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FAQs about Ovulids: False or Egg Cowries

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http://www.seaslugforum.net/showall.cfm?base=ovulids
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ovulidae

Small Red Snail ID       9/15/16
Hi WWM crew!! I go to your site first to try to ID things and couldn't find anything on this guy. It's a small snail, almost looks like a Stomatella.
It's pretty much bright red - both the shell and the foot. I found it on a yellow polyp gorgonian (Menella sp.). I thought it might be a pest but wanted to check. It's very pretty so I don't want to harm it if I don't have to! Any ideas? Photos below. It's less than 1/4 inch long and less than 1/8 wide.
<Ahh; I do think this IS a Stomatella (sp.). They do occur in varying colors, markings... yours has likely been eating a good deal of something that bears red pigment. I would keep this animal>
Thanks,
Rachel Fogle
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Re: Small Red Snail ID       9/15/16
Awesome!! Thank you, Bob! I'm definitely keeping him :)
<Yay!>
Rachel Fogle
<BobF>

<corr.> Small Red Snail ID: Ovulid- 9/15/16
Hi WWM crew!!
<Hey Rachel!>
I go to your site first to try to ID things and couldn't find anything on this guy. It's a small snail, almost looks like a Stomatella. It's pretty much bright red - both the shell and the foot.
<Yep, it’s a pretty little thing.>
I found it on a yellow polyp gorgonian (Menella sp.).
<Yep, these guys love ‘em.>

I thought it might be a pest but wanted to check. It's very pretty so I don't want to harm it if I don't
have to! Any ideas?
<I’m sorry to say that although it does look like a Stomatellid, and it’s undoubtedly pretty, it’s a pest (at least as far as the gorgonian is concerned!). It’s an Ovulid, (family Ovulidae), a group of predatory snails similar to cowries, that feeds on gorgonians (sea whips and fans). These snails have an interesting two-fold defense strategy thanks to a soft mantle typically extended over the shell. On the one hand, it can mimic the color and texture of its prey to a surprising degree, while on the other hand, the bright colors warn predators to stay away. The mantle retains some of the noxious chemicals from whatever soft coral the snail preys upon. Bottom line – this an interesting little beauty, but I would remove it, along with any others that appear. Please see the following links for more information:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/gastropo.htm
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/MolluscPIX/Gastropods/Prosobranch%20PIX/Ovulids/OvulidsF1.htm  >
Photos below. It's less than 1/4 inch long and less than 1/8 wide.
<Thanks>
Thanks,
<You’re very welcome; I’m just sorry to be the bearer of bad news!>
Rachel Fogle
<Take care, Lynn Zurik>

Yeeikes! Thank you Lynn. I mis-ID'd this as Stomatella sp.!!! BobF       9/16/16
Snail Query - Ovulid

Hi Bob, I am so sorry that I didn't get to the snail query until today.
<Ahh! I'd sent a bad ID on thinking we/I'd missed you. B>

Re: Small Red Snail ID - Ovulid - 9/15/16
Thank you, Lynn!
<You are most welcome!>
I'll get rid of him. I'm sure my gorgonians will appreciate it.
<Oh yes, indeed!>
Rachel
<Take care, Lynn>
Re: Small Red Snail ID      9/16/16

Ha!!! I liked your ID better, Bob
<Heeee! Me too! B>
Rachel

Cowry id. If possible      2/24/15
Hi I've got a little hitch hiker i believe its an allied cowry but cant seem to find any info about being reef safe and wondered if you would be able to shed some light on the subject..
Thanx
<Does appear to be a Pseudosimnia sinensis; do eat Nephtheids...; soft corals. Bob Fenner>
Re: Cowry id. If possible      2/24/15

Thank you very much
<Ah, welcome. BobF>
 

little cowry?– 6/24/13
I found this guy clinging to my carnation coral.
<Neat!>
 Was wondering what he is and if he is a good hitchhiker or not. Please let me know what you think. He has an awesome orange and white shell.
<Mmm, how large is this animal? This looks to be a Stomatella varia; nocturnal algae grazers. Bob Fenner>

Re: little cowry?– 6/24/13
Hello again,
<Annie>
It is about the size of a pea. I have quite a few stomatellas, but this one has a full shell and not just a cap and also the underside of his shell looks like a cowry shell (has the slit with ridges along the sides).
<Mmm, well... this could be a juvenile Leviathan cowry... we'll have to wait and see as it grows! BobF>
Re: little cowry?

