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No evidence for widespread island extinctions after Pleistocene hominin arrival

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Louys, J, Braje, TJ, Chang, CH, Cosgrove, R, Fitzpatrick, SM, Fujita, M, Hawkins, S, Ingicco, T, Kawamura, A, MacPhee, RDE, McDowell, MC ORCID: 0000-0001-8009-4171, Meijer, HJM, Piper, PJ, Roberts, P, Simmons, AH, van den Bergh, G, van der Geer, A, Kealy, S and O'Connor, S 2021 , 'No evidence for widespread island extinctions after Pleistocene hominin arrival' , Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 118, no. 20 , pp. 1-8 , doi: 10.1073/pnas.2023005118.

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Abstract

The arrival of modern humans into previously unoccupied island ecosystems is closely linked to widespread extinction, and a key reason cited for Pleistocene megafauna extinction is anthropogenic overhunting. A common assumption based on late Holocene records is that humans always negatively impact insular biotas, which requires an extrapolation of recent human behavior and technology into the archaeological past. Hominins have been on islands since at least the early Pleistocene and Homo sapiens for at least 50 thousand y (ka). Over such lengthy intervals it is scarcely surprising that significant evolutionary, behavioral, and cultural changes occurred. However, the deep-time link between human arrival and island extinctions has never been explored globally. Here, we examine archaeological and paleontological records of all Pleistocene islands with a documented hominin presence to examine whether humans have always been destructive agents. We show that extinctions at a global level cannot be associated with Pleistocene hominin arrival based on current data and are difficult to disentangle from records of environmental change. It is not until the Holocene that large-scale changes in technology, dispersal, demography, and human behavior visibly affect island ecosystems. The extinction acceleration we are currently experiencing is thus not inherent but rather part of a more recent cultural complex.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Louys, J and Braje, TJ and Chang, CH and Cosgrove, R and Fitzpatrick, SM and Fujita, M and Hawkins, S and Ingicco, T and Kawamura, A and MacPhee, RDE and McDowell, MC and Meijer, HJM and Piper, PJ and Roberts, P and Simmons, AH and van den Bergh, G and van der Geer, A and Kealy, S and O'Connor, S
Keywords: Holocene, island biogeography, human colonization, megafauna,extinction, Pleistocene, hominin arrival
Journal or Publication Title: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Publisher: Natl Acad Sciences
ISSN: 0027-8424
DOI / ID Number: 10.1073/pnas.2023005118
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2012 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. This open access article is distributed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)License 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

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