Macrophthalmus convexus Stimpson

Convex Sentinel Crab (Macrophthalmus convexus)

The Convex Sentinel Crabs are very small crabs having an average carapace diameter of about 1 x 1,5 cm to 1,5 x 3 cm and exceedingly long eyestalks.

They live in the intertidal zone, where they can be found abundantly on muddy places near the outlets of small streams, and are therefore absent from islands without such freshwater streams, e.g. the Tuamotus. The crabs feed on smallest food particles, which they sift out from the sand.

These crabs dig their burrows in muddy sand, in which they flee at the slightest disturbance.

On Aitutaki the crabs are called papaka.

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Photo: J. Poupin; by courtesy of J. Poupin

http://decapoda.ecole-navale.fr/index.php
http://decapoda.free.fr

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Pteropus tonganus Quoy & Gaimard

Tongan Fruit-Bat (Pteropus tonganus)

The Tongan Fruit-Bat occurs with several subspecies in an area that stretches from New Guinea to the Cook Islands in Central Polynesia, whereby the form, that can be found in Polynesia, represents the nominate race.

These animals reach a wing span of more than one metre and spend the day more or less sleeping in roosting trees, where they sometimes form giant colonies.

In most parts of its geographic range the species is an important source of protein and is therefore heavily hunted, but also because the Fruit-Bats, being frugivores, can cause enormous damages in fruiting trees. Hence the species has become rare in some parts of its geographic range, in others it has even disappeared completely.

In the Kingdom of Tonga in contrast Tongan Fruit-Bats are considered as property of the royal family and therefore are protected from hunting – a very effective protection.

On the Cook Islands, the eastern most edge of its distribution area, the Tongan Fruit-Bat is called moa kirikiri, which means ‘leather chicken’. On the Fijian Islands it is called beka, bekua (in the west part of Viti Levu), beka dina or doli (on Kadavu).

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References:

[1] Jorge M. Palmeirim; Alan Champion; Alivereti Naikatini, Jone Niukula; Marika Tuiwawa; Martin Fisher; Mere Yabaki-Gounder; Sólveig Thorsteinsdóttir; Stanley Qalovaki; Thomas Dunn: Distribution, Status, and Conservation of Bats in the Fiji Islands. Oryx 41(4): 509-519. 2006

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Photo: Dr. Paddy Ryan; by courtesy of Dr. Paddy Ryan

http://www.ryanphotographic.com

Ocypode pallidula Jacquinot in Hombron & Jacquinot

Common Ghost-Crab (Ocypode pallidula)

The Common Ghost-Crab is indigenous in the Indo-Pacific region, where it can be found running about the beaches in search for food, and digging burrows in the sand.

It is a rather small species, reaching a carapace size of about 2,5 cm in diameter.

On the Cook Islands, where the species seems to be very common, it is known by several names, including ‘atike, kalami, kohiti, kohitihiti, ko’iti, tike, tiketike and titorotai.

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Photo: J. Poupin; by courtesy of J. Poupin

http://decpoda.ecole-navale.fr/index.php
http://decapoda.free.fr

Coenobita perlatus H. Milne Edwards

Strawberry Hermit Land Crab (Coenobita perlatus)

This species is distributed throughout the whole tropical Indopacific region, from the coasts of Africa up to East Polynesia, where it can be found in large numbers especially on the atolls of the Tuamotu Archipelago.

The animals mostly stay close to the beaches, where they feed on all applicable things they can get, including seeds washed up to the beach or fallen coconuts, but also washed up fish and dead seabirds.

Strawberry Hermit Land Crabs prefer the shells of sea snails of the genus Turbo.

