Also known as the Common cowrie, the Spotted cowrie has an unmistakeable ridged egg-shaped shell with a narrow opening along the underside. It lives on rocky shores and under stones at, or below, the low tide mark. They feed on sea squirts and compound ascidians, such as the Star ascidian - a beautiful feature of rocky shores. The pretty shells are sometimes found washed up on beaches.
How to identify
The Spotted cowrie shell is a pale reddish-brown with cream ridges. They have three dark brown spots on the shell which give them their name and can be used to distinguish them from the similar Artic cowrie, Trivia arctica, which lacks spots. The head, tentacles, foot and body of this mollusc are brightly coloured - they may be red, yellow, green, brown or orange; but it is the shell you're likely to spot washed up on the beach.
Found all around our coasts, although rare in Lincolnshire and East Anglia.
The Spotted cowrie is often found associated with its prey: it feeds on sea squirts by biting lumps from them. Females even lay their eggs in the sea squirts by biting holes in the colonies and then laying their egg capsules into the hole. After a few weeks the larvae hatch.
How people can help
When rockpooling, be careful to leave everything as you found it - replace any rocks you turn over, put back any crabs or fish and ensure not to scrape anything off its rocky home. If you want to learn more about our rockpool life, Wildlife Trusts around the UK run rockpool safaris and offer Shoresearch training - teaching you to survey your local rocky shore. The data collected is then used to protect our coasts and seas through better management or through the designation of Marine Protected Areas. The Wildlife Trusts are working with sea users, scientists, politicians and local people towards a vision of 'Living Seas', where marine wildlife thrives. Do your bit for our Living Seas by supporting your local Wildlife Trust or checking out our Action Pages.