Cypraea pulchella (Swainson, 18230, Mergui Archipelago, trawled 100 meeters by fishing boats, Andaman Sea, Myanmar
Cypraea pulchella (Swainson, 18230, trawled by commercial fishing boats @100-150Meters off Hainan Island, South China Sea, China
Not only is Cypraea pulchella (Swainson, 1823) one of the most sought after cowries, it is also one of the most distinctive. Its deep brown teeth that extend across the base make it impossible to confuse with any other. The common name for this elegantly pyriform shell is the Pretty Cowrie and pretty it is.
The dorsum is pale, faintly mottled with light brown and typically has a large dark chocolate colored blotch on both the right and left side of the dorum, but not always. Less attractive specimens have the blotch on only one side or the other. The most interesting specimens have multiple blotches or one huge one in the center and they bring the highest prices. The occasional specimen has no blotch at all! (specimen #2 in our raffle). Normal size is between 35-45mm. Shells retail in the $15-25 range and two to three times that for the exceptional spectacular specimen.
Originally the north-western Indian Ocean variety, Cypraea pericalles (Melvill & Standen, 1904) was a distinct specie, separate from the more common Pacific one, but recently Cypraea pericalles has been downgraded into a subspecies. When the names were first described there was a gap in the range, but this was due to the nonexistence of shelling in Burma and Thailand. Specimens that come from the Andaman Sea (this area) often appear to be an intermediate of the two, but are usually sold as pericalles. The difference is that the original pericalles has shorter teeth, is less callus, and is of smaller average size, with a less pronounced blotch. Possibly the two subspecies fully intergrade.
Cypraea pulchella favors deep water, is variable in size and pattern and is widespread though uncommon in distribution. Most specimens on the market come form the Philippines, South China and Thailand. There are two other distinct subspecies, one unique to the southern Philippines and the other quite rare from New Guinea. The true pericalles from the west coast of India is currently very difficult to obtain.
Today with revisions of nomenclature the proper name is Ficadusta pulchella (Swainson, 1823). For old time collectors these revisions in Cypraea are hard to accept.
Donated from the collection of Richard Kent.