Cypraeidae: How well-inventoried is the best-known seashell family?
American Malacological Bulletin
Cowries (Cypraeidae) are diverse and occur in all tropical and some temperate seas, from shallow waters to the deep sea. There is a vast literature documenting the distribution, taxonomy, and shell variation, among many other topics. Because of its popularity among shell collectors, amateurs have contributed more to the cowrie literature than to most molluscan families. Traditionally, taxa have been described based on shell characters, and the majority of species descriptions continue to be published in non-peer-reviewed journals, magazines and books. Molecular studies in the last two decades have largely confi rmed phylogenies based on morphology and anatomy. Currently, 245 species and 166 subspecies (or 411 operational taxonomic units) are recognized in 48 genera in the family. Despite being the best-known seashell family, the discovery curve suggests that there are still more taxa to be discovered. A review of the knowledge of the family is presented, and information on each genus is summarized.