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

t, 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."


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

Page: 1 2

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