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Monster turtle killed off by man

Researchers have linked another extinction to human beings: this time of a massive prehistoric horned turtle. Prehistoric turtles in the Meiolania genus were thought to have vanished some 50,000 years ago. However, scientists have found a new species that was likely wiped out by human hunters much more recently.

Announced in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) the new species Meiolania damelipi survived on the island of Vanuatu in the South Pacific until around 3,000 years ago shortly after the first humans, known as the Lapita, arrived on the island.

Scientists discovered a midden of mostly leg bones from the species with few shell and no cranial fragments, which they say implies “off-site butchering of the turtles” in the paper. According to the researchers they believe the Lapita wiped out tens of thousands of eight foot long (two-and-a-half meters) turtles within two centuries. This is the first species of Meiolania known to have met humans.

Scientists have long wondered if humans were responsible for the extinction of prehistoric megafauna, such as woolly mammoths. While evidence either way has proven difficult to come by, a number of recent studies have linked the demise of Australian megafauna to humans.

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