either a subspecies of J. jaspideus or a full species. I think the former is more likely than the latter. Gradiconus anabathrum is a completely different creature and belongs in my opinion in a separate family (Conidae) than does J. jaspideus (Conilithidae). These differ markedly in radular morphology. G. anabathrum has a tooth with serrations, whereas the Jaspidiconus have teeth that are not serrated at all. The Gradiconus have a periostracum that at the least has a periostracum that has a fringe along the shoulder angle. The periostracum of Jaspidiconus is smooth. These details are spelled out in the book that I and Manuel Tenorio published in 2009 (Systematic classification of Recent and fossil conoidean gastropods, ConchBooks).”


Marlo: Interesting information, and a clear indication that C. anabathrum differs from C. stearnsii, but no real help to a novice like me who has never seen a radula.

Meanwhile, using all avenues to address this mystery, I had sent Harry Lee, author of Marine Shells of Northeast Florida 2009 and the Peanut Island Marine Checklist (Peanut Island is at the north end of Lake Worth), Anne’s photos and another one of a cone I had collected from the same location and that was photographed (and later DNA sequenced) by Gustav Paulay, Associate Curator of Marine Malacology, Florida Museum of Natural History, and asked “What distinguishes Anne’s C. anabathrum from C. jaspideus?”

Harry replied:

“All three images depict Conus jaspideus Gmelin, 1791 Jasper Cone. I cannot improve on the differential diagnosis provided by Abbott (1974: 256).”


Marlo: Lyle’s comments seemed to create the possibility these could be C. anabathrum (or at least may not be C. stearnsii). But, Harry’s position was pretty firmly presented and consistent with his past direct examination of similar shells I’d sent him from this location. Anne photographs the shells and leaves them undisturbed, so we have only her photos. Not totally convinced and still looking for some clues as to what characters a collector with no more than an empty shell on hand could rely upon to distinguish C. anabathrum from C. stearnsii, I sent the photos and Harry’s comment to Bill Fenzan, one of the respondents to Marien’s initial inquiry and a helpful Conch-Ler, and asked if he had a comment.

Bill replied:

“Sometimes short, simple questions have long, messy answers. I can provide you with a set of opinions, but they would require a lot of work to support that has not been done. Would another unsupported opinion shed light or just stir things up? I wonder.

Here are some brief comments. Conus jaspideus is poorly defined in the original description of Gmelin. This is well documented. Vink made a case for establishing a neotype based on a shell found off Trinidad after Abbott published the second volume of American Seashells that Harry cites. This neotype designation was recently confirmed by the IZCN. Even so, C. jaspideus (and the other taxa introduced to describe related shells) is still poorly understood.

In my opinion, the shells in both Gustav's photo and Anne's photo log you sent are most probably a live-taken specimen of what Ed Petuch named C. pfleugeri in 2004. My current belief is that a larger example of the same Lake Worth population was previously named C. lymani Clench, 1942. C. lymani was originally described as C. bermudensis lymani, even though the Lake Worth shells are very different from material collected off Bermuda. Later, both names (bermudensis and lymani) were placed by many authors in the synonomy of C. mindanus Hwass in Bruguière, 1792. So, I believe that these photos illustrate localized specimens of C. mindanus. I have asked some friends to look into this idea, but they have not reported back to me on their opinion.

Other, related taxa (e.g. C. pealii Green, 1830 (Holotype lost, poor figure), C. stearnsii Conrad, 1869 (Holotype in ANSP), and C. sticticus A. Adams in H. & A. Adams, 1853 (Holotype in Natural History Museum, London (formerly BM(NH))) are also poorly understood. Their variation was studied briefly by Vink and some others, but not exhaustively. For the moment, I use C. pealii for the shells from Florida (primarily the Keys) that are usually called C. jaspideus. The holotype of C. stearnsii is available in Philadelphia for study ….

Most specimens I have seen labeled as C. stearnsii are narrower than the neotype of C. jaspideus. They also tend to have a carinate shoulder, but this may not be constant. Filmer (2001) considers C. sticticus to be an earlier name for C. stearnsii and he recommends someone request of the IZCN that the name C. sticticus be designated a senior synonym of the well-established C. stearnsii, but to my knowledge no one has yet done so…

Hope this helps.” (Click Here to see photo of Conus sticticus A. Adams, 1854)


Marlo: Well, it helped and it didn’t. It confirmed my

reaction to John’s comments – “I’m still baffled!!!!”

