The cone snail is one of the largest marine snail families represented in the Hawaiian Islands. Displaying beautiful patterns and colors, they are quite popular with collectors. They are typically active at night, and many spend a great deal of time buried under sand or hiding under plate corals. Cone snail habitats vary for different species; some prefer mangroves or sandy banks, while others prefer much deeper waters to search for other snails and fish. Hawaiʻi has 34 species of cones, with a few species being endemic to the islands.
Cone snails are predators. They rely on smell for hunting and use their siphon to locate marine worms, sleeping fish, and other snails. Once they detect their prey, they use their proboscis, harpoon-like tooth, to sting their victim. The venom of fish-eating cone snails can be fatal to humans, with the textile and striated cones being highly venomous.
The sting of most cone snail species has the intensity of a bee sting and can result in numbness and/or soreness. Although there have been recorded deaths from handling certain cone snail species, none have been recorded in Hawai’i. In old Hawai’i, the people were aware this animal was dangerous, which may be why they weren’t collected for consumption. According to author Mary Pukui, very few Hawaiians ate the cone snails, but the shells were highly prized as ornaments.
*Due to the constant rotation of animals back to the ocean, we cannot guarantee the presence of any specific animal.
The Hawaiian name pūpū pōniuniu translates to dizzy shell, referencing the sometimes fatal sting from the venomous species.