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Cypraea chinensis with fully extended mantle.jpg
A live cowry Cypraea chinensis, with its mantle fully extended, head end to the left
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Mollusca
Class: Gastropoda
(unranked): clade Caenogastropoda
clade Hypsogastropoda
clade Littorinimorpha
Superfamily: Cypraeoidea
Rafinesque, 1815

Cypraeoidea, the cowries and cowry allies, is a superfamily of sea snails, marine gastropods included in the clade Littorinimorpha. This superfamily had been called Cypraeacea and was named by Rafinesque in 1815.

Shell description[edit]

This superfamily of sea snails have adult shells which do not look like typical gastropod shells because the spire of the shell is not visible in adults, instead the shells are: often quite rounded in shape, varying from globular to elongate, and with a long, very narrow, aperture which is sometimes toothed. The snails in these families have no operculum.

The shells of almost every species in this superfamily are very smooth and shiny, and this is because in the living animal, the shell is nearly always fully covered with the mantle.

The largest known fossil cowry was Gisortia gigantiea Munster, 1828 which reached a length of 350mm. The largest modern cowry is the Atlantic Deer Cowry (Macrocypraea cervus) at up to 190mm. The largest known cowry from any extant subfamily or genus was the Australian cowry Zoila (Gigantocypraea) gigas (McCoy, 1867) at about 247mm.[1]


This superfamily used to be known as Cypraeacea. Prior to the recent ruling by the ICZN, many invertebrate superfamily names ended in the suffix -acea, or -aceae, not -oidea as now required according to ICZN article 29.2. The suffix -oidea used to be used for some subclasses and superorders, where it is stll found. In much of the older literature including Keen 1958, gastropod superfamilies are written with the suffix -acea.[2][3][4]


2005 taxonomy[edit]

The following two subfamilies were recognized in the taxonomy of Bouchet & Rocroi (2005):

2007 taxonomy[edit]

Fehse (2007)[5] elevated the subfamily Pediculariinae to the family Pediculariidae, and the tribe Eocypraeini to the family Eocypraeidae. Both of these groups were removed from the Ovulidae and raised to family level, based on research on their morphological and molecular phylogenic qualities.[5] Families within Cypraeoidea are as follows:


  1. ^ Thomas A. Darragh, A revision of the Australian fossil species of Zoila (Gastropoda, Cypraeidae); Memoirs of Museum Victoria 68: 1-28 (2011)
  2. ^ Keen A. M. (1958). Sea Shells of Tropical West America. Stanford University Press.
  3. ^ Moore, Lalicker & Fischer (1952). Invertebrate Fossils. McGraw-Hill Book.
  4. ^ Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology; part K (Nautiloidea) 1964 and part L (Ammonoidea) 1962; Geological Society of America and Univ. of Kansas Press.
  5. ^ a b Fehse D. (2007). "Contributions to the knowledge of the Ovulidae. XVI. The higher systematics". Spixiana 30(1): 121-125. PDF.

External links[edit]