Anne’s shell could be any one of at least six names.

Oh well, there were other things to do. So I figured I’d

let it go and I moved on to another project. The project

was to defrost some shells stored from an expedition

in the Florida Keys. I started working through the shells

and came upon an unfamiliar cone. A little research

and no quick results, so I turned to Conch-L for help

and on 8/6/10, 6:12AM posted:

“Cones are one of my weaker suits. And, after the

last discussion, I'm completely uncertain.”

 

 

18 minutes later Bill Fenzan suggested:

“Suggest you consider Conus pealii Green, 1830. See La Conchiglia, Year XXII - N 261 (October/December 1991) for a paper by Danker Vink on the C. jaspideus complex cones.”

And, shortly afterward
Andre of Aurantius Shells replied:

“This is Conus pealii - which some refer to as ‘Jaspidiconus jaspideus pealii.’ Very good size for this species.”


Marlo:  Bill’s suggestion reminded me of Vink’s paper and a batch of C. pealii I had set aside years ago pending a more in-depth examination. After digging through over 10 years of “set aside for the moment projects” and blowing off the dust, I skimmed through Vink’s article, compared all my shells labeled as C. jaspideus, C. pealii and C. stearnsii (including the ones from Lake Worth and the above photos of Lake Worth shells), and experienced a eureka moment. The photos of the Lake Worth shells really don’t display the necessary detail, but my shells from there do, Harry thinks they’re C. stearnsii, and my shells fit Vink’s discussion. Why not go ahead and create a comparative presentation and get the Conch-L community’s reaction. But, before I do, maybe some more feedback from Harry and Bill would be a good idea. So, on August 6th I sent them the following inquiry:

“You probably read the emails to Conch-L. Some related, direct emails are attached. Then there’s the La Conchiglia, Year XXII - N 261 (October/December 1991) paper by Danker Vink on the C. jaspideus complex that Bill mentions... I skimmed Vink’s article and he seems to be saying C. jaspideus doesn’t occur in Florida; rather C. stearnsii occurs on the west coast and Key West, C. pealii mainly in the Keys and maybe SW Florida, and he makes no mention of either on the east coast... His descriptions of the three do seem to exclude C. jaspideus from the Florida shells I’ve examined, with all I’ve examined easily falling in stearnsii or pealii. Since Abbott made pealii a synonym of jaspideus, if we assumed Vink to be correct that the two are distinct, but confused in earlier literature, then there is no real contradiction among them. Just substitute pealii in Abbott for his jaspideus and the description generally fits.” “However, that still leaves the others’ opinions that Anne’s shell is C. anabathrum, of which Abbott made no mention in any manner, nor Vink, despite the close similarity to pealii.

I’m glad I don’t normally do cones.”


Harry replied in part:

“I think you are going to unnatural lengths to reconcile Abbott and Vink. They are but two of the blind men describing the elephant in the parable.

I think you'll find that, if progress is to be made with this species complex, there must be a more critical comparison among the shells of this complex, and lots of specimens from lots of places is a necessary starting point.

You'll have to explain 'However, that still leaves the others’ opinions that Anne’s shell is C. anabathrum. It would appear that you are unaware that Conus anabathrum is the same as C. floridanus? (Lee, 2009: 128; sp. 621).”

To which I replied:

“Actually, I was trying to reconcile the comments I got regarding the differences between stearnsii and anabathrum in order to figure out why Anne labeled her shell anabathrum. Then, I was trying to reconcile your comment that it was stearnsii when Vink and Bill seem to indicate stearnsii is not found on the east coast. And, since the P-Isl . shells always struck me as closer to pealii than stearnsii, I was suggesting, since you referred to Abbott, that it could be Abbott’s jaspideus, which he equated to pealii. Now I understand you 'have straddled the taxonomic fence'.”

Over the weekend that followed (lots of rain) I developed a presentation following Vink and on August 11th posted the following on Conch-L:

“In the past month I’ve posted two requests for ID assistance with cones. I received several helpful comments, links and references and enough information to realize I’m dealing with a variety of opinions. With a whole lot of help from Harry Lee I’ve taken a position on the “jaspideus question” as it applies to shells found in Florida and created a presentation on what we have in Florida and how to distinguish between C. pealii and C. stearnsii.

