The veiled chameleon, Chamaeleo calyptratus. Photo: Orchi, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Seeing as today is the first day of Hawaii Invasive Species Awareness Week, I thought it was time to write a post on the beautiful but invasive (and illegal) veiled chameleon, Chamaeleo calyptratus. Most likely introduced to the islands through the pet trade, the male lizard can get as large as two feet. It's a habitat generalist, at home in dry low elevation areas as well as upland wet forests. And when it comes to dinner, these arboreal lizards aren't fussy either: plants, flowers, insects, small mammals and even birds will do. Putting these generalist qualities all together, you can imagine the destruction they could do to native bird and insect populations. Oh, and they can have babies - lots of babies. Unlike the Jackson's chameleon which gives birth live, these females lay eggs. After digging a hole in the ground she lays down thirty to ninety-five eggs per clutch, with up to three clutches per year. Half a year later, the baby chameleons hatch, and begin what can be an eight-year life span in the wild. It seems that the veiled chameleons are isolated to just a few spots in Maui, but the public is urged to contact officials if one is observed. Non-breeding females and juvies are mostly green with some white markings; larger adults can display vertical stripes, and a crayon-box of colors are possible depending on social and environmental factors. A fringe lines the belly from snout to tail. Like other chameleons, their eyes can move independently, and their crazy long tongues can be rapidly projected to ambush an unwary meal. Their prehensile tail helps them hang tight in the trees, and their flattened bodies can do a pretty good leaf imitation when they sway. But despite their intriguing features, best to recognize that these creatures pose a veiled threat to Hawaii's native treasures.
Large adult veiled chameleons may have vertical stripes. Photo: By Steven G. Johnson (Own work) CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
While both males and females have a casque (the sharkfin looking shield on their heads) the males is larger. By frank wouters from antwerpen, belgium (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Geoff at en.wikipedia CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], from Wikimedia Commons
A close-up of a rainbow near Punchbowl. Photo: Jeanne Lindgren
Rainbows everywhere: on the radio waves (Hawaiian Lullaby, Some where Over the Rainbow), on our state license plate, on our shave ice, and in our skies. We are the rainbow state, after all. Thanks to abundant sunshine and lots of mist and rain squeezed out of the trade winds as they are pushed up the mountains, Hawaii has the right ingredients needed to see these magnificent arcs on a regular basis. As the bright white tropical light strikes a water droplet, it is bent (refracted) as it enters, then bounced (reflected) off the back of the droplet, only to be bent once again on leaving the droplet. All this bouncing and bending causes white light to be dispersed into its component colors: ROY G BIV. Each droplet reflects all the colors, but because they leave the droplet at different angles, it's the higher droplets in the sky that bounce the red light into our eyes, the lowest bouncing the violet. Every so often, a double rainbow appears, a fainter and reversed-color bow over the primary rainbow. This happens when light is bounced twice within the droplet. Moonbows can happen as well, when the reflected light from the moon produces the rainbow, but the colors are often too faint to discern. Be it a rainbow or a moonbow, you must look in the direction opposite of the light source, that is, the sun or moon must be at your back. So the next time the skies open up, let the rainbows remind you that you can smile when it’s raining, and touch the warmth of the sun.
Pic from mresceinceshow.com Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Australia License.
Big Island rainbow. Photo: By dbking (originally posted to Flickr as #8) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
The saddle wrasse, Thalassoma duperrey. NPS photo: Bryan Harry
Abundant. What a refreshing word to use to describe one of Hawaii's endemic critters. This is the saddle wrasse, hinalea lau-wili, Thalassoma duperrey, one of the most common reef fish found here. And while wrasses can be tricky to i.d. due to the color changes they go through from juvenile to adult, the adult saddle wrasse design is pretty straightforward. The generic epithet, Thalassoma, comes from the Greek thalassa: the sea, and soma: body; and indeed, the green and blue body is the color of the sea, which would make it tough to spot if it weren't for that blazing red-orange saddle. Another thing to look for is the way they swim: wrasses beat their pectoral fins up and down like wings, rarely using their tail fins unless a quick get-away is in order.
