The flamingo tongue snail, Cyphoma gibbosum is a showy snail belonging to the class Gasteropoda, order Littorinimorpha and family Ovulidae. It can be found in tropical surface waters of the eastern Atlantic Ocean, being very common in the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. It lives on the branches of gorgonians, in shallow reefs, although there are records of sightings of specimens up to 30 meters deep.
Its colorful body that we can observe is due to the mantle that completely covers the shell of this species. In the case of feeling the slightest disturbance, the specimen will quickly hide the mantle and its entire body inside the shell. The shell is orange, smooth and elongated, with a widening in the middle part. In the lower part of the shell, where the animal sticks out its foot and mantle, the lips or edges of the shell are thick and robust. Returning to the striking mantle previously mentioned, this is orange with irregularly shaped patches of a more intense orange with thin black borders on the patches.
While juvenile specimens tend to always remain in the lower parts of the branches of the corals they inhabit, adults are somewhat more active and tend to move throughout the coral, being much more visible. The feeding of Cyphoma gibbosum is carnivorous, and consists of the tissue of corals and gorgonians in which we will find them, being these species as Briareum sp, Gorgonia spp, Plexaura spp or Plaxaurella spp. Cyphoma gibbosum takes advantage of the toxins present in the species it feeds on, to store them in its body and thus be toxic to potential predators.
Cyphoma gibbosum have separate sexes, making it a dioecious species. There is no sexual dimorphism between the two genders. After fertilization, the female will deposit the eggs in the branches of the gorgonians, in holes previously made with her radula. After 10 days of laying, the larvae will hatch and spend a period of time as planktonic larvae.Photos: