Law's Diving-goose


BrokenWing Chronicles
Law's Diving-goose
Chendytes lawi
The Law's Diving-goose Chendytes lawi was a goose-sized flightless sea duck, once common on the California coast, California Channel Islands, and possibly southern Oregon. It lived in the Pleistocene and survived into the Holocene. It appears to have gone extinct about [[2,400-2,200 BP][1]].'s_Diving-goose

Bones of the flightless sea duck (Chendytes lawi) from 14 archaeological sites along the California coast indicate that humans hunted the species for at least 8,000 years before it was driven to extinction. Direct 14C dates on Chendytes bones show that the duck was exploited on the southern California islands as early as {approx}11,15010,280 calendar years B.P., and on the mainland by at least 8,500 calendar years B.P

Flightless island birds tended to go extinct quickly after human contact most infamously, the Dodo. It was gone a little more than a century after sailors landed on Mauritius in 1581. But a bird that lived on a continent or its shores could survive much longer, as Chendytes demonstrates.

The ducks' lifestyle served them well for millennia, the researchers noted. Many of the birds nested on the Channel Islands off the California Coast, where few predators existed before humans arrived. After seafaring Paleoindians colonized the islands about 13,000 years ago, however, Chendytes may have been driven to smaller and more remote islands. Human population growth, the development of increasingly sophisticated watercraft, and the introduction of dogs and foxes to the islands probably put greater pressure on the birds. Eventually, the flightless duck, like great auk in the North Atlantic, had no place to run.

The authors have thoroughly documented an interesting relationship between human predation and this species of flightless duck. There seems little doubt that the duck was periodically or frequently preyed upon for millennia before it went extinct. They argue that the early inhabitants of the California coast were more technologically sophisticated than is generally acknowledged - they had some boats/canoes from which to hunt. What I don't understand is the lack of attention to ecology when they try to make the leap of connecting the relationship they document to Pleistocene extinctions in general. So maybe people had boats 12,000 years ago but I think its worth considering that there are some pretty fundamental differences between mammoths and ducks... (!!) and the particular island environments where most island extinctions took place are also different from the California coast. The colonists didn't bring rats, the environment was not as circumscribed as many islands and may have provided more natural refugia from human predation, the people may have had their main populations on the coast rather than on islands (in the california case), and they may have been at lower population densities.



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