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Central and South Florida Gastropod Seashell Identification Guide: Cowries and Flamingo Tongues

This guide should serve to teach the public how to identify local Central and South Florida gastropod seashells.

Cowries and Flamingo Tongues

(Superfamily) Cypraeoidea

Distinguishing Characteristics: When mature, the body whorl surrounds the spire, leaving a slit-like aperture and giving the shell a uniform look.  The shells are very shiny and smooth.

Habitat:  These snails live on water up to 50 feet deep, primarily on rocky seabeds.

Diet:  This family feeds upon sponges and gorgonians.

Interesting Facts:  The cowries have been used as a form of money by cultures around the globe and are often used to make necklaces.

Scientific Name:  Macrocypraea zebra

Common Name:  Measled Cowrie

Distinguishing Characteristics:  Shell elongated, brown, and speckled with white dots, giving the species its common name.  The largest white dots will sometimes have brown centers, especially along the sides.  Maximum size 4 inches.

Scientific Name:  Luria cinerea

Common Name:  Atlantic Gray Cowrie

Distinguishing Characteristics:  Shell has a rounder shape, and is a creamy brown with horizontal lighter bands.  Side of shell often speckled with brown or black spots.  Maximum size around 2 inches.

Scientific Name:  Cyphoma gibbosum

Common Name:  Flamingo Tongue

Distinguishing Characteristics:  The ends of the shell are extended, giving the shell a boxier shape as compared to the cowries.  A thick ridge arises perpendicular to the aperture,  Shell is orange to white.  Maximum size 2 inches.

Macrocypraea zebra

Measled Cowrie

Luria cinerea

Atlantic Gray Cowrie

Cyphoma gibbosum

Flamingo Tongue