Hawaiʻi exhibits one of the most diverse radiations of native land snail species globally with species estimates ranging from 752 to 1,461 (Pilsbry 1948, Solem 1984, Cowie et al 1995) with 99.9% endemicity. Unfortunately, about 70% of the native land snail fauna is considered extinct with some families having only a few extant members. Only 5% of this fauna are protected federally. For example, Amastridae, the only endemic family with living representatives in the Hawaiian Archipelago, once contained 325 species, but within the last 25 years less than 25 of these species were recorded (Yeung et al 2018).
Currently, none of them are federally protected by the US Endangered Species Act. The designation of a state land snail could potentially raise awareness of the plight of this endangered fauna and may increase the protection of more species. Similar to the designation of the Pulelehua (Vanessa tameamea, Kamehameha butterfly) as the state insect, the designation of a state snail would garner state-wide interest our native snails and in the conservation invertebrates, broadly.
We will be increasing effort to garner public support for this bill in the coming year, and hopefully, it will be reintroduced during the next legislative cycle. Time is running out on many of these species and if we are to save them from extinction, we need to gain widespread appreciation and support for Hawaiʻi’s native land snails. Subsequently, our government needs to further their stance in support of snail conservation through funding more programs and initiatives. Without our voice, these snails and many other species will become extinct. In order to preserve our ecosystems and a salient part of the Hawaiian culture, we must make our snails a priority.
If you want to learn more about the future of SB766 or have any questions, you can email me at email@example.com.
In Hawaiian culture, names hold great significance (Pukui, Haertig, and Lee 1972). Kāhuli, also referred to as pūpūkanioe (the shell sounding long), pūpūkuahiwi (mountain shell), and pūpūmoeone (shell that sleeps in the sand), were viewed with high importance in Hawaiian society (Emerson 1997). Through the ways in which they were named, habitat preferences can be revealed. Pūpūmoeone, for instance, describes the “shell that sleeps in the sand” and may be description of subfossils.
Roles in Culture:
Kāhuli served as visual hōʻailona (omens) for positive events or signifying times of pono (righteousness). They were celebrated through oli (chants), mele (songs), moʻolelo (stories), and hula. Snails were also thought to be the voice of the forest, and this description may be derived from the previous abundance of snails that used to be found in the forests of the past. When the wind would rustle through the trees, the snails would rub against each other, producing a high pitch whistling noise. Shells were further described as adorning mōʻī wāhine (females of royalty) in order to portray one’s high status, showing the prominence that these animals were held (Sato et al 2018). Due to kāhuli’s cultural significance alone, their conservation should be made a priority.
Not only are these snails an integral component of Hawaiian culture but also are an essential part of native ecosystems. Native land snails operate as fungivores, whose role is to scrape fungus off of leaves; litter decomposers; and nutrient cyclers (Jennings & Barkham 1976, Theenhaus & Scheu 1996).
They also serve as a food source for other native species such as Hyposmocoma molluscivora, the carnivorous moth native to Maui and Oʻahu, and native forest birds such as the extinct Poʻouli, Melamprosops phaeosoma (Rubinoff & Haines 2006, Porter et al 2006)
Unlike invasive snail species such as Euglandina rosea, kāhuli maintain healthy native forests through these roles as species are found primarily on the ground in leaf litter or rock rubbles and/or found on native plants such as ʻōhiʻa lehua (Metrosideros sp.), ʻieʻie (Freycinetia aroborea), ʻōhā wai (Clermontia sp.), and hāpuʻu ʻiʻi (Cibotium menziesii)
Selecting candidates for the state snail consisted of finding a species that best exemplified biological and cultural importance. Amastridae because it is the only extant endemic family in Hawaiʻi. We proposed to designate Laminella sanguinea (Amastridae) which is considered as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List. This species is endemic to Oʻahu with other Laminella members endemic to Maui Nui. Its name is derived from the color of its shell, sanguine or blood-red, and the shell pattern is reminiscent of kīkeʻekeʻe, or zig-zag, kapa patterns.
A State Resolution was drafted in November of 2018 and was supported by Senator Gabbard, Ihara, Riviere, and Shimabukuro, and introduced as a bill (SB766) on January 18, 2019. It was referred to the Committee of Labor, Culture, and the Arts on January 24th, 2019.Public outreach in the form of email and social media campaigns encouraged teachers, students, and members of the community to contact representatives and senators to support the bill. Sadly, the bill was not passed this year.
Cowie, R. H., Evenhuis, N. L., & Christensen, C. C. (1995). Catalog of the native land and freshwater molluscs of the Hawaiian Islands. Backhuys Publishers.
Emerson, N. B. 1997. Pele and Hiiaka: A myth from Hawaii. Honolulu: Edith Kanakaole Foundation.
Porter, W.P., Vakharia, N., Klousie, W.D. & Duffy, D. (2006). Po'ouli Landscape Bioinformatics Models Predict Energetics, Behavior, Diets, and Distribution on Maui. Volume 46, No.6, pg. 1143-1158. Oxford University Press.
Pukui, M. K., E. W. Haertig, and C. A. Lee. 1972. Nana I Ke Kumu (Look to the source): Volume I. Honolulu: Hui Hanai.
Rubinoff, D., Haines, W. P. (2006). Hyposmocoma molluscivora Description. Vol. 311, No. 5766, pg. 1377. American Association for the Advancement of Science
Sato, A. Y., Price, M.R. & Vaughan, M.B. (2018) Kāhuli: Uncovering Indigenous Ecological Knowledge to Conserve Endangered Hawaiian Land Snails, Society & Natural Resources, 31:3, 320-334, DOI: 10.1080/08941920.2017.1413695
Solem, A. (1990). How many Hawaiian land snail species are left? And what we can do for them. Bishop Mus. Occas. Pap., 30, 27-40.
Yeung, N. W. & Hayes, K. A. (2018). Biodiversity and extinction of Hawaiian land snails: How many are left now and what must we do to conserve them--a reply to Solem (1990). Integrative and Comparative Biology 0.093/icb/icy043
I would like to extend my deepest thanks to Dr. Norine Yeung, Dr. Kenneth Hayes, Dr. Carl C. Christensen, and Danny Cup Choy for providing guidance through the process of planning and executing the state bill. I would also like to thank the Bishop Museum's malacology collection snail crew for their continued support. Next, I want to thank Kamehameha Schools for helping to spread awareness of this bill. Finally, I want to extend my gratitude to the Bishop Museum for their help.