Hawaii's botanical history is expanded

Apr 21, 2008

Smithsonian Institution scientists say one of Hawaii's most dominant plants, Metrosideros, has existed on the islands much longer than previously believed.

The researchers, who said their finding might rewrite Hawaii's botanical history, noted Metrosideros, commonly called "ohi'a" in the Hawaiian Islands, has puzzled researchers for years. Although previously thought to be a newcomer to the islands, the plants are well integrated into Hawaii's ecosystems.

However, scientists from the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian's National Zoo have now used molecular research to show Metrosideros might have colonized the islands soon after they formed.

If the finding is accurate, the plants would have played an important role in shaping Hawaii's ecology from the beginning, the scientists said. Knowing when Metrosideros dispersed and colonized the islands will give scientists a better understanding of how and when the fauna that rely on them evolved.

"What we are finding," said Scott Miller, a Smithsonian scientist working on the project, "is a distinct geographical pattern that supports a hypothesis that these plants colonized the Hawaiian Islands sequentially as they formed."

This could prove that Metrosideros played a far more important role in Hawaii's ecology than once thought, he said.

Copyright 2008 by United Press International

Explore further: New planthopper species found in southern Spain

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Invading trees put rainforests at risk

Mar 03, 2008

To the list of threats to tropical rainforests you can add a new one — trees. It might seem that for a rainforest the more trees the merrier, but a new study by scientists at the Carnegie Institution warns ...

Recommended for you

New planthopper species found in southern Spain

2 hours ago

Not much is known about the the genus of planthopper known as Conosimus, which now includes six species after a new one was recently discovered in the southern part of the Iberian Peninsula in the Spanish ...

Seals forage at offshore wind farms

15 hours ago

By using sophisticated GPS tracking to monitor seals' every movement, researchers have shown for the first time that some individuals are repeatedly drawn to offshore wind farms and pipelines. Those man-made ...

User comments : 0