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Autochthonous Hawai'i

'Auku'u and 'ihi'ihilauākea original

'Auku'u and 'ihi'ihilauākea original

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Original 11"x14" illustration.

‘Auku’u (Nycticorax nycticorax hoactli) and 'ihi'ihilauākea (Marsilea villosa).

‘Auku’u are indigenous wetland birds, and the only extant native representative of the family Ardeidae. ‘Auku’u are likely a recent arrival to the islands due to their lack of representation in the older fossil record—they appear around the time of first human contact. Prior to Polynesian arrival, Hawai’i had sparse wetland habitat, but with the conversion of lowland habitat to lo’i and loko i’a, species that rely on wetlands were able to colonize the islands and find a new home. Other wetland species, such as the ae’o, ‘alae ke’oke’o, and ‘alae ‘ula also benefitted.

‘Ihi’ihilauākea is an endangered fern endemic to select habitats on O’ahu, Moloka’i, and formerly Ni’ihau. It is the only species in its family found in Hawai’i. Its unique habitat requirements make it naturally vulnerable—it requires ephemeral pools formed by periodic flooding to breed and survive.

Threats to ‘auku’u include habitat loss; non-native predators such as dogs, cats, barn owls, and mongooses; avian botulism; and invasive plants. Threats to ‘ihi’ihilauākea include habitat loss and invasive species; in a 2013 assessment, ‘ihi’ihilauā was also determined to be highly vulnerable to impacts of climate change. 

And yes… I know… ‘ihi’ihilauākea close at night and Hawaii’s night herons are primarily diurnal! I had a bit of artistic fun with this one.

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