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Moa bones reveal munching habits – Expert reaction

John Kerr posted in on January 13th, 2016.

New Zealand’s nine extinct moa species were surprisingly diverse in their diets, reveals sophisticated 3D modelling research from New Zealand and Australian scientists. A new study, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, uses 3D scanning technology to create models of moa skull structure based on fossilised remains of the […]

Pluto steals the limelight in stellar block-out

John Kerr posted in on June 30th, 2015.

Stargazers this morning caught a glimpse of a rare astronomical event as ‘dwarf planet’ Pluto passed in front of a distant star. Known as a ‘stellar occultation‘, the passing of Pluto in front of the star will allow astronomers to learn more about the dwarf planet, including clues about the make-up of Pluto’s atmosphere. Data […]

Second study confirms moa’s rapid extinction caused by early settlers

Laura Goodall posted in on November 10th, 2014.

Even small human populations can wipe out big animal species, according to New Zealand research that suggests the moa extinction happened rapidly and at the hands of a small number of early settlers. The study – led by Canterbury University’s Professor Richard Holdaway and Otago University’s Chris Jacomb – found that there were fewer than 1500 Polynesian settlers in New […]

When did the last moa die?

John Kerr posted in on October 24th, 2014.

It is hard to know exactly when the last of New Zealand’s iconic giant birds kicked the proverbial bucket, but new research has come up with the most accurate guess to date.  Moa likely became extinct sometime between 1440-1445 AD, according to a new study from University of Auckland and Landcare Research scientists. The narrow […]

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Moa, kiwi lost flight independently

John Kerr posted in on May 15th, 2014.

Flightless birds of a feather don’t always flock together, at least in an evolutionary sense. While the moa and kiwi are both flightless birds and part of the species group known as ratites, they may have evolved to become non-flying species independently according to genetic research from a Canadian team – including New Zealander Prof […]

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Australians claim Kiwi’s ancestor

John Kerr posted in on December 20th, 2013.

Is New Zealand’s national bird about to go the way of Phar Lapp, Crowded House and pavlova? The Aussies are almost claiming the Kiwi, but not quite. New research suggests that the Kiwi is not a dwarf version of the Moa, as some theories suggest, but in fact shares a common ancestor with the emu […]

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Fossilised moa droppings a window to the past

John Kerr posted in on October 2nd, 2013.

Bits of pollen, plant matter and DNA in fossilised moa poo offer clues to the giant birds’ eating habits.  A new study led by Landcare Research has carefully analysed 51 moa coprolites — fossilised faeces — excavated from a single rock overhang at Daley’s Flat in the Dart River Valley in the South Island. The […]

How many other ‘Earths’ are out there?

John Kerr posted in on April 4th, 2013.

New Zealand researchers are proposing a new method for identifying and recording Earth-like planets orbiting distant stars, anticipating there could be 100 billion such planets in the Milky Way alone. Dr Phil Yock from the University of Auckland and colleagues are proposing to combine data from the NASA Kepler space telescope with a technique called […]

NZ’s early natural history in Scientific American

John Kerr posted in on November 15th, 2012.

Freelance geologist David Bressan, blogging for Scientific American, writes about the early investigations into ‘giant birds’ reported by European settlers in New Zealand. An excerpt (read in full here): Ka ngaro i te ngaro a te Moa Strange stories of strange birds and even stranger fossils were coming from the end of the world during […]

Moa populations stable until humans arrived

John Kerr posted in on August 8th, 2012.

Researchers have analysed DNA from bones of a number of giant extinct moa and used the data to make inferences about the size of the ancient moa population in New Zealand. The research found that despite significant significant climate and environmental changes , the moa population size of the giant moa remained stable over the […]

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