Lyncina leviathan (Schilder & Schilder, 1937)
Leviathan cowry, 48-78mm

The shell of Lyncina leviathan looks at first glance to be just a large Lyncina carneola. There are, however, differences reported in the morphology of both the shell and animal. The differences between these two species are covered in more detail on the Lyncina carneola page. One big reason, and the primary one we agree with for keeping the species separate, is unfortunately one that you cannot see without killing and dissecting the animal. The feeding structure (the radular teeth) of L. leviathan and L. carneola have been reported to be distinctly different (Kay, 1961). Externally, the shell of L. leviathan lacks a bluish-white border to the dorsal orange color; this border is usually present in L. carneola. Also, the shell of L. leviathan usually has distinct bumps along the lateral margins while this area on L. carneola is smooth. Also, Lyncina leviathan tends to grow much larger than L. carneola, although their size ranges do overlap. The papillae on the mantle of Lyncina leviathan are large and stout, topped with numerous branches resembling a leafless tree while those of L. carneola are reported to be flat with fingers at the top, but our photos of L. carneola do not necessarily back this up. Although in Hawaii this species is often found in very shallow surging water on basaltic coastlines, here in the Marshalls it is more common deeper. It has been found on the leeward seaward slope and on lagoon pinnacles, but seems most common on lagoon bottom shipwrecks, where empty shells are common even though the species is seldom seen alive. Depths in the Marshalls range from about 6 to 40m and probably deeper.

When first observed on a night dive, the specimen below had its mantle extended, which had clear characteristics of Lyncina leviathan.


Kay, E.A. 1961. Anatomical characters which distinguish two species of Cypraea. Proc. Malac. Soc. Lond. 34:199-202.

Created 1 April 2008
Updated 9 October 2009

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