CRITTER: Meet pupu’ala the Hebrew Cone Shell

Terry Lilley / Special to The Garden Island

Pupu’ala is the Hebrew Cone Shell

Almost every jewelry store in Hawai‘i sells puka-shell necklaces, but very few people know where these puka shells come from! Hawai‘i is very unique because we have large surf that crashes directly onto our reefs and beaches, grinding up corals and shells. This is what makes our beach sand so beautiful, but it makes it very hard to find whole shells up on the beach. On tropical islands like Fiji or Tahiti there are outer barrier reefs that break up the energy of the surf and protect the islands in the lagoons, so when a shell dies it often washes up whole onto the beach for a shell collector to find. In Hawai‘i we have a lot of cone shells that are from two inches to four inches long but very thick. When the snail inside the shell dies or gets eaten, their thick shell gets ground up in the large surf and the only part that survives is the round top of the shell. This washes up onto the beach and is known as a puka shell.