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.
Probably none of them really constitutes a geographical subspecies, yet a certain geographical pattern can be observed
even in this variable species.

First of all, forget about the map in our "Guide" (black lines).
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, Sri Lanka.
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.
Such shells 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,
whereas 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
the 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 well.
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 will know).

These two cuties are typical Maldive shells. Unfortunately, little material is available from there these days.
Maldive 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!!
(but they are nice to have when we talk about them, right??)


The southern coast of Sri Lanka is inhabited by small, dark specimens.
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.
Nice specimens are quite rare.

© Felix Lorenz 18.02.2004