The first response came from
José H. Leal, Director and Curator The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum:

“Thanks so much, Marlo, Your contribution is an outstanding piece of work on the ‘jaspideus-complex’."

This made me hope the case was solved. But, I had the feeling others would not agree. And, indeed, within a few hours John Tucker opined:

“Nice images but I really do not agree that stearnsii is a species distinct from pealii. These two are allopatric (ranges entirely separate) and I think intergrade in far southern Florida. The specimen that you show from Palm Beach inlet is not a J. jaspideus but instead a specimen of J. mindanus. It has the row of spots along the suture, which is characteristic of J. mindanus. I presume you have seen the special issue I authored in TCC (The Cone Collector) 14A. I point this trait out. I do not argue that J. j. pealii and J. j. stearnsii are not recognizable. For one thing, these differ in shell shape. J. j. stearnsii is longer bodied than are any other populations of J. jaspideus. On the Atlantic coast, populations of mindanus complicate identifications and particularly those from deeper water off Palm Beach County for instance.”


Marlo: A little research of “intergrade” and I found that this concept is defined within the context of “subspecies,” meaning where geographically isolated populations of a species begin to differentiate, but have not yet evolved an effective set of isolating mechanisms and remain able to interbreed when the isolated populations once again comingle. So, what I interpreted John to be saying was that because there appears to be “intergrade” populations of C. stearnsii and C. pealii in the Florida Keys, they are two forms (subspecies) of the same species. I responded to John with:

“First, thanks for the compliment. I appreciate your acknowledgement and time to make comments.” “I am far from even moderately expert when it comes to cones.”

Harry Lee has worked with the Palm Beach cone for many years and feels it is stearnsii and, due to his consistent support of my efforts and the number of times he’s been confirmed when I differed with his IDs, I tend to go along with him rather than not. However, Harry does acknowledge that cones are not one his strongest suits. But, then, Harry’s weak suits are pretty outstanding.

My understanding of allopatry is limited. But, if it means ranges are entirely separate (geographic isolation) and individuals of the populations can no longer interbreed, then how would pealii and jaspideus be the same species or intergrade? And, why, if they intergrade, would the geographic distinction have been maintained since there are no “barriers” between the Keys and either side of Florida? If they are the same species and exist over a continuous geographic range, why would they retain such distinctive differences limited to geographic distribution?

If the presence of a row of spots along the suture distinguishes a species, then why not the numerous differences between pealii and jaspideus Vink and I noted?”


John elaborated:

“You are correct about the definition of allopatric. This means that two entities live apart where they can be defined morphologically. Essentially stearnsii is a gulf coast form and pealii is an east coast through the keys down into the Bahamas.

There is a zone south of Goodland in Florida Bay near shore where I think there are intergrades. These are shells that do not have the elongated body of typical stearnsii. Taxa can be allopatric but have zones of parapatry (where they overlap). Such zones have to be narrow and can be difficult to define. Jaspidiconus jaspideus is a great example of this.

The real problem in Jaspidiconus is separating out J. mindanus and J. j. pealii on the Atlantic coast. Possibly this might be done molecularly. The row of dots on the suture is the best trait I know of. It is not however perfect. Some mindanus and especially the light pink colored ones do not have it. Some stearnsii from the Gulf coast of Florida do have it. But no J. j. pealii from the Keys or Bahamas do have it.”


Marlo: In the mean time in response to my separate inquiry via personal correspondence as to whether he might comment, Prof. Alan Kohn, Co-Author of “Manual of the Living Conidae,” commented:

“On the C. jaspideus group matter. A few years ago I worked through the AMNH collection, of about 4,000 shells in this complex. I currently distinguish the three species, but I can't say that intergrades in shell characters don't exist. E.g. some otherwise typical C. stearnsii shells have spiral striae over most of the last whorl. There were also a few shells from the Keys that agree with the description of C. jaspideus, although most were typical C. pealii. At present we don't have enough DNA sequence information to allow testing the hypotheses using that type of data. I think Harry hit the nail on the head when he said in his book that he ‘straddled the taxonomic fence’."

That taxonomic fence was getting crowded, but it was looking like the safest place to be.
I replied to Alan:

“What I've learned since my foray into a Cone species is that this highly popular group has so many devotees that extreme complexity has been the consequence and most opinions will have to 'straddled the taxonomic fence' on many, many species. Will we ever know what a 'species' is?”


