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Evolutionary Consequences of Extinctions in Populations of a Hawaiian Honeycreeper

Thomas B. Smith, Leonard A. Freed, Jaan Kaimanu Lepson and John H. Carothers
Conservation Biology
Vol. 9, No. 1 (Feb., 1995), pp. 107-113
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2386392
Page Count: 7
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Evolutionary Consequences of Extinctions in Populations of a Hawaiian Honeycreeper
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Abstract

We report on the evolutionary change in bill size of a species of Hawaiian honeycreeper resulting from an apparent dietary shift caused by dramatic declines and extinctions of lobelioids, a historically favored nectar source. Although it now feeds mainly on the flowers of the ohia tree (Metrosideros polymorpha), early Hawaiian avifaunal accounts report that the i'iwi (Vestiaria coccinea), which has a long decurved bill, fed primarily on the flowers of Hawaiian Lobelioideae, which typically have long decurved corollas. A coevolutionary association of i'iwi bill and flower morphology has often been asserted. We test the hypothesis that the shift in the i'iwi's diet from the long corolla lobelioid flowers to ohia flowers, which lack corollas, resulted in directional selection for shorter bills. We evaluate this hypothesis by comparing the morphological characters of museum specimens from the island of Hawaii collected before 1902 with recent specimens from the Hakalau National Wildlife Refuge, Hawaii. We examine evidence of change in morphological characters using multivariate analysis and a nonparametric cubic spline technique. Results from all analyses are congruent: bill length is shorter in recent specimens.

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