- History of the moa
- Main cause of extinction
- Moa skeleton reconstruction
- Description of the moa bird
- New Research
- Interesting facts
Moa birds are a vivid example of what can happen to humanity if the habitat becomes as comfortable and devoid of various threats as possible.
History of the moa
Once upon a time, New Zealand was a paradise on earth for all birds: not a single mammal lived there (except for the bat). No predators, no dinosaurs. Scientists studying the moa bird found a feather, examined DNA and found out that its first representatives arrived on the islands more than 2000 years ago. These birds were comfortable in the new conditions, because the absence of large predators made their existence very carefree. The only threat to them was only a very large haast eagle. The moa's plumage was brown with a greenish-yellowish undertone, which served as good camouflage and sometimes protected from this bird of prey.
Moas didn't have to fly away from anyone, so their wings atrophied and later disappeared altogether. They moved only on their strong paws. They ate leaves, roots, fruits. Moa evolved under these conditions, and over time there were more than 10 species of these birds. Some were very large: 3 meters in height, weighed more than 200 kg, and the eggs of such individuals reached 30 cm in diameter. Somesmaller: only 20 kg, they called them "bush moas". The females were much larger than the males.
Main cause of extinction
When the Maori arrived on the islands of New Zealand in the 13th and 14th centuries AD, it was the beginning of the end for the moas. These representatives of the Polynesian peoples had only one pet - a dog that helped them hunt. They ate taro, ferns, yams and sweet potatoes, and wingless moa birds were considered a special "tasty". Since the latter could not fly, they became very easy prey.
Scientists believe that the rats brought by the Maori also contributed to the extinction of these birds. Moas are officially considered an extinct species that ceased to exist in the 16th century. However, there is evidence of eyewitnesses who had the honor to see very large birds in New Zealand in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
Moa skeleton reconstruction
Scientists have long been interested in studying the extinct moa bird. There were many skeletons and remains of egg shells on the islands, which, of course, pleased paleontologists, but they could not meet living individuals, although many expeditions were organized to almost all corners of the islands of New Zealand. The first who began to study the history of extinction and examine the remains of these birds was Richard Owen. This famous English zoologist and paleontologist recreated the moa skeleton from the femur, which was a great contribution to the history of the development of vertebrates inoverall.
Description of the moa bird
Moa flightless birds belong to the moa-like order, the species is dinornis. Their growth can exceed 3 m, weight - from 20 to 240 kg. The moa clutch had only one or two eggs. The color of the shell is white with a beige, greenish or bluish tint. Hatched clutch for 3 months.
After analyzing the bone tissue, scientists determined that these birds reached sexual maturity after 10 years. Almost like people.
Moa is a keelless bird, its closest relative can be considered a kiwi. In appearance, it is most similar to an ostrich: an elongated neck, a slightly flattened head, and a curved beak.
Moa ate low-growing plants, roots, fruits. He pulled bulbs out of the ground and plucked young shoots. Next to the skeletons of these birds, scientists found pebbles. They suggested that this was the contents of the stomach, because many modern birds also swallow pebbles to help break up food, so it is better digested.
In the middle of the last century, a sensation thundered throughout the world. Allegedly, someone was lucky enough to take a picture of a live moa. It was an article in a British publication, the photo was a blurry silhouette of an unknown feathered one. Later, the deception was exposed, it turned out to be a common fabrication of the media.
However, twenty years ago, interest in this bird revived again. A naturalist from Australia put forward the idea that these birds can still be found on the islands, but not the large individuals that scientists expected to see, but small moas. He went toNorth Island. There he managed to capture several dozen traces of a similar bird. Rex Gilroy - that's the name of the naturalist - cannot claim that the paw prints he saw really belong to the moa.
The second scientist refuted Gilroy's guesses, because if these birds are really alive, then there would be much more traces.
Scientists believe that the females of these birds were much larger and heavier than males. In addition, there were more of them. They settled in fertile territories and forced out the "stronger sex" from there.
Moas were a very large population, as evidenced by the abundance of skeletons that survive to this day.
Some ornithologists believe that these birds lost their ability to fly after the extinction of the dinosaurs, that is, long before they ended up on the islands of New Zealand.