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1 September 2014 Domination by Reptiles in a Terrestrial Food Web of the Bahamas Prior to Human Occupation
Alexander K. Hastings, John Krigbaum, David W. Steadman, Nancy A. Albury
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Abstract

Human activities in the Bahamas and other oceanic islands have damaged terrestrial ecosystems irreparably through the extinction of indigenous species. Tortoise and crocodile bones from Abaco Island in the Bahamas sampled for 14C-dating revealed a small overlap between the last occurrence of these large reptiles and early human settlement in the Bahamas. Before their extermination approximately 1,000 years ago, the dominant herbivore and carnivore on Abaco Island were the endemic Albury's Tortoise (Chelonoidis alburyorum) and the formerly widespread Cuban Crocodile (Crocodylus rhombifer). Stable isotope data from carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) in bone collagen from Late Holocene fossils suggest that these large reptiles were part of a terrestrial rather than marine or estuarine food web. Our proposal that Cuban Crocodiles were once the apex terrestrial predator in the Bahamas is supported by comparisons with published δ13C values for modern marine/estuarine crocodylians as compared to those of nonmarine reptilian and mammalian carnivores. For reptiles to occupy terrestrial trophic roles distinguishes Bahamian Islands from nearby Greater Antillean Islands (Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico) where endemic mammals represent the largest herbivores and carnivores in prehuman times. This distinction is even greater when compared with Late Quaternary mammals of prehuman vertebrate communities in neighboring North America.

Alexander K. Hastings, John Krigbaum, David W. Steadman, and Nancy A. Albury "Domination by Reptiles in a Terrestrial Food Web of the Bahamas Prior to Human Occupation," Journal of Herpetology 48(3), 380-388, (1 September 2014). https://doi.org/10.1670/13-091R1
Accepted: 1 November 2013; Published: 1 September 2014
JOURNAL ARTICLE
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