Tuesday, 11 December, 2018

What Happened to the Largest Birds That Ever Lived?

Grooves on 10,500-year-old elephant bird bones appear to have been left by humans.    
        
        V. PÉREZ SCIENCE ADVANCES 5:9 Grooves on 10,500-year-old elephant bird bones appear to have been left by humans. V. PÉREZ SCIENCE ADVANCES 5:9
Elijah Vega | 15 September, 2018, 18:45

A team of scientists led by global conservation charity ZSL (Zoological Society of London) discovered that ancient bones from the extinct Madagascan elephant birds (Aepyornis and Mullerornis) show cut marks and depression fractures consistent with hunting and butchery by prehistoric humans.

Humans arrived on the tropical island of Madagascar more than 6,000 years earlier than previously thought, according to a study.

Publication: J. Hansford, P. C. Wright, A. Rasoamiaramanana, V. R. Pérez, L. R. Godfrey, D. Errickson, T. Thompson, S. T. Turvey, Early Holocene human presence in Madagascar evidenced by exploitation of avian megafauna. It shows how agriculture may not have been the primary source of food for them, but hunting.

Elephant birds were at one time a typical sight on Madagascar.

Chop marks made with a large sharp tool on fresh bone.

Lemur bones and archaeological evidence had originally led scientists to date the arrival of humans to Madagascar to around 2,400 to 4,000 years ago, the researchers said in a statement. "Ukraine", a giant egg of the extinct bird elephant accidentally discovered in the vaults of the Museum. The elephant bird, as this majestic but now-extinct species was named, was wiped out by humans around 1,000 years ago, after arriving on the inaccessible island only a couple centuries prior - or did they? The research provides evidence of human activity in Madagascar more than 6,000 years earlier than previously suspected, researchers said.

Hansford said "a radically different extinction theory is required" to figure out the extinctions on the island.

Rather than wiping out the animals in a short time, humans seem to have lived alongside the birds for thousands of years, before they went extinct around 1,000 years ago.

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There are a number of theories about why and when this happened, and how much humans were involved.

They weighed at least half a tonne, stood at around 3m tall and laid giant eggs, which were bigger even than those of the dinosaurs.

Archaeologists have found evidence that the extinct elephant bird (aepyornis) hunted long before the island's first immigrants.

"I was amazed at how old the bones were", study author Patricia Wright of Stony Brook University, New York, told Newsweek.

"We do not know the origin of these people and won't until we find further archaeological evidence, but we know there is no evidence of their genes in modern populations. But if they are now disappeared without a trace, why did they disappear?"

So she asks: "Who these people were?"

Hansford and colleagues were examining bones uncovered nearly a decade ago at Christmas River in the south of Madagascar when they found the new evidence. Experts speculate that the location may have been a major "kill site" where prehistoric humans slaughtered their prey, but say that more research is needed before this can be confirmed.

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