Bird research reveals fatal changes
Updated 6 hours 22 minutes ago
The University of Canberra says it has created the first accurate snapshot of how human settlement impacted on bird life in the Pacific Islands.
A team of scientists has created the most comprehensive fossil catalogue of extinct birds from the region.
Professor Richard Duncan says the descriptions include hundreds of fascinating but extinct species.
“Often they lost the power of flight, often they became quite large-bodied,” he said.
“We’ve got things like on the Hawaiian Islands, these very large flightless geese.
“In places like New Caledonia, a 30 kilogram game bird that used to walk around on the ground.”
On the most remote islands of the Pacific Ocean some birds evolved and became flightless or large-bodied once they were separated from mammal predators.
By the time people settled on the islands these birds had lost their fear of predators, making them very easy to hunt.
“It was in the last 1,000 years or so people started moving out into the far flung islands like Hawaii, and New Zealand which was the most recently colonised,” Professor Duncan said.
Professor Duncan says the research shows almost a thousand species were wiped out due to colonisation.
“Cleared forest you know through fire and just clearing for crops and settlements, so then there would have been a loss of habitat and then of course hunting,” he said.