Wampum Tuskshell

collected in 1961
Scientific Name:
Antalis pretiosum previously known as Dentalium pretiosum

Often referred to as tusk or tooth shells because of their obvious shape and colour, these small tubular Wampum shells, Antalis pretiosum, previously known as Dentalium pretiosum, represent a species of scaphopod. Scaphopoda (Greek for ‘boat-foot’) is a class of marine mollusc, closely related to snails and clams.

These animals use their boat-shaped foot to burrow into sandy and muddy sediments. They also tend to inhabit deeper waters, and therefore are not commonly seen by the average beachgoer. Historically, this particular species was harvested throughout the Northeast Pacific by First Nation people, who used the shells for both adornment and trade from Alaska to California. They are particularly prized by the Nuu-chah-nulth, who live along the West coast of Vancouver Island and traditionally implemented specialized techniques to collect specimens from the seafloor.

These specimens were collected in 1961 near Nootka Island by Dr Ian McTaggart-Cowan and Dr Dan Quayle, both notable natural historians in British Columbia.