If you’ve ever visited a coastal town, chances are probably good that you’ve seen an array of beautiful shells for sale in any of the seaside shops that are filled with curiosities from the ocean, and more than likely the group contains the ornate shell of a murex. A murex is a carnivorous sea snail who is characterized by its intricately sculptured shell, often covered in spines or fronds that help the gastropod defend its soft body from predators. Though the outside of the shell may be rather plain in coloration, the inside of the shell is typically brightly colored and highly polished, making it prized among seashell collectors. The mucus of some species of murex was used at one time to create blue dyes that would color the robes of high-ranking individuals and royalty, although the process is nearly obsolete today. Despite their regular appearance in shops of seaside towns across the world, the true murex is found only in the Indo-Pacific.
Top image via Arenamontanus