The disappearance of the giant tortoises - human error


19/08/2010

Turtles inhabited megafauna (the aggregate of all species with an average body weight of greater than 44 kg) for thousands of years - until people came.

The human factor contributed to the extinction of species of giant tortoises still almost 3,000 years ago, according to the analysis, the record of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).

This is one of the first cases that clearly points to the fact that people have played an important role in the extinction of giant animals, known representatives of the "megafauna".

Australian research team discovered on the island of Vanuatu armor and skull and leg bones of a snail. The bones indicate that the turtles were hunted with the purpose of their meat.

However, the turtles lived much earlier than the other members of the megafauna, which included well-known hairy mammoth. Until now it was thought that the Australian megafauna finished its existence nearly 50,000 years ago, but it turns out that these turtles have survived and have existed for a very long time before the people known as the Lapita.

Heated debate over whether that was the cause of death of megafauna went on for 150 years, from the time when Darwin first discovered the remains of a giant ground sloths in Chile. Possible causes were diverse: from human influence to climate change in the past, and even cataclysm associated with the impact of a meteor.

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States (PNAS).

’Tremendous pressure’

A research team led by Professor Matthew Spriggs (Matthew Spriggs) from the University of New South Wales (University of New South Wales), the cemetery full of bones found on the island of Efate, in home settlements Lapita peoples.

Turtles, ever unseen species in the genus Meyolaniya, had a length of 2-2.5 meters and were intimidating horns on their heads.

But the bones were the bones of the legs of these creatures, and the only fleshy and edible part of them. A group of researchers tried to determine the age of the bones, discovered the remains of the past in the layers of sediments formed 200 years later arrival of Lapita people.

Professor Chris Turney (Chris Turney) Eksterskogo University in the United Kingdom called the research paper "is really a significant part of the" similar discovery in New Zealand, confirming the impact of people on the disappearance of the giant birds known as moa.

"It’s really bright example showing the amazing beast that existed millions of years, becoming a kind of reliktnym population on the island. Then came the people and the animals thoroughly disappeared for a couple of hundred years," he told BBC News-BBC.

"When the people find themselves in these lands, they were subjected to enormous pressure these creatures, maybe they were not their killers in the literal sense of the word, but other methods of pressure exerted on these fantastic turtles."

Original: BBC Translation: M. Potter


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