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Cypraea vitellus Linnaeus, 1758

Description: Teeth coarse, extending only slightly out of the aperture. Base rounded, white or partly fawn. Sides not thickened, coloured as the base, sometimes with five vertical brown lines on the outer lip. Dorsal surface light brown with three darker brown transverse bands, the whole surface marked with white spots of varying size. Mantle line absent.

Size: Up to 100 mm in length, typically 45-50 mm in NSW.

Distribution: The tropical Indo-West Pacific region, from east Africa to Tahiti, including northern Australia, from Cape Naturaliste, WA, to Montague Island, NSW.

Habitat: Intertidal, under stones. Very common in the tropics, uncommon in NSW.

Synonym: Mystaponda orcina Iredale, 1931;

Remarks: Note the octapus drill hole in the specimen in the photograph.  The octapus injects venom through the hole to kill the cowry, which it presumably extracts through the aperture.  

Figs. 1,2: Shellharbour, NSW (C.101561)

Fig. 3: Living animal (Inscription Point, Kurnell, NSW, 0.2 m depth, 2009). (Photo: Jack Hannon, Copyright: Jack Hannon)


Copyright Des Beechey 2000