Navigation Links
Moa get fewer: Landmark study
Date:11/18/2009

The evolutionary history of New Zealand's many extinct flightless moa has been re-written in the first comprehensive study of more than 260 sub-fossil specimens to combine all known genetic, anatomical, geological and ecological information about the unique bird lineage.

That lineage ended only about 600 years ago after a journey through time that most likely began about 80 million years earlier on the prehistoric supercontinent of Gondwana, according to the study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by an international team of researchers.

Found on the south and north islands of New Zealand, the evolutionary history and relationships between the moa species has long been subject to scientific debate, with past studies suggesting that up to 64 species existed with as many as 20 generic groups.

The new study found that moas should be grouped into only three families, six genera and it reduced the number of species to nine. The most recent species were relatively modern, evolving in the South Island only after the uplift of the Southern Alps between 5 and 8.5 million years ago.

Periodical land bridges, created by geological events and sea-level changes, allowed some of these species to cross over to the North Island.

The many species of moa are thought to have descended from a common ancestor of other large living flightless birds that evolved on separate southern landmasses when Gondwana broke up: the ostrich in Africa; the emu and cassowary in Australia; the rhea in South America; and New Zealand's kiwi. Another presumed relative was the extinct giant elephant bird in Madagascar.

New Zealand broke away from Gondwana at least 60 million years ago and a wide variety of moas subsequently evolved there, ranging in size from a large turkey to the three-metre tall Dinornis, which weighed up to 300 kg.

Maori people are known to have killed large numbers of birds for their meat, eggs and feathers - moa is a Polynesian word for chicken - after they arrived on the islands about 1,000 years ago. All the nine living species were gone within a few centuries.

The study also presents an important new geological/paleogeographical model, which suggests that land-dwelling animals on the North and South Island landmasses were isolated for most of the past 20-30 million years.

"The prolonged geographic isolation of New Zealand and the paucity of terrestrial mammals created a unique ecosystem dominated by an estimated 245 species of birds, providing an unparalleled opportunity to observe evolutionary processes," says Dr Trevor Worthy, a palaeontologist from the UNSW School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, who was one of the 11 members of study team.

"Our study reveals that the patterns of genetic diversity within and between different moa groups reflect a complex history following a major drowning of the New Zealand landmass in the Oligocene [23 to 34 million years ago]. Their history was then affected by a series of marine barriers, tectonic activity and glacial cycles.

"We were surprised to discover just how recently many of the moa species - and probably many of the iconic New Zealand animals and plants - evolved in the South Island after the uplift of the Alps. The Alps brought rain and allowed wet rainforests to develop in the west and generated a drier, warmer climate to the east, creating a mix of upland and lowland environments, wet and dry habitats and a variety of forest, shrubland, and grasslands."


'/>"/>

Contact: Bob Beale
bbeale@unsw.edu.au
61-249-303-440
University of New South Wales
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Safeway Inc. and PCF to fund landmark prostate cancer research collaboration
2. SAGE and Hindawi announce landmark open access agreement
3. Landmark studies assess risk of exposure to elevated levels of EMS confirm clear toxicity threshold
4. Childrens national co-leads nationwide study of landmark sickle cell treatment
5. Landmark study opens door to new cancer, aging treatments
6. Landmark study unlocks stem cell, DNA secrets to speed therapies
7. Landmark national study reveals significance of green practices in attractions industry
8. 150 years of Darwins landmark book spawns international conference
9. ACLU -- Myriad Genetics lawsuit will become landmark case
10. Landmark project to map genomics of complex ant systems
11. Carnegie donates landmark clones to biology
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:4/14/2016)... , April 14, 2016 ... and Malware Detection, today announced the appointment of ... the new role. Goldwerger,s leadership appointment comes ... the heels of the deployment of its platform at ... behavioral biometric technology, which discerns unique cognitive and physiological ...
(Date:3/31/2016)... March 31, 2016  Genomics firm Nabsys has completed ... Barrett Bready , M.D., who returned to the ... original technical leadership team, including Chief Technology Officer, ... Development, Steve Nurnberg and Vice President of Software and ... company. Dr. Bready served as CEO of ...
(Date:3/22/2016)... India , March 22, 2016 /PRNewswire/ ... market research report "Electronic Sensors Market for Consumer ... Proximity, & Others), Application (Communication & IT, ... Geography - Global Forecast to 2022", published ... industry is expected to reach USD 26.76 ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... Mosio, a leader in ... Trials Patient Recruitment and Retention Tips.” Partnering with experienced clinical research professionals, Mosio ... practical tips, tools, and strategies for clinical researchers. , “The landscape of how ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... SILVER SPRING, Md. , June 23, 2016 ... evidence collected from the crime scene to track the criminal ... sick, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) uses ... Sound far-fetched? It,s not. ... whole genome sequencing to support investigations of foodborne illnesses. Put ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... NEW YORK , June, 23, 2016  The ... students to envision new ways to harness living systems ... of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York ... more than 130 participating students, showcased projects at MoMA,s ... included Paola Antonelli , MoMA,s senior curator of ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... 2016 , ... In a new case report published today in STEM CELLS ... developed lymphedema after being treated for breast cancer benefitted from an injection of stem ... with this debilitating, frequent side effect of cancer treatment. , Lymphedema refers ...
Breaking Biology Technology: