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For local bird watchers and native plant and flower enthusiasts, Hawaii is rich with resources that tell you what species you’re looking at, and what makes that particular species different from all the others. Much less publicized are resources about native Hawaiian seashells, or those marine mollusks found on beaches throughout the Islands. But lucky for us, The University of Hawaii Museum Consortium recently completed digitization of a unique natural science specimen collection of seashells commonly found in the Hawaiian landscape.

Beachcombers and citizen scientists can now identify more than 190 species that call Hawaii home in this digital database, including the Conus flavidus, also known as the Yellow-tinged Cone, which is well-known throughout the Indo-West Pacific and are found on Oahu near reefs where they feed on polychaetes. And then there’s the Japanese Abalone, a species that ranges from the Aleutian Islands to central California, and found in Hawaii’s deep waters.

The Anthropology Department’s Marine Shell Collection began decades ago, and in 1985, Bertell Davis bequeathed the collection to his son, a graduate student in the department. The younger Davis was interested in documenting the impact of humans on the environment, and developed the shell collection as a reference and comparative resource for identifying shells found in Hawaiian and Pacific archaeological sites. Thanks to him, this intricate digitized collection exists, and thanks to the many researchers, professors, students and volunteers of the Museum Consortium, our exploration of Hawaii’s landscape continues, shell by shell.

Digital Seashell Collection

UH Museum Consortium