Madagascar is perhaps one of the most important biodiversity hotspots in the world and once upon a time it was inhabited by a giant bird species which was 3 meters tall and laid eggs that were bigger than those of dinosaurs. Called the elephant bird, this majestic species was, apparently, made extinct by humans around 1000 years ago, even if they only arrived on the island a couple of centuries before, or so we believed until now.
Scientists came across some leg-bones that belonged to Aepyornis maximus, an elephant bird, which dated back 10500 years. This is not the surprising fact. What left researchers stunned was the fact that the bones displayed clear cut marks which they presume to have been made by human tools.
This finding changes the perspective completely because it suggests that humans arrived on this island much earlier than what we previously thought. Also, this completes an extinction story which is more complex than what was hoped for.
Dr. James Hansford from the Zoological Society of London’s Institute of Zoology said that “our research provides evidence of human activity in Madagascar more than 6,000 years earlier than previously suspected—which demonstrates that a radically different extinction theory is required to understand the huge biodiversity loss that has occurred on the island. Humans seem to have coexisted with elephant birds and other now-extinct species for over 9,000 years, apparently with limited negative impact on biodiversity for most of this period, which offers new insights for conservation today”.
The bones were recovered from Iakaka which was once a quiet village only to have been turned into a town with tens of thousands of inhabitants after important gemstone deposits have been discovered.