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Lyncina vitellus (Linnaeus, 1758)

Milk Spot Cowrie

Chelsea Waters (2014)



Fact Sheet



Physical Description

Size and Colouration

Shell Morphology


Local Distribution and Habitats

Biogeographical Distribution

Crypsis and Defence

Life History & Behaviour


Sensory System

Growth and Development



Anatomy & Physiology

External Morphology


Evolution & Systematics

Conservation & Threats

References & Links


There are two main feeding strategies within the Cypraeidae family; one group feeds on sponges while the other lives a herbivorous lifestyle (Ruppert, 2004). Marine herbivores are either microphagous browsers that feed on fine algae or macrophages specializing in macroalgae, such as kelps and other seaweed (Ruppert et. al, 2004). L. vitellus prefers the diet of a microphagous herbivore, feeding on algae found in shallower water. Feeding occurs via the proboscis which is a part of the digestive tract containing the esophagus, buccal cavity, and radula that is housed in a proboscis sheath (Ruppert, 2004).  

The radula is a tongue-like organ used by cowries to rasp along surfaces when scouring for food. It consists of a ribbon-like membrane with mounted rows of tiny teeth that point backwards (Ruppert, 2004). Complex muscles move the radula and odontophore (supporting cartilage) in and out of the mouth (Ruppert, 2004). As the teeth are worn away, new rows are continually produced (Ruppert, 2004). Each row bears a median tooth, with lateral and marginal teeth appearing on either side (Ruppert, 2004). The median, lateral, and marginal teeth usually differ from one another in shape and structure, whilst providing different functions (Ruppert et. al, 2004). The shape, size and structure of the teeth is unique for each species, and is important in classification and identification. In cowries, the radula consists of rows of seven teeth, a pattern termed taenioglossate (“bandlike”) (Ruppert, 2004).

​Proboscis of L. vitellus which houses the esophagus and radula.
​Image by Chelsea Waters