Allan replied:

“I haven't completed my shell morphometry analyses of samples of C. jaspideus, C. stearnsii and C. pealii (N of 70-100 shells each), but all differ significantly in shell shape in multivariate analyses (P<0.001).

However, discriminant function analysis fails to identify enough specimens "correctly" (i.e. as pre-identified from other, mainly color pattern and sculpture, characters) for shell morphometry to be useful to the collector who wants to identify one or a few shells. At least this is true for the rather simple set of morphometric characters I've used.

We may "know" to a stronger degree than today what a species is in the future, if molecular genetics and genomics develop enough to tell us who can produce viable offspring with whom and who can't. But a species, or any other taxon, is a hypothesis, and like any hypothesis in science it can never be proven. We accept those as true are correct that have not been disproven (yet).”


Marlo:  Two months had passed since that rainy night in June when I was confronted with a suspiciously identified Cone from Lake Worth. Two months of sleuthing educated me enough to conclude that:

1. It is unlikely that C. jaspedius occurs in Florida
2. C. stearnsii and C. pealii are probably related, but morphologically and geographically distinct with the possibility of a limited area where the two interbreed
3. My efforts to use discriminant function analysis for any one shell in my hand will as often identify a shell correctly as not.
4. I’m not the only one waiting for DNA research to hopefully clarify the issue
5. The shells from Lake Worth are probably “up for grabs” as to what they are, but the shell Anne photographed was not C. anabathrum (syn: C. floridanus).

I was reviewing my conclusions the evening of August 14th when I hear a signal that I had email.
Bill Fenzan had just responded to my inquiry of August 6th to him and Harry. Bill had again reviewed the photos of the Lake Worth shells and essentially reiterated his earlier position:

“I am sorry to be late in responding to your e-mail.

My guess is that all three of these shells are a local form of Conus mindanus Hwass in Brug., 1792 rather than C. jaspideus, C. pealii, or C. stearnsi. More specifically, I think these are small, possibly subadult specimens, of a form of C. mindanus named "Conus bermudensis lymani" by Clench (1942). I think the holotype of C. b. lymani is an adult of a Lake Worth C. mindanus population and "Jaspidiconus pfluegeri" introduced by Petuch (2004) are small (~20-25mm) shells also from the Lake Worth area. Ed has told me that larger specimens of C. pfluegeri measuring about 30+mm were taken, though only one was mentioned in the original description. I am trying to track some of these larger specimens down so I can learn more. Petuch (2004) did not compare "Jaspidiconus pfluegeri" directly to either C. mindanus or "C. bermudensis lymani". Vink (1989) puts both C. bermudensis and C. bermudensis lymani in synonomy with C. mindanus.

I cannot see enough in the photos to determine if these shells have all the diagnostic characteristics of C. mindanus listed by Vink (1989), so I cannot be sure of how to identify them at this point. Since they are from the same area (Lake Worth) as "C. b. lymani" and "J. pfluegeri", I would want to be sure these names do not apply before trying to match them with something else (e.g. C. jaspideus, C. stearnsi, C. pealii, etc.). I doubt this will be easy without access to a lot of documented specimens, photos of types, and careful study of the original descriptions. I have seen all the types, but would need to refresh my memory from photos before doing a full-scale determination.

A recent "review" of the Vink papers on West Atlantic cones has been done by John Tucker. It is available free as special issue 14A of "The Cone Collector" online magazine (no longer online as of 10/5/17). Tucker does not discuss "Jaspidiconus pfluegeri" (I did a find and the name was not found in the .pdf file), but he does mention C. mindanus, C. bermudensis, and C. b. lymani. This is not a revision of Vink's work, instead it is just Tucker's attempt to add his views to the earlier series of papers done by Vink.”


And, here the story stands (8/24/10). We all await an “end.”

Posted: Aug 29 2010

Part 1 - Distribution in Florida & do they intergrade

I posted the presentation and discussion on 8/24/10. I received several comments that began an exchange of communications about the Jaspideus Complex. Note that many of these were off-net email communications with cc-copies going to many of the participants. Following is a chronology of these exchanges providing a terrific insight into the difficulties involved in confident species differentiation and how the interest and contributions of the members of the shell-collecting and research community can facilitate and assist each other in addressing these issues.

