Snapshot: Patagonian Mara

Patagonian Mara

We tend to look at islands like Hawai’i or New Zealand or Madagascar for extreme examples of adaptive radiation. But of course, they are not the only places to see this. Take, for example, this picture I took at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. What may look like some strange cross between a deer and a rabbit is actually a type of rodent.

Patagonian Mara (Dolichotis patagonum) are part of the cavimorph radiation of rodents mainly centering in South America. One of the most familiar to the general public is the Guinea Pig (Cavia porcellus). Perhaps colonizing South America sometime in the late Eocene/ early Oligocene, cavimorphs evolved into many spectacular forms. Unlike many rodents, Mara are monogamous, active during the day, and eat grasses out on the open plain. Hawai’i has lobelias that turn into trees, Patagonia has rodents that turned into antelope. Touche.

These guys were fairly large too! By my reckoning 20-30 lbs. And just a few million years back, mara had much larger cousins. Josephoartigasia monesi may have weighed 2 tons! Imagine that, a rodent larger than a bull. Not your average mouse by any means.

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A whole new world, a brave new world

Kaala clouds

So, I’ve been blogging here at Studia Mirabilium for almost a 1/4 of a score now. And hiking almost every weekend since I started. We’re talking a couple hundred of hikes now. But in that time, there were still major portions of O’ahu that I haven’t step foot in. Circumstance and priority may have kept me away, but I was finally able to hike the southern portion of the Wai’anae volcano. I couldn’t wait to see how different that forest would be from my usual stomping grounds. Yes, it was a whole new world for me. So I hope you will join me on this ride (minus the soma-induced flying carpet of course)…

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Getting to know your Hawaiian Lobeliads #33: Cyanea calycina

Cyanea calycina

Cyanea calycina

  • Hawaiian Name: Haha
  • Conservation Status: Endangered
  • Distribution: O’ahu
  • Date photographed: 9/13/2014
  • Ease of viewing: Moderately difficult
  • *Identification: Form– Stems woody, 1-3 m long. Leaves– elliptic to oblanceolate, blades 15-60 cm long, 5.5-14 cm wide, petiole 1-9 cm long. Flower– calyx lobes oblong to ovate, 4-10 mm long; corolla pubescent, 5-8 cm long.
  • Phylogenetic comments: Cyanea calycina is part of the Rollandia radiation within the Acuminata clade. As far as I know  it is still one big polytomy; it is not clear which former Rollandia spp. are more closely related to which. C. calycina itself was recently split from taxa now known as Cyanea lanceolata. Hopefully soon, we will have a better resolution of this part of the lobeliad tree.
  • My notes: Holy smoking polymorphy batman! A few traits seem to be diagnostic ( calyx, leaf texture, etc.) but it seems like every thing else is up in the air. If you do a google image search for C. calycina, you’ll see just how variable this species is. I made it a point to monitor this little guy every few weeks. He rewarded me with some of the darkest, purest red flowers known in the taxa. Cyanea calycina… Cyanea chicanery more like it!
  • Links: Smithsonian Flora of the Hawaiian Islands, UH Botany, Native Hawaiian Plants- Cyanea

*From Manual of the Flowering Plants of Hawai’i

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Getting to know your Hawaiian Lobeliads #32: Cyanea hardyi

Cyanea hardyi

Cyanea hardyi -cultivated

  • Hawaiian Name: Haha
  • Conservation Status: Apparently secure
  • Distribution: Kaua’i
  • Date photographed: 5/22/2013
  • Ease of viewing: Cultivation -Limahuli Gardens
  • *Identification: Form– Branched shrub or tree, 1-7 m tall Leaves– elliptic to oblanceolate, blades 18-28 cm long, 2.5-5 cm wide, base attenuate into a winged petiole 2.5-8 cm long. Flower– calyx lobes dentiform, 0.5-1 mm long; corolla purplish to blackish purple, 20-26 mm long, 23 mm wide.
  • Phylogenetic comments: Cyanea hardyi is part of the purple fruit clade of Cyanea with mostly a Kaua’i radiation. One species (Cyanea angustifolia) has spread to the younger, eastern islands. The various Kaua’i species seem to have partition their niche by elevation (Givnish, 1995)
  • My notes: Limahuli Gardens is such a jewel on the north coast of Kaua’i; I really have to do a proper post on it one of these days. They have a nice representation of Hawaiian lobeliads, with Cyanea hardyi being one of the more prominent ones.
  • Links: Smithsonian Flora of the Hawaiian Islands, UH Botany, Native Hawaiian Plants- Cyanea

