The cut marks on ancient bones from a long-extinct giant bird show that humans arrived on Madagascar some 6,000 years before scientists previously thought, according to new findings from a research team led by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).
The bones of the extinct Madagascar elephant bird, found in 2009, showed fractures and cut marks consistent with prehistoric hunting. The team used radiocarbon dating techniques to determine when the birds had been killed and determined a human presence on the island nation dating as far back as 10,500 years ago.
“Our research provides evidence of human activity in Madagascar more than 6,000 years earlier than previously suspected – which demonstrates that a radically different extinction theory is required to understand the huge biodiversity loss that has occurred on the island,” said lead author James Hansford of ZSL.
He notes that previous research confirms the extinction of the elephant birds, along with giant tortoises and giant lemurs, at less than 1,000 years ago. “Humans seem to have coexisted with elephant birds and other now-extinct species for over 9,000 years, apparently with limited negative impact on biodiversity for most of this period, which offers new insights for conservation today,” he added.
That’s especially important for Madagascar, which is known for its increasingly threatened biodiversity.
“This new discovery turns our idea of the first human arrivals on its head,” said co-author Patricia Wright of Stony Brook University in the United States.
The research, published in the journal Science Advances, is available here.