A brand new island emerging off the coast of Japan offers scientists a rare opportunity to study how life begins to colonize barren land. Researchers say the key ingredients will be bird poo and vomit, which will contribute to nutrient-rich soil.
Niijima first emerged in 2013 when lava from an active underwater volcano cooled to form the patch of bare land.
According Japan's Coast Guard, the speck of land, some 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) south of Tokyo in the Pacific Ocean, has grown to engulf its once larger neighbour, Nishinoshima, a part of Japan's Ogasawara island chain known for the wealth and variety of its ecosystem.
The new Nishinoshima, a respectable 2.46 square kilometres (0.95 square miles), the Japan Coast Guard said in February - roughly the size of 345 football pitches - is currently almost all bare rock, formed from cooling lava.
Though it is currently almost all bare rock formed by cooled lava, scientists say the new Nishinoshima will one day be full of plant – and possibly animal – life.
"We biologists are very much focusing on the new island because we'll be able to observe the starting point of evolutionary processes," said Naoki Kachi, professor and leader of Tokyo Metropolitan University's Ogasawara Research Committee.
..... Devashree Goenka