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Gearing up for my impending trip to Cozumel, I am, as usual, reading everyone's trip reports and looking at their pictures (notably those posted by jlyle over on D2D - wow!) with heightened interest. I suddenly remembered a critter that I saw once in the water just off the back of my hotel some 15 years ago when I was still a mere snorkeler - a cowrie.
What a bizarre creature! I always had thought the the cowrie shells I had seen had been artificially polished, since the outer surface was so smooth compared to the shells of, say, conchs and whelks that I see in the wild. Not so; the shell of a live cowrie looks just like they do when you see them in someone's shell collection. The reason for it is when a cowrie extends from its shell, the animal oozes out of that slit in the bottom and completely encapsulates the shell.
I haven't seen another one since, so they must not be that common, or they are usually around in some other part of the year from my usual May-July visits. Has anyone else seen one there? I haven't seen one in anyone's picture collection or read any accounts on Scubaboard of a spotting.
Thanks for the nice words. The cowries hide during the day time and come out at night. You sometimes find them off shore in the sand at night. You can also spend a lot of time looking into holes during the daytime. They are reasonably common in Cozumel, but are fairly small, 1-2 inches. If you tell your dive guide you want to see one, I'll bet you he/she can find one for you!