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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Fossil range: Miocene–Holocene
Miocene - 1500 AD (Holocene)
Moa attacked by a Haast's Eagle
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Superorder: Paleognathae
Order: Struthioniformes
Family: Dinornithidae
(Bonaparte, 1853)[1]

Anomalopteryx bush moa or lesser moa
Euryapteryx stout-legged moa or coastal moa
Megalapteryx upland moa
Dinornis giant moa
Emeus eastern moa
Pachyornis Mappin’s moa, heavy-footed moa, or crested moa

6 Genera, 10 Species


The moa[2][3] were ten species (in six genera) of flightless birds endemic to New Zealand. The two largest species, Dinornis robustus and Dinornis novaezelandiae, reached about 3.7 m (12 ft) in height with neck outstretched, and weighed about 230 kg (510 lb).[4]

Moa are members of the order Struthioniformes (or ratites). The ten species of moa are the only wingless birds, lacking even the vestigial wings which all other ratites have. They were the dominant herbivores in New Zealand forest, shrubland and subalpine ecosystems for thousands of years, and until the arrival of the Māori were hunted only by the Haast's Eagle. All species are generally believed to have become extinct by 1500 AD, mainly due to hunting by Māori.



Comparison of a kiwi, ostrich, and Dinornis, each with its egg

The kiwi were formerly regarded as the closest relatives of the moa, but comparisons of their DNA in a paper published in 2005 suggested moa were more closely related to the Australian emu and cassowary.[5] However research published in 2010 found that the moa's closest cousins were not the emu and cassowary but smaller terrestrial South American birds called the tinamous which are able to fly[6].

Although dozens of species were described in the late 1800s and early 1900s, many were based on partial skeletons and turned out to be synonyms. Currently, ten species are formally recognised, although recent studies using ancient DNA recovered from bones in museum collections suggest that distinct lineages exist within some of these. One factor that has caused much confusion in moa taxonomy is the intraspecific variation of bone sizes, between glacial and inter-glacial periods (see Bergmann’s rule and Allen’s rule) as well as sexual dimorphism being evident in several species. The Dinornis seem to have had the most pronounced degree of sexual dimorphism, with females being up to 150% as tall and 280% as heavy as males—so much bigger that they were formerly classified as separate species until 2003.[7][8]

Although moa were traditionally reconstructed in an upright position to create impressive height, analysis of their vertebral articulation indicates that they probably carried their heads forward[9], in the manner of a kiwi. This would have allowed them to graze on low-level vegetation, while being able to lift their heads and browse trees when necessary.

Ancient DNA analyses have determined that there were a number of cryptic evolutionary lineages in several moa genera. These may eventually be classified as species or subspecies; Megalapteryx benhami (Archey) which is synonymised with M. didinus (Owen) because the bones of both share all essential characters. Size differences can be explained by a north-south cline combined with temporal variation such that specimens were larger during the Otiran glacial period (the last ice age in New Zealand). Similar temporal size variation is known for the North Island Pachyornis mappini.[10] Some of the other 'Large' ranges in variation for moa species can probably be explained by similar geographic and temporal factors.[11]

Sometimes, the Dinornithidae are considered to be a full order (Dinornithiformes), in which case the subfamilies listed below would be advanced to full family status (replacing "-inae" with "-idae").

Anomalopteryx didiformus skeleton
Emeus crassus fossil, Zoologisk Museum, Copenhagen

Thus, the currently recognised genera and species are:[4]

  • Family †Dinornithidae - Moa
    • Subfamily Megalapteryginae - Megalapteryx Moa
      • Genus Megalapteryx
        • Upland Moa, Megalapteryx didinus (South Island, New Zealand)
    • Subfamily Anomalopteryginae - Lesser Moa
    • Subfamily Dinornithinae - Giant Moa

Regional faunas

Analyses of fossil moa bone assemblages [9][12][13][14][15][16][17] have provided detailed data on the habitat preferences of individual moa species, and revealed distinctive regional moa faunas:

South Island

Restoration of Dinornis giganteus and Pachyornis elephantopus, both from the South Island

