Even small human populations can wipe out big animal species, according to New Zealand research that suggests the moa extinction happened rapidly and at the hands of a small number of early settlers.
The study – led by Canterbury University’s Professor Richard Holdaway and Otago University’s Chris Jacomb – found that there were fewer than 1500 Polynesian settlers in New Zealand during the peak period of moa hunting, but had completely wiped out the moa by 1425, taking less than a century for it to become extinct.
The scientists used data from radiocarbon-dated pieces of moa eggshells excavated from archaeological sites of early settlements in the eastern South Island.
“The analyses showed that the sites were all first occupied – and the people began eating moa – after the major Kaharoa eruption of Mt Tarawera of about 1314,” says Jacomb in a media release.
Their findings, published in Nature Communications, also suggests that New Zealand’s early inhabitants would have been living in the South Island at the peak of hunting, and that the moa’s disappearance later contributed to a big decline in the human population there.
Last month a similar study involving researchers from Auckland University and Landcare Research also highlighted the rapid decline of the moa, but suggested a slightly longer period of moa survival – less than 200 years. Read more about this research and related media coverage.
The research has been widely covered in New Zealand and global media:
Otago Daily Times: Moa decline quicker than earlier thought
The Press: Scientists sure humans killed off moa
City NZ: Small population took out the moa: study
3News: Study shows settlers caused extinction of moa
New Zealand Herald: Study shows that the Moa was killed off by settlers
Yahoo News Australia: Small population took out the moa
SBS News: Humans wiped out moa, the largest bird that ever lived
Tech Times: Very small human population rendered moa bird of New Zealand extinct
Nature World News: Even a Mere 2500 People Managed to Kill Off Moa
Phys.org: New Zealand’s moa were exterminated by an extremely low-density human population
Archaeology Magazine: The Arrival of People Doomed New Zealand’s Moa – Archaeology Magazine
Austrian Tribune: Moa bird became extinct due to 2500 people
Science World Report: Even a Small Population of Humans Can Drive Animals to Extinction: The Tale of the Moa
Voice of America: Small Numbers of Humans Can Cause Big Creatures to go Extinct
Heritage Daily: New Zealand’s moa were exterminated by an extremely low-density human population
Big News Network: Small Numbers of Humans Can Cause Big Creatures to go Extinct
All Voices: New Zealand’s moa: Extinct at the hands of less than 3,000 humans