Hawai‘i’s geology and isolation has created one of the world’s most spectacular natural laboratories for evolution. Without the typical pressures of continental predators and environments, here we’re known for our flightless birds, ‘mintless’ mints, ‘briarless’ briars, and even wingless flies.
Hawaiʻi’s ever changing volcanic geology isolates and forces adaptation. Huge volcanic mountains create dramatic local climates from frozen alpine tundra, to barren lava desserts, to lush tropical forests, to parched woodlands. Each of these areas, and all in-between, support new species able to adapt to each location and the plants that also adapted.
Even on the smallest levels, nature takes advantage of change. On the older islands, like Kaua‘i and O‘ahu, there are some insects and snails unique to particular valleys. And on Hawai‘i Island, fresh lava flows carve out pockets of native forest, called kīpuka, that harbor specific insects.
And our birds are no exception. From the high dry slopes of Mauna Kea, where the palila takes advantage of the māmane’s seed pods there, to the Hawai‘i ‘akepa who seeks out older trees with cavities to build their nests in.