David A Burney

David A Burney
Makauwahi Cave Reserve · Conservation Paleobiology

Ph.D. Zoology, Minor Botany, Duke University; M.Sc. Conservation Biology, University of Nairobi

About

102
Publications
31,310
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6,337
Citations
Citations since 2017
5 Research Items
1912 Citations
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20172018201920202021202220230100200300
20172018201920202021202220230100200300
20172018201920202021202220230100200300
Additional affiliations
September 1989 - September 2006
Fordham University
Position
  • Professor
Description
  • In 2006 I left Fordham University to work for almost a decade as Director of Conservation at the National Tropical Botanical Garden in Hawaii.

Publications

Publications (102)
Article
Stylistically unique black rock drawings have been discovered in Andriamamelo Cave in western Madagascar. Several image groupings comprise naturalistic scenes with anthropomorphic, zoomorphic, and therianthropic figures. These complex images are not similar to the polychrome painted symbols previously described from the Isalo region of SW Madagasca...
Article
Stalagmite ANJ94-2 from Anjohibe Cave in northwestern Madagascar provides an exceptionally detailed and precisely dated record of changing environmental conditions that, combined with previously published data from stalagmites, wetland deposits, and archaeological sites, allows insights into past climate change, human environmental impact, and mega...
Article
A new fossil site in a previously unexplored part of western Madagascar (the Beanka Protected Area) has yielded remains of many recently extinct vertebrates, including giant lemurs (Babakotia radofilai, Palaeopropithecus kelyus, Pachylemur sp., and Archaeolemur edwardsi), carnivores (Cryptoprocta spelea), the aardvark-like Plesiorycteropus sp., and...
Article
Coring of several types has played a key role in recovering, from sediments and other deposits, information concerning the background environmental changes at archaeological sites, as well as ecological changes associated with human activities. Coring devices have also been used with good success to assess the potential and the extent of large arch...
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We have re-examined the historical evidence in the circum-Pacific for the origin of the 1586 orphan tsunami of Sanriku, Japan, previously attributed to a Lima, Peru, earthquake and tsunami in 1586. New evidence comes from corals found in a unique paleotsunami deposit on Kaua‘i. Dated by ²³⁰Th-²³⁸U geochronology these corals determine an absolute ag...
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Ethical conducts are gaining importance in times of increased globalization and research efforts. This paper presents a code of ethical conduct for researchers who plan to publish their studies with the journal Madagascar Conservation & Development. This paper will be subject to continuous adaptations and discussions.
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Researchers are divided about the relative importance of people versus climate in triggering the Late Holocene extinctions of the endemic large-bodied fauna on the island of Madagascar. Specifically, a dramatic and synchronous decline in arboreal pollen and increase in grass pollen ca 1000 yr ago has been alternatively interpreted as evidence for a...
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At Makauwahi Cave Reserve, on the south shore of Kaua`i, translocation decisions have been guided to a unique degree by the richly detailed fossil record of biota of recent centuries, which occurs on the site. To evaluate the efficacy of this strategy, ecological conditions and individual life histories for 3388 translocated native plants of 81 spe...
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Humans now play a major role in altering Earth and its biota. Finding ways to ameliorate human impacts on biodiversity and to sustain and restore the ecosystem services on which we depend is a grand scientific and societal challenge. Conservation paleobiology is an emerging discipline that uses geohistorical data to meet these challenges by develop...
Article
The Hawaiian Islands’ location in the middle of the Pacific Ocean is threatened by tsunamis from great earthquakes in nearly all directions. Historical great earthquakes Mw > 8.5 in the last 100 years have produced large inundations and loss of life in the Islands, but cannot account for a substantial (≤600 m3) paleotsunami deposit in the Makauwahi...
Article
None of the letters in response to Thomson et al. (1) undermine our conclusions. However, several issues have been raised, which we address in this reply. Beavan (2) dismisses some of the concerns that have been raised about the accuracy of the radiocarbon dates of the El Arenal-1 chicken bones, which are immediately pre-Columbian. Although procedu...
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Significance Ancient DNA sequences from chickens provide an opportunity to study their human-mediated dispersal across the Pacific due to the significant genetic diversity and range of archaeological material available. We analyze ancient and modern material and reveal that previous studies have been impacted by contamination with modern chicken DN...