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References:

[1] Alden D. Hinckley: Ecology of Terrestrial Arthropods on the Tokelau Atolls. Atoll Research Bulletin 124: 1-18. 1969
[2] J. C. Yaldwyn; Kasimierz Wodzicki: Systematics and ecology of the land crabs (Decapoda: Coenobitidae, Grapsidae and Gecarcinidae) of the Tokelau Islands, Central Pacific. Atoll Research Bulletin 235: 1-59. 1979
[3] S. A. Hathaway; K. McEachern; R. N. Fisher: Terrestrial Forest Management Plan for Palmyra Atoll: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2011-1007, 78 p. 2011

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Photo: J. Poupin; by courtesy of J. Poupin

http://decapoda.ecole-navale.fr/index.php
http://decapoda.free.fr

Euploea lewinii Felder & Felder

Crow Butterfly (Euploea lewinii)

This species, whose taxonomy is very confusing, occurs with several (?) subspecies within the Polynesian region, whereby, however, it seems not to be completely known, how far they are distributed here naturally.

Shown here is the Fijian subspecies (Euploea lewinii ssp. eschscholzii Felder & Felder).

Additional subspecies occur on the Samoan Islands (Euploea lewinii ssp. bourkei (Poulton)), on Tonga (Euploea lewinii ssp. mathewi (Poulton)) as well as on Niue and the Cook Islands (Euploea lewinii ssp. perryi (Butler)).

The caterpillars feed on the leaves of various fig species, including the Pacific Banyan (Ficus prolixa G. Forst.) and the Dye Fig (Ficus tinctoria G. Forst.).

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References:

[1] Alden D. Hinckley: Ecology of Terrestrial Arthropods on the Tokelau Atolls. Atoll Research Bulletin 124: 1-18. 1969
[2] Jaqueline Y. Miller; Lee D. Miller: The Butterflies of the Tonga Islands and Niue, Cook Islands, with the Descriptions of two new subspecies. Bishop Museum Occasional Papers 34: 1-24. 1993
[3] Brian Patrick; Hamish Patrick: Butterflies of Fiji. The Weta 24(1): 5-12. 2002
[4] Neal L. Evenhuis: Checklist of Fijian Lepidoptera. Bishop Museum Technical Report 38(13): 1-53. 2007

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euploea-l-eschscholtzii-dhg

Photo: Donald H. Gudehus; by courtesy of Donald H. Gudehus

http://www.parfaitimage.com

Ocypode ceratophthalma (Pallas)

Horn-eyed Ghost-Crab (Ocypode ceratophthalma)

The Horn-eyed Ghost-Crab is indigenous to the Indo-Pacific, where it occurs from the coasts of East Africa far into Polynesia, where the animals run about the beaches in search for edible things, including washed up dead fish, or dead sea birds, but also newly hatched sea turtles.

It is a quite large species with a carapace size of up to 8 cm in diameter. It can be distinguished from other related crabs by the eyestalks extending beyond the eyes into long points, those stalks are longer in males, and shorter or almost absent in females.

In Samoa, the species is called avi’ivi’i resp. pa’a.

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ocypode-ceratophthalma-jp

Photo: J. Poupin; by courtesy of J. Poupin

http://decpoda.ecole-navale.fr/index.php
http://decapoda.free.fr

Pandanus tectorius Parkinson ex Du Roi

Screw Pine (Pandanus tectorius)

Distribution:

