Evaluating the Evidence and Reasons for Ancient Human Introductions of Wildlife to California’s Islands
Worldwide, prehistoric hunter-gatherers and horticulturalists translocated a variety of animals and plants to islands. Translocations enhanced island ecosystems, introducing animals and plants used for food or raw materials. We review recent zooarchaeology, genetics, and stable isotope data to evaluate the evidence for ancient translocations to the islands of Baja and Alta California. Native peoples likely translocated foxes, mice, ground squirrels, domesticated dogs, iguanids, and possibly skunks to some California Islands. Although some animal translocations were for subsistence or broader environmental enhancement, others were either unintentional (mice) or more closely associated with ritual and other cultural practices. The dearth of translocations tied directly to subsistence suggests that marginal island food sources were not a primary factor driving translocation.
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