Conservation status

All known species of Nesophontidae are considered extinct. Most or all species of Nesophontidae were probably contemporaneous with man, including Native Americans and the early European colonizers of the Antilles, the latter from A.D. 1500 onward.

There are no documented records of living nesophontid species. All that zoologists know about the genus and species is from skulls and scatted postcranial bones found in owl pellets. Some such pellets are found alongside other owl pellets containing bones of Old World rats and mice, indicating that some of the species were still alive when Europeans began colonizing the islands. Predation by and competition with Old World rats, along with extensive deforestation, probably brought about the extinction of the Nesophontidae.

There is a small possibility that a few nesophontid species may still survive. Fresh remains, in barn owl pellets, were found as recently as the 1930s in Haiti. Some of the bones retained bits of dried, yet fresh-looking, tissue. It was accordingly suggested that some species of Nesophontes might yet be extant. Nevertheless, more recent searches for living nesophontids by researchers in Hispaniola and Puerto Rico found no convincing evidence of survivors. More recently, researchers recovered some Nesophontes material from Cueva (cave) Jurg, Parque Nacional Sierra de Baoruco, Dominican Republic, that included a few hairs and tiny bits of dried tissue, but radiocarbon dating of the bone collagen estimates their age at about 700 years old.

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