Cone shell harpoon, SEM

Cone shell harpoon, SEM

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Caption: Cone shell harpoon. Coloured scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of the venomous harpoon of a cone shell (Conus sp.), a type of marine snail. The cone shell is a predator that fires this harpoon into its prey, usually a fish or a worm. The venom paralyses the victim, allowing the snail to devour it. The venom is highly toxic, and several human deaths have been recorded. The venom contains proteins called conotoxins, which contain the amino acid Gla (gamma-carboxyglutamic acid). This is involved in the blood clotting process in humans. Study of the snail's biochemistry could lead to new drugs to treat clotting disorders such as haemophilia. Magnification unknown.

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