Personal tools

Document Actions

Pollen, phytoliths, arthropods and high-resolution 14C sampling from Rano Kau, Easter Island: Evidence for late Quaternary environments, ant (Formicidae) distributions and human activity

by Mark Horrocks last modified 2013-11-15 08:17 AM

Horrocks M, Marra M, Baisden WT, Flenley J, Feek D, González Nualart L, Haoa-Cardinali S, Edmunds Gorman T. 2013. Journal of Paleolimnology 50, 417-432.


A 20-m sediment core from Rano Kau, Easter Island provides plant microfossil, arthropod fossil and high-resolution 14C sampling evidence for late Quaternary environments, ant (Formicidae) distributions and human activity. The record commences prior to or during the LGM, providing the two oldest dates for Rano Kau thus far, 20,340 ± 160 and 34,260 ± 440 BP. The vegetation at the time was mostly Arecaceae (palm)-dominated grassland-woodland, suggesting cooler/drier conditions than present. Near the start of the Holocene c. 12,500 cal BP, climate alleviation is indicated by Asteraceae shrubland increasing at the expense of grassland. There is an early to mid-Holocene sediment hiatus. The record recommences c. 3,500 cal BP, with in-washed clayey soils bearing charcoal and phytoliths of Polynesian-introduced Musa (banana) and mixed with wetland detritus, reflecting slumping as a result of forest clearance and gardening. Dates of material of other plants from the clay/detritus layers containing the Musa phytoliths are older than expected, within the range 3,680-2,750 cal BP, well before settlement of Eastern Polynesia. This could reflect horticultural material settling in an older part of the sediment column or age increase by reservoir effects.

A long section of overlying unconsolidated detritus provides a progressively younger upward sequence from 2,840-2,870 to 930-810 cal BP, but dates are variable after 1,290-1,180 cal BP, where charcoal, disturbance-related pollen and older than expected ant exoskeletons demonstrate the inclusion of pre-aged material from the floating vegetation mats or upslope erosion in the sediment column. Arecaceae pollen declines sharply after 930-810 cal BP. Arthropod analysis reveals two new weevil species for Easter Island, and two ant taxa, Tetramorium bicarinatum and Pheidole sp., the latter of which is also new for the island. Three of the four age determinations on ant remains suggest that ants were present prior to c. 2,500 cal BP, and probably associated with the period following the resumption of sediment accumulation c. 3,500 cal BP. Unless the apparent ant 14C ages have been increased by reservoir effects, these results question the long-accepted assumption that all Eastern Polynesia’s ant species have been introduced.


14C, pollen, phytoliths, arthropods, ants, agriculture, Easter Island.

Copyright © 2004 Microfossil Research Ltd
Website designed by Enterprise Web Services NZ Ltd
Website hosted and maintained by Winterhouse Consulting Ltd

Powered by Plone