The discussion from this point basically went in three directions:

Part 1 – Distribution in Florida & do they intergrade
Part 2 – Is the Lake Worth shell and the shell reported by Harry Lee C. stearnsii or another shell in the Jaspideus complex
Part 3 – Confirmation of C. stearnsii (or something) off North Carolina

The genesis of these three directions began with an email from
Bill Fenzan (8/24):

“You have put together an interesting article on these puzzling small cones that keeps getting better. It is surprising that we know so little about cones that are found in so many collections. Some additional questions and comment:

(Part 1) Would it be worthwhile to ask Dr. Leal to look through the collection at the Bailey-Matthews Museum for specimens that might be the intergrades that John mentions? I do not recall seeing specimens from the locality he mentions ("There is a zone south of Goodland in Florida Bay near shore where I think there are intergrades.") myself. Perhaps some lots of these intergrade population(s) can be found in the museum on Sanibel, and photos obtained?

(Part 2) I observe that the Lake Worth cone photographed by Gustav Pauley seems to have a white animal with some black streaking. The color photo of a specimen labeled as "Conus jaspideus stearnsii Conrad, 1869" (figure 627) in Harry Lee's book shows a black animal. Is the collecting locality for the specimen illustrated in figure 627 one of the Mayport, Florida locations listed in the text, or is this shell from another locality?

(Part 3) In Seashells of North Carolina by Hugh J. Porter & Lynn Houser, the authors report the collection (by SCUBA divers on a sandy bottom at 65 feet) of Conus stearnsi Conrad. The single black & white photo in the book looks like a specimen I would expect to find off the west coast of Florida. Despite the small distance from where I live to North Carolina, I have not visited many collections with documented material from North Carolina. It would be interesting to compare these specimens with those of other areas to see more of the picture.

I hope your study will encourage others to report more information.” (I hope so too.)

I responded to Bill in part with:

“That’s a lot of information to deal with and it’s five minutes to quitting time. So, just a few comments.

I’ll write José (Dr. Leal).”

8/25 As I promised Bill, I sent an inquiry to Dr. José Leal:

“See … background. I note that you have 81 C. jaspideus, 8 pealii and 39 stearnsii in the data base. That would be a big job and I know your resources are limited. But, what if you restricted the examination only to shells from Collier and Monroe counties since the target area is a “zone south of Goodland?” And, if you adopt the perspective that jaspideus is not present in Florida, then the 81 jaspideus could be reexamined for placement in either pealii or stearnsii.”

8/25
José promptly replied:

“Absolutely, I deem this effort to be completely consistent with our mission here at the (Bailey-Matthews) Museum (get to know the local malacofauna a little better.)

I saved you message in my "COA Briefcase", things to do when I return from the COA meeting in Boston.

I will get myself involved and recruit a couple of our Museum collection volunteers to help with questions at hand.

Thanks so much for involving BMSM in your research on the 'jaspideus-complex'.”

To which I replied:

“I'll be continuously posting correspondence and comments on LTS under the topic Conus jaspideus . So you can always refer there to keep up to date.

Looking forward to your results. And, hopefully your team will be able to contribute some photos.”

Posted: Aug 29 2010

Part 2 - Is the Lake Worth shell and the shell reported by Harry Lee C. stearnsii or another shell in the Jaspideus complex

I posted the presentation and discussion on 8/24/10. I received several comments that began an exchange of communications about the Jaspideus Complex. Note that many of these were off-net email communications with cc-copies going to many of the participants. Following is a chronology of these exchanges providing a terrific insight into the difficulties involved in confident species differentiation and how the interest and contributions of the members of the shell-collecting and research community can facilitate and assist each other in addressing these issues.

The discussion from this point basically went in three directions:

Part 1 – Distribution in Florida & do they intergrade
Part 2 – Is the Lake Worth shell and the shell reported by Harry Lee C. stearnsii or another shell in the Jaspideus complex
Part 3 – Confirmation of C. stearnsii (or something) off North Carolina

The genesis of these three directions began with an email from Bill Fenzan (8/24):

“You have put together an interesting article on these puzzling small cones that keeps getting better. It is surprising that we know so little about cones that are found in so many collections. Some additional questions and comment:

(Part 1) Would it be worthwhile to ask Dr. Leal to look through the collection at the Bailey-Matthews Museum for specimens that might be the intergrades that John mentions? I do not recall seeing specimens from the locality he mentions ("There is a zone south of Goodland in Florida Bay near shore where I think there are intergrades.") myself. Perhaps some lots of these intergrade population(s) can be found in the museum on Sanibel, and photos obtained?