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In a recent Oryx publication, Fisher & Ineich (2012) report the extinction of Emoia impar (azure-tailed skink) in the Hawaiian Islands, we report its rediscovery on Moloka‘i where it has not been documented since the late 1800’s.
Chapter
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The remote Indian Ocean island of Rodrigues is primarily of volcanic origin, dating back at least 2.5 (probably 10) million years, with significant deposits of much more recent wind-deposited calcarenite. A distinctive karst has developed in this material, including a stream cave over a kilometer in length, over 30 other surveyed caves, and a range...
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a b s t r a c t The extinctions of keystone megafauna during the Pleistocene and Holocene continue to affect extant species and ecosystems. This is particularly acute in southern and western Madagascar where two now extinct species of giant tortoises were once amongst the most dominant herbivores. The extinct giant tortoises are likely to have infl...
Chapter
Subfossil fecal pellets associated with Archaeolemur cf. edwardsi skeletal material from Anjohikely Cave in north-western Madagascar were probably derived from this large extinct lemur. Pellets were photographed, measured, and dissected. One of the pellets dates to 830 ± 60 years BP. Pellets contain a wide variety of items indicative of omnivory, i...
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From this hilltop porch at sunrise, above the limestone landscape of Plaine Corail on the southwestern corner of Rodrigues Island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, I am looking out over a patchwork of small subsistence farms, awakening livestock, a sleepy airport, and a vast reef-bounded lagoon, bigger than the island itself – and something else....
Chapter
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Madagascar's living lemurs (order Primates) belong to a radiation recently ravaged by extirpation and extinction. There are three extinct and five extant families (two with extinct members) of lemurs on an island of less than 600,000 square kilometers. This level of familial diversity characterizes no other primate radiation. The remains of up to s...
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Archaeologists have proposed diverse hypotheses to explain the collapse of the southern Maya lowland cities between the 8th and 10th centuries A.D. Although it generally is believed that no single factor was responsible, a commonly accepted cause is environmental degradation as a product of large-scale deforestation. To date, the most compelling sc...
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Une nouvelle espèce de microgale, Microgale macpheei, trouvée dans les dépôts subfossiles de la grotte d'Andrahomana, dans l'extrême sud de Madagascar, est décrite. Cette espèce se distingue de tous les taxons nommés dans ce genre par divers caractères portant sur l'ostéologie, la dentition et les mesures. Elle semble montrer des affinités avec l'e...
Article
Many late-prehistoric extinctions share ingredients: climate and vegetation change, human hunting, and the arrival of exotic animals. This article looks at evidence from the past to compare with the concerns about biodiversity in the present. For example, thousands of years ago North America rivaled Africa's Serengeti Plains for big animals. Almost...
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Franz Sikora found the first specimen and type of the recently extinct Hadropithecus stenognathus in Madagascar in 1899 and sent it to Ludwig Lorenz von Liburnau of the Austrian Imperial Academy of Sciences. Later, he sent several more specimens including a subadult skull that was described by Lorenz von Liburnau in 1902. In 2003, some of us excava...
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A remote eolianite cave and sinkhole complex on the southeast coast of Madagascar has played a major role in the history of paleontology in Madagascar. Andrahomana Cave has yielded a rich fossil record of the extinct megafauna. Expeditions in 2000 and 2003 produced a wealth of new material and provided the first systematic information concerning th...
Article
A partial, associated skeleton of Hadropithecus stenognathus (AHA-I) was discovered in 2003 at Andrahomana Cave in southeastern Madagascar. Among the postcranial elements found were the first hand bones (right scaphoid, right hamate, left first metacarpal, and right and left fifth metacarpals) attributed to this rare subfossil lemur. These hand bon...
Article
In July and August 1995, the authors interviewed elderly Malagasy with knowledge of the traditions and natural history of their home areas, centered on the villages of Belo-sur-mer, Antsira, and Ambararata, on the southwest coast of Madagascar.Several individuals related personal experiences in which they claim to have seen and heard animals that d...
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Studying Madagascar’s late prehistoric past can add a useful dimension to ethnobotany research, as it has to conservation efforts. These studies provide evidence that people first arrived about two millennia ago. The plants they brought to Madagascar are predominantly south Asian in origin, including coconut, banana, rice, and hemp, pointing to the...
Article
Paleoecological studies from tropical islands around the globe show that human colonization has been devastating for these remote biotic communities. Island histories reveal that human predation and human-mediated landscape change have each played a key role, but many island extinctions following human arrival are strongly associated with introduce...
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A group of 44 people from ethnobotany and associated disciplines participated in an Ethnobotanical Summit at the National Tropical Botanical Garden in Kaua‘i on 27-30 January 2007. Considering the grave environmental crisis facing the world today, the loss of biodiversity and the loss of culture, the group decided to issue a statement to stress the...
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African pollen data have been used in many empirical or quantitative palaeoenvironmental reconstructions. However, the pollen types used in these studies were not controlled and standardised, preventing the precise understanding of pollen–plant and pollen–climate relation that is necessary for the accurate quantification of continental scale climat...
Article
A critical comment on 'A review of the evidence for a human role in the extinction of Australian megafauna and an alternative explanation' by S. Wroe and J. Field is presented. The authors have highlighted a range of ideas under consideration, and provided a selective interpretation which does not come to terms with biology and ignores or misinterp...
Article
Remains of a large-bodied species of endemic nesomyid rodent, Macrotarsomys petteri Goodman and Soarimalala, 2005, were identified from subfossil deposits recovered from Andrahomana Cave in extreme southeastern Madagascar. This recently described extant species was previously only known from a single specimen collected at a site about 450 km northw...
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The origin of Madagascar’s highly endemic vertebrate fauna remains one of the great unsolved mysteries of natural history. From what landmasses did the basal stocks of this unique and imbalanced fauna come? When and how did the ancestral populations arrive on the island? How rapidly did they diversify, and why? The most direct means of addressing t...
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Large vertebrates are strong interactors in food webs, yet they were lost from most ecosystems after the dispersal of modern humans from Africa and Eurasia. We call for restoration of missing ecological functions and evolutionary potential of lost North American megafauna using extant conspecifics and related taxa. We refer to this restoration as P...
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Large vertebrates are strong interactors in food webs, yet they were lost from most ecosystems after the dispersal of modern humans from Africa and Eurasia. We call for restoration of missing ecological functions and evolutionary potential of lost North American megafauna using extant conspecifics and related taxa. We refer to this restoration as P...
Article
Remains of what appears to be a single, subadult Hadropithecus stenognathus were recovered from a previously unexcavated site at Andrahomana Cave (southeastern Madagascar). Specimens found comprise isolated teeth and cranial fragments (including the frontal processes of the orbits), as well as a partial postcranial skeleton. They include the first...
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A cave system in the eolianite deposits of the Māhā′ulepū/Pā′ā area of Kaua′i, Hawai′i, contains a rich fossil record of prehuman Holocene conditions and also preserves a thousand-year record of human activity. Details concerning pre-Contact Polynesian life have been extracted from subaqueous middens and artifacts, including perishable materials su...
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We report here definitive evidence of butchery, most probably associated with hunting, of giant extinct lemurs by early human settlers in Madagascar. Specimens of Palaeopropithecus ingens and Pachylemur insignis from two sites in southwestern Madagascar, Taolambiby and Tsirave, show classic signs of butchering. We compared these to the bones (also...
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Recent expeditions to Madagascar have recovered abundant skeletal remains of Archaeolemur, one of the so-called “monkey lemurs” known from Holocene deposits scattered across the island. These new skeletons are sufficiently complete to permit reassembly of entire hands and feet—postcranial elements crucial to drawing inferences about substrate prefe...
Article
Modern tools of paleoecological and ecomorphological research have enabled researchers to reconstruct the lifeways of extinct species more thoroughly than ever before. We apply a variety of tools in an attempt to reconstruct the diets of the extinct archaeolemurids of Madagascar. Our data include dental use wear (examined across species and across...
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Stratigraphic palynological analyses of four late Quaternary deposits comprise a landscape-level study of the patterns and processes of megafaunal extinction in southeastern New York State. Distinctive spores of the dung fungus Sporormiella are used as a proxy for megafaunal biomass, and charcoal particle analysis as a proxy for fire history. A dec...
Article
Debate continues to rage between enthusiasts for climate change versus humans as a cause of the catastrophic faunal extinctions that have occurred in the wake of human arrival in previously uninhabited regions of the world. A global pattern of human arrival to such landmasses, followed by faunal collapse and other ecological changes, appears withou...
Article
Of all the things we have done to the Earth so far, which one is likely to make the most indelible mark? I have been posing this question to students and colleagues for some time, and usually receive one of three reasonable replies: habitat destruction, human overpopulation, or global climate change. Yet as bad as all these maladies are, they are,...
Article
Remains of what appears to be a single, subadult Hadropithecus stenognathus were recovered from a previously unexcavated site at Andra-homana Cave (southeastern Madagascar). Specimens found comprise isolated teeth and cranial fragments (including the frontal processes of the orbits), as well as a partial postcranial skeleton. They include the first...
Article
A database has been assembled with 278 age determinations for Madagascar. Materials 14C dated include pretreated sediments and plant macrofossils from cores and excavations throughout the island, and bones, teeth, or eggshells of most of the extinct megafaunal taxa, including the giant lemurs, hippopotami, and ratites. Additional measurements come...
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Fossil spores of the dung fungus Sporormiella spp. in sediment cores from throughout Madagascar provide new information concerning megafaunal extinction and the introduction of livestock. Sporormiella percentages are very high in prehuman southwest Madagascar, but at the site with best stratigraphic resolution the spore declines sharply by approxim...
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Evidence from microscopic charcoal particle stratigraphy is presented from nine locations distributed throughout Kaua'i in the Hawaiian Islands, including windward and leeward coastal sites and interior bogs at elevations ranging up to 1220 m. The overall trends are comparable with those reported for other mesic tropical island areas lacking strong...
Article
Adult sifaka (Propithecus spp.) and other large extant lemurs fall prey to raptors, viverrids, crocodiles, and feral dogs on occasion [1]. Prehistorically, large now extinct eagles also may have been a factor [2]. Although the ground boas of Madagascar (Acrantophis spp.) reach large size, I have not previously heard of a confirmed incident of preda...
Article
Twelve new sites on Kaua'i provide an island-wide view of late Quaternary (near time) environments on the oldest of the major Hawaiian Islands. Radiocarbon-dated lithologies are compared for estuarine sites on windward and leeward coasts, interior peat bogs ranging from 169 to 1220 m in elevation, prehistoric fishponds, and a sinkhole paleolake in...
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BIOME 6000 is an international project to map vegetation globally at mid-Holocene (6000 14C yr bp) and last glacial maximum (LGM, 18,000 14C yr bp), with a view to evaluating coupled climate-biosphere model results. Primary palaeoecological data are assigned to biomes using an explicit algorithm based on plant functional types. This paper introduce...
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Coring and excavations in a large sinkhole and cave system formed in an eolianite deposit on the south coast of Kaua'i in the Hawaiian Islands reveal a fossil site with remarkable preservation and diversity of plant and animal remains. Radiocarbon dating and investigations of the sediments and their fossil contents, including diatoms, invertebrate...
Article
Coring and excavations in a large sinkhole and cave system formed in an eolianite deposit on the south coast of Kaua'i in the Hawaiian Islands reveal a fossil site with remarkable preservation and diversity of plant and animal remains. Radiocarbon dating and investigations of the sediments and their fossil contents, including diatoms, invertebrate...
Chapter
Inferring cause and effect from the fossil record is not a wholly satisfying enterprise. The evidence is stale. Many useful details are missing, perhaps never to be found. Sequential events may be collapsed together, inverted, or mixed with evidence from other times. Few relevant parameters can be measured directly. Paleoecologists must forge ahead...
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Biome reconstruction from pollen and plant macrofossil data provides an objective method to reconstruct past vegetation. Biomes for Africa and the Arabian peninsula have been mapped for 6000 years bp and provide a new standard for the evaluation of simulated palaeovegetation distributions. A test using modern pollen data shows the robustness of the...
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In the last 2000 years, changes on the island of Madagascar have resulted in the modification of key environments and the extinction of nearly all large native animals. Humans have long been suspected as the primary cause of this ecological catastrophe, but the exact mechanisms of the island's rapid transformation and the role of natural factors su...
