Cahow Fossils Excavated In Southampton

March 10, 2014

The most recent newsletter of the Bermuda Zoological Society outlined the recent excavation of Cahow fossils in Southampton.

The site was uncovered by Dr. Robbie Smith, curator of the Natural History Museum, assisted by Jeremy Maderios and Peter Drew.

According an article by Dr Smith in the newsletter, “Bermuda has a fascinating history over the past 1 million years of its existence as a land mass and fossils reveal much about who was living on the islands in the past.

“I recently had the opportunity to excavate a set of fossil bird bones from a construction site in Southampton, assisted by Jeremy Maderios and Peter Drew.

“We found about seven complete sets of bird bones all mixed together in a very small area. Luckily for me Jeremy was able to verify that they were all cahows. What is most unusual was their location, well up on a hill and away from the coast, entombed in an old sand dune, probably about 70 to 80,000 years ago.

The Southampton Cahow fossils [photo courtesy BZS newsletter]:


“The arrangement and number of sets of bones tells us that they were not trapped in a nesting burrow [you would only have one or two skeletons from a nesting pair] and so they must have died in a catastrophic accident. What could have caused their deaths?

“Well, we will never know the cause of their demise, but we can use the date and location of this discovery to add another piece to a very incomplete puzzle of who was alive at that particular period of time.

“For that many birds to have died simultaneously implies that there was a large population of cahows present. We had thought this was the case but this one discovery helps to confirm our assumption.

“We still have a very incomplete picture of past life on our islands and these fossils provide a rare and valuable view into ancient Bermuda.”

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Category: All, Environment, History