Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 151, Issue 2, pp 365–369 | Cite as

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

  • Juan Carlos Rando
  • Josep Antoni AlcoverEmail author
Original Article


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.


AMS 14Canary Islands Dune Shearwater Extinction Puffinus holeae 



We thank Área de Patrimonio del Cabildo de Fuerteventura, especially Nacho Hernández, and F. García-Talavera, J.F. Navarro, M. Trias and J. Michaux for information and help in the field work, and Mark van Strydonck and Mathieu Boudin for their help with the radiocarbon dating. This work was supported by Spanish DGICYT Research Project CGL2007-62047/BTE (Cronología y causas de las extinciones de vertebrados autóctonos en Canarias y Baleares: un análisis comparativo. II). We are very grateful to Damià Jaume (Palma de Mallorca) and Eamon Manning (Dublin) for reviewing the English. Finally, the comments of two anonymous reviewers contributed to the improvement of the paper. The authors declare that all of the work performed during this project complies with current Spanish laws.


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Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de Biología Animal (UDI Zoología)Universidad de La LagunaLa LagunaSpain
  2. 2.Institut Mediterrani d’Estudis Avançats (CSIC-UIB)Palma de MallorcaSpain

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