Getting to Know the Noble Volute

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Noble volutes (Cymbiola nobilis, known locally as kilah) are striking snails with loud geometric patterns. They can grow to about football-size and its foot is just as distinctive as its shell. Its bright orange spots on a black base, disguise an incredibly strong and large muscle. It senses its prey with its siphon and engulfs it with its foot. It then waits for the clam to crack open to breathe before sticking in its proboscis then scraping its prey clean with its radula (tiny teeth).

The Noble volute laying its egg capsule

The Noble volute is listed as ‘vulnerable’ in Singapore’s Red List of Threatened Species, but can still be widely found in Malaysian waters. Often brought to shore as bycatch in fishermen’s nets, it is often enjoyed by local fishing families as a treat that is scrubbed, soaked, sliced and shallow fried in chili (sambal). Other than being consumed by humans, it is also preyed on by other large snails such as the Indian volute (or Baler shell), Melo melo.

A football-sized Melo melo consuming an equally large Noble volute

The Noble volute lay eggs in a large, hard translucent egg-casing that it attaches to a dead bivalve or other hard substrate. Only a few eggs emerge from the many in the casing as the survivors have eaten the rest; they hatch directly into dark brown or deep purple mini-snails. Their zigzag patterns only emerge as they age and grow bigger.

Noble volutes often get caught in fishermen’s nets by mistake and are a popular

Kelab Alami conducts guided walks in intertidal seagrass meadows that will enable you to meet and examine these amazing snails. Find out more at kelabalami.weebly.com.

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