CYPRAEA - MEDIUM - 2" - 3"
Cowries are, together with cones, the most popular of all families. As a little boy, these were the smooth, glossy shells I got fascinated with and brought me into shell collecting. Today I do not concentrate in cowries, mainly because serious specimens carry serious price tags; and indeed one can easily find in the web pages that exhibit shells that are worth several thousands of dollars each. My collection has a few rarer ones but is mainly made out of shells I could afford! Therefore I exhibit them here as something to enjoy, not as truly exceptional rarities which they are not.
Cypraea guttata Gmelin, 1791
68.2mm. Balut Island, Mindanao, Philippines.
Here is a perfect, large gem guttata. This has always been my favorite cowrie! The dorsum is plain orange, covered with round white spots. The base is pure white with a very dark red-brown overlay, that accentuates the teeth and a series of ridges that project into the sides of the very rounded dorsum, leaving a "zebra" pattern; no other shell compares to this.
Cypraea mus donmoorei
Petuch, E.J., 1979
57.76mm. Amuay Bay. Venezuela
Cypraea mus is endemic to Caribbean Colombia and Venezuela, where it has been overfished for decades and is becoming rarer. This species is very attractive, with its rather large and humped, ocellated shell with dark blotches.
Cypraea g. surinensis Raybaudi, 1978
53.1mm. Racha Islands, Phuket, Thailand.
The guttata from the Andaman Sea; arguably as pretty as the nominate species, and certainly quite different: This is usually smaller; has an orangish cream colored base and lateral callus, and the dark nacre of the base extends over the sides. In my opinion the beauty of this species is hard to compare with anything else.
Cypraea m. rosea Gray, 1824
62.7mm. Reunion Island.
Yet another very striking variant of C. mappa, this here is quite a magnificent representative of "ultraviola" as italian collectors are calling the few shells that come with this hard to believe, deep-purple base. In fact, most m. rosea come with an attractive lavender tint, but the shell pictured here is truly exceptional, even if not gem.
Cypraea porteri Cate, 1966
50.1mm. Balut Island, Mindanao, Philippines.
A rare, deep-water shell, with a very round, plump body and narrow aperture. It has a pale orange base, and a gray dorsum, covered with attractive brown spots, which vary in size and number. Sometimes there is also a white or blue "halo" adorning the sides. The depicted shell is superbly formed and hypercallous, it is heavy like a rock.
Cypraea teuleri Cazenavette, 1846
52.3mm. South Oman.
This is a very handsome, medium-sized, yet heavy cowrie. It is restricted to Oman and Masirah Is., where isolated populations inhabit shallow waters near the shore. Unfortunately this makes them vulnerable to overcollecting. This is why it is important to select only the best shells and leave the rest to breed and reproduce.
Cypraea m. ketyana Raybaudi, 1978
48.4mm. Shark Bay, WA, Australia
A truly stunning masterpiece of nature - It is a medium sized, white colored cowrie, with flared margins and a flattened base, that is vibrantly decorated with giraffe-like patterns, over an orange base. Unfortunately this species is extremely rare and has a very limited range. The depicted specimen was found dead.
Cypraea r. satiata Lorenz & Hubert, 2000
54.5mm. Carnarvon, NW. Australia
This species is unbelievably beautiful: The shape is dramatic, with flared margins and very humped back. The color is mainly burnt caramel, with a narrow dorsal window of golden orange. The flares of the base also have orange highlights; a distinctive feature of satiata. This is dark and shiny like thick enamel. A very coveted and rare cowrie.
Cypraea venusta Sowerby II, 1847
73mm. SW. Australia.
Undoubtedly one of the most attractive and desired species of cowrie. It has a heavy, plump and porcellaneous shell, with a humped back. The base color is creamy white. The margins are lilac-gray and dorsum is fleshy pink, with large, pied, dark caramel spots. The shell is quite variable, and has a number of color forms.