Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in a six-part series.
HAWAII-It is considered the “global epicenter of imminent extinctions” for plants and animals; just since the 1980s, 10 unique birds have disappeared. Among some of the most threatened species are a native group of forest birds known as honeycreepers (Drepanidinae) that have evolved in the absence of avian malaria.
As you can see (below), these beautiful and fascinating birds have evolved a remarkable array of distinctive morphologies.
Honeycreepers have suffered catastrophic decline in recent decades due to:
- Habitat loss
- Introduction of alien plants and animals
- Avian disease
The accidental introduction of the southern house mosquito Culex quiquefasciatus– a non-native species – into Hawaii (1826) has allowed avian malaria and avian pox to spread, putting 33 species of the 42 remaining birds species in danger of extinction.
Clearly, the rapid loss of native island floras and faunas is a huge cause for concern among scientists.
We have five, 10, maybe 15 years before we start seeing more declines…but some of these species don’t have that much time and I don’t want to see another species become extinct in my lifetime.
Pete Marra, director of the Smithsonian Institution’s Migratory Bird Center .
*Anemia. The loss of red blood cells leads to a…
*Lack of oxygen and progressive weakness.
*And eventually death–birds that have never had tolerance to malaria can get it very quickly and die from it. Mortality in many native species can range from 50 to 90%. In contrast, mortality in introduced bird species appears to be negligible.
Species-differences in susceptibility to disease.
The ‘i’iwi (A) is very susceptible to malaria, whereas the ‘apapane (B) less so.
*NOTE* The differences in disease susceptibility are for reasons yet to be determined
Nature conservancy –Today, threatened by habitat destruction, introduced predators and avian diseases, the ‘i‘iwi is extinct on the island of Lāna‘i, and is considered extremely rare and vulnerable to extinction on O‘ahu and Moloka‘i.