You’ve probably seen tiger cowrie shells, which can be as large as six inches long. In cream, brown, and black, with a variety of patterns, they are so popular that they were once used as money.
The residents of these shells, which are a type of snail, are nocturnal. During the day, they take shelter from predators in coral reefs; at night, they eat algae and sponges. They can also eat fire coral and anemones despite their stings.
Most of the time, a live tiger cowrie’s shell is covered by its mantle, which is its outermost layer. The mantle forms spikes that may help the cowrie breathe or avoid predators. The cowrie can also pull its entire body inside its shell to protect itself.
Tiger cowries are found in tidal areas and shallow reefs in the Indian and Western Pacific Oceans. You can learn more about tiger cowries and hundreds of other marine animals in Oceana’s marine life encyclopedia.