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Hawaiian Shell News
An Educational publication of the
Hawaiian Malacological Society

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Molluscs of the Cook Islands
Introduction & Comments by Wesley M. Thorsson   15 April, 1999

This set of volumes provides photographic and written descriptions of the common shells found in
shallow reef flats on the islands of Rarotonga and Aitutaki in the Cook Islands. We made a three week trip to
the area in August and September, 1998 for the purpose of photographing animals of as many mollusc species
as possible. These volumes are part of a series of similar volumes that, to date, deal with shells from Hawaii;
Baja, Mexico; Samoa; Guam & Yap; Kosrae & Pohnpei; Vanuatu; Fiji; Majuro; and Bohol, Philippines. All
but the Hawaii set of volumes deal only with shells found on the reef flats easily accessible by snorkeling. The
Hawaiian volumes are more extensive including collecting by diving and dredging as well as by snorkeling and
cover a period of about 20 years. In Hawaii, only the years since 1991 have emphasized descriptions of
mollusk animals.
Collecting in the Cook Islands was by my wife, Elizabeth Thorsson, who covered the shallower waters
near the shore and myself. Time in the Cook Islands was divided between Rarotonga and Aitutaki Islands.
Prior to going to the Cook Islands, permission was requested to collect molluscs for this purpose and
export them to Hawaii for photography of the shells and eventual deposit in the Bishop Museum of Honolulu,
Hawaii. Gerald McCormack, Director of the Natural Heritage Project of the Cook Islands was very helpful in
obtaining that permission, as was Temu Okota, of the Prime Minister's Office. McCormack was assembling
an inventory of biologically and socially significant plants and animals of the Cook Islands and desired
photographs of molluscan animals so our project was suitable. No endangered molluscs were collected and
the number of specimens of each species was held to one or two, although memory of what had previously
been collected occasionally resulted in additional specimens. In a very few cases, extra specimens were
collected due to inability to identify the species.
I believe that the background to a collecting trip is also of use to readers, so we include some
background photos and information in the Stations Section.

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