Fossil Birds from the Hawaiian Islands: Evidence for Wholesale Extinction by Man Before Western Contact

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Science  13 Aug 1982:
Vol. 217, Issue 4560, pp. 633-635
DOI: 10.1126/science.217.4560.633


Thousands of fossil bird bones from the Hawaiian Islands collected since 1971 include remains of at least 39 species of land birds that are not known to have survived into the historic period; this more than doubles the number of endemic species of land birds previously known from the main islands. Bones were found in deposits of late Quaternary age; most are Holocene and many are contemporaneous with Polynesian culture. The loss of species of birds appears to be due to predation and destruction of lowland habitats by humans before the arrival of Europeans. Because the historically known fauna and flora of the Hawaiian Islands represent only afraction of natural species diversity, biogeographical inferences about natural processes based only on historically known taxa may be misleading or incorrect.

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