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Phylum Mollusca > Class Gastropoda > Family Cypraeidea
Onyx cowrie
Erronea onyx
Family Cypraeidae
updated Jul 2020
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 pear-shaped, dark brown to orange with 2 or 3 bands of gold. The underside is black with an orange tinge on the 'teeth'. The living animal has a mantle with a dark to golden yellow base, usually mottled but sometimes uniform.

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.

Beting Bronok, May 11

'Teeth' tinged orange.
Leave cowries alone: A mother cowrie stays over her eggs after she lays them, covering the egg mass (usually yellowish) with her foot. So if you see a cowrie under a stone, please don't rip it off. You might inadvertently separate a mother from her eggs!

Mama cowrie protecting her egg mass with her foot.
Pulau Ubin, Dec 12

Mama cowrie protecting her egg mass with her foot.
Pulau Ubin, Dec 12

Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on flickr.

Mama cowrie with her egg mass.
Pulau Sekudu, Jun 17

Photo shared by Jianlin Liu on facebook.

Onyx cowries on Singapore shores
On wildsingapore flickr

Other sightings on Singapore shores

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

Changi Lost Coast, Jun 22
Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on facebook.

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.
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