Marine snails - cowries

Money cowry, Cypraea moneta, Monetaria moneta

Below is the Money cowry, which is found in the Indo-Pacific in intertidal water and shallow tide pools, usually among seaweed or under rocks. A fully grown Money cowry reaches 30 - 45 mm long. The money cowry feeds on algae and dead coral, and is usually creamy yellow to pale green colour.

Cowries were widely used as money in Africa and Asia.

Money cowry, Cypreaea moneta

Below is the Map cowry, Cypraea mappa, found in the Indian Ocean and S. W. Pacific on coral reefs, shallow and deeper water. This snail is also known as Leporicypraea mappa. It is in the Cypraeiae (Cowry) family. It is economically important and collected for both food and it beautiful shell. The maximum length is 10 cm.

Map cowry, Cypraea mappa, marine snail

Below is the Tiger cowry, Cypraea tigris. It is found in the Indian Ocean and the Western Pacific at depths of 10 - 40 metres, often near coral reefs or else on sand. It is much less abundant than formerly due to over collection (for its beauty) and dynamite fishing. The common name is rather strange as the shell is not striped but spotted.

Tiger cowrie

Fully grown specimens can be up to 15 cm long, with the largest specimens found around Hawaii. The shell is highly polished. In life the mantle completely covers the shell only being withdrawn into the shell when the snail feels threatened.

The tiger cowry preys on corals and small invertebrates as an adult, but as a juvenile it eats algae. It is active at night, and stays concealed in crevices by day. The snail protects its eggs until they hatch out as larvae and drift off. It is preyed on by octopus.

It is used in Europe as a darning mushroom or egg. In Japan it is believed that clutching the shell during labour will ease the birth pains.

Tiger cowry, Cypraea tigris marine snail

Below, at the top is the Wonder cowry, Cypraea hesitata, also known as Umbilia hesitata. It can grow up to 12 cm long. Many individuals can have irregular brown spots or marks.

It is found off the South East Australian coast from 100 - 200 m deep, although around Tasmania it is found in shallower waters.

The wonder cowry feeds on bryozoa and sponges.

The bottom shell in the photograph is the Egg cowry, also known as the Egg shell cowry, Ovula ovum. It is found in the Indian Ocean and the Western Pacific.

The Egg cowry feeds on coral, algae, sponges, worms, other molluscs, and small fish. It is preyed on by octopus.

In life the mantle completely covers the shell.

Wonder cowry, Cypraea hesitata, Umbilia hesitata, Egg cowry, Ovula ovum

Mauritian cowry, also known as the Humpback cowry, the Chocolate cowry, and the Mourning cowry, Cypraea mauritiana, below, is found in the Western Indo-Pacific. The maximum size of a fully grown specimen is 13 cm. Its mantle is completely black, and it is normally found in exposed rocky habitats such as reefs or structures subject to wave wash between 2 - 50 m deep.

Mouse cowry, Cypraea mus, also known as Mura cypraea, right, is found in shallow waters, the intertidal zone, and in sea grass off Columbia and Venezuela. It feeds on algae and sponges.

Mouse cowry, Cypraea mus, and Mauritian cowry, Cypraea mauritiana Related pages