(Part 2) I observe that the Lake Worth cone photographed by Gustav Pauley seems to have a white animal with some black streaking. The color photo of a specimen labeled as "Conus jaspideus stearnsii Conrad, 1869" (figure 627) in Harry Lee's book shows a black animal. Is the collecting locality for the specimen illustrated in figure 627 one of the Mayport, Florida locations listed in the text, or is this shell from another locality?

(Part 3) In Seashells of North Carolina by Hugh J. Porter & Lynn Houser, the authors report the collection (by SCUBA divers on a sandy bottom at 65 feet) of Conus stearnsi Conrad. The single black & white photo in the book looks like a specimen I would expect to find off the west coast of Florida. Despite the small distance from where I live to North Carolina, I have not visited many collections with documented material from North Carolina. It would be interesting to compare these specimens with those of other areas to see more of the picture.

I hope your study will encourage others to report more information.” (I hope so too.)

I responded to Bill in part with:

“That’s a lot of information to deal with and it’s five minutes to quitting time. So, just a few comments.

Harry will probably confirm that his book only presents material collected in the waters of Nassau, Duval and St. Johns counties.”

In the mean time, From the halls of the Harvard University Museum of Comparative Zoology
Harry Lee wrote:

“Dear Bill and other coalition members,

The question as to origin of the topical specimen is a good one.

I strived to use locally-collected material for all the figures in my book, but there were instances among the B&W in which I had to settle for extralimital material (mostly related to specimen quality). For the color images there are also a few exceptions. As indicated in the forepp., Charlotte Thorpe took a majority of the color photographs, including the topical figure.

I'll Cc this to the eminent photographer, and thereby request a report of her record of this cone snail's provenance.” (Note: Harry’s book is Marine Shells of Northeast Florida)

8/25
Charlotte Thorpe wrote to provide the information regarding her photo

of C. Stearnsii in Harry’s:

“Dear Harry and other members,

The image of Conus jaspideus stearnsii Conrad, 1869 is from offshore

of Northeast Fl. It was collected in 85 feet of water in sand pocket on

reef approx. 25 miles East of Mayport in 2006. Photo attached.”

Posted: Aug 29 2010

Part 3 - Confirmation of C. stearnsii (or something) off North Carolina

There are two NC sources I can check with. Gastropods Ocean Isle Beach and Sunset Beach, NC (Harry has worked with Jo for her presentation of mollusks).”

Bill investigated the link to O’Keefe’s webpage on North Carolina Mollusks and commented:

“The NC website in your e-mail seems to be limited to materials picked up intertidally. The information in Seashells of North Carolina only records habitat for the Conus stearnsi Conrad listing as: "Collected by scuba divers on sandy bottom at 65-foot depth." It could be that only divers have found material in North Carolina. Perhaps a posting to CONCH-L will encourage someone in North Carolina with more information to join the discussion?”

To which I replied:

“You are correct, but then anything can wash ashore and that would at least indicate it was there. You can try Conch-L. I think they may be tired of hearing from me. I did write the NC Shell Club to see if anyone there can help.

I note that Malacolog lists 712 species with distribution records in North Carolina; but not C. stearnsii.

I note that the NC Museum of Natural history has only one C. stearnsii in their collection – from Monroe Co., FL.”

So, while I was searching elsewhere regarding separate confirmation of C. stearnsii off North Carolina as reported by Porter & Houser in Seashells of North Carolina,
Bill posted the following inquiry on Conch-L:

8/25/10 “In the book Seashells of North Carolina, Hugh Porter and Lynn Houser report Conus stearnsii Conrad, 1869 as having been collected by scuba divers on (a) sandy bottom at (a) 65-foot depth. Is there anyone on the list who can confirm this or help me contact either of the authors? I am trying to find good photos of these cones to see how they differ from specimens collected off the Florida coast.

The book indicates there may be voucher specimens of species treated in the collection of the University of North Carolina Institute of Marine Sciences collection, but it is not clear whether or not a voucher of this species is there.”


Marlo:  While Bill was posting to Conch-L and contacting others directly, I sent an inquiry to the Secretary of the North Carolina Shell Club:

“I administer Let's Talk Seashells. We’ve been discussing a group of shells known as the Jaspideus complex of which Conus stearnsii is a member.

