|Live animal, with mantle visible|
|Five views of a shell of Monetaria moneta|
Description and characteristics
It is a quite small porcelain (3 cm max), irregular and flattened, with very calloused edges and roughly subhexagonal. The color is pale (from white to dirty beige), but the dorsum seems transparent, often greenish grey with yellowish margins, with sometimes darker transverse strips and a fine yellow ring. The opening is wide and white, with pronounced denticules. The mantle of the live animal is mottled with black and dirty white.
The underside of a live Monetaria moneta with the mantle partially retracted
This is a very common species which is found widely in Indo-Pacific tropical waters. It is present in numerous regions, including East and South Africa, Madagascar, the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, eastern Polynesia, Galapagos, Clipperton and Cocos islands off Central America, southern Japan, Midway and Hawaii, and northern New South Wales and Lord Howe Island.
This cowry lives in intertidal rocky areas and shallow tide pools among sea weed, coral remains, and empty bivalve shells. It can be found on and under rocks in shallow water and on exposed reefs at low tide. It feeds on algae and marine vegetation growing on loose rocks and pieces of dead coral.
Subspecies and forms
- Monetaria moneta barthelemyi (f) Bernardi, M., 1861 
- Monetaria moneta form erosaformis
- Monetaria moneta form harrisi Iredale, T., 1939 
- Monetaria moneta form icterina Lamarck, J.B.P.A. de, 1810 
- Monetaria moneta form rhomboides Schilder, F.A. & M. Schilder, 1933 
- Monetaria moneta form tuberculosa Quoy, J.R.C. & J.P. Gaimard, 1834 
The Maldives provided the main source of cowrie shells, throughout Asia and parts of the East African coast. Huge amounts of Maldivian cowries were introduced into Africa by western nations during the period of slave trade.
It was also traded to Native Americans by European settlers.
In the State of Kerala, in India, special money cowry shells (which are known in Malayalam as Kavidi കവിടി) are used for divination as part of Hindu astrology, as Prashnam. For Prashnam, 108 shells of Monetaria moneta are rotated a number of times and the blessings of God and one's Guru are invoked. A portion of the Kavadis are separated and counted to find out the ruling planet at that time. The results of the Prasna horoscope (a horoscope formulated at the time of arrival of the persons) are compared with the results of the Prasnam, and the predictions are pronounced on that basis.
- WoRMS : Monetaria moneta; accessed : October 20, 2010
- Gastropods.com : Monetaria moneta; accessed : 20 October 2010
- Poutiers, J. M. (1998). Gastropods in: FAO Species Identification Guide for Fishery Purposes: The living marine resources of the Western Central Pacific Volume 1. Seaweeds, corals, bivalves and gastropods. Rome, FAO, 1998. page 503.
- Gastropods.com : Monetaria moneta barthelemyi; accessed : October 20, 2010
- Gastropods.com : Monetaria moneta erosaformis; assessed : October 20, 2010
- Gastropods.com : Monetaria moneta harrisi; accessed : October 20, 2010
- gastropods.com : Monetaria moneta icterina; accessed : October 20, 2010
- Gastropods.com : Monetaria moneta rhomboides; accessed : October 20, 2010
- Gastropods.com : Monetaria moneta tuberculosa; accessed : October 20, 2010
- Hogendorn, Jan and Johnson Marion: The Shell Money of the Slave Trade. African Studies Series 49, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1986.
- Verdcourt, B. (1954). The cowries of the East African Coast (Kenya, Tanganyika, Zanzibar and Pemba). Journal of the East Africa Natural History Society 22(4) 96: 129-144, 17 pls.