Naturally Speaking

Community Contributed

By G.T. Larson

What was Molokai like, the day before the first humans arrived? For one thing, almost everything you can see from town, out west end and out east end, were not there and the flora and fauna was radically different. No kiawe trees, no kukui trees, no mango, papaya, or banana trees. Mosquitoes, centipedes, and rats were nowhere to be found. Indian mynas would not have been squawking about, nor would cattle egret have chasing bugs through the grass at the ball park. Not only was there no ball park the day before humans arrived, but most of the bugs the cattle egret would have been chasing were not here yet either.

Much has been eliminated from the list of what would not have there, leading to the question of what would have been there? Among the coastal lowlands, a large lumbering goose comes along searching for insects and seeds to eat. If startled, it lumbers a little faster on its short stout legs, for its stubby wings are useless for flight. This large flightless goose, Thambetochen chauliodous, was unknown to the modern scientific community until the 1970s. That was when Molokai resident and naturalist Joan Aidem discovered part of its fossil remains protruding from a sand dune at Mo`omomi. This find started a flurry of fossil discoveries throughout the islands.

Mo`omomi and Ilio Point are the two main areas here on Molokai where significant fossil discoveries have been made. A flightless ibis, Apteribis glenos, shared the dry land forests of willi willi, mamame, and maua with a large eagle Haliaeetus sp., a longed owl, and at one species of flightless rails. Next time we will continue to examine what was here and what happened to it. Until then, Aloha Ke Akua.

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