The two main faunas identified in South Island include: 1. The fauna of the high rainfall west coast beech (Nothofagus) forests that included Anomalopteryx didiformis and Dinornis giganteus; and 2. The fauna of the dry rainshadow forest and shrublands east of the Southern Alps that included Pachyornis elephantopus, Euryapteryx gravis, Emeus crassus and Dinornis robustus. The two other moa species that existed in South Island; Pachyornis australis and Megalapteryx didinus might be included in a ‘subalpine fauna’, along with the widespread Dinornis robustus. P. australis is the rarest of the moa species, and the only one yet to have been found in Maori middens. Its bones have been found in caves in the northwest Nelson and Karamea districts (such as Honeycomb Hill Cave), and some sites around the Wanaka district. M. didinus is more widespread. Its name ‘upland moa’ reflects the fact its bones are commonly found in the subalpine zone. However, it also occurred down to sea level where there was suitable steep and rocky terrain (such as Punakaiki on the west coast and Central Otago).

North Island

Significantly less is known about North Island paleofaunas, due to a paucity of fossil sites compared to South Island; however, the basic pattern of moa-habitat relationships were the same.[9] Although South Island and North Island shared some moa species (Euryapteryx gravis, Anomalopteryx didiformis), most were exclusive to one island, reflecting divergence over several thousand years since lower sea level had resulted in a land bridge across Cook Strait. In the North Island, Dinornis novaezealandiae and Anomalopteryx didiformis dominated in high rainfall forest habitat; a similar pattern to South Island. The other moa species present in North Island (Euryapteryx gravis, E. curtus, and Pachyornis geranoides) tended to inhabit drier forest and shrubland habitats. P. geranoides occurred throughout the North Island, while the distributions of E. gravis and E. curtus were almost mutually exclusive, the former having only been found in coastal sites around the southern half of North Island.[9]


It has been long suspected that the pairs of species of moa described as Euryapteryx curtus/E. exilis, Emeus huttonii/E. crassus, and Pachyornis septentrionalis/P. mappini constituted males and females, respectively. This has been confirmed by analysis for sex-specific genetic markers of DNA extracted from bone material.[7] For example, prior to 2003 there were three species of Dinornis recognised: South Island giant moa (D. giganteus), North Island giant moa (D. novaezealandiae) and slender moa (D. struthioides). However, DNA showed that all D. struthioides were in fact males, and all D. giganteus were females. Therefore the three species of Dinornis were reclassified as two species, one each formerly occurring on New Zealand's North Island (D. novaezealandiae) and South Island (D. robustus);[7][8] robustus however, comprises three distinct genetic lineages and may eventually be classified as many species as discussed above.


Dinornis giganteus skull at the Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin

Although feeding moa were never observed by scientists their diet has been deduced from fossilised contents of their gizzards,[18][19] coprolites,[20] as well as indirectly through morphological analysis of skull and beak, and stable isotope analysis of their bones.[9] Moa fed on a range of plant species and plant parts, including fibrous twigs and leaves taken from low trees and shrubs. The beak of Pachyornis elephantopus was analogous to a pair of secateurs, and was able to clip the fibrous leaves of New Zealand flax (Phormium tenax) and twigs up to at least 8mm in diameter.[19] Like many other birds, moa swallowed gizzard stones (gastroliths), which were retained in their muscular gizzards, providing a grinding action that allowed them to eat coarse plant material. These stones were commonly smooth, rounded quartz pebbles, but stones over 110 millimetres (4 in) in length have been found amongst preserved moa gizzard contents.[19] Dinornis gizzards could often contain several kilograms of stone.[9]


Footprints of a large moa found in 1911

Approximately eight moa trackways, with fossilised moa footprint impressions in fluvial silts have been found throughout the North Island, including Waikanae Creek (1872), Napier (1887), Manawatu River (1895), Marton (1896), Palmerston North (1911) (see photograph to right), Ragitikei River (1939), and underwater in Lake Taupo (1973). Analysis of the spacing of these tracks indicate walking speeds of between 3 and 5 km/h (1.75–3 mph).[9]


Examination of growth rings present in moa cortical bone has revealed that these birds were K-strategists, as are many other large endemic New Zealand birds.[5] They are characterised by having low fecundity and a long maturation period, taking approximately ten years to reach adult size. The large Dinornis species took the same length of time to reach adult size as small moa species, and as a result had accelerated rate of skeletal growth during their juvenile years.[5]


Fragments of moa eggshell are often encountered in archaeological sites and sand dunes around the New Zealand coast. A total of 36 whole moa eggs exist in museum collections and vary greatly in size (from 120–240 millimetres (4.7–9.4 in) in length and 91–178 millimetres (3.6–7.0 in) wide)[21]. The outer surface of moa eggshell is characterised by small slit-shaped pores. The eggs of most moa species were white, although the upland moa (Megalapteryx didinus) is known to have had blue-green coloured eggs.


There is no evidence to suggest that moa were colonial nesters. While evidence of moa nesting is often inferred from accumulations of eggshell fragments found in caves and rock shelters, little evidence exists of the nests themselves. Excavations of rock shelters in the eastern North Island during the 1940s uncovered moa nests, which were described as "small depressions obviously scratched out in the soft dry pumice"[22]. Moa nesting material has also been recovered from rock shelters in the Central Otago region of South Island, where the dry climate has resulted in the preservation of plant material used to construct the nesting platform (including twigs that have been clipped by moa bills)[23]. Seeds and pollen within moa coprolites found amongst the nesting material provide evidence that the nesting season was late spring to summer.[23]


Although there is no surviving record of what sounds moa made, some idea of their calls can be gained from fossil evidence. The trachea of moa were supported by many small rings of bone known as tracheal rings. Excavation of these rings from articulated skeletons has shown that at least two moa genera (Euryapteryx and Emeus) exhibited tracheal elongation, that is, their trachea were up to 1 metre (3 ft) long and formed a large loop within the body cavity.[9] These are the only ratites known to exhibit this feature, which is also present in several other bird groups including swans, cranes and guinea fowl. The feature is associated with deep, resonant vocalisations that can travel long distances.

Feathers and soft tissues

Preserved Megalapteryx foot, Natural History Museum
Megalapteryx didinus head

Several remarkable examples of moa remains have been found that exhibit soft tissues (muscle, skin, feathers), preserved through desiccation when the bird died in a naturally dry site (for example, a cave with a constant dry breeze blowing through it). Most of these specimens have been found in the semi-arid Central Otago region, the driest part of New Zealand. These include:

  • Dried muscle on bones of a female Dinornis robustus found at Tiger Hill in the Manuherikia River Valley by gold miners in 1864[24] (currently held by Yorkshire Museum)
  • Several bones of Emeus crassus with muscle attached, and a row of neck vertebrae with muscle, skin and feathers collected from Earnscleugh Cave near the town of Alexandra in 1870[25] (currently held by Otago Museum)
  • An articulated foot of a male Dinornis rubustus with skin and foot pads preserved found in a crevice on the Knobby Range in 1874[26] (currently held by Otago Museum)
  • The type specimen of Megalapteryx didinus found near Queenstown in 1878[24] (currently held by Natural History Museum, London; see photograph of foot on this page)
  • The lower leg of Pachyornis elephantopus with skin and muscle from the Hector Range in 1884;[26][27] (currently held by the Zoology Department, Cambridge University)
  • The complete feathered leg of a Megalapteryx didinus from Old Man Range in 1894[28] (currently held by Otago Museum)
  • The head of a Megalapteryx didinus found near Cromwell sometime prior to 1949[29] (currently held by the Museum of New Zealand).

Two specimens are known from outside the Central Otago region:

  • A complete foot of Megalapteryx didinus found in a cave on Mount Owen near Nelson in 1980s[30] (currently held by the Museum of New Zealand)
  • A skeleton of Anomalopteryx didiformis with muscle, skin and feather bases collected from a cave near Te Anau in 1980.[31]

In addition to these specimens, loose moa feathers have been collected from caves and rockshelters in the southern South Island, and so some idea of the moa plumage can be gained. The preserved leg of Megalapteryx didinus from Old Man Range reveals that this species was feathered right down to the foot. This is likely to have been an adaptation to living in high altitude snowy environments, and is also seen in the Darwin’s Rhea which lives in a similar seasonally snowy habitat.[9] Moa feathers are up to 23 centimetres (9 in) long and a range of colours have been reported, including reddish brown, white, yellowish and purplish.[9] Dark feathers with white or creamy tips have also been found, and indicate that some moa species may have had plumage with a speckled appearance.


Early 20th century reconstruction of a moa hunt

The moa's only predator was the massive Haast's Eagle—until the arrival of human settlers.

