We report the unprecedented Lapita exploitation and subsequent extinction of large megafauna tortoises (?Meiolania damelipi) on tropical islands during the late Holocene over a 281,000 km 2 region of the southwest Pacific spanning from the Vanuatu archipelago to Viti Levu in Fiji. Zooarchaeological analyses have identified seven early archaeological sites with the remains of this distinctive hornless tortoise, unlike the Gondwanan horned meiolaniid radiation to the southwest. These large tortoise radiations in the Pacific may have contributed to the rapid dispersal of early mobile Neolithic hunters throughout southwest Melanesia and on to western Polynesia. Subsequent rapid extinctions of these terrestrial herbivorous megafauna are likely to have led to significant changes in ecosystems that help explain changes in current archaeological patterns from Post-Lapita contexts in the region.
|Publication status||Published - 2016|