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Phylum Mollusca > Class Gastropoda
Ovulid snails
Family Ovulidae
updated Sep 2020
Where seen? These amazing snails are seen on our sea fans and flowery soft corals, particularly on our Northern shores.

Features: 1-3cm. These snails have shells that resemble those of the cowries (Family Cypraeidae) and are thus sometimes called False cowries. Some also have long narrow shells with pointy tips at both ends that resemble a spinning spindle and are thus also called Spindle cowries. The ovulid shell is usually plain, unmarked and white.

Compared to true cowries, ovulid shells lack strong teeth and are usually elongated. Like the true cowries, the adult ovulid doesn't have an operculum. Ovulids also cover the shell with their mantle. The mantle usually has the same colour and texture as the animal that they live on. Some also accumulate in their mantle, the toxic chemicals from their prey.

Closely resembles the sea fan that it eats.
Changi, Jul 12

Closely resembles the soft coral that it eats.
Beting Bronok, May 11

The shell opening lacks 'teeth',
unlike in a real cowrie.
Chek Jawa, Aug 05
What do they eat? Ovulids are carnivorous and prey on sea fans, sea whips and soft corals, actually biting off the polyps and chewing up their common tissues. Each species specialises in a particular prey and they usually mimic their prey perfectly.

Ovulid babies: Ovulids lay their eggs on the base of the host or hanging from the limbs of branching soft corals.

Laying eggs?
East Coast Park, Jun 13

Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on flickr.

Chomped areas and eggs (?) nearby
Beting Bronok, May 11
Hanging in there: Several of these snails were seen 'hanging' from a string of mucus on sea fans exposed out of water during low tide.

Changi, May 21

Status and threats: None of our ovulids are listed among the threatened animals of Singapore. However, like other creatures of the intertidal zone, they are affected by human activities such as reclamation and pollution. Trampling by careless visitors and over-collection can also have an impact on local populations.

Some Ovulid snails on Singapore shores


Family Ovulidae recorded in Singapore
from Wong, H. W., 2011. The Ovulidae (Mollusca: Gastropoda) of Singapore
^from WORMS.
+Other additions (Singapore Biodiversity Records, etc)

  Spindle cowries seen awaiting identification
Species are difficult to positively identify without close examination.
On this website, they are grouped by external features for convenience of display.
  Red spindle cowries
Soft coral false cowries

  Family Ovulidae
  Aclyvolva lamyi
Aclyvolva lanceolata

Calcarovula longirostrata

Calpurnus verrucosus

Carpiscula bullata

Crenavolva aureola
Crenavolva guidoi
Crenavolva leopardus
Crenavolva matsumiyai
Crenavolva traillii

Cuspivolva formosa
Cuspivolva renovata
Cuspivolva ostheimerae
Cuspivolva queenslandica
Cuspivolva singularis

Dentiovula dorsuosa
Dentiovula rutherfordiana

Diminovula alabaster
+Diminovula margarita

Globovula sphaera

Hiatavolva depressa

Margovula marginata
Margovula pyriformis

Naviculavolva deflexa

sp. (Rose spindle cowrie)
Pellasimnia angasi
Pellasimnia improcera

Phenacovolva barbieri
(Dalmation spindle cowrie)
Phenacovolva birostris
Phenacovolva brevirostris
Phenacovolva dancei
Phenacovolva nectarea
(Nectar spindle cowrie)
Phenacovolva philippinarum
Phenacovolva rosea

Primovula roseomaculata
Primovula rosewateri
cf. tropica

Prionovolva brevis
Prionovolva nivea=^Prionovolva brevis

Prosimnia semperi

cf. triticea

Testudovolva bullum

Volva volva

  • Family Ovulidae on The Gladys Archerd Shell Collection at Washington State University Tri-Cities Natural History Museum website: brief fact sheet with photos.
  • Family Ovulidae (Egg Cowries) on the The Seashells of New South Wales website by Des Beechey Research Associate, Australian Museum: family introductions with photos of shells and detailed fact sheets for many species.
  • Ovulids (False cowries) on Dr Bill Rudman's Sea Slug Forum website: a brief intro to Onchidium with lots of emails queries and photos and Dr Rudman's responses to them.
  • Family Ovulidae 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.


  • Calvin Leow Jiah Jay & Tan Siong Kiat. The allied cowrie, Diminovula margarita, at Lazarus Island. 30 August 2019. Singapore Biodiversity Records 2019: 112 ISSN 2345-7597. National University of Singapore.
  • Tan Heok Hui & Tan Siong Kiat. 12 December 2014. Commensal animals of a soft coral tree in the Singapore Strait: Ball flowery coral tree, Dendronephthya sp.; False cowrie, Margovula marginata; Coral shell, Coralliophila rubrococcinea; Brittlestar, unidentified. Singapore Biodiversity Records 2014: 321-323.
  • Wong, H. W., 2011. The Ovulidae (Mollusca: Gastropoda) of Singapore (pdf). Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, National University Singapore, Singapore. 58 pp. Uploaded 10 Nov.2011.
  • 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.
  • H. W. Wong. 8 Sep 2008. A new record of Cymbovula segaliana Cate, 1973 (Mollusca: Gastropoda: Ovulidae) in Singapore. Pp. 65-67. Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum.
  • Tan, K. S. & L. M. Chou, 2000. A Guide to the Common Seashells of Singapore. Singapore Science Centre. 160 pp.
  • Wee Y.C. and Peter K. L. Ng. 1994. A First Look at Biodiversity in Singapore. National Council on the Environment. 163pp.
  • Ng, P. K. L. & Y. C. Wee, 1994. The Singapore Red Data Book: Threatened Plants and Animals of Singapore. The Nature Society (Singapore), Singapore. 343 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.
  • Abbott, R. Tucker, 1991. Seashells of South East Asia. Graham Brash, Singapore. 145 pp.
  • Coleman, Neville. 2003. 2002 Sea Shells: Catalogue of Indo-Pacific Mollusca. Neville Coleman's Underwater Geographic Pty Ltd, Australia.144pp.
  • Kuiter, Rudie H and Helmut Debelius. 2009. World Atlas of Marine Fauna. IKAN-Unterwasserachiv. 723pp.
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