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At least five species of large flightless waterfowl have become extinct in the Hawaiian Islands in recent millennia. These birds are thought to have occupied the role of large herbivores in a wide range of terrestrial habitats. A collection of coprolites from one of the species (Thambetochen chauliodous) was obtained during excavations in Holocene...
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Inter-island paleoecological comparisons have provided useful information concerning the role of humans vs. background-level disturbance in tropical ecosystems. Major ecological changes have occurred since human arrival in Madagascar, the West Indies, the Hawaiian Islands, and elsewhere. Prehuman vegetation changes and disturbances have also been d...
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Les recherches palynologiques à Madagascar ont montré l'importance de la variation du climat au Quaternaire et de l'écologie des feux pour déterminer le caractère de la végétation préhistorique de la Grande Ile. Bien que la forêt dense humide ait pu persister le long de la côte est pendant tout le Cénozoïque, les changements dynamiques survenus dan...
Article
An extensive late Quaternary fauna, including many extinct giant lemurs, has been collected recently in a 110+-km system of caves in the Ankarana Massif of northern Madagascar. AMS 14C dates for the acid-insoluble (collagen/gelatin) fraction of bones of the giant lemur Megaladapis (26,150 ± 400 and 12,760 ± 70 yr B.P.) confirm its presence in the a...
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A sediment core from a high-elevation bog on Maui in the Hawaiian Islands contains evidence for drier conditions between 9.4–5.8 kyr BP, followed by a wetter interval between 5.8–2.2 kyr BP, and a variable late Holocene. These precipitation changes may be a reflection of vertical displacements of the upper boundary of the mid-Pacific Trade Wind Inv...
Article
A 61 cm core through a speleothem column in Drotsky's Cave, Botswana, has yielded a U-series dated pollen record of Holocene vegetation changes in the Kalahari Desert. Between c.10000-7000BP, the site was surrounded by an arid grassland with dry-adapted trees and shrubs such as Acacia and Commiphora. An increase in pollen of Combretaceae and Cypera...
Article
Two sediment cores from Lake Mitsinjo in northwestern Madagascar were analysed for evidence of past environmental changes. The unconformities in a 503 cm core from the centre of the lake and a 306 cm core from the shore were correlated to identify a hiatus in sedimentation that occurred just before ca. 1000 BP. The 3500-year stratigraphic record wa...
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An 8 m sediment core from Laguna Tortuguero, Puerto Rico, provides a 7000 calendar year history of fire occurrence and sedimentation on the island's north coast. After c. 5300 cal-BP, microscopic charcoal particle concentration and influx increase abruptly, and values remain high for the next two millennia. Subsequent to c. 3200 cal-BP, fire occurr...
Article
A 5000-yr stratigraphic record containing fossil pollen, charcoal, and bones of the extinct Quaternary megafauna from Andolonomby, a hypersaline pond in arid southwestern Madagascar, shows evidence for climatic desiccation beginning about 3000 yr B.P. Pollen spectra shift at this time from primarily arboreal taxa characteristic of forests and woodl...
Article
Results from two years of pollen trapping experiments in New York State show that pollen spectra inside the three caves studied are highly similar to the pollen rain outside the caves. Statistical comparisons of modern pollen spectra derived from Tauber traps, speleothems, moss polsters, and nearby pond sediments suggest that pollen deposition insi...
Article
Discusses the links between late-prehistoric extinctions (particularly of large animals), climate and vegetation change, human hunting, and the arrival of exotic animals. Examples from Eurasia, Australia, the Americas, and oceanic islands show that the spread of early humans possibly interacted with changes in climate and habitat to contribute to a...
Article
Two significant events in the late Holocene history of Madagascar were (a) the arrival of people, and (b) the loss of nearly two dozen species of land vertebrates in the socalled “subfossil extinctions”. The consensus is that the faunal losses occurred shortly subsequent to human arrival, but the timing of these events is poorly constrained. The mi...
Article
Pollen-bearing lake, bog, and spring sediments are relatively scarce in many arid and semiarid regions of the world, and few are dateable beyond the 14C range. We have obtained pollen spectra from speleothems collected from caves in the Somali-Chalbi and Kalahari deserts suggesting that these deposits may be an important future source of desert pal...