Leporicypraea mappa (Linnaeus, 1758)
Map cowry, 40-85mm

Leporicypraea mappa is certainly one of the more striking shells from the Marshall Islands. It is highly variable in the usually wavy pattern that runs longitudinally across the dorsum. The color of the base also varies, from white to pink to purple, usually but not always with a darker blotch on the columellar side of the base. Maps are most common under rocks as shallow as about 3m on subtidal interisland lagoon reefs, such as that in the lee of Shell Island or North Loi. Larger specimens can be found at night in caves on the seaward slope to depths of at least 60m. Empty shells are frequently seen on lagoon bottom shipwrecks, where the smallest specimens are usually found. Some analyses suggest what we have long called mappa is at least two species broken into a number of subspecies. The specific variety from the Marshalls has been called Leporicypraea mappa viridis variety eluceta, although some shells here show characteristics of Leporicypraea geographica, particularly in the complete absence of a basal blotch, although Lorenz (2002) notes that for the Kwajalein variety of mappa the basal blotch can be reduced to absent. Apparently DNA analysis is confirming at least some of these differences, but for now, we are going to leave them all here under L. mappa.

The nearly transparent mantle is difficult to see even though it covers half of the shell in the specimen below. You can tell where it is by the presence of short white papillae that are branched at the tips.

This closeup of the anterior end shows the fringed siphon through which water is drawn into the shell to pass over the gills. Also the two anterior tentacles are visible below the siphon.

A specimen on eggs.

A juvenile specimen shows just traces of the lined pattern seen on the adult shell.

Even younger.

The shell pattern is extremely variable.

Created 1 April 2008
Updated 26 March 2017

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