Cribrarula cribraria (Linnaeus, 1758)
Sieve cowry, 15-35mm

Cribrarula cribraria has a striking orange to bright red mantle that is just translucent enough to permit the underlying spotted pattern of the shell to be seen. It is very closely related to another Marshall Islands species called Cribrarula gaspardi. Some authors consider C. gaspardi to be a variety or subspecies of C. cribraria, but for the purposes of this web site, we are considering them as two separate species, even though exactly where to place some specimens is difficult to determine. Cribrarula cribraria is typically larger, has a medium to dark brown dorsal coloration surrounding large close-set white circular spots, and has a bright to dark red mantle. Cribrarula gaspardi, on the other hand, is usually very small, has very pale orange to orange brown dorsal color with white spots, and has an orange mantle. Whether or not Cribrarula cribraria and C. gaspardi are indeed different species, it is clear that they prefer different habitats. Cribrarula cribraria prefers lagoon habitats ranging from the intertidal to shallow subtidal reefs, where they live under rocks, often in the vicinity of their prey sponge, a red encrusting species. Some typical Cribrarula cribraria are found on lagoon shipwrecks as deep as about 35m, usually on or around red encrusting sponges at night. Typical Cribrarula gaspardi are found nocturnally on the seaward reef in surge channel and outer slope ledges and caves, as well as on lagoon pinnacles and occasionally on shipwrecks. More information on this species can be found on the Cribrarula gaspardi page. Like some of the other red-mantled cowries, C. cribraria will often lose (autotomize) the rear portion of its foot when disturbed. The various varieties of C. cribraria are distributed across the Indo-Pacific with the exception of the Hawaiian Islands and eastern Polynesia.

The mantle has a varying amount of dark pigment over the bright red.

The next shot gives a good view of the black eye at the base of one of the tentacles.

This individual was found eating the red sponge it is on. You can clearly see the grazing marks to the left and below the mantle-covered shell.


The next two shots show juvenile specimens. The upper one has a nearly adult shell morphology, but the brown dorsal color has not yet been deposited. It apparently goes on late in the development of the shell. The lower mantle-covered specimen is a thin bulla; the base of the shell has not yet folded over to form the typical narrow cowry aperture.

Created 1 April 2008
Updated 8 October 2009

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