When did the giant Hawaiian goose go extinct?

Answered by Tom Adger

The giant Hawaiian goose, known as the nēnē nui, went extinct shortly after humans settled the islands. This extinction event occurred around 500,000 years ago. Fossil records provide us with some insight into the demise of this majestic bird, although much of its history remains shrouded in mystery.

Humans played a significant role in the extinction of the nēnē nui. As settlers arrived on the islands, they hunted these birds for food. The nēnē nui, being large and flightless, likely made an easy target for early human populations. This hunting pressure would have undoubtedly taken a toll on their populations, leading to a decline in numbers.

But hunting was not the only factor contributing to the extinction of the nēnē nui. When humans arrived, they also introduced non-native predators to the islands, such as rats and dogs. These predators, unfamiliar to the nēnē nui, would have posed a significant threat to the birds and their eggs. The introduction of these new predators likely exacerbated the decline of the nēnē nui population, pushing them closer to extinction.

The lack of adaptability in the face of these new threats may have been another contributing factor to the nēnē nui’s demise. Over the course of their evolution, the nēnē nui had adapted to the unique island environment of Hawaii. They had limited flight capability and likely had no natural predators to contend with. The sudden introduction of humans and their associated threats would have been a significant shock to their system, leaving them ill-equipped to survive.

It is important to note that our understanding of the extinction of the nēnē nui is based on limited fossil records and scientific speculation. The exact timeline and specific events leading to their extinction remain uncertain. However, the evidence suggests that humans played a significant role, both through direct hunting and the introduction of non-native predators.

The giant Hawaiian goose, the nēnē nui, went extinct around 500,000 years ago shortly after humans settled the islands. Humans hunted them for food, and the introduction of non-native predators further decimated their populations. This extinction event serves as a reminder of the impact that human activities can have on fragile ecosystems and the importance of conservation efforts to prevent similar events in the future.