Thatcheria mirabilis Angas, 1877
The Japanese Wonder Shell
Considered by many to be the most exquisitely shaped shell in the world.
Thatcheria mirabilis - The Japanese Wonder Shell

Dredged on muddy sand bottom at 70-80 fathoms off Suao, Taiwan, Republic of China (74-80 mm.).

     In describing the species, G. F. Angas said "This very remarkable shell, quite unlike anything hitherto met with, was recently brought from Japan by Mr. Charles Thatcher," and, because Angas was at a loss to place it in a known genus, Mr. Thatcher acquired an unexpected immortality. Conchologists, puzzled by its peculiar appearance, were equally doubtful where to place it systematically and often they echoed the words of G. W. Tryon: "That this shell is a scalariform monstrosity cannot be doubted, but what may be its normal form is not so readily ascertained."

     No others were known until the early 1930's when several, exactly comparable, were fished up in Japanese waters; it was no longer a monstrosity, and its systematic position was established a few years later. It is a member of the Raphitomidae.

     As more specimens were found, their commercial value escalated, and high prices were paid for them until the 1950's; from then on they were common enough to be obtained fairly cheaply.