The Māori arrived sometime before A.D. 1300, and all moa genera were soon driven to extinction by hunting and, to a lesser extent, forest clearance. By about A.D. 1400 all moa are generally thought to have become extinct, along with the Haast's Eagle which had relied on them for food. Recent research using carbon-14 dating of middens strongly suggests that this took less than a hundred years[32]; rather than the period of exploitation lasting several hundred years which had been earlier believed.

Some authors have speculated that a few Megalapteryx didinus may have persisted in remote corners of New Zealand until the 18th and even 19th centuries, but the view is not widely accepted.[27] Some Māori hunters claimed to be in pursuit of the moa as late as the 1770s. Whalers and sealers recalled seeing monstrous birds along the coast of the South Island, and in the 1820s a man named George Pauley made an unverified claim of seeing a moa in the Otago Region of New Zealand.[33][34] An expedition in the 1850's under Lieutenant A. Impey reported two Emu-like birds on a hillside, on the South Island, and an 1861 story from the Nelson Examiner told of three-toed footprints measuring 36 centimetres (14 in) between Takaka and Riwaka, found by a surveying party, and finally in 1878 the Otago Witness published an account from a farmer and his shepherd.[34]

Discovery by science

Sir Richard Owen with Dinornis robustus skeleton

Joel Polack, a trader who lived on the East Coast of the North Island from 1834 to 1837, records in 1838 that he had been shown 'several large fossil ossifications' found near Mt Hikurangi. He was certain that these were the bones of a species of emu or ostrich, noting that 'the Natives add that in times long past they received the traditions that very large birds had existed, but the scarcity of animal food, as well as the easy method of entrapping them, has caused their extermination'. Polack further noted that he had received reports from Māori that a 'species of Struthio' still existed in remote parts of the South Island.[35][36] Dieffenbach[37] also refers to a fossil from the area near Mt Hikurangi, and surmises that it belongs to 'a bird, now extinct, called Moa (or Movie) by the natives'. In 1839, John W. Harris, a Poverty Bay flax trader who was a natural history enthusiast, was given a piece of unusual bone by a Māori who had found it in a river bank. He showed the 15 centimetres (6 in) fragment of bone to his uncle, John Rule, a Sydney surgeon, who sent it to Richard Owen who at that time was working at the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons in London.[34] Owen became a noted biologist, anatomist and paleontologist at the British Museum.

Owen puzzled over the fragment for almost four years. He established it was part of the femur of a big animal, but it was uncharacteristically light and honeycombed. Owen announced to a skeptical scientific community and the world that it was from a giant extinct bird like an ostrich, and named it Dinornis. His deduction was ridiculed in some quarters but was proved correct with the subsequent discoveries of considerable quantities of moa bones throughout the country, sufficient to reconstruct skeletons of the birds.[34]

In July 2004, the Natural History Museum in London placed on display the moa bone fragment Owen had first examined, to celebrate 200 years since his birth, and in memory of Owen as founder of the museum.

Moa bone deposits

Since the discovery of the first moa bones in the late 1830s, thousands more bones have been found. These bones occur in a range of late Quaternary and Holocene sedimentary deposits, but are most common in three main sites:

Moa bones scattered across the floor of 'Moa Cave', Honeycomb Hill Cave System. This cave is a closed scientific reserve.

Bones are commonly found in Caves or ‘tomos’ (Maori word for doline or sinkhole; often used to refer to pitfalls or vertical cave shafts). The two main ways that the moa bones were deposited in such sites were: 1. Birds that entered the cave to nest or escape bad weather, and subsequently died in the cave; and 2. Birds that fell into a vertical shaft and were unable to escape. Moa bones (and the bones of other extinct birds) have been found in caves throughout New Zealand, especially in the limestone/marble areas of northwest Nelson, Karamea, Waitomo and Te Anau.


Moa bones and eggshell fragments sometimes occur in active coastal sand dunes, where they may erode from paleosols and concentrate in ‘blowouts’ between dune ridges. Many such moa bones predate human settlement, although some can originate from Maori midden sites which frequently occur in dunes near harbours and river mouths (for example the large moa hunter sites at Shag River, Otago and Wairau Bar, Marlborough).


