Bar markings on the ancient extinct elephant bird reveal that human settlers may have first sailed to the tropical island of Madagascar more than 10,000 years ago.
This is 6,000 years of what was originally thought, according to scientists who studied ancient bones belonging to the "elephant birds". of Madagascar extinct.
The flightless elephant bird, also known as 'Aepyornis', was a terrifying creature that weighed a third of a ton, measured 10 feet (3 m) tall and laid eggs large enough to make 50 tortillas .
They found cutting marks and fractures of depression consistent with the hunting and carnage of prehistoric humans.
Bar markings on the ancient extinct elephant bird (artist's impression) reveals that human settlers may have sailed for the first time to the tropical island of Madagascar more than 10,000 years ago.
A team of scientists led by the international conservation charity ZSL (Zoological Society of London) used radiocarbon dating techniques to determine when birds had been killed.
It is believed that the bird, which resembled a giant ostrich, was hunted to extinction in Madagascar between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Initially they were widespread and lived all over the island from the extreme north to the southern tip of Madagascar.
Scientists have been baffled when humans moved to Madagascar because there is very little evidence of them on the island.
Previous research on lemur bones and archaeological artifacts suggested that humans first arrived in Madagascar between 2,400 and 4,000 years ago.
However, the new study provides evidence of human presence in Madagascar 10,500 years ago, according to the article published in Science Advances.
Scientists studied the ancient bones belonging to the extinct & # 39; elephant birds & # 39; of Madagascar. This cut mark (middle) would have been made with a large and sharp tool. The clear straight line of the cut without continuous cracks indicates that the mark was made on fresh bone
The bones of the elephant birds studied by this project were originally found in 2009 in Christmas River (pictured) in south-central Madagascar
This makes these bones of ringed birds the oldest known evidence of humans on the island.
"We already know that the megafauna of Madagascar – elephant birds, hippos, giant tortoises and giant lemurs – became extinct less than 1,000 years ago," said lead author Dr. James Hansford of the Zoology Institute of ZSL.
"There are a number of theories about why this happened, but the degree of human involvement has not been clear."
Scientists say that this research shows that a "radically different" extinction theory is needed to understand the sudden and widespread loss of biodiversity that has occurred on the island.
"Humans appear to have coexisted with elephant and other species now extinct for more than 9,000 years, apparently with a limited negative impact on biodiversity during most of this period, which offers new knowledge for conservation today" said Dr. Hansford.
This makes these modified elephant bones the oldest known evidence of humans on the island. These cutting marks were made by removing the toes
WHAT HAPPENED WITH THE ELEPHANT BIRD?
Elephant birds are an extinct family of non-flying birds found only on the island of Madagascar and comprising the genera Aepyornis and Mullerornis.
The bird (pictured to the left) was a terrifying creature that weighed a third of a ton, measured 10 feet (3 m) tall, and laid eggs large enough to make 50 tortillas.
The reasons and times of its extinction remain unclear, although there are written reports of elephant sightings on the island in the 17th century.
The famous explorer and traveler Marco Polo mentions very large birds in his accounts of his trips to the east during the XII-XIII centuries.
It is believed that these previous accounts describe elephant birds.
At that time Aepyornis was the largest bird in the world, weighing close to 400 kg (880 lb).
The volume of egg can be up to 160 times greater than a chicken egg.
The discovery turns the idea of the first human arrivals into its head.
"We know that at the end of the Ice Age, when humans only used stone tools, a group of humans came to Madagascar," said co-author, Professor Patricia Wright of Stony Brook University.
"We do not know the origin of these people and we will not do it until we find more archaeological evidence, but we know that there is no evidence of their genes in modern populations.
"The question remains: who were these people? And when and why did they disappear?" She said.
The bones of the elephant birds studied by this project were originally found in 2009 in Christmas River, in south-central Madagascar.
They come from a fossil "bone bed" that contains a rich concentration of ancient animal remains.
This marsh site could have been an important extermination site, but more research is needed to confirm it.
In the photo you can see the lower section of an elephant bird femur found at the Christmas River excavation site in Madagascar. This marsh site could have been an important site for death, but more research is needed to confirm
The image shows the V-shaped tool mark and the rough edges that indicate that a stone tool was used. They found cut marks and fractures of depression consistent with the hunting and carnage of prehistoric humans
Pictured is Professor Patricia Wright (left) and Dr. James Hansford (right). The discovery turns the idea of the first human arrivals on its head