Published online by Cambridge University Press: 03 August 2022
Pachylemur is a large extinct lemur once widespread on Madagascar that survived in pockets until at least 500 years ago. The role of humans as agents of megafaunal extinction on Madagascar is heavily debated. Here we evaluate human impacts drawing from research on lemur hunting today combined with evidence from Madagascar’s oral history as well as its archaeological and paleontological records. Living lemurs are hunted throughout Madagascar, primarily for subsistence but also for commercial trade. Wildlife consumption is driven primarily by poverty and resultant food insecurity. Protected status, wildlife consumption taboos, and broad preference for domestic meats appear insufficient to buffer most lemur taxa from extinction at current harvest rates in the Makira region, if not elsewhere. Single-factor explanations for megafaunal extinction, such as rapid overkill or climate change, are not viable. There was long temporal overlap for Pachylemur and humans on Madagascar. There was no island-wide drought when the megafauna began to crash around 1,200 years ago; some parts of Madagascar were unusually wet while others were unusually dry. Stable isotope (δ15N) values for radiocarbon-dated Pachylemur bones also show no evidence that aridification contributed to its demise. Butchered bones of Pachylemur from the paleontological site Tsirave spike in frequency just over 1,000 years ago, indicative of sustained exploitation over a ~100-year period. Pachylemur shared many traits with its closest living relative, variegated lemurs (Varecia), including frugivory. Oral histories of an animal presumed to be Pachylemur indicate it dwelt in the largest trees in the forest, was active at twilight, and exhibited highly aggressive antipredator behavior. Like Varecia, Pachylemur was likely dependent on large, patchily distributed trees for fruit, and possibly also for reproduction (e.g. to nest and stash non-clinging young), making it especially vulnerable to habitat degradation. We thus conclude that both habitat degradation and hunting played a role in the extinction of Pachylemur.
Bushmeat, Lemurs, Extinction, Pachylemur, Varecia, Subfossils
To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure firstname.lastname@example.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.
Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.
Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.
To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.
To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.