Sounds about the right sort of timing

Stories of black mega-swans in New Zealand have long existed in legends from Moriori people.
Up until now, no direct evidence of these mysterious creatures has ever been found.
Some researchers suggested the legends may refer to the Australian black swan, which can fly over the Tasman Sea.
Now, a new study says it has proven, for the first time, that the elusive black mega-swan of New Zealand existed, and was its own, unique species.
Researchers say the semi-flightless black swan died out in New Zealand after humans first arrived from Polynesia in the 13th Century.

Century or two after the Maori turn up. Given that they ate at least some Moriori populations into extinction why not the birds?

It’s also a nice reminder of that Edenic, Rousseauesque, view of hunter gatherer society. They weren’t living in harmony with nature, they were eating it. They, in fact, ate their way through the megafauna pretty much everywhere they turned up.

24 comments on “Sounds about the right sort of timing

  1. I’m not sure about that – hunter gatherers eating all of the mega fauna. Mastodons and the like might have been hunted on occasion, but I find it hard to believe they were eaten into extinction when there were far easier sources of protein available, like fish.

  2. There_,s also new evidence of human s in Australia a lot earlier than previously thought coinciding with destruction of the prehistoric an ecosystem.

  3. “Century or two after the Maori turn up. Given that they ate at least some Moriori populations into extinction why not the birds?”

    They cleaned out the Moa before any westerners had arrived to exploit them, so the Maori have some form in this regard. The timing appears almost identical too.

  4. Bloke in Taiwan

    “I’m not sure about that – hunter gatherers eating all of the mega fauna. Mastodons and the like might have been hunted on occasion, but I find it hard to believe they were eaten into extinction when there were far easier sources of protein available, like fish.”

    They were very yummy…..

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moa

  5. It’s also a nice reminder of that Edenic, Rousseauesque, view of hunter gatherer society.

    In this case they are referred to as ‘humans’ or ‘man’. If they were whites, they would be referred to as “white men” or “westerners”.

    A rule of SJW activism – whenever the culprits are an awkward group, describe them in the most general term possible.

  6. When we were in NZ the Moriori were just the Maori population that had become isolated in the Chatham Islands. You don’t seem to be using the word that way. Has the scientific view changed?

    I also don’t understand your point about “Century or two after the Maori turn up”. What happened a century or two after the late 13th century?

  7. Moriori and Maori are different. There is some controversy about how closely related they are genetically.
    Whatever the genetic truth may be, any Moriori legends about swans would have existed in the place where the Moriori lived, ie on the Chatham Islands about 400 miles away from the South island of New Zealand.
    So the Daily Mail report is confused.

  8. Did not the Maori kill off –and eat–the previous human inhabitants of New Zealand?

    The Maori were Polynesian whereas the previous inhabitants were presumably the tip of the movement of Aboriginals down from what is now Indonesia.

  9. “Did not the Maori kill off –and eat–the previous human inhabitants of New Zealand?” No – or, rather, there’s no evidence for it so that story was discarded decades ago.

    “the previous inhabitants were presumably the tip of the movement of Aboriginals down from what is now Indonesia.” Ditto; long since discarded. And always pretty implausible anyway.

  10. BiT,

    Catching fish is easier than catching a flightless bird (or near flightless) that will provide far more meals? Seems unlikely – especially since I belive the Maori were spear fishers, which takes time.

    And anyway, humans tend to favour a balanced and varied diet, so fish and large waddling feathered meals were likely both eaten.

  11. Watchman

    ” Seems unlikely – especially since I belive the Maori were spear fishers, which takes time.”

    They had hooks, nets and fish traps, so not just spears.

  12. “Given that they ate at least some Moriori populations into extinction..”

    Is cultural assimilation OK or not OK, these days? It’s so hard to keep up.

  13. The original comment about mega-fauna was about mastodon, wasn’t it. There seems to be evidence that they were hunted by using grass fires to stampede them over cliff edges. You’d get a lot of meat, that way, although hardly economical on mastodon.

    And possibly an indicator of why mega-fauna. The relationship between size/speed in animals is a bell curve. They get faster as they get larger until a peak. Then things like volume/surface area (heat dissipation) mass/mass of bone needed to support mass, begins to slow them down. Usually the advantage against predators of a large animal is size/strength. But the human predator can do end runs around this.

