shelled snails text index | photo index
Phylum Mollusca > Class Gastropoda > Family Cypraeidea
Onyx cowrie
Erronea onyx
Family Cypraeidae
updated Oct 2016
Where seen? This stunning snail with a golden-brown shell is sometimes seen on our undisturbed Northern shores, in silty sandy areas near seagrasses and coral rubble. Elsewhere, it is found in coral rubble and muddy areas including mangroves. It was previously known as Cypraea onyx.

3-4cm, up to 6cm. Shell is pear-shaped, dark brown often with two or three bands of gold across it. The underside is black with an orange tinge on the 'teeth'. The mantle may be golden yellow speckled with black spots, white blotches and short white projections.

Sometimes mistaken for a sea slug. When the shell is completely covered in its mantle, it is sometimes mistaken for a sea slug. Here's more on how to tell apart slugs and animals that look like slugs.

Human uses: It is collected for subsistence food by coastal dwellers and the shell for the shell trade.

East Coast, Nov 08

Side view.

Close up of 'teeth'.

Underside covered with mantle.

Onyx cowries on Singapore shores

Photos of Onyx cowries for free download from wildsingapore flickr

Distribution in Singapore on this wildsingapore flickr map

Changi Loyang, Apr 17
Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on facebook.

Pulau Ubin, Dec 12
Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on flickr.

East Coast Park Big Splash, Jun 15
Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on facebook.


  • Onyx cowrie (Cypraea onyx) on SeaLife Base: Technical fact sheet.
  • Onyx cowrie (Cypraea onyx) in the Gastropods section by J.M. Poutiers in the FAO Species Identification Guide for Fishery Purposes: The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific Volume 1: Seaweeds, corals, bivalves and gastropods on the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) website.


  • Tan Siong Kiat and Henrietta P. M. Woo, 2010 Preliminary Checklist of The Molluscs of Singapore (pdf), Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, National University of Singapore.
  • Tan, K. S. & L. M. Chou, 2000. A Guide to the Common Seashells of Singapore. Singapore Science Centre. 160 pp.
  • Abbott, R. Tucker, 1991. Seashells of South East Asia. Graham Brash, Singapore. 145 pp.
  • Gosliner, Terrence M., David W. Behrens and Gary C. Williams. 1996. Coral Reef Animals of the Indo-Pacific: Animal life from Africa to Hawaii exclusive of the vertebrates Sea Challengers. 314pp.
  • Kuiter, Rudie H and Helmut Debelius. 2009. World Atlas of Marine Fauna. IKAN-Unterwasserachiv. 723pp.
links | references | about | email Ria
Spot errors? Have a question? Want to share your sightings? email Ria I'll be glad to hear from you!
wildfactsheets website©ria tan 2008