Working on Coconut Island has many upsides, but one of my favorite is getting to see science in action. I’ve been in the lab for the past few years, watching as Dr. Chris Bird’s research on the Hawaiian limpets (known locally as opihi) has unfolded. The tale they tell is already an intriguing one, as they seem to be one of the only organisms with solid evidence to suggest sympatric speciation (the splitting of species without any physical barriers). They’re also one of the only marine species to have radiated here in Hawaii. But on the most recent expedition, something else strange about these little mollusks was confirmed: they tend to separate based on sex.
The scientists found that female opihi live higher up on the shore than male opihi. Why? Well, we don’t know yet, but Chris is determined to find out. He thinks it likely has to do with spawning, and may prove valuable information for managers of the opihi fishery. The recent discovery was even featured on the local news – alongside some fantastic visuals of the perils these scientists undergo to conduct their research:
Learn more about the ongoing opihi research though the Bird lab’s facebook page!