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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1993 Feb 1;90(3):818-22.

Biogeography of Tongan birds before and after human impact.

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  • 1Biological Survey, New York State Museum, The State Education Department, Albany, NY 12230, USA.


Bones deposited in caves show that, before the arrival of humans, at least 27 species of land birds lived on the Tongan island of 'Eua, where 13 indigenous species live today. Six of these 13 species were recorded from pre-human strata; three others probably occurred on 'Eua in pre-human times but were not in the fossil sample; and four others probably colonized 'Eua since the arrival of humans approximately 3000 years ago. Of the 23 species of extinct or extirpated land birds recorded from 'Eua, the nearest geographic occurrences of conspecifics or most closely related congeners are from the Solomon Islands (1 species), New Caledonia (2 species), Fiji and/or Samoa (9 species), elsewhere in Tonga (8 species), or unknown (3 species). The avifauna of West Polynesia (Fiji-Tonga-Samoa) is more closely related to that of Melanesia than that of East Polynesia. There was little pre-human turnover in Tongan land birds. The arrival of humans has influenced the Tongan avifauna more than any climatic, tectonic, or biological event of the past approximately 100,000 years.

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