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Information about this family
This is one of the precious families and second to the Cypraeidae in popularity. Cones have an elegant shape and are extremely colourful. The roughly 700 species show a large degree of infraspecific variability: the specialist is often able to tell the region a cone comes from, just by its aspect. When alive, Conidae are covered by a periostracum which is often very thick: their cleaning needs time and collecting the shells needs careful handling, as the lips are extremely fragile. When diving for the larger species, each shell has to be put in a separate bag. The family contains a large number of famous species, and we refer to the introduction, where one can state that their popularity started together with the very beginning of shell collecting. Conus gloriamaris is, among collectors, certainly the best known shell, perhaps even more known than the great classic tiger cowry, Cypraea tigris. It is necessary to be aware of the fact that collectors recognise large groups within the family. In order of popularity they are: Brilliant Cones - this is a small group of cones with a polished, cowry-like surface. They all live in fairly deep water, most often in colonies, and are uncommon, if not extremely rare. Without doubt the most beautiful ones among the family: C. bullatus, C. adansoni, C. cervus and C. vicweei. Caribbean Cones - they are not very large, but have a light, very attractive gloss and apart from a few, all of them are rare. Their colours may be bright, and their patterns are amongst the most fascinating ones found in the shell world. We here refer to the fabulous cedonulli-complex. Indo-Pacific deep water Cones - most often a porcellaneous texture and glossy. Sometimes bright and on several occasions with a purple-blue base colour, which is rare in shells. A few species are large, such as C. tisii and C. pergrandis. These are, by the way, favourites. Indo-Pacific shallow water Cones - contains about 100 species of rather common Conidae that have spectacular patterns. The outer surface is often dull, but a few have a silky aspect. Shells of this group that are not immediately and carefully cleaned, will lose this silky aspect, and of course much of their attractiveness and value. Eastern Atlantic Cones - this group contains a large number of taxonomically confusing species. The shells are most often small, despite the fact that the giant of the family, Conus pulcher, is found among them. Their shells are seldom porcellaneous, most often dull and their colours not very bright. For several of the students on Conidae nevertheless the most interesting group. They can be subdivided into West-African Cones - contains all the cones from the Canary Islands south to Zaire. The Conus mercator puzzle is fantastic as it combines exquisite patterns with a large variability in colour and shape. Cape Verde Cones - a complex of most intriguing shells, all very endemic and often hard to obtain from the Cape Verde Isles, 500 km offshore from Senegal. Angola Cones - another complex, similar to the Cape Verde Cones. Also hard to get but theore interesting. South African Cones - not very large and not very attractive. However, the group contains some exceptions to this rule. Collectors should know that until about 1985 it was difficult to obtain these shells alive. The vast majority of South African cones in collections are dead specimens: completely ruined. Since the live collected shells are available, museums and collectors should make an effort to replace the old stuff. Panamic Cones - contains the Conidae found from California south to Chile. Apart from a few often quite common and not very puzzling or sensational in colour. The large number of species, subspecies and forms discovered each year necessitates the constant attention of the collector and an uninterrupted effort to keep his library and knowledge up to date. It is also this feature that renders Cone-collecting so attractive. The shells are taxonomically difficult. This is a source for reflection and an exercise for intelligence. Collections specialised in Conidae are spectacular: apart trom the infraspecific variation, many species are also extremely variable within each population. Large series from each population are advised. We refer interested collectors to the monographs of Marsh and Rippingale (1964) and Walls (1977). Classic information, such as on their use of poison, can be found in almost all manuals on shells.