Date:

Researchers investigate ancient species in Gulf of Alaska

Invasive species have shaped island ecosystems and landscapes in the Gulf of Alaska, but their histories are unknown. In a study by the University of Oklahoma, Boston University and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, researchers investigated the archaeological and genetic history of the Arctic ground squirrel on Chirikof Island, Alaska.

This small mammal has the ability to affect vegetation and seabirds on these islands and was introduced across much of this region as part of the historic fox farming industry.

- Advertisement -

Courtney Hofman, professor in the Department of Anthropology, OU College of Arts and Sciences, collaborated with Catherine West, professor in the Department of Archaeology, Boston University, to find that the current population of squirrels has been on Chirikof Island longer than previously assumed. Hofman and West used archaeological squirrel remains recovered from middens to directly radiocarbon date the squirrels; to look for evidence of prehistoric human use of squirrels; and to perform ancient DNA analysis of the dated squirrel remains.

This study challenged the assumption that ground squirrels were introduced to the islands by historic settlers, and the researchers argued instead that these squirrels arrived on the island much earlier than previously thought. Data from these three lines of evidence were used to assess the antiquity and genetic stability of Chirikof’s ground squirrel population and to reconsider the role of long-term data in the determination of native and indigenous species. Analysis confirmed that the squirrels were already present on Chirikof Island at least 2,000 years ago, and the current population is closely related to the historical ancient population.

“The archaeological record in the Gulf of Alaska provides us with a long-term look at human-environmental interactions, where Native Alaskans have harvested resources for thousands of years. This relationship can help us understand the complexity of contemporary human-environmental interactions and what this means for conservation,” said West.

The Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge manages many Gulf of Alaska Islands, including Chirikof, and must determine whether a species is native or introduced before choosing how to appropriately maintain its population. The longevity of the Chirikof squirrel population complicates its classification as an “invasive” or “native” species. The data gathered from OU and Boston University researchers has implications for maintaining the squirrel’s local population and the island’s restoration.

- Advertisement -

“Utilizing interdisciplinary methods, such as ancient DNA, accelerator mass spectrometry radiocarbon dating and zooarchaeology, allows us to address Complex but really important questions about the history of invasive species,” said Hofman. “If a species arrives in a new environment or is introduced by ancient people, how long is enough time for a species to be considered “native” or part of the ecosystem–1,000 or 10,000 years ago?”

UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA

- Advertisement -
spot_img
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan is multi-award-winning journalist and the Managing Editor at HeritageDaily. His background is in archaeology and computer science, having written over 7,500 articles across several online publications. Mark is a member of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW), the World Federation of Science Journalists, and in 2023 was the recipient of the British Citizen Award for Education, the BCA Medal of Honour, and the UK Prime Minister's Points of Light Award.
spot_img

Mobile Application

spot_img

Related Articles

Bronze fitting depicting Alexander the Great found on Danish Island

Archaeologists have discovered a bronze fitting depicting Alexander the Great on the Danish island of Zealand.

Archaeologists uncover exquisite Roman glassware in Nîmes

An exquisite collection of glassware dating from the Roman period has been uncovered by INRAP archaeologists in the French city of Nîmes.

Frescos discovery among the finest uncovered at Roman Pompeii

A collection of frescos recently discovered at the Roman city of Pompeii have been described as among the finest found by archaeologists.

Study suggests that Egyptian sky-goddess symbolises the Milky Way

In Ancient Egyptian religion, Nut was the celestial goddess of the sky, stars, the cosmos, astronomy, and the universe in its whole.

Traces of Kettering’s wartime history rediscovered

Researchers from the Sywell Aviation Museum have announced the rediscovery of a preserved WW2 air raid shelter in Kettering, England.

Earthen pot containing 3,730 lead coins found at Phanigiri

Archaeologists from the Department of Archaeology have discovered an earthen pot containing a hoard of 3,730 lead coins at the Buddhist site of Phanigiri, located in Suryapet district, India.

Bronze lamp revealed as cult object associated with Dionysus

A study of a bronze lamp found near the town of Cortona, Italy, has revealed that it was an object associated with the mystery cult of Dionysus.

Neolithic coastal settlements were resilient in the face of climate change

A study of the submerged site of Habonim North indicates that Neolithic coastal settlements were resilient in the face of climate change.