Why did so many hutia go extinct during the Holocene? Two hypotheses, one involving natural cycles of climate change and the other overhunting by humans, have been difficult to parse thus far. I will use tools from genomics, archaeology, and paleoclimatology to evaluate these competing hypotheses. I will construct genomes for the Jamaican (Geocapromys brownii) and Hispaniolan (Plagiodontia aedium) hutias. Using SMC++, I will use these genomes to infer the population histories for these species. These population trends will be compared against local paleoclimatic and archaeological datasets in order to infer whether natural climate change or human arrival led to the decline and extinction of related species of hutias. Understanding what pressures hutias are most sensitive to is critical for informing their conservation management.
Figure legend: Comparison of δ18O (precipitation), δ13C (productivity), faunal last appearance dates, and human first arrival dates for several sites in Cuba over the Holocene. The comparison of these disparate data types can help us infer the causes behind extinctions in hutias. Figure produced by Christina Giovas, Zachary Masson, Anna McPherran, and Jessica Stone as part of a SESYNC pursuit.