Densely intermingled moa bones have been encountered in swamps throughout New Zealand. The most well-known example is at Pyramid Valley in north Canterbury,[38] where bones from at least 183 individual moa have been excavated. Many explanations were historically proposed to explain how these deposits had formed, ranging from poisonous spring waters to floods and wildfires. However the currently accepted explanation is that the bones accumulated at a slow rate over thousands of years, from birds that had entered the swamps to feed and became trapped in the soft sediment.[39]

Claims of moa survival

Reconstruction of two moa species, Otago Museum, Dunedin. Otago Museum holds the world's largest collection of moa remains.

Though scientists agree there is no doubt that moa are extinct, there has been occasional speculation—since at least the late 1800s,[40][41] and as recently as 2008[42]—that some moa may still exist, particularly the rugged wilderness of South Westland and Fiordland. Cryptozoologists and others reputedly continue to search for them,[43] but their claims and supporting evidence (such as of purported Moa footprints[44] or blurry photos[45]) have earned little attention from mainstream experts, and are widely considered pseudoscientific.[27]

Experts contend that moa survival is extremely unlikely, since this would involve the ground-dwelling birds living unnoticed in a region visited often by hunters and hikers.[44]

While the rediscovery of the Takahē in 1948 (after none had been seen since 1898), showed that rare birds may exist undiscovered for a long time, the Takahē was rediscovered after its tracks were identified—yet no reliable evidence of moa tracks has ever been found. The Takahē is also a much smaller bird.


  1. ^ Brands, S. (2008)
  2. ^ In Māori words do not use s to indicate plural, and thus "moa" is both plural and singular. Some English speakers apply this rule to their use of the word within English, though others use the regularly formed English plural "moas".
  3. ^ In some other Polynesian languages (Tahitian, Cook Islands Maori, Samoan...), "moa" is the generic name for chicken, fowl (Dictionary of the Tahitian Academy {fr/ty}; Jasper Buse, Raututi Taringa, "Cook islands Maori Dictionary" (1995); Samoan lexicon)
  4. ^ a b Davies, S. J. J. F. (2003)
  5. ^ a b c Turvey et al. 2005
  6. ^ Phillips et al. 2010
  7. ^ a b c Huynen, L. J.,et al. (2003)
  8. ^ a b Bunce, M., et al. (2003)
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Worthy & Holdaway '2002
  10. ^ Worthy 1987
  11. ^ Worthy et al. 1988
  12. ^ Worthy, T. H. (1998)a
  13. ^ Worthy, T. H. (1998)b
  14. ^ Worthy, T. H. & Holdaway, R. N. (1993)
  15. ^ Worthy, T. H. & Holdaway, R. N. (1994)
  16. ^ Worthy, T. H. & Holdaway, R. N. (1995)
  17. ^ Worthy, T. H. & Holdaway, R. N. (1996)
  18. ^ Burrows et al. 1981
  19. ^ a b c Wood 2007
  20. ^ Horrocks et al. 2004
  21. ^ Gill 2007
  22. ^ Hartree 1999
  23. ^ a b Wood, J. R. (2008)
  24. ^ a b Owen, R. (1879)
  25. ^ Hutton, F. W. & Coughtrey, M. (1875)
  26. ^ a b Buller, W. L. (1888)
  27. ^ a b c Anderson 1989
  28. ^ Hamilton, A. (1894)
  29. ^ Vickers-Rich, P., et al. (1995)
  30. ^ Worthy, T. H. (1989)
  31. ^ Forrest, R. M. (1987)
  32. ^ Holdaway & Jacomb 2000
  33. ^ Rosamond Purcell and the staff of Naturlis (1999). Swift as a Shadow. Mariner Books. p. 32. ISBN 0395892287. 
  34. ^ a b c d Fuller, Errol (1987)
  35. ^ Polack, J. S. (1838)
  36. ^ Hill, H. (1913)
  37. ^ Dieffenbach, E. (1843)
  38. ^ Holdaway, R. N. & Worthy, T. H. (1997)
  39. ^ Wood, J. R., et al. (2008)
  40. ^ Gould, C. (1886)
  41. ^ Heuvelmans, B (1959)
  42. ^ Laing, Doug. "Birdman says moa surviving in the Bay" 2008. from Hawks Bay Today.
  43. ^ Hall, Jamie. 2006. "The Cryptid Zoo: Moas and Other Giant Flightless Birds".
  44. ^ a b Laing, 2008
  45. ^ Coleman, Loren. 2007. "Mystery Moa Photo".

