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Cypraea moneta Linnaeus, 1758

Description: Teeth medium size, not extending across the base. Shell heavily margined, with base and margin white and unspotted, dorsum yellowish-green. A black transverse line crosses the dorsum almost centrally. Some specimens show a thin yellow ring encircling the dorsum.

Size: Up to 44 mm in length, typically about 20 mm.

Distribution: The entire tropical Indian and Pacific Oceans, from east Africa to central America, including northern Australia. In Australia, from Houtman Abrolhos, WA, to Shellharbour, NSW.

Habitat: Intertidal, exposed and under rocks and among algae. Abundant in the tropics but uncommon in NSW.

Comparison: Cypraea moneta occasionally has an orange ring on the dorsum similar to Cypraea annulus, but it is distinguished by its heavy margin. Juvenile specimens of the two species are difficult to separate.

Remarks: This is the well known money cowry which was used for currency in some parts of Africa, Asia and Oceania. It is an extremely common shell in its tropical range. Last century vast quantities were collected on the east coast of Africa and shipped to West Africa, where the shell does not occur naturally. In the year 1867 alone, 67,000 hundredweight passed through the port of Lagos, to be used as payment for oil seed. Under this pressure it rapidly devalued as a currency in the latter part of the nineteenth century.

Figs. 1,2: Long Reef, Collaroy, NSW (C.077572)

Copyright Des Beechey 2000