Flamingo Tongue Identification

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The flamingo tongue is one of the most common gastropods that a snorkeler will see around Florida, the Bahamas and the Caribbean. Discover how to identify flamingo tongues through their extension of living tissue with help from a scuba diving instructor in this free video on fish identification and marine life.

Part of the Video Series: Caribbean Fish
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Video Transcript

The marine creature we're going to identify now, is the flamingo tongue. One of the most common gastropods or snails, that a scuba diver, or snorkeler will see, in the waters around Florida, the Bahamas, and all of the Caribbean, is the flamingo tongue. It's an interesting animal. Most people first notice a flamingo tongue on a sea fan or gargonian, because of it's bright yellow to orangish spots, outlined in black, on it's shell, but in reality, those spots are not on it's shell. The flamingo tongues shell has no distinctive markings, and is generally light yellow or white in color. Those bright colored spots are actually living tissue. The flamingo tongue extends this tissue, which is connected to it's foot, the part that holds onto the sea fan or gargonian, and that moves them up over it's shell. This living tissue extended over the shell, performs a very important function. In addition to making them look more interesting, it serves the same function as a fish's gills. Through this tissue, the flamingo tongue absorbs oxygen and releases carbon dioxide. In other words, it's basically their lungs, stretched out over their rather boring looking shell. Flamingo tongues are small snails, ranging in size from three quarters of an inch, to one inch in length. They can generally be seen in waters as shallow as sixty, and usually are not found deeper than forty five feet. The reason one sees flamingo tongues on sea fans or gargonians, is because that's what they eat. Sea fans, gargonians, and other sea rods, are all colonies of hundreds of small creatures, that look like tiny anemones with a central mouth, and many tentacles surrounding that mouth. As the flamingo tongue moves slowly across the sea fan or gargonian, it's eating those little polyps that make up the sea fan or gargonian. They can do this, because their mouth is located on the underside of their body, on the foot, if you will, which is why they are called gastropods, gastro for stomach, and pod for foot. We could find no specific information about flamingo tongue reproduction, but most gastropods exist as separate male and female animals, and reproduce sexually, with the female laying eggs, on the reef's substrata. That's the flamingo tongue.

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