See also


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  • Baker, Allan J.; Huynen, Leon J.; Haddrath, Oliver; Millar, Craig D. and Lambert, David M. (2005). "Reconstructing the tempo and mode of evolution in an extinct clade of birds with ancient DNA: The giant moas of New Zealand". PNAS 102 (23): 8257–8262. doi:10.1073/pnas.0409435102. PMID 15928096. 
  • Brands, Sheila (Aug 14 2008). "Systema Naturae 2000 / Classification, Order Dinornithiformes". Project: The Taxonomicon. Retrieved Feb 04 2009. 
  • Buller, W.L. (1888). A history of the birds of New Zealand. London: Buller. 
  • Bunce, Michael; Worthy, Trevor H.; Ford, Tom; Hoppitt, Will; Willerslev, Eske; Drummond, Alexei and Cooper, Alan (2003). "Extreme reversed sexual size dimorphism in the extinct New Zealand moa Dinornis". Nature 425 (6954): 172–174. doi:10.1038/nature01871. 
  • Burrows, C.; et al. (1981). "The diet of moas based on gizzard contents samples from Pyramid Valley, North Canterbury, and Scaifes Lagoon, Lake Wanaka, Otago". Records of the Canterbury Museum 9: 309–336. 
  • Davies, S.J.J.F. (2003). "Moas". in Hutchins, Michael. Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia. 8 Birds I Tinamous and Ratites to Hoatzins (2 ed.). Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group. pp. 95–98. ISBN 0 7876 5784 0. 
  • Dieffenbach, E. (1843). Travels in New Zealand. II. London: John Murray. pp. 195. 
  • Forrest, R.M. (1987). "A partially mummified skeleton of Anomalopteryx didiformis from Southland". Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 17: 399–408. 
  • Fuller, Errol (1987) Bunney, Sarah ed. Extinct Birds London, England: The Rainbird Publishing Group ISBN 0-8160-1833-2 
  • Gill, BJ. (2007). "Eggshell characteristics of moa eggs (Aves: Dinornithiformes)". Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 37: 139–150. 
  • Gould, Charles (1886). W.H. Allen & Co.. 
  • Hamilton, A. (1894). "On the feathers of a small species of moa (Megalapteryx didinus) found in a cave at the head of the Waikaia River, with a notice of a moa-hunters camping place on the Old Man Range". Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute 27: 232–238. 
  • Hartree, WH. (1999). "A preliminary report on the nesting habits of moas in the East Coast of the North Island.". Notornis 46: 457–460. 
  • Heuvelmans, Bernard (1959). On the Track of Unknown Animal. New York, NY: Hill & Wang. 
  • Hill, H. (1913). "The Moa—Legendary, Historical and Geographical: Why and When the Moa disappeared". Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New Zealand 46: 330. 
  • Holdaway, R. N.; Jacomb, C. (2000). "Rapid Extinction of the Moas (Aves: Dinornithiformes): Model, Test, and Implications". Science 287 (5461): 2250–2254. doi:10.1126/science.287.5461.2250. PMID 10731144. 
  • Holdaway, R.N.; Worthy, T.H. (1997). "A reappraisal of the late Quaternary fossil vertebrates of Pyramid Valley Swamp, North Canterbury". New Zealand Journal of Zoology 24: 69–121. 
  • Horrocks, M.; et al. (2004). "Plant remains in coprolites: diet of a subalpine moa (Dinornithiformes) from southern New Zealand". Emu 104: 149–156. doi:10.1071/MU03019. 
  • Hutton, F.W.; Coughtrey, M. (1875). "Notice of the Earnscleugh Cave". Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute 7: 138–144. 
  • Huynen, Leon J.; Millar, Craig D.; Scofield, R. P. and Lambert, David M. (2003). "Nuclear DNA sequences detect species limits in ancient moa". Nature 425 (6954): 175–178. doi:10.1038/nature01838. PMID 12968179. 
