Chicoreus brunneus, Link 1807 by diver at 10m in coral rubble, Mactan Island, Cebu, Philippines 2010
The Muricidae is one of the largest, varied and most confusing of all families of mollusks. Within Muricidae, Chicoreus is the most popular and widely collected. Worldwide in tropical waters, we have many here in Florida and the Caribbean. The Philippines have the greatest number of varieties and of those Chicoreus bruneus is one of the more popular and readily available. Its popularity comes from its deep brown, almost black color that overlays a white shell. All black and albino specimens are only moderately scare. Orange specimens are rare and quite likely another Chicoreus mislabeled. A common color variety seen mainly in larger specimens is a predominately white shell with black fronds, quite striking!
Another factor that makes Chicoreus so interesting are the the fronds on each varicy. Sometimes short, sometime long, and sometimes fanned out. Chicoreus brunneus varies too in adult size from under two inches to giant and now scarce specimens of four inches.
Murex are predators and can be found in any waters where there is an abundance of food.
These three beautiful specimens were obtained from a Philippine dealer. At first glance they may appear identical but further examination will reveal differences. Sizewise they are on the smaller range, about two and a quarter inches, which seems to be what is most often seen nowadays. Donated by Richard Kent
Dove shells have long been popular among crafters. In fact, they have been strung as beads as far back as ancient history. They are a standard in Sailor’s Valentines and due to their abundance used as filler on shell vases and mirrors. They can also be found cascading in shell mobiles.
Dove shells live in huge colonies on rocky shorelines at the tideline and are easily collected. They are small in size, not quite 1/2″. They are found throughout the Indo-Pacific region in tropical waters.
Known in the trade as Nassa columbella, the proper name is Pictocolumbella ocellata (Link, 1807). They are called Lightning Dove Shells in spite of their Latin name. The lightning stripe is one of three patterns, one being white dots on a black background and the other white bands on a black background. The shells may also be deep dark red instead of black.
There is a good chance when sorting through the bag of shells that other similar shells are mixed in as there are dozens of species that share similar habits.
These shells were purchased especially for the August raffle table and are donated by Richard Kent. Supposedly there are 1000 shells in the zip lock. We are hoping the winner will share with the club photos of their creations.
Mauritia mauritania Linn, 1758 is an impressive unmistakable cowry. It grows to over four inches and is decidedly a heavyweight.
It is a member of the Arabian complex although it hardly resembles its siblings. Mauritania is the only specie in the group with a solid color base and a dorsum that lacks all over fine reticuations. Its flanged callus is distinctive as is its tall hump.
Mauritania is brown to black/brown in color on both base and dorsum. The dorsum has large irregular white spots that vary in number with the very rare specimen virtually lacking in spots. Hawaiian specimens are as a rule darker in color than the more readily available Philippine ones. Dwarf specimens are found in the Andaman Sea.
Mauritania has a very wide distribution across the Indo Pacific region but apparently only lives in areas of high surf pounding against a vertical wall. It is nocturnal. In Hawaii it is associated with lava. Although not scarce its habitat makes it difficult to collect and due to the rough surf many specimens have scratches and dings. A true gem from Hawaii is scarce.
This specimen came from the small island of Lanai that sees little collection. It was collected this January and has a gorgeous glassy surface. It is a real treasure. Donated by Richard Kent and obtained from the diver who found it.
Tellina Foliacea Linne, 1758
netted burrowed in sand at 30 meters deep
Bantayan, Phillipines 2018
The genus Tellina is a widely distributed marine mollusc and a member of the family Tellinida. Tellins are filter feeding bivalves that inhabit tropical waters around the world. They are edible. All together there are about one hundred species, most of which are rather bland, solid whitish in color. Tellina Foliacea Linne, 1758 is one of the few exceptions with its bright uniform orange color.
One of the most beautiful bivalves is Tellina radiata Linne, 1758 which comes from the Caribbean Sea. It is called the Sunrise Tellin because of its colorful radiating bands of purple on a yellow and whitish shell. Unfortunately it is rather hard to come by recently. Large specimens over three inches are impressive.
Here in Florida we have Tellina lineata W. Truton,1819, the Rose Colored Tellin, which is a shell crafters favorite. It is white with rose color overtones and often about an inch and a half in size.. It can be found burrowed in sand bars at low tide in the Keys and on both coasts. Halves often wash up on shore.
The most commonly available Tellin is Tellina virgata Linne, 1758, a Philippine shell widely wholesaled for shell crafting. It is similar to the Sunrise Tellin but the bands lacks the colorful yellows.
We are offering in this raffle a half dozen pairs of Tellina foliacea, large in size of about 3″. They are very fresh specimens, collected by native divers in 2018. Donated by Richard Kent and recently obtained from a Philippine dealer. Tellina foliacea is not an easy shell to obtain, making this a very desirable raffle to win, whether the shells are won by specimen collectors or shell crafters.
Trona stercoraria (Linnaeus, 1758) by diver at night, low tide in seaweed at 3 meters, M’bour, Senegal
Trona stercoraria (Linnaeus, 1758) dwarf. by diver on rocks at 10 meters, Gulf of Guinae, Limbe, Cameroon
Trona stercoraria (Linnaeus, 1758) is a popular cowrie among collectors due to its extreme variability in size, shape, color and even pattern. Its common name the Rat Cowry or Droppings Cowry. Certain populations have overcastings that make for bizarre specimens which may look as if they were infected by disease (and possibly they are). These are common in some locations.
