Page:Natural History, Mollusca.djvu/183

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171
COWRIES.

According to the same observer, the minute snail-like shell of the young cowry forms the nucleus of that which afterwards grows, and undergoes the changes in form already described. The young are very active, whirling giddily about through the water, and occasionally adhering to foreign bodies, not by any disk for the purpose, but by means of the dilated expansions of the mantle. In the course of growth, these fleshy expansions become entirely absorbed, and do not ultimately constitute the lobes of the mantle which embrace the shell in the adult.

One of the species (C. moneta) possesses an interest, as forming a recognised currency in some parts of Africa, and of further India. Their value in Bengal is said to be as follows: 3,500 cowries are equal to one rupee, or about 2s. 3d. sterling. They are procured chiefly from the Maldives, and the coast of Congo. After the spring-tides, women collect the sea-sand in baskets; the cowries are then picked out, and heaped up in the sun; the animals soon dry up, and the shells, being cleaned, are ready for the money-market.


CYPRÆA EUROPÆA.
Many of my readers are doubtless familiar with our little native cowry (Cypræa Europæa). It varies in size, from that of a split pea to that of a large horse-bean. It is elegantly marked all over with transverse ridges. These ridges are porcellanous white, and the alternate furrows between are purplish, or flesh colour. The larger specimens commonly display three spots of dark brown,