Smallpox: a bird's best friend?

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Over seven years a California archeologist analyzed 5,700 bird bones from a huge Indian shell/waste mound on the shores of San Francisco Bay. The bones laid out a 1900-year history of the Indians’ bird hunting. They’d hunted dozens of wild bird species to local extinction, starting with the biggest geese and working their way clear down to tiny sandpipers. . .

The early European settlers found birds in abundance only because Spanish explorers had inadvertently brought such epidemic diseases as smallpox and measles, starting about 1500 AD. The shell mound shows that the Indian population crashed by 90 percent, and the Bay area bird populations then recovered.

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