The terminal phase "supermales" have a white streak behind the saddle. Photo: Copyright David R, licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/
A saddle wrasse being cleaned by the Hawaiian cleaner wrasse. NPS photo - Larry Basch
As juveniles they sport brown, black, and white snout to tail stripes, but will begin the color change when they are around two and a half inches. As adults, they typically get to be around six to eight inches, but can get larger, with the biggest coming in at around eleven inches. They inhabit rubbly areas, lagoons, and reefs, where they spend their days in search of crustaceans and other invertebrates, as well as fish eggs and limu. It has been reported that they will engage in cleaning behavior, plucking ectoparasites off of other fish for a quick meal. It is believed they all begin life as females, with some of them going through sex reversal, becoming males. The largest are known as supermales, and show a white streak behind the orange saddle. At night, saddle wrasses may literally bury their heads in the sand, snuggling in for a good night's sleep.
The underside, showing the tube feet and mouth.
The shingle urchin, ha 'uke 'uke, Colobocentrotus atratus. Photos: Jeanne Lindgren
As I was hiking out to Ka'ena Point this morning for the The Sanctuary Ocean Humpback Whale Count, I came across this rough rider in one of the tidepools. It's ha 'uke 'uke, a.k.a. helmet or shingle urchin. Unlike their sharp and spiky brethren, this urchin's spines are modified into flattened shingles or tiles that create a beautiful, if briny mosaic, nicely accented by a "skirt" of flattened spines. The skirt spines are moveable, and underneath are lots and lots of tube feet. These features combine to give them the ability to hang tight in the full-contact wave impact zone where they forage for coralline algae (Porolithon), encrusting, rock-like algae that continue the reef building when corals reach sea level, and become to fragile to handle the pounding surf. Ha 'uke 'uke can get baseball-sized, and their yellow roe is considered onolicious to Hawaiians past and present.
The Kamehameha butterfly, Vanessa tameamea. Photo: Jeanne Lindgren
| |Say hello to one of only two native butterflies: the Kamehameha butterfly, Vanessa tameamea. This is the original pulelehua, named in honor of royalty, and claimed as the official state insect in 2009, thanks to the efforts of a group of students from Pearl Ridge Elementary. Even its egg, laid singly on the upper or lower sides of certain native nettles, looks regal - like a miniature monarch's crown. Once the caterpillars hatch, they do a fine job of munching away on their host plants, and the young instars will cut a distinctive crescent-shaped incision in the leaf, then flap it over in a mini-tent of protection. As they molt, they get spiky, and the final instar is quite the bumpy and spiny larva. As adults, they favor the sap of the native koa. But it would seem that there are less and less of these regal flyers, and researchers at UH Manoa want to find out why. So they have begun the Pulelehua Project. Funded by the DLNR, the project asks the public to submit photos of Vanessa tameamea eggs, chrysalis, caterpillars, and adult butterflies, along with the location of the sighting. By involving the public, scientists hope to get a more accurate mapping of the butterfly's distribution than they could do alone. Their website, http://www.KamehamehaButterfly.com, has identification aids and comparisons with look-alike butterflies, such as the Painted Lady and Red Admiral. Also included are photos of the native nettles that serve as host plants, including māmaki (Pipturus albidus), olonā (Touchardia latifolia), ōpuhe (Urera spp.) and ʻākōlea (Boehmeria grandis). So the next time you take a hike, keep your eyes peeled, and bring your camera. | |
The incredible beauty of the egg. It's just a few millimeters in diameter. Photo: Will Haines of the Pulelehua Project.
The prickly larva. Photos here and below: by Hank L. Oppenheimer.
A feral male mallard on Oahu.
