Ovatipsa coloba (Melvill, 1888) inhabits the Northern Indian Ocean.

The name ‘coloba’ first mentioned in a work by Melvill (1888) to designate a form of C. cruenta Gmelin, 1791 “so called from the stunted appearance.” Melvill mentioned that in this form “the base is always brighter coloured, and teeth interstices bright red”; such a shell is figured in a work by Sowerby (1870) Pl. 23 # 190—Fig. 1 below.


Cypraea cruenta Gmelin was later treated as a synonym of Cypraea chinensis Gmelin (1791).

In the Prodrome—Schilder & Schilder (1938) the name coloba was recycled to designate a possible new species closely related to chinensis.

The Schilders wrote: The Indian coloba differs from chinensis by the orange instead of whitish base and sides, and by the anterior and posterior columellar teeth much coarser and more produced than the central ones, whereas in chinensis all columellar teeth are equally short; besides, in coloba the lateral spots are scarce instead of profuse, extending less over the base, and of a less rich purple, while the dorsal specks are not so close, but never interrupted by pale lacunae; the general shape, the aperture, and the fossula of coloba approach chinensis variolaria.”

1. C. cruenta var. coloba; enlarged pictured

from a work by Sowerby (1870)

Two subspecies were described in the Prodrome:

O. coloba coloba from the Gulf of Aden;

O. coloba greegori (Ford, 1893) from India-Bombay to Andaman Islands.

Their description reads:

“In the Erythraean coloba ( the anterior and posterior columellar teeth seem to be less produced than in the Indian greegori (, the aperture is less narrow, the right margin less swollen, and the fossular denticles are obsolete; but we are not quite sure whether these characters are really racial.”

In Schilder & Schilder (1952) this approach is the same.


Burgess (1970, 1985) believed that coloba is an ecological variation of O. chinensis and mentioned that it is “easily separable from the latter by its circular shape, the depressed dorsum, the heavy coarser teeth, and the extremely callused margins, the overall appearance of the two is very similar.”



1) I did not find in the literature reports confirming the presence of O. coloba coloba in the Gulf of Aden and near-by areas as mentioned in the Prodrome.


Sharabati (1984), Verbinnen et al. (1993), and Dekker & Orlin (2000) did not mention O. coloba from the Red Sea.

Bosch (1982:65) treated chinensis-like shells from Oman (Salalah) and Masirah Island as Cypraea chinensis. A shell 48 mm pictured on p. 65 of the latter work is elliptical, with the typical chinensis dorsum having light lacunae and can be identified as O. chinensis indeed.

Bosch et al. (1995:73) mentioned both chinensis (# 247) and coloba (#250) from Masirah I. and Salalah (Oman). One can see in a picture # 250 of the latter work a 25 mm shell without light lacunae on the dorsum and with the columellar teeth hardly extending over the base in the anterior and posterior parts of the base; the base of that shell is not orange and has the typical pink tinge characteristic of chinensis. This shell is also can be diagnosed as O. chinensis.

Coulombel (1993) did not mention chinensis and coloba from Djibouti.

There are reports of finding chinensis-like shells in Somalia; these shells are small (20-30 mm) and similar to Fig. 1 above but their base is not orange as is coloba and has the typical pink tinge characteristic of chinensis.

There are new sporadic reports of finding chinensis-like shells in Somalia; these shells are often small (20-30 mm) and thus resemble shells of O. coloba although their base is never as deep orange-brown as it is in coloba. Populations of O. chinensis from Somalia definitely need further study before being treated as a subspecies of chinensis but they cannot be treated as O. coloba.


2) Eastern group of coloba populations.

Dharma (2005) pictured coloba shells (about 27 mm) from Padang, Sumatra, and the Indian Ocean and from South Kalimantan, Java Sea, the Pacific Ocean; this fact indicates the possible range extension for O. coloba if it is a valid species. Dharma pictured also shells of O. chinensis chinensis from West and Central Java (28-38 mm) and shells from Nusa Tenggara Islands, Indonesia, which he treats as O. chinensis amiges.


