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CRITTER: Meet pupu ‘ole the Marlinspike Auger

You can dive in Hawai‘i for 20 years and never see one of these 10 inch long beautiful shells but they are actually very common. They live their life under the sand and there are more than 30 different species of augers that call Hawai‘i home. If you snorkel or dive you have swam over hundreds of these beautiful marine snails and shell collectors get very excited when they find an empty one on the beach!

Next time you go snorkeling just look closely at the sand and you can find the augers tracks. They move right under the sand and create a little trail that is easy to see. Follow the trail until it ends and then you can dig up the live auger which will only be an inch or two deep. Make sure and wear gloves if you are going to touch any live shell because most of the augers are venomous and can sting you! You should never remove a live shell from the ocean because they all play a very important part in keeping the sea healthy and clean.

Pupu ‘ole is a fierce predator under the sand and they can move quite quickly. Why they are so colorful is a mystery because no one can see them below the surface of the sand.

They hunt polychaete worms that live in the sand and when they hunt one down they sting it and inject their venom which starts to dissolve the worm making it easier to eat. Much like a cobra kills and eats other snakes but this drama all occurs under the sand!

Pupu ‘ole in Hawaiian means long sharp shell. The ocean is just amazing because many of its creatures are hidden in caves, live under rocks or the sand or only come out at night. When we dive we only see maybe 30% of the marine life species.

Finding the hidden species requires you to go search for them and that is what I do best so I can share their amazing lives with humans with the hope that people will take better care of the marine environment which is more than 75% of Hawai‘i.

You can see the augers in action in my Hawaii underwater movie series on my YouTube Channel at Underwater2web.


Terry Lilley is a marine biologist living in Hanalei Kaua‘i and co-founder of Reef Guardians Hawai‘i, a nonprofit on a mission to provide education and resources to protect the coral reef. To donate to Reef Guardians Hawaii go to
Source: The Garden Island

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