Wednesday 20 January 2016

Tiger Cowrie

Images: Nick Hobgood
Cypraea tigris
The Tiger Cowrie!

Because sometimes two tentacles are not nearly enough.

Image: Elias Levy
It's a rather lovely, Indo-Pacific snail which can reach a good 10 to 15 cm (4 - 6 in) long. And, like other snails, it has a pair of tentacles to help sniff out food, in this case sponges, algae and the like.

Image: bathyporeia
But this isn't just a snail, It's a cowrie kind of snail! And that means they have a shell that's slick, smooth and easy on the eye...

Video: George Hodge

And, like most cowries, they have a huge mantle that can be hidden away inside their shell when danger lurks, or rolled out so it rises up the sides of the smooth shell and covers it up entirely.

Image: budak
Unlike most cowries, the Tiger's mantle is covered in lots of strange white-tipped tentacles. Why? I've no idea! Maybe it's for camouflage? Maybe it's to look a bit like a sea urchin?

Maybe they simply enjoy being a kind of bizarre, inverse pin cushion? I mean, soft, fleshy pins sticking out of a hard shell? Maybe they're a bunch of practical jokes enjoying their retirement?


TexWisGirl said...

cool! have never seen the tentacled (live) version!

Joseph JG said...

Yeah, terrible to miss out on tentacles like that!

elfinelvin said...

I have always loved these shells. I had no idea they had that neat, tentacled mantle trick.

Joseph JG said...

Those tentacles were utterly unexpected!