August Club Program

Phillip Gillette, Aplysia

Our program for August is returning Phillip Gillette. He is the resource manager at the University of Miami’s Aplysia Resource Facility. He is originally from Central Florida. He writes, “ I went to the University of Miami for my undergrad degree, graduated in 2004 with a double major BS in Marine Science and Biology.  During undergrad, I interned one year at Harbor Branch working on Queen Conch and Florida fighting conch aquaculture, which got me interested in invertebrate aquaculture.  After graduating, I took a job in the late summer of 2004 at the UM Aplysia Resource Facility (where I’ve worked ever since) as a larval culture technician.  While working, I completed my Master’s in Marine Biology (from UM) in 2012.  My research interests include invertebrate culture, larval culture, coral husbandry, coral reef ecology.

I became interested in Marine Science as a child because of shells actually.  My grandfather was in the Navy, and as a result my dad spent 4 years living in Guam as a teen, and he amassed an impressive shell collection.  I used to make him spend hours in the garage going over all of his shells, identifying them, telling me the stories of how he found them.  We would spend a week every summer in the Keys, snorkeling and shelling, and that fueled my interest.  I have a modest shell collection of my own, with my favorite group being cowries”.

Phillip will be telling us about the work that is being done at the UM facility, the importance of Aplysia californica, the mollusk being studied and used and how important it is to medical research. We will also discuss another possible field trip to the research facility. The club was invited to tour the facility a few years ago and it was a big hit with


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.

February Program

Our Program for February is Dr. Thomas Annesley,

Thomas Annesley is “Active Professor Emeritus” at the University of Michigan and Deputy Editor of the journal Clinical Chemistry. He has always had an interest in oceanography and spent summers in California, where his uncle dropped Tom off at the coastal tidepools on his way to work and the picked Tom up on his way home.

Tom has been listed in Who’s Who in Medicine Academia, Who’s Who in Science and Engineering, and Who’s Who in America. He has published more than 200 articles and presented more than 175 invited lectures in 10 countries.

At the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum Tom does public lectures, beach walks and the live tank talks. He is also President of the Sanibel-Captiva Shell Club.

The title of his talk is “Cone Snails, Tennis Rackets, Pain Medications, and the Broward Shell Show”

Tom’s presentation will focus on scientific discoveries involving cone snails and their toxins. But as with many advances in science, there are elements of luck, happenstance, intrigue, mistakes, and creating lemonade out of lemons that contribute to the story. Dr. Annesley will show us how the supposedly unrelated topics of tennis, pain medications, and even the Broward Shell Show fit into the story of cone snails.