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Human migration into Pacific wiped out birds

Researchers are estimating that 1,000 species of bird were wiped out when humans migrated into the Pacific region.

The first humans to settle the Pacific islands left a wave of extinct bird species in their wake. But gaps in the fossil record make it difficult to determine just how massive the loss was. Now, a new modeling study accounts for those gaps, pegging the lost-species count at nearly 1000—about 10% of the bird species in the world.

Whenever humans settle a land mass for the first time, extinctions tend to follow. The victims are often land animals with enough meat to make them appealing hunting targets, such as mammoths and moas. Numerous large animals in Australia died out after the first human settlers arrived more than 40,000 years ago, and the first North Americans may also have rendered many big mammals extinct between 10,000 and 20,000 years ago.

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Story: Sean Tracy, Science Magazine | Photo: Tim Blackburn

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