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.


Cypraea cervus Linne 1758
under ledge by diver at 60′
Off Madiera Beach, Florida 2004

Cypraea cervinetta Kienner, 1843
under dead coral slabs,
shallow water at low tide
Pedro Gonzales, Panama


Deer Cowrie and Little Deer Cowrie. This month’s specimen shells are very closely related. They are near identical in color and pattern, both having fawn colored dorsums covered with hazy white spots and a clear area formed by the mantle line. Looking at the two side by side they are easy to separate. Cypraea cervus Linne 1758 is “plump” whereas Cypraea cervinetta Kienner, 1843 is “lean”. As a rule cervus is the much larger of the two. Cervinetta’s teeth are more strongly defined. Cervus is found in the Florida keys, the Florida gulf coast, Cuba and the Yucatan. Cervinetta lives on the west coast of Central America, most commonly found in Panama.

Both are noted for their extreme wide range in size. Cypraea cervus grows to the largest size of all cypraea, reaching a whopping 190mm (7.5″). Giant specimens which are very few and far between bring jaw dropping prices as they just don’t grow so large anymore. Today, typical specimens are 80-100mm. Cypraea cervinetta has dwarf populations going down to just under 30mm in size. Juveniles of both are banded. The banding gets glazed over in adults although most specimens of cervinetta will show some banding on the top of the dorsum. Fresh specimens have brown dorsums that fade rapidly to fawn even when stored in darkness.

The two specimens are close to “gem” in quality and are typical in pattern. They are donated from the collection of Richard Kent.