Researchers have found that over the past 50 thousand years, at least 469 species of birds have become extinct on the planet due to hunting. Most of them did not fly and could not hide from the people attacking them.
A new study by Tel Aviv University and the Weizmann Institute has shown that birds have experienced a major human-induced extinction over the past 20,000-50,000 years. Together, this has led to the extinction of about 10-20% of all bird species. According to the researchers, the vast majority of the extinct species had several things in common: they were large, lived on islands, and many of them could not fly.
“We have conducted a comprehensive review of the scientific literature and for the first time collected quantitative data on the abundance and traits of extinct bird species around the world. The species that have become extinct in the past 300 years are relatively well known, and earlier species can be studied from remains found in archaeological and paleontological sites around the world. In total, we were able to list 469 bird species that have become extinct over the past 50 thousand years, but we believe that their real number is much higher, ”the scientists noted.
Researchers believe that the large-scale extinction was caused primarily by people who hunted birds for food or animals brought to the islands by people – they fed on birds or their eggs. This assumption is based on two facts: most of the remains of birds were found in human habitats. In addition, in most cases, the extinction occurred some time after the arrival of humans.
About 90% of the extinct birds lived on islands. When people appeared there, the birds became the object of hunting or became victims of other animals brought by people.
Most of the extinct bird species were large, some very large. Since each bird could feed many people at once, they became a favorite target of hunters. Scientists have found that the body weight of extinct bird species was 10 times the body weight of the surviving species. Previous studies have shown that a similar phenomenon was observed among mammals and reptiles, especially lizards and turtles that lived on the islands – the larger ones were hunted more often by humans.
A significant part of the extinct bird species were flightless and could not hide from their pursuers. One of the most famous examples is the moa bird in New Zealand: 11 species of moa became extinct within 300 years due to hunting.