Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Technology
Networks
Scientific Communities
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

Scientists Look to Hawaii’s Bugs for Clues to Origins of Biodiversity

Published: Thursday, November 22, 2012
Last Updated: Thursday, November 22, 2012
Bookmark and Share
To Rosemary Gillespie, the Hawaiian Islands are a unique and ongoing series of evolutionary and ecological experiments. As each volcano rises above the waves, it is colonized by life from neighboring volcanoes and develops its own flora and fauna.

A new $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to the University of California, Berkeley, will allow Gillespie and her colleagues to focus on the islands’ insect and spider life in search of clues to how animals explore and settle into new niches, leading to increasing biodiversity over time.

“One of the most puzzling features of the high diversity of species on remote islands is that these species almost certainly arose from one or very few colonizers,” said Gillespie, director of UC Berkeley’s Essig Museum of Entomology. “How was variability regained after such genetic bottlenecks, and how did it give rise to ecological diversity?”

Their findings will answer questions not only about how communities have come together over the 700,000-year-lifespan of the Big Island, but also about the impacts of biological invasions. And, as the Hawaiian ecosystem adapts to a changing climate and a growing human population, the research will help develop successful conservation management practices and more effective programs in restoration ecology.

The grant is one of 14 totaling $26.4 million announced this fall by NSF’s Dimensions of Biodiversity program. It ties into the Berkeley Initiative on Global Change Biology (BiGCB), which looks at how biodiversity has responded in the past to environmental change in order to improve models for predicting the consequences of future environmental change.

“The islands of Hawaii are a great system for exploring how biodiversity changes in response to ecological change because it provides a chronological sequence of habitats from 0 to 1 million years ago on the Big Island, and further back in time as we go on to the older islands,” said Gillespie, co-director of BiGCB and professor of environmental science, policy and management. “The basic question is, ‘How do you go from an empty habitat on a newly emerged island to a complex mixture of populations like we see on the Big Island of Hawaii, where things are just starting, to a fairly discrete set of species like we see on Maui?’”

Colonizing volcanoes on the Big Island

The new study will focus initially on the five volcanoes that make up the island of Hawaii, which insects and spiders colonized during the past 1 million years. Gillespie and her colleagues expect to find a range of environments: from settled species in defined niches on the island of Maui, to discrete populations on Kohala, Hualalai and Mauna Kea, the oldest volcanoes of the youngest island, to muddled and still-evolving species on the youngest volcanoes, Mauna Loa and the still-erupting Kiluaea.

The researchers will collect DNA in search of genetic markers that will allow them to see how specific species and populations have adapted on volcanoes of different ages. The researchers will examine how species are continuing to adapt to an environment that experiences ongoing change – from new lava flows and landslides, for example — and settle into defined and recognizable species.

They hope to find out how quickly animals diverge in these new environments, and also whether the structure of the communities changes in a predictable way over time. This latter component makes use of a sophisticated ecological theory that looks at whether properties of communities are predictable.

“We are trying to see which animals get there first — something that eats plants or animals, dead or alive, for example — and whether the pattern of arrival and the community thus formed is predictable,” Gillespie said. “Then we can see how the community of organisms thus assembled might allow its members to diversify.”

In this way, Gillespie and her colleagues will be able to see how the interaction between the different parts of a community — such as predators, herbivores and parasites — are dictating divergence between populations and subsequent speciation.

UC Berkeley co-principal investigators are John Harte, professor of energy and resources, who will test theoretical models in ecology describing the numbers and types of animals in a given habitat; Patrick O’Grady, associate professor of environmental science, policy, & management and an expert on Drosophila flies; Rasmus Nielsen, professor of integrative biology, who will use molecular tools to look at how populations have expanded, contracted, diverged or otherwise changed over the lifetime of the island; and Neo Martinez, an affiliate of the energy and resources group, who will use new theoretical tools to explore how interactions between species change as a community develops.

Collaborators include evolutionary biologists Kerry Shaw at Cornell University, Diana Percy at the British Museum in London and Donald Price at the University of Hawaii in Hilo; and community ecologist Daniel Gruner of the University of Maryland, College Park.


