Friday, October 10, 2008

The Mighty Silversword Allience

" Imagine you are a mere California tarweed seed, hoisted in the air and blown by a restless wind 3,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean. By some lucky chance, you fall onto the new soil of the Hawaiian Islands. You have found plant heaven- little competition and few predators. You settle into your new home, shed now useless barbs, thorns and propellers and over tens of thousands of years, you creep up mountains and into valleys, evolving into thirty species filling every niche you stumble upon. From a lowly tarweed with wanderlust, you have grown into the mighty Silversword Allience.
This story describes many of the plant and animal species found in Hawai'i before the arrival of humans. For 70 million years, these islands evolved in isolation. On the average, a single species every 35,000 years survived the journey and successfully established itself here. They came in the muddy feet of seabirds, marooned atop ocean debris, and in strong gusts of wind which span oceans. After arriving they began to evolve. Adapting to their new home-an island chain boasting of ecological zones from rainforest to alpine desert- the first Hawaiian residents developed new, fascinating characteristics distinguishing them from their ancestors. A rather drab looking finch evolved into forty species of spectacular honeycreepers. The radically curved bill of the I'iwi perfectly fits into the blossom of another pioneer, the lobelia. This phenomenon, an example of adaptive radiation, makes Hawai'i an unparalleled showcase for evolutionary study."
~Shannon Wianecki author of the Maui Time Weekly article entitled The Lee Altenberg Project Replanting Ancient Hawaii

No comments: