Simon Collins of the NZ Herald reports recent research suggesting that the moa originally came to New Zealand by flying here from South America, but was subsequently stranded when it lost the ability to fly.
Research looking at moa genetics showed that their closest relatives are not other flightless birds such as the emu and cossawary, but instead a small, quail-like South American bird called the tinamou.
An excerpt: (read in full here)
“Massey University’s Professor David Penny, co-author of a paper on the issue in the journal Systematic Biology, said the moa’s ancestors probably flew here from South America via Antarctica 30 to 40 million years ago when the southern continents were much closer together than today.
“He said they probably lost the ability to fly, and developed into much larger birds up to 3.7m high, when they found no natural predators in the small islands that dotted the sea where New Zealand is today.
“”Many different kinds of birds have lost flight, so there is nothing unusual about that,” he said.”