A to Z Challenge: C is for Cowries…

Participating in Blogging from A-Z challenge (April 2016) with a sea-shore theme…

Cowrie is the common name for Cypraeidae, a taxonomic family of small to large sea snails. Cowries are tropical and subtropical dwellers, living in shallow to deep-water environments. These hump shaped molluscs are also known as the “Gem of the Sea” owing to their varied colours and pattern and glossy appearance. 

In olden days Cypraea moneta, the money cowrie was used as just that, currency. Shell money , using cowries, in parts of India and Africa was legal tender up until the mid 19th century. Nowadays decoration is their main use, but today shell collectors worldwide avidly scour the internet for new, freshly found specimens, especially for the rarer species. Large sums of money are traded worldwide for these exquisite shells.

Arabia has its own regional cowries, ranging from sizes of 90mm down to 18mm, beautifully patterned shells when found fresh dead, but battered by storms, rocky sea beds and intense sunlight, they quickly lose their lustre, but still remain a magnet for the beach collector.

The most sought after Cowrie is the Barycypraea fultoni. Found only off the Mozambique coast of Africa, it is a collector’s desire.

An Arabian cowrie, Barycypraea teulerei is known as the Poor Man’s Fultoni.

Found only in the Gulf of Oman, Eritrea and Somalia, it was much sought after owing to its rarity. The publication of Seashells of Eastern Arabia, by Donald Bosch and associates, located the colonies off Masirah island, Oman and now the cowrie is found there only rarely.

I am lucky enough to have found several beached shells whilst walking the beaches of Masirah island and they hold pride of place in my collection.

Note for environmentally friendly souls, I collect beached shells, not live ones.

Some pictures below of live cowries….



11 comments on “A to Z Challenge: C is for Cowries…

    • Yes, you are right, it is..and it’s so unexpected to see the inhabitant..who would suspect that the huge glossy shell contains the jelly-like living and breathing mollusc..I was completely awed the first time I saw a live cowrie..


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