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Unformatted text preview: REPORT S.R. Wing E.S. Wing Prehistoric sheries in the Caribbean Received: 1 October 1999 /Accepted: 19 September 2000 / Published online: 19 May 2001 Springer-Verlag 2001 Abstract We studied faunal remains from archaeologi- cal sites on ve Caribbean islands, each with an early 1,8501,280 years B . P .) and late 1,415560 years B . P .) occupation. On each of these islands Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, St. Martin, Saba, and Nevis), the mean size of reef shes in the faunal remains declined from the early to the late occupation. The large samples from sites on St. Thomas and Nevis allowed examination of the size distribution of individual taxa. Samples of obligate reef shes Scaridae, Acanthuridae, Lutjanidae, and Serra- nidae) showed large reductions in size between the early and late occupations. Samples of facultative reef shes Carangidae and Clupeidae) showed little change in size frequency distribution. The percentage of estimated reef sh biomass in the total aquatic faunal record sharply declined in the samples from four of the islands, while on Nevis there was a slight increase. The mean trophic level of reef shes declined from the early to the late occu- pations on each island. Together these patterns suggest that populations of reef shes adjacent to occupation sites on these islands were heavily exploited in prehis- toric times. Such exploitation resulted in shifts in size structure and species composition among the reef sh fauna. On some islands the decline in reef sh resources corresponded with a shift towards greater exploitation of pelagic species. Keywords Caribbean Prehistoric sheries Species shift Trophic level analysis Introduction Eorts to understand modern patterns in reef sh pop- ulations in the Caribbean and other tropical reef systems are hampered by a lack of understanding of historical patterns of exploitation Jackson 1997). People have shed coral reefs for at least 2,000 years in the Carib- bean. However, few sheries have an historical record dating back more than 50 years Pauly et al. 1998). As a consequence, very little is known about how great the eects of human exploitation have been on marine sys- tems in the Caribbean or in other areas. To what extent have the ghosts of past exploitation inuenced modern patterns of distribution and abundance? Historical re- cords suggest that profound changes have occurred since European contact, but what state were Caribbean ma- rine systems in before contact? Tangible evidence for the history and pattern of exploitation of these resources can be examined in the form of faunal remains exca- vated from archaeological sites. These fragmentary re- mains include vertebrate skeletal specimens, molluscan shells, and crab exoskeletons....
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