Rodents Settle Debate

The arrival of Pacific rats in New Zealand decides the debate about the settling of the country by Polynesians; the findings confirm that settlers arrived here some 1,000 years later than was previously thought. Radio-carbon analysis of ancient, rat-gnawed seeds preserved in peat bogs and swamps throughout New Zealand, has found that humans arrived in A.D. 1280. Study lead author Janet Wilmshurst, a paleoecologist at the environmental research group Landcare Research in Lincoln, says the new date conforms with Maori genealogy. “The oldest evidence we [now] have for the Pacific rat in New Zealand is in very close agreement with the oldest dated … archaeological sites,” Wilmshurst said. “It’s also in agreement with the first wave of [plant] extinctions in New Zealand, and with the first evidence of  widespread lowland deforestation.”

Tags: Janet Wilmshurst  National Geographic  rats