Are there any snails that have this coloring that are related to the bumble bee snails? Upon closer inspection the shell is shaped like that more than a cowry I think?
Thanks!
Andrea
<<Sending to LynnZ...>>
Re: little cowry?– 6/24/13
Thanks Bob - I'm on it! Take care, Lynn
<Thank you Lynn. BobF>
Little Cowry? Probable Predatory Ovulid – 6/24/13

<Hello, Lynn here this evening.>
I found this guy clinging to my carnation coral.
<That’s a great bit of information, thanks.>

Was wondering what he is and if he is a good hitchhiker or not.
<If it’s what I think it is, it’s not, at least as far as your Dendronephthya/carnation coral is concerned.>
Please let me know what you think.
<I would love to see a detailed photo of this little fellow (one from above, one from below), but I suspect that it’s a Dendronephthya predator in the family Ovulidae and I would remove it asap along with any others like it.  Ovulids (Egg/“false” cowries) are similar to “true” cowries (family Cypraeidae) in appearance and are predators of cnidarians (some specializing in Dendronephthya spp.). Judging by what I can see of your individual’s shell and foot, it appears to be something in the subfamily Prionovolvinae, which includes a number of genera.  Unfortunately, these snails can vary to a surprising degree in shell and mantle coloration within each species, so identification can be a challenge.  If you wish to pursue an ID (and are unable to send detailed photos) I would recommend beginning with the genus Habuprionovolva (see link below), then move on to the other genera within the subfamily (Diminovula, Prionovolva, etc.).  Please see the following links for comparison/more information:
Habuprionovolva aenigma:  http://www.gastropods.com/7/Shell_10247.shtml 
Subfamily Prionovolvinae photos begin about 1/3 down the page (each photo is a link to more info/photos): http://www.gastropods.com/Taxon_pages/TN_Family_OVULIDAE.shtml 
Photos of live Habuprionovolva spp. with mantles extended: http://science.naturalis.nl/research/people/cv/reijnen/habuprionovolva
He has an awesome orange and white shell.
<He certainly does; cowries and Ovulids have beautifully glossy shells.  What’s interesting about these guys is the degree to which they match their host’s coloration and texture, thereby protecting themselves from predators and unsuspecting hobbyists! Oddly enough, it’s not the shell that’s key to their camouflage, it’s the extraordinary coloration and textures of the soft mantle tissue that extends up and around the sides.  This enables the animal to practically disappear along the branches of its prey.  These really are beautiful animals.  It’s just a shame that they prey on a beautiful coral that in itself can be very difficult to keep!  Please let me/us know if there's anything else I/we can do to help. Take care, Lynn Z>
Re:  Little Cowry? Probable Predatory Ovulid – 6/24/13

<Hello Andrea, Lynn here again!>
Are there any snails that have this coloring that are related to the bumble bee snails? Upon closer inspection the shell is shaped like that more than a cowry I think?
<Do look at the Ovulids mentioned in the previous mail and see if anything there looks like what you have.  If I’m way off base, let me know and we’ll give it another try!>
Thanks!
<You’re very welcome!>
Andrea
<Take care, Lynn Z)
Re:  Little Cowry? Probable Predatory Ovulid – 6/24/13

Yes, it is the first species that you sent a photo link of.
<Yay!>
Too bad it's a predator snail...
<No kidding, it’s a shame.>
Maybe I'll have to set up a pico tank for this little guy, too pretty to let die. Maybe I'll buy a few of these carnation corals and see if he'll survive.
<That could get expensive, but if the coral was flourishing, perhaps one small snail wouldn’t do enough damage to kill it off entirely.>
Thanks!
<It was a real pleasure!>
Annie
<Take care and good luck! Lynn Z>

Flamingo Tongue Cowry Sorry to bother you but I have another question regarding Flamingo Tongue Snails. My supplier tells me they eat only Gorgonia and I have some in my tank.  <that is correct... and they should never be imported for this reason. Unless you have developed a technique for growing their prey gorgonians species faster that they can eat it> However, after introducing six snails and the Gorgonia all of the snails promptly wandered off the Gorgonia and seem to be grazing contentedly on algae and other food sources in the tank.  <they are definitely starving to death. This is an age old observation and problem. Just because a snail, fish, etc is eating an alternate food in captivity doesn't mean it is surviving on it. They are dying of a dietary deficiency. It may take weeks... some even hang in for months... but slow starvation is inevitable here. I am honestly deeply saddened that yet more have been imported. Were these sent along as freebies with an order of livestock from an Atlantic supplier or were they ordered deliberately?> The question is, are they going to survive or am I just being fooled and they will soon starve to death. <the latter... this has been observed by aquarists for 30 years!!!> They seem to be OK without the Gorgonia. <based on what, my friend? We cannot see that they are gaining or losing mass/muscle tissue so to speak. By virtue of the fact that they are still moving? :)> Thanks for the help. Don Tope <best regards, Anthony>

