National Geographic : 1969 Mar
KODACHROME BY NATIONALGEOGRAPHICPHOTOGRAPHER ROBERTS. OAKES() N.G.S. From Neptune's chambers to a collector's trays come the oceans' rarest shells. In the past 16 years John E. du Pont of Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, has put together one of the world's finest private collections. Here he examines two Cymbiolacca thatcheriwhile preparing a book on volutes. Nearby rest five gargantuan Melo aethiopicus. Through purchases and his own ex peditions to the Pacific, Mr. du Pont enlarges a 300,000-specimen treasure that will go on dis play when the planned Delaware Museum of Natural History is built in Wilmington. in the knowledge that this very specimen once killed a man. The deadliest hunters of the mollusk world, cones kill and paralyze other mollusks, small fish, and worms by stabbing them with a poi sonous harpoon shot from the proboscis. The wicked little weapon wears sharp barbs; it is, in fact, the familiar radula modified into spearlike teeth (pages 426-7). The poison has 414 curare-like properties; it acts on the nervous system, paralyzing the victim. As the divers filled my buckets with a me lange of living mollusks, I thought that the one certainty about the shells was that few collectors would recognize them. Aside from the olives and cowries, whose enveloping mantle keeps them clean and shiny, the others wore untidy cloaks of algae, coral, or sponge.