Wednesday, March 19, 2008

More Live Shell Pictures for New Book

This is one of my favorite little shells, they are commonly referred to as being in the chickpea family, because they're about the size of chickpea's. This is a Cypraea Bistronatada and has a golden or orange color that just glows. This was is live and was crawling along some sponge on a night dive. You can see the mantle covering the shell, the little things sticking up from the mantle are called pappilae.
This is another member of the chickpea family, this is a Cypraea Margarita. The surface of the shell is highly polished and glossy from the mantle constantly covering it and retracting polishing it to a high gloss. These shells feed on the yellowish sponges that grow on the coral.
Cypraea is the Latin name for Cowrie, so these are all members of the Cowrie family. This one is a Cypraea Testudinaria, commonly called a Tortoise Cowrie. It is a big shell usually 4-5" in length and fairly thick. It is amazing the tiny holes that these big shells can maneuver in and out of. This picture was also taken on a night dive in the Grotto.
This was is about the same size as the previous shell. This is a Cypraea Argus, commonly called an Eyed Cowrie. Their mantle makes for excellent camouflage as it blends right in with the sponges and coral and is very hard to spot unless you know what you're looking for. In this shot the shell had the mantle fully covering the shell.
This is what the Eyed Cowrie looks like when the mantle is fully retracted and the pattern of the shell is showing, you can see where it got it's name. They are characterized by having darker bands separated by lighter bands and tiny little brown circles that look like eyes.
This shell is between the size of the chickpea shells and the big guys like the Argus and the Testudinaria, it is usually between 1-2" long. This is a shot of a Cypraea Leviathan crawling along a wall on a night dive. Here its mantle is covering the shell and you see the pappilae outstretched in all directions. The pappilae are used like legs or arms to help move the shell through the tight little holes it gets into. The color of the shell is a beautiful golden color and usually has some lighter bands going width wise across the shell.
This is a slightly juvenile Cypraea Talpa working its way over the coral and sponges on a wall in the Grotto on a night dive. It's mantle gives it excellent cover as it usually blends right in with the sponges it feeds on. The shell will usually be about 3" long and is a golden brown color with a very dark brown base.
This is a Cypraea Terres and is a fairly small shell, usually less than 1" in length. This particular shell has an almost transluscent mantle allowing you to see right through it and see the pattern on the shell itself. You can see the little pappilae protruding from the mantle covering the shell.

And this is one of the most commonly found Cowrie shells, it's a Cypraea Poraria or a Porous Cowrie. They are also commonly called Strawberry Cowries because their reddish purplish color and the little dots on them make them look like little strawberries. Their mantle is fairly transluscent and they have more pappilae than any other cowrie that I've seen. We really do have some spectacular shells in our area, but in order to see them like this you need to dive at night and then look very, very carefully on all the coral and sponges to spot them. They blend in so well that you can be looking right at them and never notice them.