Lyman Museum: New Discoveries in Hawai‘i’s Lava Tubes

Posted on February 7, 2020 by Destination Hilo (MB) No Comments

Lyman-DestinationHilo-LavaTube
Who dares describe Hawai‘i’s iconic lava tubes as fossilized tunnels, bereft of life?! Since 2015, UH-Mānoa’s Dr. Megan Porter and a team of cave biologists from around the U.S. have been studying the communities of animals living in lava tubes on the island of Hawai‘i.

Learn all about these creatures and their nether world, on two occasions: Monday evening, February 17, and the following afternoon, February 18.

In general, such ecosystems existing on our volcanoes of different ages consist of very similar assemblages of invertebrates—planthoppers, spiders, millipedes, crickets, and others—all dependent on roots penetrating the lava tube from surface forests above.

Molecular tools have helped identify the roots in these systems as being mostly ‘Ōhi‘a, linking Hawaiian subterranean ecosystems directly to the surface forest landscape. In surveys of lava tube systems not previously studied for biology, the research team has discovered a remarkable number of new species, including unique cave-adapted planthoppers, beetles, cave treaders, and thread-legged bugs (who knew?!).

Planthopper sml Cave_treader sml Thread_legged sml

 

 

 

 

 

These discoveries highlight the singularity of Hawaiian lava tube ecosystems, and how they are intimately connected to conservation of native forests on the surface. Learn all about these creatures and their nether world, on two occasions: Monday evening, February 17, and the following afternoon, February 18.

Admission to these wonderful programs is free to Lyman Museum members, and $3 for nonmembers.  

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