Study theorizes voyagers left French Polynesia during ciguatera outbreak





Food poisoning, not wanderlust, may have inspired early Polynesian wayfarers to undertake risky voyages across the Pacific to Hawai'i, New Zealand and Rapa Nui, according to new research.

Using archaeological evidence, prehistoric climate data and recent reports of ciguatera poisoning from the consumption of contaminated reef fish, researchers at the Florida Institute of Technology theorize that climate conditions conducive to ciguatera outbreaks may have occurred in French Polynesia between A.D. 1000 and 1450 — an active period of Polynesian voyaging and colonization.

"Notwithstanding the adventurous spirit of people of the distant past, we suggest that when ciguatera fish poisoning became chronic, people migrated out of necessity," said a study by Teina Rongo, a doctorate student at the university's Department of Biological Sciences, and his faculty advisers, professors Robert van Woesik and Mark Bush.


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