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Panamanian islanders may have hunted dolphins

Dolphin remains make up 8 percent of the mammal remains found in a 6,000-year-old midden on an island off the coast of Panama.

Precolombian seafarers left what is now mainland Panama to settle on Pedro González Island in the Perlas archipelago about 6,000 years ago, crossing 50-70 kilometers (31-44 miles) of choppy seas — probably in dugout canoes. Dolphins were an important part of the diet of island residents according to Smithsonian archeologist Richard Cooke and colleagues from the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA and Colombia’s Universidad del Norte.

“This raises intriguing questions,” said Cooke, staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. “Were the island’s first known inhabitants dolphin hunters or did they merely scavenge beached animals?”

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Story: Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute | Photo: Sean Mattson, STRI

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