Since this photo was taken at the Hamakua Marsh on Oahu, these ducks are most likely a hybrid of the koloa maoli and the mallard. Photos: Jeanne Lindgren
Birds of a feather flock together. And therein lies the problem for the koloa maoli, Anas wyvilliana. This endemic duck is endangered due to several factors, one of which is hybridization with feral mallards. Basically, the genes of the mallard are infiltrating the genes of the Hawaiian duck, causing "genetic extinction." To complicate the situation further, the hybrids are tough to distinguish from the real deal, making it hard to determine true population sizes and ranges. There is believed to be about 2,200 koloa maoli, with the majority on Kaua'i. Once abundant on all the major islands with the exception of Lana'i, by 1960's they were extirpated from all but Kaua'i. Captive breeding and release programs have brought them back to many islands, though those on Oahu are most likely hybrids. Both the male and female koloa maoli are mottled brown, and look a lot like female mallards. Males are a bit larger and a bit darker than the females, and have a greenish bill; females tend to be lighter in color, particularly on the head, and their bill color is more on the orangish side. They are denizens of wetlands, where they dabble the day away in search of aquatic invertebrates, molluscs, algae, small fish, and the like. Nesting occurs in dense vegetation (making them vulnerable to predation from mongooses, feral cats, and rats), primarily during the spring. Two to ten eggs are laid, and if we are lucky ducks, we'll have another clutch of Hawaiian ducks to grace our skies and waters.
The banana plant in my backyard shows off its magnificent inflorescence. Photos: Jeanne Lindgren
My, oh mai'a! About a year ago, I planted a banana that was given to me by a friend. Into the ground it went, and since then it's been like jack and the beanstalk. This largest herbaceous flowering plant went from about a foot tall to fifteen, with the help of a lot of water, good drainage, and sunshine. The "trunk" is a good thirty inches in diameter. It is not truly a trunk, but a structure called a pseudostem, composed of spirally arranged leaf sheaths arising from an underground stem, or corm. Just this past week, the true stem appeared, pushing its way up through the center of the pseudostem and carrying with it the most magnificent inflorescence, the banana heart. This large, pendant cluster is made up of tiers called hands, each hand consisting of two rows of fingers which are covered by leathery purplish bracts that shed as the fruit develops. In about three months or so, I can expect the first signs of ripening, at which time I'll chop the trunk down. This gives the couple of keiki I have growing from the pohuli, or suckers, the energy and resources they'll need to grow. I'll give a friend the trunk; she uses the fiber in lei-making. And the bananas? I'll be eating those yummy potassium sticks! (banana factoid - the potassium they contain causes them to be slightly radioactive). They're also an excellent source of vitamin B6 and soluble fiber. Prior to the early 1800's, mai'a were forbidden fruit, kapu for women, except for three varieities: popo'ulu, iholena and kaualau, according to the Hawaiian Ethnobotany Online Database. But today ladies, we're allowed to go bananas.
The collector urchin, Tripneustes gratilla. NPS photo - Larry Basch
This one is truly taking cover - in more ways than one. The collector sea urchin, Tripneustes gratilla, known locally as hawa'e maoli, makes a fashion statement by covering its spines with limu, bits of shell, or other marine debris. This masking, or covering behavior is not fully understood but may be a means of protection from the rolling abrasion of wave action, or perhaps the harmful affects of UV light. Native to Hawaiian waters as well as the Indo-Pacific and the Red Sea, Tripneustes gratilla is found in shallow water down to about thirty meters, and can get to about five inches in test diameter. These guys are constant grazers, munching primarily on algae throughout the day and night. Good thing because these urchins have been recruited for an important job: taking the cover off of the corals in Kane'ohe Bay. Several invasive algae, including those in the genus Kappaphycus and Eucheuma denticulatum are blanketing the corals in a smothering embrace.
Back in the 1970's, Kappaphycus species were intentionally introduced to bay for research and cultivation; these species produce kappa-carrageenan, which can be extracted and used in the food industry. Though the cultivation efforts were not successful, the algae was. As the seaweed spread, marching northward in the bay, efforts were made to remove it. Enter the Super Sucker, a marine vacuum used to hover up the alien goo. While thousands of pounds of algae were removed, it rebounded quickly. And that's where Tripneustes gratilla comes in. Researchers at the Anuenue Fisheries Research Center on Sand Island developed techniques to breed the sea urchins, 100,000 of which were placed on the reef to do what they do best: eat the algae that is left behind. And eat they do. According to Dr. Eric Conklin, the Nature Conservancy’s Hawai‘i marine science director: “On reefs where we have placed the urchins, algae re-growth after a year is about five percent....On reefs without urchins, algae can re-grow within six months.” The Conservancy, in tandem with the State Division of Aquatic Resources, plan on releasing 200,000 urchins in 2014. ʻAi ā manō!!
