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: Tarantula toxin is used to report on electrical activity in live cells

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Obama unveils new measures to stem identity theft

3 hours ago

US President Barack Obama on Friday ordered "pin and chip" security measures for government payment systems, aiming to stem the proliferation of credit card fraud and identity theft.

Twitpic to shutter service after all

4 hours ago

Twitpic on Friday put out word that the service is shutting down after all, apologizing for a "false alarm" that a merger would be its salvation.

Microsoft CEO launches diversity training effort

4 hours ago

(AP)—Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has again apologized to employees and announced in a company-wide memo that all workers will receive expanded training on how to foster an inclusive culture as he works to repair damage ...

Recommended for you

User comments : 0