The Hawaiian islands, incredibly remote from any continent, were largely absent of large animals prior to Polynesian settlement in (this is disputed) somewhere between 300 and 800 AD. There were no mammals, besides some bats, and the largest animals were some mid-sized birds. Most everything in Hawaii, geologically speaking, is new, which is why imported animals can wreak so much havoc. A prime example would be the wild cattle of the Big Island, but on Kauai, a different kind of livestock has taken hold: the chicken.
Kauai is home to thousands of wild chickens, a particular variety that’s vibrant in plumage but of mixed value to the ecosystem of the island. They eat the venomous centipedes native to Kauai, a trait that people seem to like, but they have no natural predators besides pet cats and dogs, and the population is growing at an alarming rate. Some have even moved to other islands in the archipelago, like Oahu, where they’re not so welcome. But a team of researchers from Michigan State University is interested in the birds for an unexpected reason. Is it possible that the Hawaiian chicken could lead to hardier varieties of birds?