The cowry, also known as the porcelain snail, is a highly interesting animal family biologically, culturally, linguistically, and economically.
Shine, shape, colors and patterns have fascinated mankind for millennia. The scientific name is Cypraeidae. In English cowrie.
Around 200 species are known and scientifically recorded.
The cowrie prefers warm water (above18%), lives mainly in shallow depths (from 3 to 200 meters). Native mainly to the Indo-Pacific, east coast of Africa, Central Pacific, Hawaii, Australia and Red Sea.
The body consists of the head on one side, with two long antennae on the side, each with an eye. Between the feelers is the breathing tube, which is used to carry the water to the gills, allowing oxygen uptake.
On the other hand, from the creep foot and the mantle. Inside the shell, the mantle protects the organs heart, kidney, gills and stomach. Outwardly, the mantle completely covers the shell and is retracted in case of danger.
The mantle protects the shell from being overgrown by other organisms and leads to the shiny surface. This is also the explanation why it is also called porcelain snail. Because of the nature of the shell, the name porcelain was adopted in the 13th century for high quality produced tableware.
The reproduction of the cowrie is interesting and exciting.
All cowries have separate sexes. Anatomical peculiarities of the sex organs and genetically controlled behaviors cause the female to mate with two males at the same time. The female then releases only as many fertilized eggs as she deems appropriate, and retains the others to spawn at a later time.
That is, a female produces offspring from two different fathers at the same time. After five to nine days of brood care, the larvae are shed and after another 5 days, the larvae have grown large enough to have a solid shell. After metamorphosis, young cowries emerge after 2 to 3 months.
The name Kauri is found in many languages with highly variable meanings. In Chinese writing, kauri stands for the words money, buy, sell. In Malay, customs and tax. In Hindi for small coin. Similarly, cowries influenced the cultural history of mankind. Found as an addition in tombs of the Arabic, Norse and Roman cultures.
Over the centuries, the kauri has been a means of payment. Especially in the South Seas, Africa East and South Asia. As a medium of exchange, the kauri currencyspread.
In the 13th century, from the Indian Ocean to Africa. By 1520, slaves in West Africa were traded in kauri money. In Cameroon, 60 kauris were the equivalent of one slave. In the 1850s in Sudan, one kauri got you a handful of beans, a bowl of drinking water, or an onion.
To this day, the kauri is a popular piece of jewelry and is worn as a talisman.
Photos cowry: Johann Vifian
Tafel Kauri als Kulturgegenstände: Cowries Fachbuch von Dr. Felix Lorenz
Quellen: Cowries Fachbuch von Dr. Felix Lorenz und Wikipedia Kaurischnecken