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Migration from French Polynesia due to food poisoning?

According to new research, a ciguatera outbreak may have inspired early Polynesian wayfarers to undertake risky voyages across the Pacific to populate Hawaii, New Zealand and Rapa Nui.

Using archaeological evidence, prehistoric climate data and recent reports of ciguatera poisoning from the consumption of contaminated reef fish, researchers at the Florida Institute of Technology theorize that climate conditions conducive to ciguatera outbreaks may have occurred in French Polynesia between A.D. 1000 and 1450 — an active period of Polynesian voyaging and colonization.

“Notwithstanding the adventurous spirit of people of the distant past, we suggest that when ciguatera fish poisoning became chronic, people migrated out of necessity,” said a study by Teina Rongo, a doctorate student at the university’s Department of Biological Sciences, and his faculty advisers, professors Robert van Woesik and Mark Bush.

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