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Datasets associated with: Late Holocene spread of pastoralism coincides with endemic megafaunal extinction on Madagascar

Citation

Hixon, Sean et al. (2021), Datasets associated with: Late Holocene spread of pastoralism coincides with endemic megafaunal extinction on Madagascar, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.41ns1rndq

Abstract

Recently expanded estimates for when humans arrived on Madagascar (up to ~10,000 years ago) highlight questions about the causes of the island’s relatively late megafaunal extinctions (~2000-500 years ago). Introduced domesticated animals could have contributed to extinctions, but the arrival times and past diets of exotic animals are poorly known. To conduct the first explicit test of the potential for competition between introduced livestock and extinct endemic megafauna in southern and western Madagascar, we generated new radiocarbon and stable carbon and nitrogen isotope data from the bone collagen of introduced ungulates (zebu cattle, ovicaprids, and bushpigs, n=66) and endemic megafauna (pygmy hippopotamuses, giant tortoises, and elephant birds, n=68) and combined these data with existing data from endemic megafauna (n=282, including giant lemurs). Radiocarbon dates confirm that introduced and endemic herbivores briefly overlapped chronologically in this region between 1000 and 800 calibrated years before present (cal BP). Moreover, stable isotope data suggest that goats, tortoises, and hippos had broadly similar diets or exploited similar habitats. These data support the potential for both direct and indirect forms of competition between introduced and endemic herbivores. We argue that competition with introduced herbivores, mediated by opportunistic hunting by humans and exacerbated by environmental change, contributed to the late extinction of endemic megafauna on Madagascar.

Methods

Stable carbon isotope, stable nitrogen isotope, and radiocarbon data were collected using standard approaches.  Please see manuscript for details.

Funding

National Science Foundation, Award: GRFP – 2015213455

National Science Foundation, Award: DDRI – 1838393

National Science Foundation, Award: BCS – 1749676

National Science Foundation, Award: BCS - 1460367

Royal Society, Award: UF120473