An extremely low-density human population exterminated New Zealand moa
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New Zealand moa (Aves: Dinornithiformes) are the only late Quaternary megafauna whose extinction was clearly caused by humans. New Zealand offers the best opportunity to estimate the number of people involved in a megafaunal extinction event because, uniquely, both the Polynesian settlement of New Zealand and moa extinction are recent enough to be dated with a high degree of precision. In addition, the founding human population can be estimated from genetic evidence. Here we show that the Polynesian population of New Zealand would not have exceeded 2,000 individuals before extinction of moa populations in the habitable areas of the eastern South Island. During a brief (<150 years) period and at population densities that never exceeded ~0.01 km-2, Polynesians exterminated viable populations of moa by hunting and removal of habitat. High human population densities are not required in models of megafaunal extinction.
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Allentoft, M.; Heller, R.; Oskam, C.; Lorenzen, E.; Hale, M.; Gilbert, M.; Jacomb, C.; Holdaway, R.; Bunce, Michael (2014)The extinction of New Zealand's moa (Aves: Dinornithiformes) followed the arrival of humans in the late 13th century and was the final event of the prehistoric Late Quaternary megafauna extinctions. Determining the state ...
High-precision dating and ancient DNA profiling of moa (Aves: Dinornithiformes) eggshell documents a complex feature at Wairau Bar and refines the chronology of New Zealand settlement by PolynesiansJacomb, C.; Holdaway, R.; Allentoft, M.; Bunce, Michael; Oskam, C.; Walter, R.; Brooks, E. (2014)Wairau Bar, New Zealand, is one of the few prehistoric sites in the world that could lay claim to being a site of first human intrusion into a pristine environment. It is certainly one of the best places to study human ...
Identification of microsatellites from an extinct moa species using highthroughput (454) sequence dataAllentoft, M.; Schuster, S.; Holdaway, R.; Hale, M.; McLay, E.; Oskam, C.; Gilbert, Thomas; Spencer, P.; Willerslev, E.; Bunce, Michael (2009)Genetic variation in microsatellites is rarely examined in the field of ancientDNA (aDNA) due to the low quantity of nuclear DNA in the fossil record together with the lack of characterized nuclear markers in extinct ...