Journal of Archaeological Research

, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 65–115 | Cite as

Ancient Biological Invasions and Island Ecosystems: Tracking Translocations of Wild Plants and Animals

  • Courtney A. HofmanEmail author
  • Torben C. Rick


Biological invasions are one of the great threats to Earth’s ecosystems and biodiversity in the Anthropocene. However, species introductions and invasions extend deep into the human past, with the translocation of both wild and domestic species around the world. Here, we review the human translocation of wild plants and animals to the world’s islands. We focus on establishing criteria used to differentiate natural from human-assisted dispersals and the differences between non-native and invasive species. Our study demonstrates that, along with a suite of domesticates, ancient people transported numerous wild plants and animals to islands and helped shape ecosystems in ways that have important ramifications for modern conservation, restoration, and management.


Invasive species Historical ecology Interdisciplinary methods Anthropocene Environmental archaeology 



We thank the CCEG writing group for their thoughtful comments, as well as our colleagues Jesus Maldonado, Christy Boser, Todd Braje, Paul Collins, Kristina Douglass, Jon Erlandson, Robert Fleischer, Chris Funk, Kristina Gill, Julie King, Ana Morales, Scott Morrison, Seth Newsome, Dolores Piperno, Kathy Ralls, Leslie Reeder-Myers, Scott Sillett, Bruce Smith, Catherine West, and Melinda Zeder for productive discussions on ancient invasions. The photographs in Figs. 2 and 3 are open access photos from Wikimedia Commons; 2a: by Dominik (Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,; 2b: by Volker.G (Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,; 2c: by Emily Russell (Public domain); 2d: by Aviceda (Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,; 2e: courtesy of Julie King; 2f: by H. Zell (Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,; 3a: CC BY-SA 3.0,; 3b: by Ken Bosma, Tucson, AZ (Tucson Icon, CC BY 2.0,; 3c: by Emőke Dénes (kindly granted by the author, CC BY-SA 2.5,; 3d: by Derek Keats, Johannesburg, South Africa (CC BY 2.0, We also appreciate the assistance of the editors and five anonymous reviewers of the Journal of Archaeological Research for comments on this manuscript.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York (outside the USA) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of OklahomaNormanUSA
  2. 2.Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, MRC 112Smithsonian InstitutionWashingtonUSA

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