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A new fossil site in a previously unexplored part of western Madagascar (the Beanka Protected Area) has yielded remains of many recently extinct vertebrates, including giant lemurs (Babakotia radofilai, Palaeopropithecus kelyus, Pachylemur sp., and Archaeolemur edwardsi), carnivores (Cryptoprocta spelea), the aardvark-like Plesiorycteropus sp., and giant ground cuckoos (Coua). Many of these represent considerable range extensions. Extant species that were extirpated from the region (e.g., Prolemur simus) are also present. Calibrated radiocarbon ages for 10 bones from extinct primates span the last three millennia. The largely undisturbed taphonomy of bone deposits supports the interpretation that many specimens fell in from a rock ledge above the entrance. Some primates and other mammals may have been prey items of avian predators, but human predation is also evident. Strontium isotope ratios (87Sr/86Sr) suggest that fossils were local to the area. Pottery sherds and bones of extinct and extant vertebrates with cut and chop marks indicate human activity in previous centuries. Scarcity of charcoal and human artifacts suggests only occasional visitation to the site by humans. The fossil assemblage from this site is unusual in that, while it contains many sloth lemurs, it lacks ratites, hippopotami, and crocodiles typical of nearly all other Holocene subfossil sites on Madagascar.
Extinctions have altered island ecosystems throughout the late Quaternary. Here, we review the main historic drivers of extinctions on islands, patterns in extinction chronologies between islands, and the potential for restoring ecosystems through reintroducing extirpated species. While some extinctions have been caused by climatic and environmental change, most have been caused by anthropogenic impacts. We propose a general model to describe patterns in these anthropogenic island extinctions. Hunting, habitat loss and the introduction of invasive predators accompanied prehistoric settlement and caused declines of endemic island species. Later settlement by European colonists brought further land development, a different suite of predators and new drivers, leading to more extinctions. Extinctions alter ecological networks, causing ripple effects for islands through the loss of ecosystem processes, functions and interactions between species. Reintroduction of extirpated species can help restore ecosystem function and processes, and can be guided by palaeoecology. However, reintroduction projects must also consider the cultural, social and economic needs of humans now inhabiting the islands and ensure resilience against future environmental and climate change.
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