Extinction and Biogeography of Huahine, Society Islands, French Polynesia

TitleExtinction and Biogeography of Huahine, Society Islands, French Polynesia
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1992
AuthorsSteadman, DW, Pahlavan, DS
Keywordsanthropology biology

This study is based upon the identification of 336 bird bones from the Fa'ahia archaeological site, Huahine, French Polynesia. The bones represent birds that were killed for their flesh, feathers, or bones by prehistoric Polynesians. The radiocarbon ages of excavated strata at Fa'ahia range from about 1140 ± 90 to 770 ± 90 yr B.P. The bird bones represent 15 species of resident seabirds, 15 species of resident landbirds, four migrant species, and one introduced species. The only extinct seabird is a gull, Larus new species, although locally extirpated seabirds are Puffinus pacificus, Puffinus nativitatis, Puffinus lherminieri, Pterodroma rostrata, Pterodroma alba, Pterodroma arminjoniana, Sula leucogaster, Sula sula, Fregata minor, Fregata ariel, and Anous minutus. Extinct landbirds are Gallirallus new species, Gallicolumba nui, Macropygia arevarevauupa, Vini vidivici, Vini cf. sinotoi, and Aplonis diluvialis. Locally extirpated landbirds are Ardeola striata, Porzana tabuensis, Gallicolumba erythroptera, Ducula galeata, Ducula aurorae, and Acrocephalus caffer. The bones from Fa'ahia increase the seabird and landbird fauna of Huahine, from the historically known 3 to 15 species and from 7 to 18 species, respectively. Thus the number of species from Huahine is even greater than those from nearby Tahiti, which has a much greater land area and elevation. The occurrence of so many extinct or extirpated species of birds at the Fa'ahia site suggests that this site represents a very early phase of human occupation on Huahine, probably no more than 500 years after the first arrival of people on this previously undisturbed island ecosystem.