Further Information

Join For Free

Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 3,200+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More Than 4,700+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters


Sign In



Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into TechnologyNetworks.com you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

‘Human-on-a-Chip’ Could Replace Animal Testing
Researchers are developing a “human-on-a-chip,” a miniature external replication of the human body, integrating biology and engineering with a combination of microfluidics and multi-electrode arrays.
Monday, June 13, 2016
Unveiling the Complexity of Mysterious Protein Folding
Imagine trying to reverse engineer a car when all you have is a finished product or a box full of parts — no instructions.
Wednesday, June 01, 2016
Study Identifies How Brain Connects Memories Across Time
UCLA Neuroscientists have boost ability of aging brain to recapture links between related memories.
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Transcription Factor Isoforms Implicated in Colon Diseases
UC Riverside study explains how distribution of two forms of a transcription factor in the colon influence risk of disease.
Thursday, May 19, 2016
An E.coli Detector May be in Your Hands Soon
Hand-held device that can be used to detect a variety of pathogens—including foodborne pathogens like E. coli—at all stages in the food supply chain, from fields to restaurants may be available soon.
Monday, May 16, 2016
Fructose Alters Hundreds of Brain Genes
UCLA scientists report that diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids can reverse the damage.
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
Study Yields the Key to Effective Personalized Medicine
A team of UCLA bioengineers and surgeons has taken a major step toward making personalized medicine a reality.
Monday, April 11, 2016
Tracking RNA in Live Cells
Technique may open doors to new treatments for many conditions, from cancer to autism.
Friday, March 18, 2016
Cat Stem Cell Therapy Gives Humans Hope
By the time Bob the cat came to the UC Davis veterinary hospital, he had used up most of his nine lives.
Monday, February 08, 2016
Crowdfunding the Fight Against Cancer
From budding social causes to groundbreaking businesses to the next big band, crowdfunding has helped connect countless worthy projects with like-minded people willing to support their efforts, even in small ways. But could crowdfunding help fight cancer?
Monday, February 08, 2016
Toxic Pollutants Found in Fish Across the World's Oceans
Scripps researchers' analysis shows highly variable pollutant concentrations in fish meat.
Friday, January 29, 2016
Key Enzyme in Pierce’s Disease Grapevine Damage Uncovered
UC Davis plant scientists have identified an enzyme that appears to play a key role in the insect-transmitted bacterial infection of grapevines with Pierce’s disease, which annually costs California’s grape and wine industries more than $100 million.
Wednesday, January 13, 2016
Science Magazine Names CRISPR ‘Breakthrough of the Year’
In its year-end issue, the journal Science chose the CRISPR genome-editing technology invented at UC Berkeley 2015’s Breakthrough of the Year.
Monday, December 21, 2015
Genome Sequencing May Save California's Legendary Sugar Pine
The genome of California’s legendary sugar pine, which naturalist John Muir declared to be “king of the conifers” more than a century ago, has been sequenced by a research team led by UC Davis scientists.
Thursday, December 17, 2015
Cellular “ORACLs” to Aid Drug Discovery
New approach for finding therapeutics is inspired by face-recognition software.
Wednesday, December 16, 2015
Scientific News
Open Source Seed Initiative – A Welcome Boost to Global Crop Breeding
A team of plant breeders, farmers, non-profit agencies, seed advocates, and policymakers have created the Open Source Seed Initiative.
ASMS 2016: Targeting Mass Spectrometry Tools for the Masses
The expanding application range of MS in life sciences, food, energy, and health sciences research was highlighted at this year's ASMS meeting in San Antonio, Texas.
Benchtop Automation Trends
Gain a better understanding of current interest in and future deployment of benchtop automated systems.
Anthrax Proteins Might Help Treat Cancerous Tumors
Studies in mice reveal novel treatment regimen.
New Cancer Drug Target Found in Dual-Function Protein
Findings from a study from TSRI have shown that targeting a protein called GlyRS might help to halt cancer growth.
Key to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is in Your Gut, Not Head
Researchers report they have identified biological markers of the disease in gut bacteria and inflammatory microbial agents in the blood.
HIV Structure Stabilized
Findings represent ‘big accomplishment’ in biomedical engineering and design.
Four Newly-Identified Genes Could Improve Rice
A Japanese research team have applied a method used in human genetic analysis to rice and rapidly discovered four new genes that are potentially significant for agriculture. These findings could influence crop breeding and help combat food shortages caused by a growing population.
New Cancer Drug Target in Dual-Function Protein
Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have identified a protein that launches cancer growth and appears to contribute to higher mortality in breast cancer patients.
Antibodies To Dengue May Alter Course Of Zika Virus Infection
Scientists at Emory Vaccine Center, in collaboration with investigators from Thailand, have found that people infected with dengue virus develop antibodies that cross-react with Zika virus.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
 
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
3,200+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,700+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FOR FREE!