*From Manual of the Flowering Plants of Hawai’i

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Snapshot: Another pinoy bird

Black naped Oriole

One of several different species of old world orioles in the Philippines, Black-naped Orioles (Oriolus chinensis) is also native in other parts of Southeast Asia and into China and parts of India. I didn’t see it out in the wild when I was in Bohol, so I checked out the ones at the little animal park. They were pretty active in their cage and such a pretty coloration too!

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1984… and 1884

Hawaiian Birds

The Bishop Museum just wrapped up their Wonders of Nature exhibit. As great as it was to see the Museum’s collections from throughout the Pacific, I was there for a very specific reason. It was my first real chance to commiserate with some of the recently extinct wonder-fauna of the Hawaiian Forest…

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Relatives staying for the Holidays

As the holidays fast approach, we must honor those grand traditions of putting up decorations, sending out photos of your “antler and sweater” festooned family, and eating all the delicious holiday meals. Most importantly, we must revel in the sudden uptick of stress induced letters to Dear Abbey about the headache of relatives staying over for the holidays! I kid, of course, but lest you think this is solely a hominid problem, I give you exhibit A…

Cackling Goose


At today’s workday over at Paepae O He’eia, we noticed a lone Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii). We were told that it had been hanging out at the fishpond for a good week and a half already. Cackling geese nest in the far north of the new world and are occasional winter visitors here in Hawai’i. Not sure if the lack of a white collar is diagnostic, but I’m assuming this is subspecies minima. With the mallard in the foreground as scale, we can see that this species is much smaller than the ubiquitous Canadian Goose (Branta canadensis) of the mainland.

With its smaller size, a cackling goose can easily be mistaken for the Nene (Branta sandvicensis). One easy way to tell the relatives apart is by looking at the neck…


… on adult nene, the white patch goes all the way down the neck with a distinctive “furrowing” pattern. (The 3 other nene pictured are subadults).

By the way, Nene ohana, the cackling goose was eating all the food for the ducks and chickens at the fishpond. Hope your pantry is stocked! Don’t say that I didn’t warn you…

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Getting to know your Hawaiian Lobeliads #31: Cyanea asarifolia

cyanea asarifolia

Cyanea asarifolia

  • Hawaiian Name: Haha
  • Conservation Status: Endangered
  • Distribution: Kaua’i (Anahola stream)
  • Date photographed: 8/29/2014
  • Ease of viewing: Cultivated
  • *Identification: Form– Shrub, 0.3-1 m tall Leaves– cordiform, blades 8.5-10.5 cm long, 7-8 cm wide, base cordate. Flower– calyx lobes dentiform, 0.51 mm long; corolla white with purple longitudinal stripes, 20-22 mm long, 3-3.5 mm wide.
  • My notes: There really aren’t enough photos out on the internet of this species which is a shame. This Kaua’i Cyanea is certainly one of the more distinctive looking of the genus. I can’t say I know of any that have heart shaped leaves like this guy. Awesome plant, I felt very privileged to photograph it at the greenhouse.
  • Links: Smithsonian Flora of the Hawaiian Islands, UH Botany, Native Hawaiian Plants- Cyanea
  • Additional Pics:

Cyanea asarifolia leaf

Cyanea asarifolia underside

*From Manual of the Flowering Plants of Hawai’i

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The myth. The legend. Wailupe


How can I properly frame this? On O’ahu, few places have intrigued me as much as Wailupe. A lot of it has to do with its historical association with the scientific inquiry of Hawaiian biota. Some of it is because of the native assemblage the valley still retains. But I think a lot of it has to do with that same ole recurring theme here at Studia Mirabilium: Sharing the Planet. Here are some awesome native forests in a valley that Hillebrand once roamed. And it’s all right behind urban Honolulu…

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Kuli’ou’ou plants

'Ohi'a flowers

We went on a hike to check out the plant life of Kuli’ou’ou Valley. It was impressive to see the diversity still left in such a commonly hiked area.

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