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Human Colonization Killed Thousands Bird Species in the Pacific Islands

Update Date: Mar 25, 2013 11:38 PM EDT

About 1000 species of birds that don’t perch have disappeared as humans advanced in the most recently colonized regions on Earth, a new study suggests.

Island around the Pacific were among the last men conquered regions. Places like the Samoan islands, Fiji and the Marianas were first colonized by men about 3500 years ago. And only 700 years ago the human species made its way to the more remote locations of Hawai‛i and Rapa Nui (Easter Island).

What this new study led by says Richard Duncan , an ecologist at the University of Canberra in Australia, has revealed is that the human arrival to those places was followed by a mass extinction of thousands species of feathery creatures.

Hunting and habitat loss that took place between the time people first settled the Pacific islands and the arrival of Europeans, the study points, has been the culprit for the animal die-off.

“These tropical landscapes were once dominated by numerous bird species, many of which became extinct in a relatively short time after humans arrived,” Duncan said.

Conservative estimates point to a loss of 800 species during that period, while others place the number at over 2000.

According to Duncan, the main reason for this large extinction uncertainty is the spotty fossil record available.

"Relatively few fossils have been collected from a lot of the islands that have been studied," Duncan said in an interview to io9.

Fossils records preserve in special places — these "specialized habitats" are often difficult to find.

"And a lot of the work on collecting raw data and fossils [in the Pacific] has been done by just a few people," he continued.

To make matters worse, Duncan add, the large topographic differences between the islands, their diversity and rainfall, further complicates getting an accurate rate of species loss, since these features would've affected how easily people could hunt and clear out forests.

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