Photo of the day (60): shell headdress from New Guinea

This is an original tribal ceremonial men’s feather and shell headdress from Tambanum village on the Sepik River, East Sepik Province, northern Papua New Guinea. It was made in 19th century. It was shown in the exhibition “Crown jewels in the world’s history” in Ostrava museum at December 9, 2016 – March 5, 2017. It comes from the private collection of goldsmith Jürgen Abeler, owner of the Wuppertaler Uhrenmuseum, that was closed in 2016. The headdress is in the collection of Juwelier Abeler company (juwelier means jeweler) in Wuppertal now. I was happy to see it because it was the only thing on the exhibition, that contained shells.

feather and shell headdressLeft side view:
feather and shell headdressLarger shells are some species from the family Cypraeidae. It is probably Monetaria moneta, a common species, that was used as a shell money in various parts of the world including the New Guinea.

headdressThe smaller shells are also from marine gastropods, but I did not identify the species. Some headbands and other things from the area contain the same shells that are called “Nassa shells”. This does not mean the genus Nassa from the family Muricidae. It may mean some species from the family Nassariidae, that are commonly known as “Nassa mud snails”.

Other things of the headdress include feathers of a cassowary (Casuarius). There exist three extant species of cassowaries and all of them live in New Guinea. All of them have black feathers. According to the locality of the headdress and the distribution of cassowaries, feathers probably comes from the northern cassowary (Casuarius unappendiculatus) or from the dwarf cassowary (Casuarius bennetti).

There are also used animal teeth and number of strings.

Right side view:
feather and shell headdressI also do not know what is the material, from which “eyes” of this headdress were made. It looks like the same thing on the ancestor’s figure.

Such headdresses were and are used to emphasize the status of the owner. They are worn usually in festivals.

One more oblique view:
feather and shell headdressThe headdress also closely resembles for example feathered headdress for ancestor’s skull made by Asmat people.

That’s all. And if you can identify those small shells, let me to know. Thanks.

Photo of the day (41): veronicellid slug from Madagascar

My colleague Martin Mandák has sent me the photo of a land slug from Madagascar. Locality: Madagascar, November 2014.

veronicellid from Madagascar

a veronicellid slug, photo by Martin Mandák, CC-BY-4.0

Identification of the family was easy: slugs of the family Veronicellidae looks exactly like this. The common English name is the the leatherleaf slugs and this one really looks like a fallen leaf. But the identification of the species is usually uneasy for all of its members. I have only the photo and therefore the dissection and molecular identification methods are unavailable.

Few possibilities what it could be:

Laevicaulis alte. This species is known from Madagascar, it is an agricultural pest and some photos on the internet looks similar to this coloration pattern.

Semperula maculata. This species is also known from Madagascar, it is an agricultural pest and one photo on the internet looks similar to this coloration pattern.

Or it can be anything else.


Gerlach J. (1998) “The shell-less slugs of Seychelles (Veronicellidae and Urocyclidae)“. Argonauta 11(2): 56-64.

Laevicaulis alte (Férussac, 1821).” Discover Life, accessed 14 January 2015.

Photo of the day (16): Ampullariidae

Ampullariidae (apple snails) is a family of freshwater snails. Members of this family are the largest extant freshwater snails.

When searching for gastropods in tropical collection conservatories of Flora Olomouc I have found also these four large shells of apple snails. They are used as hanging flower pots for tropical plants.



Ghesquiere S. 2012: accessed 25 May 2012