Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tiger Cowry

Cypraea tigris
Tiger Cowries are one of the most abundant Molluscs in the Ocean, and their shells have been used by people all over the world, despite the fact that they are found only in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. But more on that later.

Underneath the shiny white, brown, and grey spotted shell lives a nocturnal snail that feeds off of algae. What makes Cowries especially interesting is that they have a mantle that they can spread over the surface of their shell. It keeps other, smaller creatures from sticking to them, and also keeps the shell clean, smooth, and shiny. They can draw the mantle into the shell if threatened.

Cowries and their shells have been used for a wide variety of human purposes. They have served as food, as currency, as decoration, as fishing lures, and as religious objects. Tiger Cowry shells, and other Indo-Pacific Cowries, were even found in Pompeii, far from their natural distribution. This just goes to show how far these objects were moved and traded.

IUCN Status :  Not Listed
Location : Pacific and Indian Oceans
Size : Length up to 6in (15cm)
Classification : Phylum : Mollusca -- Class : Gastropoda -- Order : Mesogastropoda
Family : Cypraeidae -- Genus : Cypraea -- Species : C. tigris

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