Navigation Links
Scientists 'rebuild' giant moa using ancient DNA

Scientists have performed the first DNA-based reconstruction of the giant extinct moa bird, using prehistoric feathers recovered from caves and rock shelters in New Zealand.

Researchers from the University of Adelaide and Landcare Research in New Zealand have identified four different moa species after retrieving ancient DNA from moa feathers believed to be at least 2500 years old.

The giant birds measuring up to 2.5 metres and weighing 250 kilograms were the dominant animals in New Zealand's pre-human environment but were quickly exterminated after the arrival of the Maori around 1280AD.

PhD student Nicolas Rawlence from the University's Australian Centre for Ancient DNA says until now, the scientific community has not known what the 10 different species of moa looked like. "By using ancient DNA we have been able to connect feathers to four different moa species," he says.

The researchers compared the feathers to others found in the sediments from red-crowned parakeets that are still living today, determining they had not faded or changed in colour. They then reconstructed the appearance of the stout-legged moa, heavy-footed moa, upland moa and the South Island giant moa.

Their findings were published today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B.

"The surprising thing is that while many of the species had a similar, relatively plain brown plumage for camouflage, some had white-tipped feathers to create a speckled appearance," Mr Rawlence says.

A co-author of the study, Dr Jamie Wood from Landcare Research, says it is likely that the drab colouring was driven by selection to avoid predation by the extinct Haast's eagle, the largest and most powerful eagle in the world.

The research team also demonstrated that it is possible to retrieve DNA from all parts of the ancient feathers, not just the tip of the quill, as previously thought.

"This important finding opens the way to study DNA from museum bird skins while causing almost no damage to these valuable specimens, just by clipping a small part of a single feather," says Dr Kyle Armstrong from the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD).

ACAD Director Professor Alan Cooper says this finding suggests it may be possible to reconstruct the appearance of other extinct birds using feathers from fossil deposits.

"There are so many enigmatic extinct species that it would be great to see 'clothed'," Professor Cooper says.


Contact: Nicolas Rawlence
University of Adelaide

Related biology news :

1. Double success for Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia scientists working on chromosome segregation
2. International team of students and scientists on month-long field course in Siberian Arctic
3. Scientists find a biological fountain of youth in new world bat caves
4. Harvard scientists solve mystery about why HIV patients are more susceptible to TB infection
5. Scripps Research scientists observe human neurodegenerative disorder in fruit flies
6. CSHL scientists harness logic of Sudoku math puzzle to vastly enhance genome-sequencing capability
7. International collaboration by scientists culminates in novel ion channels database
8. Childrens Hospital Oakland scientists first to discover new source for harvesting stem cells
9. Leading scientists and scholars urge action on climate issues
10. Scientists capture the first image of memories being made
11. Scientists sequence genome of the N2-fixing, soil-living bacterium Azotobacter vinelandii
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/18/2015)... , Nov. 18, 2015  As new scientific ... children, doctors and other healthcare providers face challenges in ... families and patients. In addition, as more children continue ... a patient,s adulthood and old age. John ... The Children,s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) . ...
(Date:11/17/2015)... Paris , qui s,est tenu ... Paris , qui s,est tenu du 17 au ... l,innovation biométrique, a inventé le premier scanner couplé, qui ... même surface de balayage. Jusqu,ici, deux scanners étaient nécessaires, ... digitales. Désormais, un seul scanner est en mesure de ...
(Date:11/16/2015)... Calif. , Nov 16, 2015  Synaptics ... of human interface solutions, today announced expansion of ... TouchView ™ touch controller and display driver ... revolution of smartphones. These new TDDI products add ... TD4100 (HD resolution), TD4302 (WQHD resolution), and TD4322 ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/25/2015)... (PRWEB) , ... November 25, 2015 , ... ... company uBiome, were featured on AngelList early in their initial angel funding process. ... AngelList syndicate for individuals looking to make early stage investments in the microbiome ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... , Nov. 24, 2015 Halozyme Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ: ... Conference in New York on Wednesday, December ... Helen Torley , president and CEO, will provide a corporate overview. ... New York at 1:00 p.m. ET/10:00 a.m. PT . ... investor relations, will provide a corporate overview. --> th ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... 2015 /PRNewswire/ - Aeterna Zentaris Inc. (NASDAQ:  AEZS) (TSX: AEZ) ... of the Toronto Stock Exchange, confirms that as of ... corporate developments that would cause the recent movements in ... --> About Aeterna Zentaris Inc. ... Aeterna Zentaris is a specialty biopharmaceutical company engaged ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... November 24, 2015 , ... The Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA), led by ... known as Multirotor Grand Prix, to represent the First–Person View (FPV) racing community. , ... have embraced this type of racing and several new model aviation pilots have joined ...
Breaking Biology Technology: