Carelia turricula

Pleuropoma spp.

Terebra chlorata

Nesophila sp.

Bishop Museum’s malacology collection is certainly one of its hidden treasures — renowned in scientific circles worldwide, but little known to the average visitor. The collection includes representatives of many extinct, endangered, and threatened species and contains over 6 million terrestrial, marine, and freshwater specimens. Additionally, this is the world’ s most comprehensive collection of terrestrial mollusks, or land snails, from across the Pacific region.

The Bishop Museum has the most comprehensive collection of Pacific Island land snails in the world. The approximately 25,000 islands of the Pacific Ocean harbor 6,000+ land snail species, mostly single island/archipelago endemics. Unfortunately, molluscs, particularly Pacific island land snails, have the highest recorded extinction rate of any major taxonomic group. In Hawaii, land snails were once so plentiful that the naturalist J.F.W. Meyers, visiting the islands in 1931, observed that “nature has placed countless land snails instead of insects on the leaves of trees.” This malacological collection contains over 4 million Pacific land snail specimens in more than 180,000 lots and includes representatives of many extinct, endangered, and threatened species.

The first conchological acquisition of the Bishop Museum was the Andrew Garrett collection. This collection was purchased in 1894 and contains marine, land and freshwater specimens in 6,700 lots. Garrett was an American explorer and naturalist who spent considerable time in Polynesia collecting and illustrating numerous fishes and nudibranchs in watercolor. The subsequent history of the Bishop Museum Malacology collection is largely a history of numerous expeditions and field trips throughout the Pacific and Indo-West Pacific Ocean, and of the acquisition of more than 30 major private collections, containing predominantly Pacific material. The collection experienced its greatest period of expansion under its first Malacologist, Honolulu-born Charles Montague Cooke, Jr. Beginning in 1902 and spanning his 50-year career at the Museum, Cooke added nearly 3 million specimens of terrestrial mollusks to the collection, both personally collected and donated by others.

The Bishop Museum acquired its first malacological collection (Andrew Garrett’s collection of 30,000 specimens) in 1893. In 1902, Charles Montague Cooke, Jr. was hired as the pulmonates curator and established the Bishop Museum malacology department in 1907. There are now more than 248,000 cataloged lots, representing more than 6 million specimens, the vast majority from Pacific islands, with a few from parts of Asia, North America, Europe and the Caribbean. There are more than 4 million terrestrial specimens in more than 180,000 lots with 13,000 type lots. The marine collection contains about 2 million specimens in 68,000 lots with 350 type lots.

The following are the current Bishop Museum Malacology databases available on-line:

Hawaiian Terrestrial and Freshwater Snails Checklist (updated April 9, 2002 with 1373 records)

Nonmarine Samoan Snails and Slugs Project (updated July 1, 2001)

Hawaiian land snail biodiversity: Systematics, phylogenetics and conservation status of a vanishing fauna
The Hawaiian land snail fauna is arguably the most diverse in the world in relation to land area: >750 recognized species in only 10 families. Unfortunately, these land snails, like their kin across the Pacific Islands, are among the most threatened groups of animals on the planet. Although certain groups of Hawaiian land snails were revised and studied during the early 20th century, subsequent decades were considered a period of malacological silence regarding Hawaiian land snails. However, conservation efforts led in 1981 sparked renewed interest in the subfamily Achatinellinae that led to the listing of the entire genus Achatinella as endangered. With the other 87% of Hawaii’s land snails, no significant ecological or evolutionary studies (e.g. life history and population assessments, systematic/taxonomy, and molecular diversity) have been completed until recently by Yeung, Hayes and Cowie (current malacology researcher and research associates) with support by numerous local (C. Christensen, D. Chung, J. Kim, B. Holland, M. Hadfield, V. Costello, D. Sischo), international (P. Bouchet, F. Brooks) and national (E. Strong, J. Slapcinsky) malacologists. Some researchers estimated that more than 90% of some families may already be lost. However, based on our recent surveys, some families (e.g. Helicarionidae, Succineidae) are faring better, and may still have 50-60% of their diversity remaining but several families have lost more than 90% of their diversity. Check out our updates on our Hawaiian Land Snail Conservation Facebook Page.

Identification, assessment of establishment, and spread of invasive terrestrial molluscs in Hawaii
Hawaii has more established alien terrestrial mollusc species than any other island or archipelago in the Pacific. Many threaten native forests (i.e. damage native plants and seedlings), are agricultural and horticultural pests, and serve as vectors of parasites such as the rat lungworm (Angiostrongylus cantonensis) that cause human and livestock diseases. Many have been and continue to be introduced accidentally to the Hawaiian Islands by the horticultural trade and are subsequently introduced to native forests, including Natural Area Reserves, via outplanting and restoration efforts. From 2004 to 2010 Cowie, Hayes and Yeung, with students and collaborators, recorded numerous non-native land snails from the 6 largest Hawaiian Islands, including 7 new state records and 31 new island records; there are now 38 established non-native land snails in Hawaii. This number is likely to increase, and the spread to continue unabated without continued monitoring and quarantine efforts and public awareness of these species.

To request a collection visit, please fill out our online Natural Sciences Collection Access and Use Request Form

Norine W. Yeung, Ph.D, Malacology Researcher and Collection Manager
808-848-4118 |

Regina “Regie” Kawamoto, Collection Technician
808-847-8218 |

Additional Support From:

Arnold Y. Suzumoto, Ichthyology Collection Manager
808-848-4115 |

Research Associates:
Carl. C. Christensen
Daniel Chung
Robert H. Cowie
Kenneth A. Hayes

We also have a tremendous cadre of dedicated volunteers and interns that spend countless hours working in the collection to re-house specimens and digitize the collection.

To request a back of house collection tour please fill out our online Natural Sciences Collection Tour Request Form