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Cone Snail

pūpū pōniuniu/pūpū ‘ala

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. Typically active at night, 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. Hawaii has 34 species of cones, few species endemic to the islands.

Cone snails are predators. Relying on smell for hunting, they use their siphon to locate marine worms, sleeping fish and other snails. Once it detects its prey, it uses its proboscis, harpoon-like tooth, to sting their victim. The venom of fish-eating cone snail species can be fatal to humans. The textile and striated cones are highly venomous.

The sting of most cone snail species have the intensity of a bee sting that results in numbness and/or soreness. Although there have been recorded deaths from handling certain cone snail species, there are none that have been recorded in Hawaii. In old Hawaii the people were aware this animal was dangerous, which may be why they were not 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, the presence of any specific animal cannot be guaranteed.

Did You Know...
The Hawaiian name pūpū pōniuniu translates to dizzy shell, due to the sometimes fatal sting from the venomous species.
Hawaiian Name:
pūpū pōniuniu/pūpū ‘ala
Scientific Name:
Family Conidae
Where to See:
Living Reef Building, Shallow Reef*
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