Re: Flamingo Tongue cowries Thanks for the response. I was aware of the possibilities you mention in your response but wanted to confirm my suspicions. I did not think that the mere fact of movement was proof of a satisfactory situation for the organisms, hence my query.  <understood and agreed my friend> I, like you, do not wish to waste life and that is why I asked the questions I did. Would you suggest that I keep using Gorgonia (I can try to keep it - Can obtain more if necessary).  <hmmm.. at this point it gets a bit discriminating. Some personal decisions here. We are discussing the aquarium display of one not-easily-renewable resource (captively) with another (the slow growing gorgonians). If you were studying the mollusks with a purpose (scientific report, breeding study/programs, etc) I'd feel comfortable with using the gorgonians as fodder. For a merely aesthetic display, however... I'd cut your losses early. No more snails or gorgonians. The problem is compounded by the fact that these cowries eat an aposymbiotic gorgonian that is very difficult to keep alive in captivity. And other hardy gorgonians are not eaten/accepted readily. Alas, neither the host or parasite belong in captivity with most aquarists.> Again, I do not want to waste Gorgonia if it is a virtual certainty that it cannot be kept alive and as a replenishing food source for the snails. Thanks for your attention. <exactly... with kind regards, Anthony> Don Tope

Unknown Cowry ID Egg cowry (Ovula ovum) inappropriate. for captive care, diet=Sarcophyton    1/5/07 Hello, <Hi Brett, Mich here today.> I have a question regarding potential harm from cowries in the aquarium. I have a young nano tank that has two tiny snails, a   feather, two tiny blue legged hermits and two small pieces of zoo coral, along with some live rock and sand. I also have plans for a bit more soft coral. There is a cowry amongst the grouping, which I was told is a "Burmese Green" or "Green Burmese" Cowry, but have been unable to find any information on this species. <This is an Egg cowry (Ovula ovum).  It is most definitely not appropriate for your system.  It is a predatory animal who's diet consists primarily of Sarcophytons Alcyoniids, leather corals.  It shouldn't be kept in captivity.  The only exception being someone is over run with leather corals and is trying to get rid of them, but I can't imagine feeding the leathers to a cowry would be the first choice of many aquarists.>   From my research I have found that some cowries can be harmful to your live rock and soft corals, as well as other invertebrates, while others can be  fairly benign. <This is true.> I have included an image of said cowry for your judgment. The shell is white with 3 rather faint greening band on the back (they are not very noticeable in the image. The mantle is black and white, somewhat zebra-like, and usually extends to cover almost the entire shell. "he" has been burrowing in the sand for most of the time, also spending a good bit of time cruising the live rock and the glass. I want to make certain that this will be an okay tank companion, but if this is a potentially troublesome species I know of someone who could adopt it into a more suitable environment. <Unfortunately, it may be difficult to find an appropriate home for this animal.  Please inform any prospective care givers of this animals' nutritional requirements.>   Thank you for any information you may be able to supply. Brett Amey

