Annepona mariae (Schilder, 1927)
Maria's cowry, 9-18mm

The round yellow to brown spots on the nearly spherical shell are unique to this species. Although it occasionally occurs on lagoon pinnacles in caves or rubble, Annepona mariae is most often seen nocturnally in seaward reef surge channel caves at depths ranging from about 7 to 22m. Numerous dead shells, some in excellent condition, can be found during the day on surge channel floors. They are sometimes found more in groups during the spring months, which may be when they come together to mate. The species was named by Cypraea expert Franz Schilder for his wife and frequent collaborator Maria. Specimens have been recorded throughout most of the Indo-Pacific.

Very shy of lights, the animal draws its nearly transparent whitish mantle into the shell and refuses to put it out again, seemingly no matter how long the photographer waits. With enough patience, you can see the animals come out enough to show the tentacles and feet as they try to crawl back into the darkness. We're not sure what the clusters of white spots in the foot are: possibly some sort of defensive glands?

Patterns vary from very clear and sharp to slightly blurry or even to a doubling of the spots in some specimens.

Created 1 April 2008
Updated 23 March 2016

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