  • Millener, P. R.; Szulkin, Marta; Lerner, Heather R. L.; Barnes, Ian; Shapiro, Beth; Cooper, Alan; Holdaway, Richard N. (1982). "And then there were twelve: the taxonomic status of Anomalopteryx oweni (Aves: Dinornithidae)". Notornis 29: 165–170. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0030009. 
  • Owen, Richard (1879). Memoirs on the Extinct Wingless Birds of New Zealand, with an Appendix of Those of England, Australia, Newfoundland, Mauritius and Rodriguez.. London: John van Voorst. 
  • Phillips, Matthew J.; Gibb Gillian C.; Crimp Elizabeth A. and Penny, David (2010). "Tinamous and Moa Flock Together: Mitochondrial Genome Sequence Analysis Reveals Independent Losses of Flight among Ratites". Systematic Biology 59 (1): 90–107. doi:10.1093/sysbio/syp079. Retrieved Feb 01 2010. 
  • Polack, J. S. (1838). New Zealand: Being a Narrative of Travels and Adventures During a Residence in that Country Between the Years 1831 and 1837. I. London: Richard Bentley. pp. 303, 307. 
  • Turvey, Samuel T.; Green, Owen R. and Holdaway, Richard N. (2005). "Cortical growth marks reveal extended juvenile development in New Zealand moa". Nature 435 (7044): 940–943. doi:10.1038/nature03635. PMID 15959513. 
  • Vickers-Rich, P.; et al. (1995). "Morphology, myology, collagen and DNA of a mummified moa, Megalapteryx didinus (Aves: Dinornithiformes) from New Zealand". Tuhinga: Records of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa 4: 1–26. 
  • Wood, JR. (2007). "Moa gizzard content analyses: further information on the diet of Dinornis robustus and Emeus crassus, and the first evidence for the diet of Pachyornis elephantopus (Aves: Dinornithiformes).". Records of the Canterbury Museum 21: 27–39. 
  • Wood, JR. (2008). "Moa (Aves: Dinornithiformes) nesting material from rockshelters in the semi-arid interior of South Island, New Zealand.". Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 38: 115–129. 
  • Wood, J.R.; Worthy, T.H., Rawlence, N.J., Jones, S.M., Read, S.E. (2008). "A deposition mechanism for Holocene miring bone deposits, South Island, New Zealand". Journal of Taphonomy 6: 1–20. 
  • Worthy, T.H. (1989). "Mummified moa remains from Mt. Owen, northwest Nelson". Notornis 36: 36–38. 
  • Worthy, T.H. (1998a). "Quaternary fossil faunas of Otago, South Island, New Zealand". Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 28: 421–521. 
  • Worthy, T.H. (1998b). "The Quaternary fossil avifauna of Southland, South Island, New Zealand". Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 28: 537–589. 
  • Worthy, T.H.; Holdaway, R.N. (1993). "Quaternary fossil faunas from caves in the Punakaiki area, West Coast, South Island, New Zealand". Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 23: 147–254. 
  • Worthy, T.H.; Holdaway, R.N. (1994). "Quaternary fossil faunas from caves in Takaka Valley and on Takaka Hill, northwest Nelson, South Island, New Zealand". Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 24: 297–391. 
  • Worthy, T.H.; Holdaway, R.N. (1995). "Quaternary fossil faunas from caves on Mt. Cookson, North Canterbury, South Island, New Zealand". Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 25: 333–370. 
  • Worthy, T.H.; Holdaway, R.N. (1996). "Quaternary fossil faunas, overlapping taphonomies, and paleofaunal reconstructions in North Canterbury, South Island, New Zealand". Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 26: 275–361. 
  • Worthy, Trevor H.; Holdaway, Richard N. (2002). The Lost World of the Moa. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0253340349. 

