, Volume 151, Issue 2, pp 365-369
Date: 14 Oct 2009

On the extinction of the Dune Shearwater (Puffinus holeae ) from the Canary Islands

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Insular ecosystems have been subjected to severe hardship during the last millennia. Large numbers of insular bird species have undergone local disappearances and full extinctions, and a high number of insular birds are currently categorised as endangered species. In most of these cases, extinction—or endangerment—is in direct relation to the arrival of ‘aboriginal’ and/or imperialist waves of human settlement. Insular bird extinction events have been documented to have occurred at times corresponding to aboriginal settlement at many archipelagos and isolated islands, such as the Hawaiian Islands, New Zealand, the West Indies or the tropical Pacific Islands. However, no bird extinctions could be attributed to the first settlers of the Canary Islands—until now. The first accelerator mass spectrometer radiocarbon (14C) dating of collagen from a bone of the Dune Shearwater Puffinus holeae (3395 ± 30 year BP), an extinct bird from the Canary Islands, indicates a late Holocene extinction event. This relatively recent date, together with some features of this bird (large body size, breeding areas situated at very accessible places) and the absence of its bones from the entire archaeological record suggests that the extinction occurred close to the time that the first human settlement occurred on the islands.