Even with all the variation stercoraria is easily recognized and can’t be confused with any other cypraea. Its coloration could be considered drab (mousy, hence the name Rat). It is certainly not flashy. Typical specimens have a mocha colored base with dark brown chiseled teeth. The dorsum is similar in color and covered with blurred brown blotches. Some specimens are light, others dark in color. Scarce specimens have a largely clear dorsum, others with an irregular pattern while the occasional one has the blotches fused to almost sold and even scarcer almost black. The margins are calloused and both extremities are rostrate. Sizes run from extreme dwarfs of 1″ to giants of about 3.75”. The majority fall between 2 and 2.5″. While typically rhomboid, sone specimens are oval.
There are populations with an extreme hump that were named Trona stercoraria rattus (Lamarck, 1810). Linnaeus call the dwarfs “minima”. Even with all the variation the vast majority have the patterns and shape of the two offered here.
Trona stercoraria is a West African cowry with a restricted range below the Bulge of Africa. Most specimens come from the Gulf of Guinea. It is fairly common in this area and lives in a variety of shallow water habitats.
The two shells were donated by Richard Kent and were obtained from European dealers. Average sized specimens retail for $20-25, dwarfs though much scarcer somewhat less. Large ones go for over $30. Giants and unusual specimens can be found on eBay from $60 to over $300. In fact there is one very dark 95mm specimen with blueish borders listed for sale at $520!
Our April Shell of the Month is for the shell crafters. It is a set of 20 Cypraea vitellus Linn, 1758 commonly know as the Calf Cowry. Cypraea vitellus is one of the most common medium sized cowries, It inhabits the reef in shallow water throughout the entire Indo-Pacific region. It’s a fawn colored shell covered with white spots. The margins have closely spaced thin vertical whitish lines. T here is little variation in size and pattern. The shell is immediately recognizable. Juveniles are banded, the banding covered over as the shell matures.
These shells were purchased in bulk and came with no collection date. I imagine these twenty will be turned into wonderful little critters or whatever the shell crafter may imagine.
Donated by Richard Kent. Next month we shall return to specimen shells.
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.
Venerupis philippinarum (A. Adams and Reeve 1850)
by divers 10m in muddy bottom
Ha Long Bay, Vietnam 2018
Interesting large collection of assorted colors and patterns!
21 specimens size 29-42mm
Venerupis philippinarum (A. Adams and Reeve 1850) is commonly know as the Manilla Clam or Japanese Cockle. The Manilla clam is a popular edible clam and is enjoyed around the world. Originally found on the coasts of the Philippines and India, it has been introduced worldwide and is now one of the important bivalve raised in aquaculture.
It is a burrowing clam, adaptable to various habitats. These specimens were living in shallow waters on a muddy bottom in Viet Nam.
The shell is oval and sculptured with with radiating ribs. What makes philippinarum interesting is that it paints its shell in varying patterns. It is species like this that exhibit such variety that makes shell collecting a fascinating hobby. This fascinating assortment in the raffle is representative of the wide variety of patterns and colors of the shells.
We have no idea if these clams had been consumed first. They were purchased from a dealer in Singapore who stated he obtained them from Vietnamese fishermen. Donated by Richard Kent
Cypraeaovula capensis capensis (Grey1828)
SCUBA at 10-12M on rock wall
Algoa Bay, Port Elizabeth, South Africa
The Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet the icy Antarctic waters below the coast of South Africa. In the sheltered bays a rich unique marine fauna has developed with an array of indigenous cyrpraea including a couple of oddballs that make shell collecting such a fascinating hobby.
Cypraea capensis is one such shell. It’s like no other. From a distance it looks likes a typical cowry, but on closer inspection one sees fins that originate in the aperture and completely cross over the base and dorsum encircling the shell and meeting the teeth on the opposite end. The shell is a pale uniform mushroom color with an irregular brown blotch and has a discernible mantle line. The dorsum is glossy. There is little variation in color and pattern from shell to shell. Even the blotch is fairly consistent.
Capsnsis lives on rocks in both moderate and deep water with deep water specimens bringing vastly higher prices. There are a few named varieties.
Before the popularity of SCUBA, virtually all specimens were dead collected on the beach. As the diving season is rather short, few capensis come to the market each year, making it a difficult shell to obtain.
Our specimen is of good size, 30mm and should be considered gem. Similar shells bring about $40 on the market. It was originally purchased in a small dealer’s lot from a South African diver/collector and is from the collection of Richard Kent. This is an intriguing shell to look at; one can spend much time studying its appearance.
Swiftopecten swiftii (Bernardi, 1858)
trawled at 60m fishing fleet
Pectens, scallops as they are commonly known, are the most collected bivalve. Pectinidae is an extremely large family that are worldwide in distribution and are found in tropical, temperate and even arctic seas.
They are most interesting to observe when alive as they jet propel themselves across the ocean floor. They make a very popular meal and are a standard item at seafood restaurants.
There are about 500 different recent species. They all have two valves with an almost round outline, with radiating ribs and two ears on each side of the shell. Pectens are fascinating to collect because of the wide variety of colors and patterns found in many species.
Swiftopecten swiftii (Bernardi, 1858) is a large solid shell growing up to 4” in size. They are easy to distinguish from all other pecten due to their elongated triangular shape and unique sculpture. (Most all pecten are roundish). They grow in spurts as can be clearly seen in the photo. At the conclusion of each growth cycle the shell forms knobs, as does Florida’s Nodipecten nodosus (Linnaeus, 1758).
This specimen is the typical purplish color. Rare specimens are yellow, pink, albino and even maroon! One side is always colored and the other whitish. A color set is extremely difficult and expensive to obtain. Seeing one is quite impressive!
Swiftopecten swiftii (Bernardi, 1858) has a limited range from the north of Japan to the Russian mainland. This Japanese specimen is donated from the collection of Richard Kent. For those who collect scallop shells, swifti is a must.