The flamingo tongue snail, scientific name Cyphoma gibbosum, is a species of small but brightly-colored sea snail, amarine gastropod mollusk in the family Ovulidae, the cowry allies. Although the live animal is brightly colored, that color is only in the soft parts; the shell itself is plain white.
This Cyphoma is distributed in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. It is the most common of several species in the genus which live in the tropical waters of the Western Atlantic Ocean, including the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and the Lesser Antilles. It can also be found from North Carolina, the Bermudas to Northern Brazil.
The shells of these quite common species reach on average 25–35 millimetres (0.98–1.4 in) of length, with a minimum size of 18 millimetres (0.71 in) and a maximum shelllength of 44 millimetres (1.7 in). .
The shape is usually elongated and the dorsum shows a thick trasversal ridge. The dorsum surface is smooth and sparkly and may be white or orange, with no markings at all except a longitudinal white or cream band. The base and the interior ofCyphoma gibbosum shell is white or pinkish, with a wide aperture. These shells vaguely resemble the shells of cowries.
When it is alive, the snail appears bright orange-yellow in color with black markings. However, these colors are not in the shell, but are only due to live mantle tissue which usually cover the shell. The mantle flaps can be retracted, exposing the shell, but this usually happens only when the animal is attacked.
The flamingo feeds by browsing on the living tissues of the soft corals on which it lives. Common prey include Briareum spp., Gorgonia spp., Plexaura spp., andPlexaurella spp. Adult female C. gibbosum attach eggs to coral which they have recently fed upon. After roughly a week and a half, the larvae hatch. They are planktonic and eventually settle onto other gorgonian corals. Juveniles tend to remain on the underside of coral branches while adults are far more visible and mobile. Adults scrape the polyps off the coral with their radula, leaving an easily visible feeding scar on the coral. However, the corals can regrow the polyps, and therefore predation by C. gibbosum is generally not lethal.
(From Wikipedia, May 31st, 2012)