Is it a Sponge? a Snail? or Both?!
This funny animal that is mostly see during night dives, but it has also been spotted during a day snorkel, is commonly called the Maldivian Sponge Snail (Coriocella hibyae). The first time I saw it, the first thing that came into my mind was “amoeba!”, silly, I know, but it has this weird shape that reminds me of the amoeba extensions (pseudopods) I used to observe back in my biology class in high school.
Although not much is know about this little guy, just to clarify, it is a mollusc, in particular, it is a snail that has this sponge-like, velvety soft tissue that covers the internal and delicate shell. The protrusions that reminded of the “amoeba pseudopods”, actually have the pattern of the five face of a dice, where there is a protrusion in the middle that is surrounded by four other protrusions. The coloration can vary but the individuals that we have seen around here are dark blueish with tiny darker spots on their body surface, which aids on its sponge-like appearance.
Like other sea snails they move very slowly and it is carnivorous and it does have a radula, which it uses to feed on corals, sponges and other marine animals. They can be seen alone or in pairs and on coral reefs, and sometimes on sandy/rocky bottom.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to this weird and cool organism, come join us for snorkel or a dive and we will try to point it out!
By: Dayanne Raffoul and Federica Siena
Photo credits: Ismail Shihan
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