Part 3 in section 2 of our Phylo Coral reef series is the colorful Flamingo Tongue Snail.

The FTS is a relatively common gastropod mollusk that feeds on soft coral (as a parasite) and can reach an inch and a half in length. They have a very plain white or cream colored shell that is covered with a thin layer of living tissue, which can retract when the snail is attacked. It’s on this stretched piece of mantle that they have their distinct bright patterns, and it’s this pattern that causes collection-happy divers to get grabby, leading to dwindling numbers for this species. When these guys are snatched out of the ocean and die the patterning goes with them since it’s part of their skin, and that’s a valuable life lesson right there, things just don’t look as pretty after you kill them.

The extended tissue around the FTS shell does double duty, absorbing oxygen and releasing carbon dioxide, while also absorbing toxic chemicals from the environment and secreting it into their skin to protect themselves from predation–but enough about the animal itself, what’s with the name? Does a flamingo’s tongue actually look cool like that?

No ma’am.

A flamingo’s mouth is the devil. You need look no further than a flamingo’s face to observe the machinations of Satan. Just try to stare at it for 20 seconds and not cry.

You want to scare the crap out of some kids this Halloween? Go as a flamingo.


click for big


Previous illustrations in the Phylo Reef set can be found here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7