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by Ross Mayhew creator of The Mollusc of the Moment Articles


"Cypraea fultoni"

Sowerby III, 1903

"Fulton's Cowrie"
Cypraea fultoni Sowerby III, 1903

(Image by UMAX Astra 1200s Mac Scanner (RM))

.....This is one of the most famous mollusc shells ever! Just 10 years ago, if you wanted a decent specimen of this "classic" rarity, valued for its unusual shape and fascinating patterns ( i think this one resembles a Maltese Cross, and have called it (at least until it passes on to someone else, i.e.!!) the "Maltese Fultoni"), you would have had to pay between $10,000 and $15,000 USD!!! The first few specimens were found in the stomachs of fish* caught off the coast of Mozambique, but later on, a goodly # of them (but few of excellent quality, even to this day) were dredged in the same area by Russian trawlers, and other populations were found off South Africa. Just recently, a large trove of them were found - so many that the worst specimens were sold at a shell show in Paris for only $10!! On the high end of the scale, the specimen which once fetched $15,000 is now worth about $800 - ouch!!

*NOTE: Fish which live on the bottom of the sea sometimes munch molluscs, so they are splendid place to look for deep-water species which are seldom seen: even very tiny (2mm!) specimens can be found by carefully sifting through the entrails of ground-fish, and many species which might very seldom be found otherwise (from deep water, especially!), can be recovered by this unusual method of shell collecting.