Austral Islands: Maria, Raivavae, Rapa, Rimatara, Rurutu, Tubuai
Cook Islands: Aitutaki, ‘Atiu, Mangaia, Manihiki, Manuae, Ma’uke, Miti’aro, Nassau, Palmerston, Pukapuka, Rakahanga, Rarotonga, Suwarrow, Takutea, Tongareva
Fiji: Aiwa, Dravuni, Fulaga, Gau, Kadavu, Koro, Lakeba, Laucala, Mabualau, Makaluva, Matamanoa, Matuku, Moala, Monuriki, Nagigia, Namenalala, Namuka, Nananu, Nasoata, Naviti, Nayau, Nukulau, Nukulevu, Qamea, Rotuma, Solkope, Taveuni, Vanua Balavu, Vanua Levu, Vatoa, Vatulele, Viti Levu, Wayasewa, Yanucalailai, Yanucalevu
Gambier Islands: Agakauitai, Akamaru, Aukena, Kamaka, Makapu, Makaroa, Mangareva, Manui, Mekiro, Taravai
Hawai’i Islands: Kaua’i, Lana’i, Maui, Moloka’i, Ni’ihau, O’ahu
Kiribati: Flint Island, Karoraina, Nikumaroro, Orona, Palmyra Atoll, Tabuaeran, Teraina
Marquesas: Eiao, Fatu Hiva, Mohotani, Nuku Hiva, Tahuata, Ua Huka, Ua Pou
Niue
Pitcairn Islands: Henderson Island, Oeno, Pitcairn Island
Samoa: Apolima, ‘Aunu’u, Fanuatapu, Manono, Namu’a, Nu’ulua, Nu’utele, Ofu, Olosega, Savai’i, Ta’u, Tutuila, ‘Upolu
Society Islands: Bora Bora, Mai’ao, Me’eti’a, Mo’orea, Motu Nono, Motu Puuru, Ra’iatea, Taha’a, Tahiti, Tetiaroa, Tupai
Tokelau: Atafu, Fakaofo, Nukunonu, Olohega
Tonga: Alakipeau, ‘Ata, ‘Eua, Fafa, Foa, Fukave, Kao, Makaha’a, Malinoa, Manima, Maninita, Monuafe, Motutapu, Mounu, Niuatoputapu, Nuku, Oneata, Onevai, Onevao, Pangaimotu, Polo’a, Tafahi, Tau, Tofua, Toketoke, Tongatapu, Tufaka, ‘Uiha, ‘Uta Vava’u, Velitoa Hahake, Velitoa Hihifo
Tuamotu Archipelago: Akiaki, Anaa, Aratika, Hao, Katiu, Makatea, Makemo, Manihi, Mataiva, Morane, Mururoa, Napuka, Niau, Nukutepipi, Rangiroa, Raroia, Tahanea, Taiaro, Takapoto, Takaroa, Takume, Tatakoto, Temoe, Tikehau, Tikei, Toau, Vahitahi
Tuvalu: Funafuti, Nanumanga, Nanumea, Niulakita, Niutao, Nui, Nukufetau, Nukulaelae, Vaitupu
Wallis & Futuna: Alofi, Faioa, Fenua Fo’ou, Futuna, Nukuatea, Nukuloa, Nukutapu, ‘Uvea

local names:

‘ara – Aitutaki / Cook Islands
‘ara pepe – ‘Atiu, Ma’uke / Cook Islands
‘ara-ta’atai – Rarotonga / Cook Islands
‘ara-tai – ‘Atiu, Mangaia, Ma’uke, Miti’aro / Cook Islands
balawa – Fiji
draudreka – Fiji
fa – Niue; Tonga
fa’a mei – Marquesas
fa feutu – Niue
fa fi – Niue
fa ivi – Niue
fala – Samoa
falavao – Olohega / Tokelau
fala vao – Tokelau
fara – Manihiki, Palmerston, Rakahanga / Cook Islands; Tupai / Society Islands; Raroia / Tuamotu Archipelago
fara moa – Tahiti / Society Islands
fara moua – Tahiti / Society Islands
fara uteute – Tahiti / Society Islands
fasa – Samoa
hala – Hawai’i Islands
hala kilipaki – Hawai’i Islands (spineless clone)
hara – Tongareva / Cook Islands
hat – Rotuma / Fiji
hata – Rotuma / Fiji
hosoa – Rotuma / Fiji
kiakia – Rotuma / Fiji
kie – Tonga (spineless clone)
lau fala – Samoa (spineless clone)
pandana – Palmerston / Cook Islands
pu hala – Hawai’I Islands
sa’aga – Rotuma / Fiji
te kaina – Kiribati
teou – Nui / Tuvalu
teto – Nui / Tuvalu
tima – Raroia / Tuamotu Archipelago
uea – Tupai / Society Islands
vadra – Fiji
varawa – Fiji
voivoi – Fiji
wala – Nassau, Pukapuka / Cook Islands

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The Screw Pine is a geographically widespread and exceptionally morphologically variable species (or maybe a species complex). In the Polynesian region this plant is found almost everywhere, except for climatically inappropriate areas like New Zealand or Rapa Nui.

