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

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
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 2,800+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More Than 4,000+ 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 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

When it Comes to Breast Cancer, Common Pigeon is No Bird Brain
If pigeons went to medical school and specialized in pathology or radiology, they’d be pretty good at distinguishing digitized microscope slides and mammograms of normal vs. cancerous breast tissue, a new study has found.
Monday, November 30, 2015
RNA-Based Drugs Give More Control Over Gene Editing
CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technique can be transiently activated and inactivated using RNA-based drugs, giving researchers more precise control in correcting and inactivating genes.
Monday, November 23, 2015
Some 3-D Printed Objects Are Toxic
Researchers at the University of California, Riverside have found parts produced by some commercial 3-D printers are toxic to certain fish embryos.
Monday, November 09, 2015
Artificial Kidney Research Gets A Boost
Development of a surgically implantable, artificial kidney — a promising alternative to kidney transplantation or dialysis for people with end-stage kidney disease — has received a $6 million boost.
Monday, November 09, 2015
Clearest Ever Images of Enzyme that Plays Key Roles in Aging, Cancer
UCLA-led research on telomerase could lead to new strategies for treating disease
Monday, October 19, 2015
Crop Cure
Scientists in new center to use medical research techniques to help food crops withstand drought and climate change.
Friday, October 16, 2015
Rare Childhood Leukemia Reveals Surprising Genetic Secrets
A coalition of leukemia researchers led by scientists from UC San Francisco has discovered surprising genetic diversity in juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia (JMML), a rare but aggressive childhood blood cancer.
Thursday, October 15, 2015
Sustaining Our Salad
Improving lettuce crops is the aim of a new, $4.5 million grant, awarded to University of California, Davis, researchers by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
Thursday, October 15, 2015
Double Enzyme Hit May Explain Common Cancer Drug Side Effect
Mouse study suggests genomic screening before treatment may help prevent anemia.
Wednesday, October 14, 2015
New Autism Genes Are Revealed in Largest-Ever Study
Work draws more detailed picture of genetic risk, sheds light on sex differences in diagnosis.
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Influenza A Viruses More Likely To Emerge In East Asia Than North America
Novel strains of influenza A are more likely to emerge in East Asia than in North America, according to a global analysis by the One Health Institute at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and EcoHealth Alliance.
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Opening the Door to Safer, More Precise Cancer Therapies
New method regulates when, and how strongly, cancer-killing therapeutic T cells are activated.
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
Crunching Numbers to Combat Cancer
UCSF receives $5 million to integrate data from cancer research models.
Wednesday, September 16, 2015
Virus In Cattle Linked To Human Breast Cancer
A new study by UC Berkeley researchers establishes for the first time a link between infection with the bovine leukemia virus and human breast cancer.
Wednesday, September 16, 2015
Ultrafast DNA Diagnostics
New technology developed by UC Berkeley bioengineers promises to make a workhorse lab tool cheaper, more portable and many times faster by accelerating the heating and cooling of genetic samples with the switch of a light.
Monday, August 03, 2015
Scientific News
High Throughput Mass Spectrometry-Based Screening Assay Trends
Dr John Comley provides an insight into HT MS-based screening with a focus on future user requirements and preferences.
Promising Drug Combination for Advanced Prostate Cancer
A new drug combination may be effective in treating men with metastatic prostate cancer. Preliminary results of this new approach are encouraging and have led to an ongoing international study being conducted in 196 hospitals worldwide.
A Cellular Symphony Responsible for Autoimmune Disease
Broad Institute researchers have used a novel approach to increase our understanding of the immune system as a whole.
When it Comes to Breast Cancer, Common Pigeon is No Bird Brain
If pigeons went to medical school and specialized in pathology or radiology, they’d be pretty good at distinguishing digitized microscope slides and mammograms of normal vs. cancerous breast tissue, a new study has found.
Editing of LIMS Data Made Faster and More Efficient in Matrix Gemini
The latest version of the Matrix Gemini LIMS (Laboratory Information Management System) from Autoscribe Informatics now provides faster and more efficient editing of LIMS data by eliminating the need for a second editing screen.
University of Edinburgh, Selcia Achieve Key Milestones in Drug Development Program
Scientists from the University of Edinburgh, working with Selcia, have successfully passed the 20-month milestone targets of a 30-month Wellcome Trust SDDi £2.5 million project to design novel treatments for sleeping sickness.
Red Clover Genome to Help Restore Sustainable Farming
The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC) in collaboration with IBERS, has sequenced and assembled the DNA of red clover to help breeders improve the beneficial traits of this important forage crop.
How a Genetic Locus Protects Adult Blood-Forming Stem Cells
Mammalian imprinted Gtl2 protects adult hematopoietic stem cells by restricting metabolic activity in the cells' mitochondria.
Genetic Basis of Fatal Flu Side Effect Discovered
A group of people with fatal H1N1 flu died after their viral infections triggered a deadly hyperinflammatory disorder in susceptible individuals with gene mutations linked to the overactive immune response, according to a recent study.
New Tech Vastly Improves CRISPR/Cas9 Accuracy
A new CRISPR/Cas9 technology developed by scientists at UMass Medical School is precise enough to surgically edit DNA at nearly any genomic location, while avoiding potentially harmful off-target changes typically seen in standard CRISPR gene editing techniques.
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
2,800+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,000+ scientific videos