Age and Diet of Fossil California Condors in Grand Canyon, Arizona

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Science  14 Aug 1987:
Vol. 237, Issue 4816, pp. 768-770
DOI: 10.1126/science.237.4816.768


A dozen new radiocarbon dates, together with a thorough review of its fossil distribution, shed new light on the time and probable cause of extinction of the California condor, Gymnogyps californianus, in Grand Canyon, Arizona. The radiocarbon data indicate that this species became extinct in Grand Canyon, and other parts of the inland West, more than 10,000 years ago in coincidence with the extinction of megafauna (proboscidians, edentates, perissodactyls). That condors relied on the megafauna for food is suggested by the recovery of food bones from a late Pleistocene nest cave in Grand Canyon. These fossil data have relevance to proposed release and recovery programs of the present endangered population of California condors.