  14. The problem isn’t their size it’s their speed of reproduction. Big animals with few predators reproduce slowly. It doesn’t take much hunting to push them below replacement.

  15. If i recall Robert Ardrey’s “Hunting Hypothesis” aright: “Man is man and not a chimpanzee because for millions of years we killed for a living.”
    However the notion that we are the killer ape never caught on with the PC brigade in our universities. I was once reprimanded in public by an anthropologist for reading his book on a bus.

  16. To put another damper on the romantic idea of a hunter-gatherer existence: life expectancy among the Maori when Europeans turned up was about 30. They were still basically in the Stone Age (literally, since they liked slaughtering each other with jade clubs).

  17. “To put another damper on the romantic idea of a hunter-gatherer existence”: the Maori had no choice. Their crops failed in NZ bar the kumara (sweet potato), and their pigs and chooks died out too. It was the penalty for trying to introduce tropical agriculture into a temperate country.

  18. “pigs and chooks” seem to do just fine in temperate Britain, Sweet potatoes may be a bit more of a problem.

  19. ‘“pigs and chooks” seem to do just fine in temperate Britain’

    I’m afraid you’re being rather a plonker. They were different varieties of pigs and chooks, what with being tropical.

  20. “pigs and chooks died out”

    I don’t recall anything about chicken’s and pigs prior to the Europeans, rats and dogs were the main sources of meat other than seafood and indigenous birds I thought.

  21. I still think it’s likely that what hunting of megafauna was done was done not for meat but for conquest and establishing whether it was Fred or Barney who had the bigger stones, so to speak. You kill a few giant sloths or mastodons and you’re going to have more meat than you know what to do with. And it would have been mortally dangerous in a way that catching fish or hunting rodents or deer would not have been.

    So while humans might have finished off the megafauna, I wonder whether this happened as their populations were already on their last legs anyway due to climate change, migration stresses and disease. Some of these populations may already have been reproducing at or below replacement levels, as RLJ mentions and so it might not have taken constant hunting to finish them off, just occasional, especially if Fred and Barney are taking out the bull males, leading to social chaos among what was left of their populations.

  22. A lot of misinformation about. The Maori were as far as we know the original settlers, probably around the 12 century. The original settlers lived as hunter gathers mainly as there was for a period significant amounts of mega fauna available like Moa and other flightless birds, and these lacked any serious predators bar one extra large eagle, so we’re easily taken, as were many more ordinary sized birds. As others have noted, these creatures evolved under special conditions and thrived largely b cause of a lack,of predators. Thy are thought to have reproduced slowly and were easily wiped out for that reason. Maori did hunt them en-masse early on, they’ve found sites where Moa were apparently chased over a cliff in their hundreds or thousands, and only the choice bits removed for eating.

    The Moriori were. A tribe or sub tribe that fled persecution (warfare became epidemic after the easy megafauna were dead and competition occurred over resources) and escaped to the Chatham, a barely cultivatable group,of islands some distance off the coast. There they evolved a different culture and probably were somewhat inbred. The local Maori in NZ were essentially unaware of them. After the arrival of Europeans, Maori heard of this tribe of pacifists and chartered a ship to go and subjugate them, which they did, in the recess killing and eating many of them. The last full blooded member of the Moriori died about 1935, a number of partial,desc ndants exist but the island itself is claimed as owned by the conquering tribe (from the Taranaki region) as the conquest happened before the treat for Waitangi in 1840.

    NZ had no indigenous mammals except two rare species of bat, and the Maori introduced dogs and the Polynesian rat, the kiore. Both were eaten, the last of the dogs are Thought to have died out in the 19th century, the rats remain albeit in restricted numbers as they are mostly out-competed by introduced European rats. Pigs and Hens were introduced by the Europeans, I believe the Captain Cook himself released a pair of pigs, and to this day wild pigs can be referred to as “Captain Cookers”.

    That the Maori eliminated the mega fauna which consisted of birds is not in doubt, though some may have died out anyway, populations were never that large.

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