• Photo by Rantje Allen

  • Photo by William Tan

  • Photo by Rantje Allen

  • Photo by William Tan

  • Photo by Rantje Allen

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Tiger Cowrie on the Move in Gorontalo

Tiger Cowrie can be found occasionally along Gorontalo’s coral reefs.

A Tiger with Spots

Cowries are a family of marine gastropod mollusk. They are basically large snails that live in the ocean. The cowrie pictured here is called Tiger Cowrie because of the original Latin name Cypraea tigris. The famous scientist Linnaeus named it in the 18th century. The shell pattern is not striped like feline tigers but spotted. However, the pattern of a Tiger Cowrie mantle does have striping.

The shell is shaped like an egg and is quite heavy. As with other cowries, the exterior of the shell is very slick. When the snail comes out from the inside of its shell, its mantle wraps around the exterior of the shell. This action keeps its shell clean and polished. In fact, both left and right side of the snail’s mantle extend all the way to the upper half of its shell. This way both sides meet half way, covering the entire shell.

tiger cowrie mantle
Posterior portion of a Tiger Cowrie mantle

More often than not, the mantle of the Tiger Cowrie is completely hidden inside its shell. It only comes out to feed or to move. It usually does so at night. During the day, it usually sleeps under corals or in rubble or sand.

The mantle has dozens of short projections called papillae. These look like many swaying fingers. Also, the tips are white in color. No one knows the function of these papillae.

Life and Habits of Tiger Cowrie

Tiger cowries are found throughout the Indo-Pacific region. This includes Gorontalo. They prefer coral reefs or nearby sandy or rubble bottoms. They are usually at depths between ten and forty meters. The juveniles eat algae, but the adults are carnivorous. Adults eat soft corals, sponges, bryzoans and other invertebrates.

tiger cowrie shell
A shiny sight on the reef

A Tiger Cowrie is either male or female. The mother will guard her eggs with her muscular foot until they are ready to hatch. The larvae then swim away and drift with plankton while they develop.

A cowrie also has a head with eyes and tentacles. Its mouth is like a tube. Its internal organs are kept safe inside the shell.

The Tiger Cowrie is considered threatened in some locations. For example, in Singapore, it is endangered. Direct threats include habitat destruction and shell collecting for souvenirs and the aquarium trade.

For your chance to a spot a Tiger Cowrie in Gorontalo, please book your dive trip with us.

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