By Nina Wu
Scientists on a recent expedition to the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument have discovered a mingling of the yellowfoot and blackfoot ‘opihi on Mokumanamana. The good news is that the hybridization means ‘opihi, a prized delicacy in Hawaii, may be more resilient against the effects of climate change and other disturbances.
For the sixth consecutive year, members of the intertidal monitoring expedition examined the rocky shorelines of Nihoa, Mokumanamana and French Frigate Shoals. It involved walking, crawling, swimming and clinging to rocks to count, size and record all ‘opihi around the islands.
The data collected will provide good baseline information to compare with data being collected in the more populated main Hawaiian islands, according to NOAA acting deputy superintendent Hoku Johnson, who led the expedition. It will also be turned into spatial "heat maps" depicting ‘opihi abundance, size and species on each island.
In the main Hawaiian islands, ‘opihi is is serious decline.
Scientists are trying to better understand their spawning patterns, gene flow and the rate of evolution of the three species endemic to Hawaii to better manage shorelines near populated areas.