From the life-sustaining oceans, the ancients found many gifts. One was this, the Triton's Trumpet. The shell, beautiful and large, could produce a rich sound when its tip was filed down. Resounding out across the land and water, the blowing of the pu was used in various forms of communication, and often signified events of importance; for example, the arrival of royalty, or the beginning of the Makahiki season. Sacred protocols guided the use of the pu and the much cherished shells were passed down from generation to generation. In Hawaiian waters, pu were often made from the Horned Helmet (Cassis cornuta) and the Triton's Trumpet (Charonia tritonis), both large marine gastropod molluscs. Today's post features the Triton's Trumpet, the largest snail in our waters, reaching sizes up to twenty inches.
Like many sea snails, it has a shell that is spirally coiled (some snails have conical shells, and are generally referred to as limpets). The shell is ribbed and is a mottled brown and white in color. Locomotion is achieved by a strong, muscular foot, which this snail uses to pursue such prey as sea urchins and seastars. The triton's trumpet is one of the few organisms that prey on the crown-of-thorns seastar, which is notorious for feeding on and destroying corals, making our snail and important player in the marine ecosystem. Once the seastar has been captured, the triton holds it down with its strong foot. A saliva is injected which paralyzes its victim, then the snail gains easy access to the seastar's soft insides with its serrated radula, a tongue-like organ with scraping teeth. Though many sea snails are hermaphroditic, the tritons are either male or female. After internal fertilization, a cluster of eggs are laid. The buoyant young hatch and become part of the free-drifting plankton. Tritons can be found in waters from fairly shallow to about seventy-five feet deep, which makes them vulnerable to collectors. If you are lucky enough to spot this treasure, best to simply admire and leave it be, as they are becoming rarer across the globe. The corals will thank you for it.
welcomes you to visit with the all the wonderful flora and fauna that we share this lovely aina with.