Prehistoric extinctions of pacific island birds: biodiversity meets zooarchaeology

Science. 1995 Feb 24;267(5201):1123-31. doi: 10.1126/science.267.5201.1123.


On tropical Pacific islands, a human-caused "biodiversity crisis" began thousands of years ago and has nearly run its course. Bones identified from archaeological sites show that most species of land birds and populations of seabirds on those islands were exterminated by prehistoric human activities. The loss of birdlife in the tropical Pacific may exceed 2000 species (a majority of which were species of flightless rails) and thus represents a 20 percent worldwide reduction in the number of species of birds. The current global extinction crisis therefore has historic precedent.