The question has come up regarding the report by Hugh J. Porter & Lynn Houser, authors of Seashells of North Carolina, of C. stearnsii taken off NC by SCUBA divers at 65 feet. We’re trying to ascertain if anyone with first-hand experience has indeed collected this shell off NC. Per chance would you know or can you canvas the club members?”

The following correspondences are the responses to Bill’s and my inquiries:

8/25
Lyle Therriault, a Cone enthusiast from North Carolina:

“Personally I have never seen nor collected them here in NC. I mentioned to Marlo that I was suspect as to the ID of this cone.

Since they typically favor very shallow water, one would expect to find them in the flats.

Perhaps I will search for some soon.....will let you know if I find any, dead or alive.”

8/25
Vicky Wall, Secretary NC Shell Club:

"Hi Marlo,
I will check with Karlynn Morgan, Mark Johnson and Doug Wolfe to see if they can help. We do have some interesting species offshore that normally one wouldn't expect to see off NC.
Vicky"

8/25
Everett Long, a North Carolina collector, provided Bill the following information:

“You can contact Hugh Porter at 252-726-4265. I would contact the keeper of Dr. Porter’s collection at NCSU. Dr. Arthur Bogan could tell you if the shells are in the collection and maybe a picture. You can contact him at 919-462-0815 ( H) or arthur.bogan@ncdnr.gov.”

8/25 In separate email
Everett Long reported:

" Marlo,
I have never picked up this shell anywhere in NC except one speciman from the NC shell pile back in th 80's. No telling where it came from since our boats would go off the Fla coast at times. I talked to a couple this morning, but they also had nothing."

8/26
Mark Johnson:

“Hi Bill,

I'm sorry, but I do not have any jaspideus-type shells from off NC. The only similiar cone that I have collected from off NC is C. largillierti, of which I have only one dead-collected, small specimen.”

8/26
Marc Nathanson, a diver who collects off North Carolina reported to Bill that:

- He has not collected C. stearnsii, or any small cones that could be mistaken for it from off North Carolina. He has collected C. stearnsii off West Florida, though, so he knows what it looks like.

- The cones he has collected were all from an area where the gulf stream current comes near to shore. This is an area of warm water where a rich mixture of species has collected around the shipwrecks at 85-120 feet (deeper than the 65 feet mentioned in the book).

- Most of the warm-water species he has collected (~80%) came from the wrecks themselves, the remaining (~20%) examples came from the coral rubble bottom near the wrecks. This does not sound like the "sandy bottom" mentioned in the book.

- Water outside the gulf stream is green, colder and supports different species - none of which are cones.

8/27
Leslie Crnkovic (Texas):

"I have found members of the stearnsi complex in deeper environments off Texas and in Honduras. So I'm not surprsed they are found of NC, given the flow of the Gulf Stream."



Bill also sent the following inquiry to Dr. Arthur E. Bogan Ph.D. Research Curator of Aquatic Invertebrates North Carolina State Museum of Natural Sciences regarding the report in the Porter and Houser book:

“The book indicates there may be voucher specimens in the collection of the University of North Carolina Institute of Marine Sciences collection, but it is not clear whether or not a voucher of this species (Conus stearnsii) is there.

Can you tell me if this specimen is in the collection? If it is, can you provide more information (better photographs, more details about where the shell was collected, are there more than one specimen in the lot, etc.) about the occurrence of this species than is available in the book? I am unable to find any other records for the collection of this species off the coast of North Carolina. Do you know of any?”

8/27
Dr. Bogan replied:

“I checked the volume by Porter 1974 the atlas of marine and estuarine mollusca and he did not list specimens in the collection. I have double checked both the alcohol and dry collections and found no specimens from NC. We have Hugh Porter’s collection and are updating the taxonomy as we have time and adding it to our computerized database.

Alan Kohn has been working through our cones for a paper he is working on. If you have further questions about this species you might want to contact him at the University of Washington, Seattle.

Good luck and thank you for your interest.”

Based upon Dr. Bogan’s reply and the lack of any confirmations up to this point,
Bill commented:

“This looks like no confirmation of C. stearnsii from North Carolina. Looks like a dead end, unless Alan has some information.”

MORE TO COME - Maybe?

Click Here to see Vink's neotype (Click on "Images") 

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