Fossils Link Demise of Birds to Humans

Article excerpt

When humans invaded the pristine islands of the Pacific thousands of years ago, they brought extinction to hundreds of bird species, a researcher reports.

David W. Steadman of the New York State Museum said Thursday that a study of 4,000-year-old fossils shows that perhaps as many as 1,600 birds species disappeared forever within a few centuries of the arrival of humans in Polynesia, Micronesia and other island groups in the Pacific. Steadman's study was published in the journal Science.

The fossils, he said, show that prehistoric pioneers, some of whom paddled canoes for thousands of miles to settle in remote islands, brought with them pigs, rats and dogs that contributed to the extinction of many birds.

"By the time Capt. (James) Cook sailed the Pacific, most of the bird species that had been there were a thing of the past," said Steadman.

Cook's exploration led to European colonization on many of the islands. Steadman said his studies of the fossils show that the mass extinction of birds had taken place hundreds of years before Cook's voyages in the mid-1700s. …


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