Anemone identification -09/01/08 Hi there, In July this year I photographed this pair of anemones <Mmm, no, not anemones...> in about 30ft of water on a reef in North East Tobago. I have no idea of their identity. Can you help please. <They do look like Ovulids (Ovula sp.). Please scroll down and see the pics of Ovula ovum on this page: http://www.seaslugforum.net/showall.cfm?base=ovulids> thanks, Rob Jackson <Ovula ovum is my guess. Best, Sara M.> Re: Anemone identification - not anemones, Ovulids 09/01/08 P.S. Oh, I might also note that many Ovulids eat soft corals (so it might make sense that you find these on/eating a leather coral). :) Best, Sara M. Re: Anemone identification... Ovulid et al. input... -09/02/08 Indeed, I didn't want to say so, but I was thinking... how could this picture have been taken in the "South Caribbean?" It must have been taken elsewhere... either that or maybe there really are clownfish off the cost of Kona... j/k lol ;) -Sara M. <Heeee! May be! BobF>
Re: Anemone identification -Ovulids 09/02/08 Hi Sara, You have introduced me to a whole new world with Seaslugforum.net Thanks so much. <Oh yes, it's a fabulous site! You're most welcome :)> I am not a marine biologist, but dive a bit and it's great to find a new link so I can find my own answers. I have looked at lots of notes on Ovula Ovum and that's what is going on the photo title. Bill Rudman seems to say that these Ovulids are not common in the South Caribbean, so maybe he will be interested if I send him the details. <Yes. He might also be able to confirm the ID (or tell you if it's actually some other Ovula sp).> Thanks again, Rob Jackson (from UK) <De nada, Sara M. (from Cleveland, OH)> <<Ummm, methinks this pic got somehow mixed up with others... Neither the egg cowry, nor the soft coral (looks like a Sarcophyton) occur in the tropical West Atlantic... More like Indonesia, Malaysia, into the eastern Indian Ocean... Bob Fenner>>
Unknown Cowry ID Egg cowry (Ovula ovum) inappropriate. for captive care, diet=Sarcophyton    1/5/07 Hello, <Hi Brett, Mich here today.> I have a question regarding potential harm from cowries in the aquarium. I have a young nano tank that has two tiny snails, a   feather, two tiny blue legged hermits and two small pieces of zoo coral, along with some live rock and sand. I also have plans for a bit more soft coral. There is a cowry amongst the grouping, which I was told is a "Burmese Green" or "Green Burmese" Cowry, but have been unable to find any information on this species. <This is an Egg cowry (Ovula ovum).  It is most definitely not appropriate for your system.  It is a predatory animal who's diet consists primarily of Sarcophytons Alcyoniids, leather corals.  It shouldn't be kept in captivity.  The only exception being someone is over run with leather corals and is trying to get rid of them, but I can't imagine feeding the leathers to a cowry would be the first choice of many aquarists.>   From my research I have found that some cowries can be harmful to your live rock and soft corals, as well as other invertebrates, while others can be  fairly benign. <This is true.> I have included an image of said cowry for your judgment. The shell is white with 3 rather faint greening band on the back (they are not very noticeable in the image. The mantle is black and white, somewhat zebra-like, and usually extends to cover almost the entire shell. "he" has been burrowing in the sand for most of the time, also spending a good bit of time cruising the live rock and the glass. I want to make certain that this will be an okay tank companion, but if this is a potentially troublesome species I know of someone who could adopt it into a more suitable environment. <Unfortunately, it may be difficult to find an appropriate home for this animal.  Please inform any prospective care givers of this animals' nutritional requirements.>   Thank you for any information you may be able to supply. Brett Amey

Who is this guy in my reef aquarium    4/12/06 Greetings from Portugal. <Hello Pedro> Can you please tell me who is this guy in my reef aquarium? <Wish I could... very nice photos... distinctive... has a shell like a gastropod mollusk... an Ovulid?...> He's little, about half inch (+- 1cm), and when he feels in danger a white liquid comes out from he's shell (fig. 3). <Likely reproductive products and no problem> I'm afraid about this white liquid and the toxins on it since my shrimps don't like it and run away every time this happens. <Mmm...> Best regards (sorry about my bad English), Pedro Azevedo <Your English is perfect. Am going to show these images about and see if someone can identify this organism. Thank you for sending this along. Bob Fenner>
MOLLUSK - OVULID? Dear Bob,       Hope all is well with you guys.  I'm sure you've been off and about - any interesting shell finds while as of recent? <I do have some shells to show you...>       Sorry for the delay in getting back to you re the requested shell i.d.   I was over in the P.I. & Thailand until early this month & it's been a crazy rush since my return.  Hunting for new employees, and still dealing with our conflict of business interest situation re our ex-sales manager!   My only comment - stay away from legal schist if at all possible - I don't have one (comment) re Workman's Comp.!!!! <Heee! Well I know...>       Anyway, if the little orangish gastropod is from the Med., and indeed an Ovulid (an Ovulid should have cephalic tentacles - not to mention eyes?), then it most closely resembles (without examining it firsthand) Simnia nicaeensis Risso 1826. <Ahh!, thank you Marty>       If the fellow really is determined to find out what it is - see if he knows origin/locality, I'll then see if John can i.d. - he's better on general misc. Gastropoda by far!  As a parting thought - if it is an Ovulid - it shouldn't last very long without its host! <Agreed> Regards,     Marty <Hope to see you soon. Hello to Angela, Harry, John... Bob F> Tideline

