A recently extinct palm from Easter Island

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The former existence of palms on Easter Island has been demonstrated palynologically1,2, but the genus could not be determined from pollen morphology. We now report the discovery on the island of endocarps (shells) from palm fruits which appear to bethose of an extinct species related to the Chilean ‘wine palm’, Jubaea chilensis (Molina) Baillon. The endocarps, found in caves, have all been gnawed by rodents, which could have helped to make the species extinct. The radiocarbon age of the endocarps is 820 ± 40 yr BP, which falls within the phase during which deforestation occurred on the island2 and the giant statues (moai) were erected1,3. Decline of the palm could have contributed to the decline of the moai culture.

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