Thach (2005) mentioned only O. chinensis from Vietnam and did not mention O. coloba.


Most shells of O. coloba available currently to shell collectors are from India and Phuket I., West Thailand.


2. Approximate range of distribution of O. coloba

A conclusion can be drawn that O. coloba inhabits an area from South-West India to West Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia as shown in Fig. 1


A group of coloba shells in the author’s collection can be seen in Figs. 2-19.





2-3. Pamban, India, 32 mm

4-5. Dwarka, India, 22.7 mm

6-7. Thailand, 21 mm




8-9. Thailand, Phuket, 24.1 mm

10-11. Andaman Sea, off Ko Lon

Thailand, 21 m

12-13. Thailand, 23 mm

14. Thailand, 22 mm

15. Thailand, 24 mm

16. No locality data, 27 mm



There seems to be no conchological gap between chinensis and coloba in the following diagnostic characters:

-In coloba the anterior and posterior columellar teeth much coarser and more produced than the central ones, but this phenomenon can be found also in shells of chinensis-Fig. 17.

-Shells of coloba are relatively small, oval and callused but such shells can be found in populations of chinensis too-Figs. 18-22 (form dilatata).

-The lateral spots are scarce instead of profuse in coloba, extending less over the base but they are still well visible as in shells of chinensis.

-The dorsal specks are not so close in coloba and seem to be never interrupted by pale lacunae but this character is found also in chinensis—Fig. 19. A number of such shells in populations of chinensis (form confused) from East Africa may be substantial-about 87% as can be seen in Report-2-Heiman (2006).

-The teeth are whitish, and interstices of teeth are dark orange in coloba but these characters can be found in shells of chinensis especially in the Hawaiian Islands—Fig. 20.


17. O. chinensis, Philippines

anterior and posterior columellar teeth much coarser and more produced than the central ones

18. O. chinensis, Mozambique 

28.5 mm, oval and callused shell

19. O. chinensis, Mozambique

dorsal specks are not interrupted by pale lacunae

20. O. chinensis, Hawaiian Is.

the teeth are whitish, and interstices of teeth are dark orange 

21. O. chinensis, Kenya

33 mm, oval and callused shell

22. O. chinensis,Vietnam

28.5 mm, oval and callused shell


The taxonomic identity

The Schilders studied a total of 92 shells of coloba and listed it in Schilder & Schilder (1971) as a subspecies of O. chinensis. This approach cannot be accepted due to the following reasons:

O. coloba differs from O. chinensis by one shell character—a rich orange color of the base and margins. This difference is constant, without intermediate forms and it can be interpreted as a conchological gap of a specific level between the two taxa or as a form or stable mutant.

Mutants can be treated as valid species—for example Erosaria eburnea (Barnes, 1824) or as forms, for example Erronea onyx (Linnaeus, 1758) f. nymphaea, Erronea errones (Linnaeus, 1758) f. azurea. In the latter case a blue mutant of E. errones is treated as a form azurea because the blue shells are sporadically found together with typical shells of errones in the same area i.e. the blue mutant is not separated geographically from the typical population and does not comprise the majority.

Analogically, rostrated and melanotic shells from New Caledonia or Queensland, Australia are not treated as subspecies. All these shells are forms; they share the main diagnostic characters of the relevant species with the typical shells although differ from them by one or several striking conchological characters.


Erosaria eburnea separated from Erosaria miliaris by a conchological gap (white color) and geographically (inhabiting mostly New Caledonia) hence it is treated as a valid species.


O. coloba cannot be treated as an ecological variation of O. chinensis as Burgess believed because it is unknown in populations of the latter and there is no evidence that O. chinensis and O. coloba share the same geographic area.


Currently, a decision regarding the taxonomic identity of O. coloba seems to be only arbitrary. I suggest continuing to treat it as a valid monotypic species until new information allows clarifying its status.

O. coloba greegori is a synonym because there is no evidence that coloba populations are living in the Gulf of Aden and near-by areas.



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