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GLOWING SEASHELLS: Revealing the Neogene History of Tropical American Cone Snails Using Ultraviolet Light

Jonathan R. Hendricks

Associate Director of Science Communication

Paleontological Research Institution (PRI), Ithaca, New York

 Sunday, April 21, 2024           2:00 P.M.


All modern cone snails (family Conidae, which includes Conus) are venomous predators of worms, mollusks, or fish. Cone snails are found in tropical and subtropical marine environments around the world and hundreds of species have been described. Their colorful and intricately patterned shells have attracted the interests of naturalists and artists for centuries. The rich, though understudied, fossil record of cone snails extends back to the Eocene. Most fossil specimens have uniform white- or tan-colored shells. Surprisingly, the original color patterns of fossil cone snails may sometimes be revealed using ultraviolet light. These color patterns are useful not only for differentiating species, but also for understanding the evolutionary relationships between extinct and modern species.

This presentation will provide examples of revealed color patterns from Neogene cone shells from the southeastern United States, Dominican Republic, and Panama and explain what they tell us about the evolution of Conidae in tropical America over the past 10 million years. Attention will also be given to what we know about how cone snails color their shells, as well as what the function(s) of the patterns may (or may not) be for the living animal. Finally, the presentation will describe the photographic process used to capture images of revealed color patterns under ultraviolet light.






            These are the meeting dates of the New York Paleontological Society for the 2023-2024 season. We normally meet at 2:00 P.M. in a room at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City (79th Street and Central Park West). However, due to the covid-19 pandemic and new construction, the Museum is unable to assign any rooms for meetings for any groups through November. Exactly when the Museum will allow groups like our Society to reserve rooms is uncertain. It will depend on new room availability and also the status of covid and the relevant Museum and government policies pertaining to indoor meetings and our Society’s own judgement as to whether attendance will be safe for our members and attendees.

            But, since room availability may change, it has been decided to hold online meetings on the regular dates and times so that the schedule remains the same whether the meeting is in a room or online. One advantage of online meetings is that they will be recorded so members who can’t attend at the meeting time can view the whole meeting afterwards at their convenience.

            Our Annual Party would normally be held at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering in Brooklyn, but new construction may effect the availability of a large enough venue space. It also may be affected by the University’s policy as to whether or not to allow us to meet in the event space there due to covid guidelines and the large number of people that usually attend. Due to the nature of the party (many tables, events, talks and wonderful food), this event cannot be held online.

            As of this writing, all of the dates this year are on the third Sunday of the month, except September’s. Also, our Annual Holidays Party would be held if possible on a Saturday (the date to be determined), but, again, the available venue space and covid rules may effect this event. The dates are as follows:

September 10, 2023
December 2 , 2023*
March 17, 2024
October 15, 2023
January 21,  2024
April 21, 2024
November 19, 2023
February 18, 2024
May 19, 2024

NOTE: All the above dates (for online or in-room meetings) are third Sundays of their respective months, except September’s which is the second Sunday.

            * Our Annual Party (a Saturday) - venue and date to be determined if possible.





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