The Screw Pine was once one of the most important plants for the Polynesians, and Screw Pine saplings, together with saplings of Breadfruit Trees, Coconut Palms, Taro and several others, were transported by the Polynesian settlers on their boats during inter-island migration – to be planted out at their new island homes.

The Polynesians, over time, reared numerous cultivars, among them such whose leaves are lacking spines on their margins, and which therefore are very well-suited for weaving.

The exceptional variability of the wild and cultivated forms lead to the description of countless species, subspecies and varieties. So, Harold St. John alone described in his “Revision of the Genus Pandanus” various female plants as distinct species – in many cases from geographically very localized populations. In a biological sense, all of these ‘species’ are part of the same population, and furthermore, it is impossible to designate male plants to such ‘species’.

Some of the morphologically distinct forms that are seemingly restricted to the higher elevations of larger islands, like Pandanus papenooensis H. St. John on Tahiti or Pandanus temehaniensis J. W. Moore on Ra’iatea, are often still referred to as distinct species.

(I personally, however, see all of these forms as Pandanus tectorius.)

Nevertheless, the genus is in urgent need of a proper revision!

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As already mentioned, in virtually all parts of Polynesia the leaves were and are used for weaving, among other things, for elaborate mats, especially in Tonga, or boat sails (in former times on the Hawai’i Islands), right up to roofs and walls of houses (!). The stilt roots were used, for example, on the Cook Islands, for house building (as abutment walls) too.

The fruits are fruit heads comprising an aggregate of many tightly bunched phalanges or drupes that are edible. In some cultivars, these drupes reach the size of an apple. They are eaten especially in parts of Kiribati, Tokelau, and in Tuvalu.

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References:

[1] Sven Buerki; Martin W. Callmander; Dion S. Devey; Lauren Chappell; Timothy Gallaher; Jérôme Munzinger; Thomas Haevermans Félix Forest: Straightening out the screw-pines: A first step in understanding phylogenetic relationships within Pandanaceae. Taxon 61(5): 1010-1020. 2012
[2] Timothy Gallaher; Martin W. Gallmander; Sven Buerki; Sterling C. Keeley: A long distance dispersal hypothesis for the Pandanaceae and the origins of the Pandanus tectorius complex. Molecular Phylogenetis and Evolution 83: 20-32.2015

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pandanus-tectorius-fks

Photo: Kim Starr & Forest Starr; by courtesy of Kim Starr & Forest Starr

http://www.starrenvironmental.com

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edited: 13.02.2017

Chrysopogon aciculatus (Retz.) Trin.

Chrysopogon aciculatus

Distribution:

Cook Islands: Aitutaki, ‘Atiu, Mangaia, Ma’uke, Miti’aro, Rarotonga
Fiji: Batiki, Beqa, Gau, Kanacea, Koro, Mago, Matuku, Moala, Moturiki, Rotuma, Taveuni, Totoya, Vanua Balavu, Vanua Levu, Vatulele, Viti Levu
Hawai’i Islands: Kaua’i, Lana’i, West-Maui, Moloka’i, O’ahu
Samoa: ‘Aunu’u, Namu’a, Ta’u, Tutuila
Tokelau: Olohega
Tonga: ‘Eua, Niuafo’ou

local names:

kase – Fiji

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References:

[1] Albert C. Smith: Flora Vitiensis Nova: A new flora of Fiji (Spermatophytes only). Vol. 1. Lawai, Kauai, Hawaii 1979

Egretta sacra (Gmelin)

Pacific Reef-Egret (Egretta sacra ssp. sacra)

The Pacific Reef-Egret is an about 60 cm large, rather short-legged egret, that lives predominantly in coastal areas.

