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Japan’s Evolution Island

Iwo Island (volcanic islands) in Ogasawara Islands, Japan

By Amanda Scott

Japan’s newest Island, Nishinoshima, will now aid scientists in studying evolution. The island is part of the Ogasawara island chain, also known as the Bonin Islands. It lies 620 miles south of Tokyo and has an area of about one square mile, according to the Japanese coast guard.

The island of Nishinoshima formed in November 2013 following a volcanic explosion. The island as it stands now is just a barren rock formed of cooling lava. Nishinoshima continues to spew hot lava, however scientists believe that, when the eruption ceases, the island will be a prime environment for animal and plant life.

The island will give scientists the chance to see the process of evolution from its starting point.  Scientists speculate that plants will be the first inhabitant brought onto the island from sea creatures and birds, and wind. Dr. Naoki Kachi, professor and leader of the Tokyo Metropolitan University’s Ogasawara Research Committee, told AFP news agency: “I am most interested in the effects of birds on the plants’ ecosystem – how their bodily wastes-turned-organic fertilizers enrich the vegetation and how their activities disturb it.”

A similar island, Surtsey, which emerged off the coast of Iceland in 1963, has since formed into an established ecosystem. By 2004, the island had over 60 vascular plants and is now inhabited by 89 species of birds as well. Scientists are hopeful that Nishinoshima will follow suit.

Nishinoshima is sure to provide researchers with valuable information regarding the formation of plant and animal life on a previously uninhabited, barren land.

Check out this footage of Nishinoshima captured by the Japanese coast guard: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HweZODnpqsQ

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