The many faces of Erosaria occellata
Alex Hubert once told me that "if occellata was
rare it would be the most expensive of the cowries".
He was right. There hardly is another species with
a pattern- composition more beautiful and fascinating.
The following pictures shall illustrate some forms
and variations that I believe are fairly constant.
none of them really constitutes a geographical subspecies, yet
a certain geographical pattern can be observed
in this variable species.
First of all, forget about the map in our "Guide"
Many of the localities we were
given have proven incorrect, on top of all those from New Guinea.
The shells labeled so all turned out to originate
from one and the same dealer.
This gentleman is
no longer around, so ....
This map shows those localities that to my best knowledge
really have living populations of E. occellata (blue color)
The size range of the species known to me is from 11
mm to 40 mm.
The shells shown here are not those
extremes (beached shells).
These are typical occellata from Trincomalee,
Note the fairly distant teeth which
may be tinted, the fine spotting on the base and the moderately
large black dorsal spots.
These are from Somalia. They resemble closely the typical
ones from Sri Lanka.
Another one from Sri Lanka. Note the basal blotch-
it is an accumulation of the spotting.
are found among larger series of shells from anywhere, they are
not really remarkable.
This beauty is from India. The dense and dark dorsal
spotting is rather unusual for this locality,
the long and dense teeth and the fine spotting on dorsum is.
On left: a typical ocellata from India (Kerala). Note
the smaller black dorsal spots,
the dense and
long teeth, the more pronounced margins and the fine and dense
basal spots on pale background.
On right another
typical one from Sri Lanka (Beruwala area).
Shallow water specimens from India vary from a cream
color to almost green.
The pellucid reddish forms are found by shrimpers at
depths of 60-90 m in the south of India and
north of Sri Lanka, namely the Jaffna area.
Jaffna, trawled off 80 m. Here they are. Such pale,
pellucid shells are rather rare, as their home is one of those
areas of the world where peace is urgently needed!
Thailand. Specimens from the eastern distribution limit
tend to be rather small and pale.
There are callused
forms as this one, but you can get regular elongate shells as
The general shape is not really an issue
in separating geographical forms in the species of Erosaria
(as everybody with a good collection of lamarckii
These two cuties are typical Maldive shells. Unfortunately,
little material is available from there these days.
shells are smaller and tend to be more callused.
In the following, I will show some unusual variations,
mostly from Sri Lanka.
The names I am giving them
are NOT intended to have any meaning at all!!
they are nice to have when we talk about them, right??)
The southern coast of Sri Lanka is inhabited by small,
The place where these really unusual
shells are from is rather hard to access as strong waves
break ashore from the open ocean.
hurricanensis (attention viewer: you
haven't had a drink too many)
superquasimodoi (or whatever next...)
Finally, here is the famous subfossil form which has
been propagated "new species" or "the true thomasi",
or more intelligently "mystery cowry".
Such shells were found in the excavations for
the railroad track at Dikwella, Sri Lanka.
specimens are quite rare.
© Felix Lorenz 18.02.2004