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.

October Program

Our program for October will be Dr. Ed Petuch. Ed recently retired from teaching Geology at Florida Atlantic University. Ed has written over 22 books mainly on the mollusks of Florida and the Caribbean. He is an expert on both Recent and Fossil Shells and named over 1200 mollusks both recent and fossil

Long known by many of the members of the Broward Shell Club, since he was a graduate student at the University of Miami, last year Ed donated many books from his library to the club. Ed has had a close relationship to many of our club members, naming many species of shells for both Alice and Bob Pace, Kevan and Linda Sunderland, Lynda Zylman and myself including others.
He is an expert on both Recent and Fossil shells. He has named over 1200 species of mollusks.

Ed is one of the most vibrant speakers you will ever hear and I know this program will be amazing. He will be presenting “Jewels of the Everglades: The Fossil Cowries of Southern Florida”—-

“The cowrie shells of Pliocene and Pleistocene Florida represent the single largest evolutionary explosion of cypraeids found anywhere on Earth. To date, 105 species of fossil cowries have been found in our local quarries and shell pits, including some of the rarest and most beautiful fossils known from anywhere in the world. Because of the special geology of the Everglades area, our fossil cowries are also the best-preserved in the world, often having the original shine and color pattern. With the exception of two species that are known from the fossil beds of the Carolinas, all the other cowries are found only in southern Florida, making these shells the most desirable fossils in our local area. Specimens of several of the largest and most beautiful species will be on display after the talk.”

Ed’s program will be based on his newly published book:
Jewels of the Everglades: The Fossil Cowries of Southern Florida, by Edward J. Petuch, David P. Berschauer and Robert F. Myers. This is available exclusively through the San Diego Shell Club for $95.00 plus shipping and handling ($5.00 in the USA). The Cypraeidae of Plio-Pleistocene southern Florida produced the single largest radiation of cowrie shells, known from one locality, ever found anywhere on Earth. With the exception of two widespread early Pliocene species, all the rest of the fossil cowries found in southern Florida were completely restricted to that region. Even within this relatively small area, many species and species groups of cowries had very limited geographical ranges, often being restricted to select reef tracts or estuarine environments and having ranges of only a few hundred square miles. This book contains over 350 images of over 100 species of fossil cowries from over four million years (covering the Pliocene to the Holocene) beautifully illustrated on 104 color plates, together with maps and in situ pictures of these unique fossil jewels. Hurry and get your copy while supplies last.

There is still time to order it and have Ed sign it at the club meeting. Here is the address and website or go to San Diego shell club and find the section labeled store.
this is a DO NOT MISS program, so see you Oct. 10.

P.S. If you can bring a refreshment to share that will be appreciated. We will probably have a large crowd this month.


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.