Reporting on Pacific Issues

Human Activity May Have Boosted Palau Shellfish Size

10/09/2010 05:50

(TH) Matthew McDermott- A new study in the Journal of Archaeological Science shows there are exceptions to the conventional eco-wisdom that increased human activity always spells harm for animals: Researchers from North Carolina State University have discovered that the size of one mollusk, that's been a food source for Pacific Islanders for thousands of years, has increased in size in conjunction with human population growth.

After examining more than 1,400 shells at an archaeological site in Palau, the scientists found that the humped conch (Strombus gibberulus) increased in average length about 1.5 millimeters over the past 3,000 years--which is a small amount in the big picture, but is a 5% increase in length for the 30mm long shellfish.

Dr Scott Fitzpatrick believes the size increase may be related to increased nutrients in the waters where the shellfish live, resulting from increased agriculture.

Fitzpatrick says,

What we've found indicates that human activity does not necessarily mean that there is going to be a negative impact on a species -- even a species that people relied on as a major food source. The trends we see in the archaeological record in regards to animal remains are not always what one would expect.


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