The birds occur in mangrove-filled estuaries or along rocky shores, where they feed on small fish, mollusks and crustaceans.

The nominate race of this species occurs from South and Southeast Asia to Australia and into almost the whole pacific region (with the exception of New Caledonia, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, where the ssp. albolineata (G. R. Gray) occurs).

In some regions of Polynesia the Pacific Reef-Egret is nowadays the only surviving of the native bird species.

There are three color morphs, dark slate grey colored birds, pure white birds as well as an intermediate phase that is mottled white with dark slate grey. It is a somewhat strange fact, that in some areas, for example New Zealand and Samoa, only birds of one of these morphs (in both cases the dark morph) are breeding, while in other places all three morphs live together.

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egretta-s-sacra-ps

Photo: Phil Swanson; by courtesy of Ross Silcock

http://www.rosssilcock.com

Ischnura aurora Brauer

Aurora Bluetail (Ischnura aurora)

The genus Ischnura is distributed nearly worldwide, within the Polynesian region it contains 13 described species, plus at least an additional ten hitherto undescribed species, which are known to await their description alone on the Society Islands.

~~~

The Aurora Bluetail is a wandering species, which occurs from India well into East Polynesia.

It is a smaller damselfly species, which reaches a wingspan of about 3 cm. The males are very colorful (see photograph), while the females are rather plain light brown in color.

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The enigmatic Spinytail Forktail (Ischnura spinicauda (Brauer)), described in the year 1865 as a distinct species, is now known to be identical with the Aurora Bluetail. [7]

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References:

[1] M. A. Lieftinck: Some Odonata of Rapa Island, with descriptions of three Polynesian species of Ischnura Charpentier. Tijdschrift voor Entomologie 109: 89-102. 1966
[2] Karin S. Kami; Scott E. Miller: Samoan Insects and related Arthropods: Checklist and Bibliography. Bishop Museum Technical Report 13. 1998
[3] N. Mary; A. Dutartre; P. Keith; G. Marquet; P. Sasal: Biodiversité des Eaux Douces de Wallis et Futuna; Mission d’Octobre 2004. Rapport Final, Ministère de l’Outre-Mer 2006
[4] R. Englund; D. A. Polhemus: A review of the damselfly fauna of the Austral Islands, French Polynesia, with descriptions of two new species (Odonata: Zygoptera: Coenagrionidae). Tijdschrift voor Entomologie 153(1): 25-40. 2010
[5] R. J. Rowe: Ischnura aurora (Brauer 1865) (Zygoptera: Coenagrionidae), an Australo-Pacific species. New Zealand Journal of Zoology 37(2): 189-192. 2010
[6] S. A. Hathaway; K. McEachern; R. N. Fisher: Terrestrial Forest Management Plan for Palmyra Atoll: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2011-1007, 78 p. 2011
[7] Milen Marinov; Warren Chin; Eric Edwards; Brian Patrick; Hamish Patrick: A revised and updated Odonata checklist of Samoa (Insecta: Odonata). Faunistic Studies in South-East Asian and Pacific Island Odonata 5: 1-21. 2013
[8] Milen Marinov; Odile Fossati-Gaschignard; Martin Schorr: On a dragonfly collection from Nuku Hiva, Marquesas Islands and Paea, Tahiti (French Polynesia) with taxonomic discussion of some Polynesian genera (Insecta: Odonata). Faunistic Studies in South-east Asian and Pacific Island Odonata 18: 1-12. 2016

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ischnura-aurora-df

Photo: Dennis Farrell; by courtesy of Dennis Farrell

http://thaiodonata.blogspot.com

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edited: 18.01.2017