If there is any iʻa (marine life form) that just screams out sexy, it is the gorgeously feminine leho (cowry). Hawaiʻi boasts 35 species of leho, nine of which are endemic. It is debatable which part of the shell is more attractive, the beautifully plump and round decorated top, or the toothed slit on the bottom side (a feature unique to cowries). Some feel the most stunning aspect is the soft fleshy mantle that comes out of the shell's opening and wraps around it, secreting a substance that forms a protective enamel and gives cowries the glossy sheen they are so famous for. If that is not enough, the "hula ʻālaʻapapa" that the lūheʻe (octopus lure) performs, via the skilled hand of the fisherman, to entice the heʻe (octopus) has to be one of the most romantic fishing traditions ever. The male pōhaku (stone) and the female leho, locked in a lover's embrace, dance to seduce the octopus who becomes so aroused that it must "honi" (kiss) the shell. When it does, the fisherman yanks firmly upward, lodging the kākala (hook) into the heʻe. Prized lūheʻe were often named for an ancestor in a family and handed down. Auē kou popohe, kou ʻauliʻi ē! My goodness how shapely, how exquisite you are! Though leho are some of the most stunning shells to be collected, over-harvesting of live shells has caused their overall size to decrease and their populations to dwindle. Let's mālama our leho by leaving the living treasures alone and taking only empty hale (houses) home with us.
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