Adaptive Radiation

Honeycreepers, Species: ‘Akeke‘e

Adaptive Radiation and Honeycreeper Ancestry/Concept of Pilina

Adaptive radiation is when many different organisms arise from one common ancestor. Species spread out into different habitats relatively fast. They spread into different habitats (niches). A niche is a specific area an organism inhabits and it role and function in that area. When there is less competition, the new species evolve and fill new niches (specific habitat, behavior, or diet). With more competition for food and spare, organisms can colonize new niches through chance mutations. Organisms have a better chance of surviving and reproducing.

Honeycreepers are a species of birds that are endemic to Hawaii. Honeycreepers have different beak shapes, live in forests, most are brightly colored and sing canary-like songs, and feed on nectar, fruits, seeds, and insects. 51 endemic species have evolved from one species of finch, the rosefinch. Rosefinches are the closest relatives to the Hawaiian honeycreepers and they colonized to Hawaii millions of years ago. Rosefinches are Eurasion, they got from Asia to Hawaii through Irruption. They came here by Irruption because they moved in large groups to new grounds and may breed in the new regions. Rosefinches are small and their beak is strong, thick, and dark gray. They are originally from Western Europe and Asia. Geologists looked at the history of the Hawaiian archipelago to answer further questions. They determined the age of the Honeycreeper clade, sometime between 5.8 and 7.2 million years ago. A clade is a group of organisms that evolved from a common ancestor

Overtime, Hawaiian honeycreepers began to diverge from their common ancestor, the rosefinch. Oahu had the biggest impact on Hawaiian honeycreeper evolution compared to all the islands. It’s land had more isolation and land for the adaption to happen. Pilina is a relationship, connection, or union. Honeycreepers evolving from the rosefinch is an example of the concept of Pilina. More than 1/3 of the species are extinct now and the remaining are critically endangered.

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‘Akeke‘e : Honeycreeper Species

Evyn Sweeney


Ms. Wilson


‘Akeke‘e : Honeycreeper

The Hawaiian Honeycreepers are a family of birds in Hawaii that are closely related, they have similar skeletons and muscles. Each species shares anatomical traits because they evolved from a common ancestor. There once was an abundance of them, about forty different species. Today, less than 15 species remain and they are endangered. My name is Ono and I am apart of the less than 15 species. I am apart of the bird species called “‘Akeke‘e”, I'm in the family Fringillidae, and I am placed in the Hawaiian honeycreeper genus, Loxops. I am endemic to the Hawaiian Island, Kauai. Endemic means to be native or from that certain area/geographical location.

I am a greenish-yellow bird with a small body. I have been told that I am a finch-like bird and the black mask around my eyes is darker on me because I am a male. The colors on my body are more bright and vibrant than the female species of my kind. My bill is a bluish color with a black tip and the top part (culmen) is curved down and crossed. When I fly, I don’t fly straight and still, I fly in wavelike motions and smoothly. To eat, I use my bill as if it were a pair of scissors to cut open flower buds and search for insects. My favorite thing to eat is nectar on trees.

I only live in the island of Kauai. In the late 19th century, my ancestors lived in upper elevation forest and had a stable population. In the mid 1990s, our habitat and population declined. The last population estimate of my kind (‘Akeke‘e) was around 945, but it is continuing to decline to this year. I am lucky! My species and I like to live is diverse wet forests and in its trees, we are almost never in the lowlands. Our favorite tree is ‘ohi’a trees, that’s where our nests are.

My habitat has been changed for the worse because of feral cats and mongoose, climate change, rainfall patterns, and malaria. Feral cats, pigs, goats, and mongoose are scary predators. Climate change is causing the temperatures to be warmer and rainfall patterns to be different. Finding food is a challenge because the amount of insects is low. Avian malaria is a disease through mosquitos that a lot of Honeycreeper species are being effected with. Also, invasive plants are taking over native plants.

To help my kind survive and flourish, there is captive breeding places. Humans are working on controlling rodent and other predators, providing food, and working to stop the sources that Avian malaria is coming from. Habitat management is something that also needs to be done, either preventing it from happening or restoring it. Lastly, doing population surveys and research is going to be further continued.

Phylogenic Trees of the Honeycreepers

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