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Inheritance, ecology and the evolution of the canoes of east Oceania

Beheim, Bret A., Bell, Adrian V.
Proceedings 2011 v.278 no.1721 pp. 3089-3095
construction materials, die-off, evolution, geomorphology, models, population size, selection methods, Hawaii, New Zealand
We consider patterns in the evolution of canoe technology in the eastern Pacific relative to three general processes: movement of canoe traits along the Polynesian settlement sequence, adaptations to local island environment, and post-settlement interaction between island groups. Using model selection methods on the distributions of canoe technology, we show that social and ecological covariates together consistently outperform each considered individually, though knowledge of island area and post-settlement trading spheres does not add explanatory power. In particular, decorative canoe traits are not effectively explained by either our ecological or transmission models. We also estimate negative effects from both settlement sequence and island geomorphology, consistent with the die-off of particular canoe designs on resource-rich high island groups such as Hawaii and New Zealand. This decline in measured traits may be owing to the lifting of ecological constraints on population size or building materials.