The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Human predation of Pachylemur: Evidence of butchery of extinct lemurs in south central Madagascar


1Anthropology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 2Geology and Anthropology, University of Cincinnati, 3Anthropology, Portland State University

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Modern-day butchery of endemic mammals (bushmeat) in Madagascar leaves tell-tale signs in the form of chop marks, cutmarks, and spiral fractures on bones of prey. Machetes carried to trap sites are used to disarticulate limbs at joints, chop bodies into pot-sized chunks, or remove flesh. Cutmarks can be recognized because the process is deliberate and the cuts strategically placed; cuts produced by sharp implements also have characteristic shapes.

Subfossil lemur collections in Antananarivo, Madagascar, include bones of now-extinct lemurs (Palaeopropithecus, Archaeolemur, Pachylemur, Megaladapis, and Hadropithecus) with definitive signs of butchery. We have begun to analyze the prevalence and geographic distribution of these marks by surveying 220 Pachylemur femora in this collection with known provenance. For this pilot study, we document cutmarks only, which are present on 6.4% of femora examined. Locations and orientations of marks were recorded, and each was photographed and measured using a Dino-Lite Premier 5MP AD7013MZT 10x-240x polarizing microscope. Vinyl polysiloxane impressions were made using a low viscosity impression material, providing accurate reproductions of cuts that could be subjected to thin-sectioning and microscopic analysis. There is clear site bias, with 13 of the 14 cut-marked bones coming from Tsirave (south central Madagascar). While none of these were sampled for radiocarbon dating, 30 other bones from this site, including 6 Pachylemur, were dated (range 1065-3800 Cal yr BP). The youngest Pachylemur was 1165 Cal yr BP, and Pachylemur’s median age was 1660 Cal yr BP. Human predation of Pachylemur evidently occurred prior to 1000 years ago at Tsirave.

This research was funded in part by the Margot Marsh Biodiversity Fund, the Conservation International Primate Action Fund, the Oregon Zoo Future for Wildlife Program, the International Primatological Society, and the UC Laboratory Fee Research Programme (09-LR-07-115818-DOMN to B.E. Crowley and N.J. Dominy).

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