Cowrie (Cypraea)—Bucky ReevesThe National Audubon Society Collection/Photo Researchers
Any of several marine snails (genus Cypraea) found chiefly in coastal waters of the Indian and Pacific oceans. Its humped, thick shell is beautifully coloured (often speckled) and glossy. That of the 4-in. (10-cm) golden cowrie was traditionally worn by royalty on Pacific islands. The money cowrie, a 1-in. (2.5-cm) yellow species, has served as currency in Africa and elsewhere.