Snail and algae id Hello all( again!) For some reason  my snail pics never seemed to make it to you all- so I'll try sending them as attachments this time =P <They came through, not exactly sure what type of snail that is... perhaps an egg cowry, maybe even specifically Dentiovula dorsuosa, but hard to say for certain. More on those here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/gastropo.htm > Also I am attaching a picture of something that came on my live rock. It is about 4" long, 2" tall, and has what appears to be tiny red fur like things upon it. Part is white-like a bleached coral,  and the whole thing was fairly stiff when i received it, but now is moving (swaying) with the current in the tank. <Looks like an algae of some type, possibly a Galaxaura species.> Any help would be very appreciated.   Best wishes to you all. <Cheers, J -- >

Flamingo Tongue Snail 6/31/05 Hi, Thanks for the great site.  I can't seem to find the answer to this question; hopefully you can help me out.  I found this beautiful snail yesterday. I know better than to buy with out researching, but the guy said it ate algae and I figured how much harm could a snail be ( I know- stupid me).  It looks just like the picture on your site of the spotted Cyphoma.  When you pick him up, his spots move to the inside of his shell and his back is all off-white colored. The spots come back when he calms down. He has the long black front and I'm pretty sure it is a spotted Cyphoma.  It doesn't eat algae, does it?  Is it poisonous?  The LFS won't take it back, so what should I do with it?  I currently have 2 anemones, a feather duster, a red general starfish, 5 (other) snails, a magenta Dottyback, a velvet damsel, an orange tail damsel, three zebra damsels, a blue damsel, a reef hermit, and a yellow-eye tang (plus about lbs. of live rock).  Will this new snail hurt any of them?  If it doesn't eat algae, what does it eat and where do I get it?  I know I brought this on myself, but I would appreciate any input you could offer.  For my own curiosity, why do his spots move?   Thanks, Stacy <Stacy, I can see why the dealer wouldn't take it back. I'm sure what you have is a Flamingo Tongue Snail.  It won't live long unless you have deep pockets to feed it a diet of gorgonians. I would question the dealer as to why he is selling something like this that won't live.  James (Salty Dog)>

Flamingo Tongue Cowry Sorry to bother you but I have another question regarding Flamingo Tongue Snails. My supplier tells me they eat only Gorgonia and I have some in my tank.  <that is correct... and they should never be imported for this reason. Unless you have developed a technique for growing their prey gorgonians species faster that they can eat it> However, after introducing six snails and the Gorgonia all of the snails promptly wandered off the Gorgonia and seem to be grazing contentedly on algae and other food sources in the tank.  <they are definitely starving to death. This is an age old observation and problem. Just because a snail, fish, etc is eating an alternate food in captivity doesn't mean it is surviving on it. They are dying of a dietary deficiency. It may take weeks... some even hang in for months... but slow starvation is inevitable here. I am honestly deeply saddened that yet more have been imported. Were these sent along as freebies with an order of livestock from an Atlantic supplier or were they ordered deliberately?> The question is, are they going to survive or am I just being fooled and they will soon starve to death. <the latter... this has been observed by aquarists for 30 years!!!> They seem to be OK without the Gorgonia. <based on what, my friend? We cannot see that they are gaining or losing mass/muscle tissue so to speak. By virtue of the fact that they are still moving? :)> Thanks for the help. Don Tope <best regards, Anthony>

Re: Flamingo Tongue cowries Thanks for the response. I was aware of the possibilities you mention in your response but wanted to confirm my suspicions. I did not think that the mere fact of movement was proof of a satisfactory situation for the organisms, hence my query.  <understood and agreed my friend> I, like you, do not wish to waste life and that is why I asked the questions I did. Would you suggest that I keep using Gorgonia (I can try to keep it - Can obtain more if necessary).  <hmmm.. at this point it gets a bit discriminating. Some personal decisions here. We are discussing the aquarium display of one not-easily-renewable resource (captively) with another (the slow growing gorgonians). If you were studying the mollusks with a purpose (scientific report, breeding study/programs, etc) I'd feel comfortable with using the gorgonians as fodder. For a merely aesthetic display, however... I'd cut your losses early. No more snails or gorgonians. The problem is compounded by the fact that these cowries eat an aposymbiotic gorgonian that is very difficult to keep alive in captivity. And other hardy gorgonians are not eaten/accepted readily. Alas, neither the host or parasite belong in captivity with most aquarists.> Again, I do not want to waste Gorgonia if it is a virtual certainty that it cannot be kept alive and as a replenishing food source for the snails. Thanks for your attention. <exactly... with kind regards, Anthony> Don Tope

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