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

MOA, apparently the Maori name of the extinct Ratite birds in New Zealand, comprising the group Dinornithes (cf. Bird: Classification; and Ratitae). The earliest account of these birds is that of Polack (New Zealand, London, 1838), who speaks of the former existence of some struthious birds in the north island as proved by fossil bones which were shown to him. "The natives added that, in times long past, they received the tradition 'that very large birds had existed, but the scarcity of food, as well as the easy method of entrapping them, had caused their extermination." In the North Island the moas seem to have died out soon after the arrival of the Maoris, according to F. W. Hutton, some 700-500 years ago. In the South Island they seem to have lingered much longer, possibly, according to H. O. Forbes (Nat Sci. II. 18 93, pp. 374-3 80), "down even to the time that Captain Cook visited New Zealand." But these are only surmises, based upon the fact that in various dry caves limbs still surrounded by the mummified flesh and skin, feathers, and even eggs with the inner membrane, have been found. Great quantities of bones have been found in caves and in swamps, so that now nearly every part of the skeleton, of some kind or other, is known.

The most striking feature of the moas, besides the truly gigantic size of some species, is the almost complete absence of the wings. In fact, the whole skeletons of the wings and of the shoulder girdle seem to have been lost, excepting Anomalopteryx dromaeoides, which, according to Hutton,' had still some vestiges. Such a complete reduction of the whole anterior limb and girdle is unique among birds, but the cassowaries indicate the process. In conformity with these reductions the breastbone of the moas is devoid of any coracoidal facets; there is no trace of a keel, and the number of sternal ribs is reduced to three or even two pairs. The hind limbs are very strong; the massive femur has a large pneumatic foramen; the tibia has a bony bridge on the anterior surface of the lower portion, a character in which the moas agree only with Apteryx amongst the other Ratitae. The number of toes is four, unless the hallux is more or less reduced. The pelvis much resembles that of the kiwis.

The skull has been monographed by T. J. Parker ("On the Cranial Osteology, Classification and Phylogeny of the Dinornithidae," Tr. Z. Soc. (1893), xiii. 373-431, pls. 56-62); it resembles in its general configuration that of the emeus and cassowaries, while it differs from that of Apteryx most obviously by the short and stout bill.

The feathers have a large after-shaft which is of the size of the other half, likewise in agreement with the Australian Ratitae, while in the others, including the kiwis, the after-shaft is absent. Another important point, in which the moas agree with the other Ratitae and differ from the kiwis, are the branched, instead of simple, porous canals in the eggshell.

' "The Moos of New Zealand," Tr. N. Zea. Inst. (1892), xxiv. 93 - 1 7 2, pls. xv.-xvii.

The affinities of the moas are undoubtedly with the Australian Ratitae, and, in spite of the differences mentioned above, with the kiwis. In this respect Max Fiirbringer and T. J. Parker are in perfect agreement. The relationship with Aepyornis of Madagascar is still problematic. Whilst the moas seem to have been entirely herbivorous, feeding not unlikely upon the shoots of ferns, the kiwis have become highly specialized wormeaters. In this respect cassowaries and emeus hold an intermediate position, their occasional zoophagous (especially piscivorous) inclination being well known. Unmolested by enemies (Harpagornis, a tremendous bird of prey, died out with the Pleistocene), living in an equable insular climate, with abundant vegetation, the moas flourished and seem to have reached their greatest development in specialization, numbers, and a bewildering variety of large and small kinds, within quite recent times. Unfortunately no fossil moas, older than the Pleiocene, are known. Parker recognizes five genera, with about twenty species, which he combines into three sub-families: Dinornithinae with Dinornis, Anomalopteryginae with Pachyornis, Mesopteryx and Anomalopteryx, comprising the comparatively least specialized forms; and Emeinae with the genus Emeus, not to be confounded with the vernacular emeu. The moas ranged in size from that of a turkey to truly colossal dimensions, the giant being Dinornis maximus, which, with a tibial length of 39 in., stood with its small head about 12 ft. above the ground.

(H. F. G.)

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also moa


Proper noun


  1. A female given name, a pet form of Maria, or a nickname based on the word mor "mother".

Simple English

File:Moa Heinrich
Moas being hunted. Painting by Heinrich Harder.

, ostrich, and Dinornis, each with its egg]] The Moa were large flightless birds. They lived only in New Zealand, and are now all extinct.

There were eleven species (in six genera) of Moa.[1] The largest and best known were the genus Dinornis, which grew up to 3.6 meters (12 feet) tall, and weighed as much as 230 kilograms (510 pounds).

The group of birds to which the Moa belongs had been in existence since the Cretaceous period. The Māori people arrived in New Zealand from Oceania about a thousand years ago. Then, moas lived in large numbers, especially on South Island. Archaeological sites with evidence of Moa hunting are all over New Zealand. The moas became extinct about five hundred years ago.[2] The moas had survived being hunted by Haast's Eagle. However, they could not survive being hunted for food by the Maoris.

Recent extinctions (also mostly birds) have been caused by habitat change and introduced species.

Large birds


  1. Ornithological Society of New Zealand: New Zealand recognised bird names (NZRBN) database[1]
  2. Martin P.S. and Klein R.G. (eds) Quarternary extinctions: a prehistoric revolution. University of Arizona Press, Tucson AZ.

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