Coastal Restoration Trust of New Zealand

Coastal Dune Ecosystem Reference Database

Establishment and extinction of a population of South Georgian diving petrel (Pelecanoides georgicus) at Mason Bay, Stewart Island, New Zealand, during the late Holocene Journal Paper

Holdaway, R. N., Jones, M. D., Beavan Athfield, N. R.
Journal / Source
Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand
Publisher / Organisation
Taylor & Francis
Pelecanoides georgicus
New Zealand, Stewart Island, extinction, Pelecanoides georgicus, Rattus exulans, radiocarbon dating, Bayesian statistics
A population of South Georgian diving petrels (Pelecanoides georgicus) (c. 130 g) became extinct at Mason Bay, on the west coast of Stewart Island, before European settlement. Pacific rat (Rattus exulans) bones with the diving petrel fossils provided an opportunity to determine whether the rats arrived before the petrels went extinct. Fifteen 14C accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) ages on purified diving petrel bone gelatin from various parts of Mason Bay clustered unexpectedly in the 14th and 15th centuries AD, and none was older. Bayesian statistical analysis, using a Markov Chain Monte Carlo procedure, gave a 95% probability that the diving petrel colony was founded between 1338 and 1440 AD, lasted 40-310 years, and became extinct between 1475 and 1650 AD. Possible reasons for the late colonisation of Mason Bay by South Georgian diving petrels burrow are discussed. Bayesian analysis of five 14C AMS determinations on Pacific rat bone gelatin did not exclude the possibility that the Pacific rat arrived before the diving petrel colony was established. However, the enriched 513C of their bone gelatin suggests that the rats had a partially marine diet, and a terrestrial calibration procedure for their AMS ages was probably not appropriate. The Pacific rat is likely to have arrived after the diving petrel colony became established and probably caused the bird's extinction after a short period of coexistence.