A thousand years ago, the islands of The Bahamas were home to land-dwelling crocodiles and large tortoises. They were the island’s top predators and prey species before humans arrived in the archipelago. An abrupt change in the island’s animal populations occurred around the same time people migrated into the Bahamian Archipelago.
Dr. David Steadman, associate director for Research and Collections at the University of Florida, and curator of Ornithology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, spoke about natural and human factors that brought about the extinction of birds on Abaco.
Among the most recent of many puzzle pieces to be painstakingly extracted from Abaco’s Sawmill Sink blue hole is described in a report recently published in the prestigious ‘Proceedings of the National Academies of Science’ (PNAS).
When you listen to Brian Kakuk, local cave diving specialist, you are transported. There is a magical world beneath your feet stretching out for miles and miles underground; decorated with stalactites, stalagmites, crystals and fossils. The only way into this seemingly fantasy realm is via the blue holes: beautiful, and sometimes ominous, openings though the fresh water lens scattered throughout Abaco and The Bahamas.
Why would anyone care about the mud at the bottom of a bluehole? Sure, many people have heard about the brilliant tortoise and crocodile fossils preserved in some of Abaco’s blue holes, and the importance of those fossils to the natural history of The Bahamas. The secrets in the blueholes, however, extend beyond the fossils. It turns out that the sediment filling in the blueholes over time is a trove of information about climate and hurricane activity on Abaco Island.
Jennifer Macalady, a geomicrobiology research professor from Pennsylvania State University, is studying microbial life in Abaco’s blue holes and is getting a look back in time.