The great auk in Norway: From common to locally extinct
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionInternational Journal of Osteoarchaeology. 2022. 10.1002/oa.3161
A total of 477 bones of the great auk (Pinguinus impennis) from 53 localities and 55 periods in Norway are studied. All but two, are archaeological sites from the Holocene, mainly from 6000–2000 cal years bp. The two non-anthropogenic sites date to the Ice Age: probably 36,000–34,500 and 14,690–12,890 years bp. The bones are mainly unburned and well preserved but fractured. Except for the open-air sites in northern Norway, the bones are mainly from rock-shelters and caves. In combining archive data, chronological information, and morphometrical studies, we suggest the great auk disappeared from the most southern part of Norway (and Sweden and Denmark) prior to 4000 years bp: a decline in distribution 2000 years ago: It became absent from the Norwegian coast 1000 years ago. Data suggest that it was distributed on the coast and in the fjord systems in winter and early spring. The presence of bones of juveniles/subadults indicates that it was also distributed in northern Norway in the autumn. To evaluate possible size differences, in time and space, nine bone elements have been measured according to standard recommendations. Multiple imputation was used to handle missing data before any statistical analysis. Analyses indicate that bones from Nordland are larger than from the rest of the country, while bones from the northernmost sites are smaller. At some localities, size differences, especially in total length of the bones, are found. It has not been verified if this is due to individual variation or sexual differences. The great auk became extinct in the 19th century. The study supports the theory that human predation at breeding sites was the main cause of its extinction.