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Why did the elephant bird disappear? Early people can not be the culprit

Why did the elephant bird disappear? Early people can not be the culprit

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Madagascar is a large island, but relatively isolated, about 260 miles from the African coast. Thanks to the inaccessibility, it was long thought that Madagascar was discovered late by humans and produced a "lost world" for a unique endemic megafauna, such as the giant cove and the world's largest bird, the elephant bird. Aepyornis maximus.

Elephant bird eggs.D.Bressan

The first established human settlements date from the year 500. Shortly thereafter, the fire frequency in the central highlands increased, because people used fire to remove the forests. An increase in grass pollen on the entire island around the year 1000 shows that pastures for cattle now replace the forests. Around the year 1500, the first Europeans set foot on Madagascar. When people attacked the forests and hunted animals, the endemic megafauna quickly died.

In 2008, the rumors about the discovery of dinosaur bones led the anthropologist Patricia Wright to Ilakaka, in the south-central part of the island. Ilakaka was once a quiet rural village, but after the discovery of important gem deposits in the subsurface, what was once a quiet rural village was transformed into a thriving "Wild West" city, with an estimated 30,000 inhabitants and hundreds of newcomers every day. . The alleged dinosaur bones, discovered by chance while searching for sapphires, are actually bones of giant elements, hippos, giant turtles, crocodiles and elephant birds.

When the bones were examined in 2016, zoologist James Hansford, lead author of a new article, made an important discovery. Bones of Aepyornis maximus, dated at 10,500 years, show grooves made by stone tools. This discovery suggests that people arrived on the island more than 8,000 years earlier than previously thought, hunted the bird and slaughtered it in place.

Dated fossils show that most megafauna from Madagascar died out less than 1,000 years ago, and written data suggest that some species brought it into the early modern times. Then admiral Ètienne de Flacourt Histoire de la Grande Isle of Madagascar in 1658, after a long stay in that country, he gave a lot of exact information about the fauna, which was so different from that of the African continent. Among the forest birds he called the "Vouronpatra, a large bird that haunts the Ampatres (marshes in the central highlands) and lays eggs like the ostrich, so that the people of these places may not accept it, it seeks the most solitary places." is not physical proof, but this observation can describe a surviving elephant bird species. The name elephant bird itself is derived from Arab stories about the roc, a mythological eagle so large that he could catch elephants.

Apart from handing over the colonization of Madagascar, the new discovery opens again the question of why the local megafauna became extinct. Apparently, humans and elephants were present side by side for almost 9,000 years. Overwhelming by the first people to live on the island does not seem to be the main cause. Climate change alone can not explain the demise of most species about 1000 years ago, because the warmest and driest period in Madagascar took place 4,500 years ago. It is still possible that the introduction of agriculture and the destruction of habitats played an important role 1500 to 1000 years ago. It is also not clear how many people lived on the island between 10,500 and 2,000 years ago. The apparent gap of the human presence on the island might suggest that the first hunters visited Madagascar only occasionally, or that permanent settlements were never established. It is also possible that we still have to find the traces of the first Madagascers, hidden somewhere, like the famous gems from Madagascar.

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Madagascar is a large island, but relatively isolated, about 260 miles from the African coast. Thanks to the inaccessibility, it was long thought that Madagascar was discovered late by humans and produced a "lost world" for a unique endemic megafauna, such as the giant cove and the world's largest bird, the elephant bird. Aepyornis maximus.

Elephant bird eggs.D.Bressan

The first established human settlements date from the year 500. Shortly thereafter, the fire frequency in the central highlands increased, because people used fire to remove the forests. An increase in grass pollen on the entire island around the year 1000 shows that pastures for cattle now replace the forests. Around the year 1500, the first Europeans set foot on Madagascar. When people attacked the forests and hunted animals, the endemic megafauna quickly died.

In 2008, the rumors about the discovery of dinosaur bones led the anthropologist Patricia Wright to Ilakaka, in the south-central part of the island. Ilakaka was once a quiet rural village, but after the discovery of important gem deposits in the subsurface, what was once a quiet rural village was transformed into a thriving "Wild West" city, with an estimated 30,000 inhabitants and hundreds of newcomers every day. . The alleged dinosaur bones, discovered by chance while searching for sapphires, are actually bones of giant elements, hippos, giant turtles, crocodiles and elephant birds.

When the bones were examined in 2016, zoologist James Hansford, lead author of a new article, made an important discovery. Bones of Aepyornis maximus, dated at 10,500 years, show grooves made by stone tools. This discovery suggests that people arrived on the island more than 8,000 years earlier than previously thought, hunted the bird and slaughtered it in place.

Dated fossils show that most megafauna from Madagascar died out less than 1,000 years ago, and written data suggest that some species brought it into the early modern times. Then admiral Ètienne de Flacourt Histoire de la Grande Isle of Madagascar in 1658, after a long stay in that country, he gave a lot of exact information about the fauna, which was so different from that of the African continent. Among the forest birds he called the "Vouronpatra, a large bird that haunts the Ampatres (marshes in the central highlands) and lays eggs like the ostrich, so that the people of these places may not accept it, it seeks the most solitary places." is not physical proof, but this observation can describe a surviving elephant bird species. The name elephant bird itself is derived from Arab stories about the roc, a mythological eagle so large that he could catch elephants.

Apart from handing over the colonization of Madagascar, the new discovery opens again the question of why the local megafauna became extinct. Apparently, humans and elephants were present side by side for almost 9,000 years. Overwhelming by the first people to live on the island does not seem to be the main cause. Climate change alone can not explain the demise of most species about 1000 years ago, because the warmest and driest period in Madagascar took place 4,500 years ago. It is still possible that the introduction of agriculture and the destruction of habitats played an important role 1500 to 1000 years ago. It is also not clear how many people lived on the island between 10,500 and 2,000 years ago. The apparent gap of the human presence on the island might suggest that the first hunters visited Madagascar only occasionally, or that permanent settlements were never established. It is also possible that we still have to find the traces of the first Madagascers, hidden somewhere, like the famous gems from Madagascar.