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Assesssing the role of humans in Greater Antillean land vertebrate extinctions: new insights from Cuba

By Johanset Orihuela, Lázaro W. Viñola, Osvaldo Jiménez Vázquez, Alexis M. Mychajliw, Odlanyer Hernández de Lara, Logel Lorenzo, J. Angel Soto-Centeno

Posted 28 Jan 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.01.27.922237

The Caribbean archipelago is a hotspot of biodiversity characterized by a high rate of extinction. Recent studies have examined these losses, but the causes of the Antillean Late Quaternary vertebrate extinctions, and especially the role of humans, are still unclear. Current results provide support for climate-related and human-induced extinctions, but often downplaying other complex bio-ecological factors that are difficult to model or to detect from the fossil and archaeological record. Here, we discuss Caribbean vertebrate extinctions and the potential role of humans derived from new and existing fossil and archaeological data from Cuba. Our results indicate that losses of Cuba’s native fauna occurred in three waves: one during the late Pleistocene and early Holocene, a second during the middle Holocene, and a third one during the last 2 ka, coinciding with the arrival of agroceramists and the early Europeans. The coexistence of now-extinct species with multiple cultural groups in Cuba for over 4 ka implies that Cuban indigenous non-ceramic cultures exerted far fewer extinction pressures to native fauna than the later agroceramists and Europeans that followed. This suggests a determinant value to increased technological sophistication and demographics as the most plausible effective extinction drivers.

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