Marine snails - Muricidae, Murex

Muricidae, Murex (rock snails) overview

The Murex family are large to medium sized predators found in the tropics, they are often called rock snails. They are usually found in the shallows or intertidal zone on rocks and corals. The shells are often elongate and highly sculptured with spines and fronds, and brightly coloured insides.

Endive murex, Chicoreus chicoreum, also known as Hexaplex cichoreum, below. Found in the S. W. Pacific, and can reach 15 in height when fully grown.

Endive murex, Chicoreus chicoreum

Murex troscheli, below, is a highly venomous snail which injects the venom into its prey. This immobilises, then kills the prey and partly digests it, allowing M. troscheli to consume the prey at leisure.

Murex troscheli

The Radish murex or Black murex, Muricathus radix or Hexaplex radix below . It is found in the western Pacific among intertidal rocks from the Gulf of California to Peru.

, marine snail

Giant eastern murex, Muricanthus fulvescens, below is found off the S. E. U. S. A. it can be found washed up on beaches from North Carolina all the way round to Texas. Adults can be up to 18.5 cm.

, marine snail

Below is the Toothed murex, Haustellum dentifer, also from the Indo-Pacific.

, marine snail

Below is the Snipe's bill murex, Haustellum haustellum also known as Murex haustellum. It is found in the Indo-Pacific.

Snipe's bill murex, Haustellum haustellum, marine snail

Below is Zambo's murex, Homalocantha zamboi, found in the Red Sea.

Zambo's murex, Homalocantha zamboi, marine snail

Below is the Giant hairy melongena, Pugilina morio, also known as Murex morio and Semifusus morio. It is found in the Atlantic around Brazil, Angola, the Canary Islands, Cape Verde, Gabon, Mauritania, in the Caribbean Sea, and around the Lesser Antilles. It is found down to 30 m deep in mud and other soft surfaces in mangrove swamps and river estuaries. It feeds mainly on carrion.

Adult size ranges from 7.5 - 27.0 cm. In traditional Brazilian medicine it is used in the treatment of sexual impotence.

Giant Hairy Melongena, Pugilina morio

Below is the Alabaster murex, Siratus alabaster, found in the western Indo-Pacific region.

Alabaster murex, Siratus alabaster, marine snail shell

Below is Murex brandaris, also known as Bolinus brandaris, the Purple dye murex, or the Spiny dye murex, which can be found in the central and western Mediterranean. It is predatory on bivalves, cannibalistic and edible. The shell colour ranges from brown through gold to beige. It was used to produce a purple dye called Tyrian purple originally around Tyre. The dye is secreted as a milky mucous which changes to purple. It was captive bred for dye making as early as the Minoan period, and written references go back as far as 1600 BC. Dye production decreased with the fall of the Roman Empire, and ceased altogether with the fall of Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1453.

To make purple dye the shells are broken, and along with the snail body and salt were placed in vats hollowed out of rock. After a few days the liquid turned purple. This liquid was then concentrated to make the finished dye by simmering over a fire.

Murex brandaris