Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center
Native Species Biology
The Hawaiian Islands are a chain of volcanoes which erupted from the ocean floor in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. They are 3,800 kilometers (2,400 miles) from the nearest continental shores and so all terrestrial plants and animals had to arrive by chance – blown by the wind, carried by currents, or borne by birds. When they arrived in an empty landscape they diversified in a series of adaptive radiations far more prolific and extreme than that of the Galapagos finches that inspired Darwin. Hawaii contains a range of habitats from warm, coastal lowlands to alpine mountaintops, from drenched rainforests to parched lava deserts. Native species have expanded and adapted to occupy all these habitats, and today Hawaii is home to a plethora of birds, plants, and insects found nowhere else in the world.