A collector urchin adorns itself with shells. Photo: Brocken Inaglory [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) via Wikimedia Commons
Saddle Wrasse, Thalassoma duperrey feeding on sea urchin Tripneustes gratilla in Kona, w:Hawaii. Other predators of the urchin include octopi and pufferfish. By Brocken Inaglory [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
The oriental flower beetle, Proteatia orientalis. Photo: Jeanne Lindgren
Hailing from China, Korea, and Japan, the oriental flower beetle, Proteatia orientalis, is a hefty beetle, about the size of my upper thumb. Its attractive bronzy metallic sheen is splotched with white markings, and gives a hint that it is in the family of Scarab beetles, many of which sport metallic colors. It also claims membership in the subfamily Cetoniinae, also known as the flower chafers, a group of diurnal beetles that feed on nectar, pollen, sap, and some, like are guy here, on damaged fruit. On Guam, where it is widespread, it has been known to feed on the flowers of papaya, coconut, betel nut, mango and corn, and may damage the flowers of these trees, resulting in fewer fruit.
Proteatia orientalis has been known on Oahu since 2002, and has since been identified on Maui, and just recently on the Big Island. Eggs are laid in the soil, where the grub, or larvae hatch and then pupate; as with all beetles, metamorphosis is complete, whereas true bugs undergo incomplete metamorphosis. The oriental flower beetle can be confused with the coconut rhinoceros beetle, Oryctes rhinoceros, a major pest of coconut palms that was first seen in Honolulu in December of 2013.
Though both are scarab beetles, the Oriental Flower beetle pictured here is about an inch long and bronze, whereas the rhino beetle is about two inches long and black. Photo: Jeanne Lindgren
The Coconut Rhinoceros beetle is a new arrivial, and a major pest of coconut palms. The Dept. of Agriculture for the state of Hawaii asks the public to report any sightings of rhino beetles or rhino beetle damage to the State Pest Hotline, 643-PEST (643-7378). Photo: HAH [CC-BY-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons
The Green Anole, Anolis carolinensis. Photo: Jeanne Lindgren
Though none are actually native to Hawaii, lizards are everywhere here, sunning, head-bobbing, and having a go at the insect and spider populations. In my backyard, it's the brown anole that I most commonly see. Today, though, I had a nice photo shoot with the green anole, Anolis carolinensis, introduced here around 1950. But it's not easy being green. Ever since the introduction of the brown anole to Oahu in 1980, the green anole population seems to be on the decline. The same displacement has been noticed in its native range, the continental southern states. In areas where their ranges overlap, the green anole has adapted by occupying the trunk-crown niche, while the brown anole dominates in the trunk-ground niche. When threatened, the green anole tends to go up, the brown anole down. The two can be difficult to identify when the green anole is in its brown phase. Both species are are able to change color due to the presence of chromatophores, or pigment bearing cells in the skin. Normally bright green, factors such as temperature, humidity, and stress can cause the green anole to look more olive, or even dark brown. The brown anole can change to various hues of brown, but cannot turn green. It is more stocky than it's green cousin, and has a blockier head; the green anole sports a slender snout and a leaner and longer body, with males reaching up to five inches ( a good portion of that being tail). Dewlaps are present in both species, that special throat pouch that is puffed up when attracting a mate or defending territory. In the green anole, this has a pinkish hue; the dewlap of the brown anole is a vivid orange-red. As these two species duke it out in my backyard, it will be interesting to see what will happen the gold-dust day gecko (another recently introduced herp with a growing population) enters the ring. With similar prey species and niches, we could be in for quite a war of the saur!
Great color match from the anole in my backyard.
The pinkish dewlap of a male green anole. Photo from Wikimedia Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.
The male brown anole sports a vivid orange-red dewlap. Photo: Jeanne Lindgren