Dodos, giant tortoises and other ancient Malagasy beasts were destroyed by the deadly combination of human activity and MEGADRITE 1000 years ago
- Researchers have studied 8,000 years of climatic data from rock and soil samples
- They found evidence of recurring mega-incomes on the islands during that time
- The megafauna appears to have experienced previous episodes of prolonged drought
- The one who finally killed them coincided with the appearance of humans
Giant creatures from Madagascar and the Mascarene Islands have been killed by a deadly combination of human activity and megadose, a study of mineral samples has found.
Creatures, including dodos and giant tortoises, survive millennia of repetitive droughts until humans arrive and eventually destroy them.
Both islands have suffered a “megafauna catastrophe” between 1,500 and 500 years ago, in which significant large animal and bird species became extinct at the same time.
Researchers at the University of Innsbruck have studied climate data and mineral deposits in Madagascar and the Mascarene Islands since 8,000 years ago.
Experts have found that this is probably a “double emphasis” on increased human activity in combination with a particularly heavy “mega-vessel” that dooms creatures.
Creatures, including dodos and giant tortoises, survive millennia of repeated droughts until humans arrive and eventually destroy them, the authors say.
Almost all of Madagascan’s megafauna, including the famous Dodo bird, gorilla-sized lemurs, giant tortoises and the 9-foot-tall elephant, has disappeared.
Theories suggest that this may be due to a changing climate, major droughts for long periods of time – or persecution by humans on arrival.
The Mascarene Islands, just east of Madagascar, are of particular interest as they are among the last islands on earth colonized by humans.
“It is intriguing that the megafauna of the islands collapses in just a few centuries after human settlement,” according to the research team.
The large, charismatic animals that are native to the islands have managed to survive multiple mega-incomes for thousands of years – before humans arrived.
The team says a combination of hunting, deforestation and other man-made stressors may have contributed significantly to the extinction.
While Madagascar and the Mascarene Islands are considered biodiversity hotspots, these islands have lost most of their endemic animals.
Lead researcher Hanning Lee and colleagues have reconstructed millennial climate trends in calcite deposits from La Vierge Cave in Rodriguez, Mascarene Islands.
They determined that these deposits represent the climate records in the region more widely – and not just for this island.
Using these proxy data, the researchers determined periods of drier and wetter conditions, observing numerous longer and heavier drying trends during the Late Holocene than the period in which the megafauna disappeared.
This suggests that the climate and severity of mega-revenues have been much worse at various times in the past than when the creatures disappeared.
Researchers rule out climate change as the sole and sole cause and instead suggest that the impact of human colonization is crucial.
Almost all of Madagascan’s megafauna – including the famous Dodo bird, gorilla-sized lemurs, giant tortoises and the 9-foot-tall elephant – has disappeared between 1,500 and 500 years ago.
The latest drying trend in the region began about 1,500 years ago, at a time when archaeological and proxy records were beginning to show clear signs of an increased human presence on the island.
Ashish Sinha, a professor of earth science at California State University, said he could not claim that a particular human activity was “the last straw to break a camel’s back,” but records show that it is.
This is because the megafauna has shown resilience to past climate change, suggesting that additional stressors have contributed to their extinction.
“Many pieces are still missing to completely solve the mystery of the collapse of the megafauna. This study now provides an important multi-thousand climate context for the extinction of megafauna, ”said New Rivao Voarinzoa of KU Leuven, Belgium.
The findings are published in the journal Science Advances.
WHY DODO CANCELED?
Little is known about the life of the dodo, despite the fame that comes with it being one of the most famous extinct species in the world in history.
The bird got its name from the Portuguese word for fool, after the colonialists mocked the apparent lack of fear of human hunters.
The 3-meter (one meter) tall bird was destroyed by visiting sailors and the dogs, cats, pigs and monkeys they brought to the island in the 17th century.
Because the species has lived in isolation on Mauritius for millions of years, the bird has been fearless and its inability to fly makes it easy prey.
The last confirmed observation was in 1662, after Dutch sailors first spotted the species only 64 years earlier in 1598.
Having evolved without any predators, it has survived in bliss for centuries.
The arrival of human settlers on the islands means that its number is rapidly declining as it is eaten by the new species invading its habitat – humans.
Sailors and settlers ravaged the obedient bird, and it went from a successful animal occupying an ecological niche without predators to extinction in a lifetime.
Other birds, such as the kakapo in New Zealand, have also become similarly fearless, full and sluggish.
When humans spread around the world, they also destroy the population of these birds.
Kakapo is now an endangered species.
The dodo (left) is now extinct after an attack by hungry 17th-century sailors destroyed a population of obedient, fearless birds. Kakapo (right) is a similar flightless, fearless bird that is now struggling to survive and is currently endangered