Vertebrate community on an ice-age Caribbean island

David W. Steadman, Nancy A. Albury, Brian Kakuk, Jim I. Mead, J. Angel Soto-Centeno, Hayley M. Singleton, Janet Franklin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


We report 95 vertebrate taxa (13 fishes, 11 reptiles, 63 birds, 8 mammals) from late Pleistocene bone deposits in Sawmill Sink, Abaco, The Bahamas. The >5,000 fossils were recovered by scuba divers on ledges at depths of 27-35 m below sea level. Of the 95 species, 39 (41%) no longer occur on Abaco (4 reptiles, 31 birds, 4 mammals).We estimate that 17 of the 39 losses (all of them birds) are linked to changes during the Pleistocene-Holocene Transition (PHT) (∼15-9 ka) in climate (becoming more warm and moist), habitat (expansion of broadleaf forest at the expense of pinewoodland), sea level (rising from -80 m to nearly modern levels), and island area (receding from ∼17,000 km2 to 1,214 km2). The remaining 22 losses likely are related to the presence of humans on Abaco for the past 1,000 y. Thus, the late Holocene arrival of people probably depleted more populations than the dramatic physical and biological changes associated with the PHT.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E5963-E5971
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number44
StatePublished - Nov 3 2015


  • Extinction
  • Fossils
  • Island
  • Pleistocene
  • Vertebrates

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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