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No evidence for widespread island extinctions after Pleistocene hominin arrival


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, No evidence for widespread island extinctions after Pleistocene hominin arrival, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 118, (20) Article e2023005118. ISSN 0027-8424 (2021) [Refereed Article]

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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 (

DOI: doi:10.1073/pnas.2023005118


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 Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:Holocene, island biogeography, human colonization, megafauna,extinction, Pleistocene, hominin arrival
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Palaeoecology
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in history, heritage and archaeology
UTAS Author:McDowell, MC (Dr Matthew McDowell)
ID Code:144620
Year Published:2021
Web of Science® Times Cited:6
Deposited By:Plant Science
Deposited On:2021-05-31
Last Modified:2021-09-21
Downloads:3 View Download Statistics

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