Marine snail’s shell enhances bioluminescent glow

LOS ANGELES (BestGrowthStock) – The animal kingdom is full of creatures that make themselves look bigger to ward off predators, but marine scientists have found a tiny sea snail that puts on its own light show in apparent self-defense.

Not only does the clusterwink snail, formally known as Hinea brasiliana, give off a bright, green bioluminescent glow when confronted by a threatening crab or shrimp, the mollusk uses its own shell to scatter and spread that light.

Researchers concluded that the snail’s ability to enhance its own luminous displays in this manner may be used to deter would-be escargot enthusiasts on the sea floor by creating the illusion the snail poses a mouthful too big to swallow.

Scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, documented this phenomenon in research published on Tuesday in the online edition of the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B (Biological Sciences).

The researchers said they were surprised the opaque, yellowish quality of the clusterwink’s shells, which they would have expected to stifle light transmissions, would instead make for such a powerful reflector.

“It’s rare for any bottom-dwelling snails to produce bioluminescence,” said Nerida Wilson, a co-author of the study who is now at the Australian Museum in Sydney.

“So it’s even more amazing that this snail has a shell that maximizes the signal so efficiently.”

The next step in the research is for scientists to determine what gives the snail’s shell its extraordinarily reflective properties.

The answer has implications not only for the lowly snails, which typically cluster at the bottoms of rocky shorelines, but for the fields of optics and bioengineering. The study was funded in part by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Jerry Norton)

Marine snail’s shell enhances bioluminescent glow