Sunday, December 23, 2012

Preserved Megalapteryx (Moa bird) Foot

Preserved Megalapteryx foot, Natural History Museum
This image of a preserved Moa foot managed to make the rounds across the Internet last week, via a post on Reddit. Why it suddenly managed to make an appearance on the web, I'm not really sure, as Reddit post are often light on context. But, whatever the reason- it did. So, being a fan of prehistoric/extinct creatures, this seemed a descent enough excuse to write about one.

The appendage in the picture, which is currently held by the Museum of New Zealand, was found in a cave on Mount Owen in the 1980's. It belongs to Megalapteryx didinus (commonly known as the Upland Moa). one of a variety of extinct giant birds native to New Zealand, collectively known as Moa. You may already be familiar with at least the common name of this particular group of flightless birds -which went extinct around the year 15000 1,500, primarily due to hunting and deforestation- because of their appearance in a recently published paper in  the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, which used a collection of moa bones in a study meant to help determine the half life of DNA. Then again, we might have completely different interpretations of what constitutes "entertaining reading". So, maybe you've never heard of them before.

Sir Richard Owen 1879 W/the largest Moa, D. novaezealand
Growing to about human height, and weighing in   around an estimated 50-60 lbs, Megalapteyrx is actually one of the smallest varieties of these extinct birds. With the female members of the largest known variety of the species, Dinornis novaezealandiae or North Island Giant Moa (seen to the left) growing to be over 10 feet tall, and weighing in at 500 pounds or more.

Though all nine species of Moa are officially (meaning- scientifically) classified as extinct. Like many recently extinct species (such as the much more recently lost Tasmanian tiger(thylacine) there are those who claim a small population of moa may have managed to survive into the modern world, and now live hidden away somewhere in the remote wilderness.

The most recent of such claims, at least that I could find anyway, originated from a cryptozoologist in New Zealand, named Rex Gilroy. In 2008, Gilroy claimed to have discovered 35 separate ground prints in  a remote area of northern New Zealand, which he believes belong to a colony of up to 15 little scrub moa, amomalopteryx didiformi (Bush Moa). And while his claims are at least more plausible than those of isolated populations of giant moas still roaming the New Zealand wilderness, neither Gilroy's -nor any other similar claims- have ever been verified. 


Source: Wikipedia: Moa - Megalapteryx didinus - Dinornis novaezealandiae -   New (Gilroy's Tracks) - Reddit
Image Credit: Wikimedia commons

So I came up somewhat dry in my search for interesting moa videos. But, I did find this reading from, David Attenborough's Life Stories- Giant Birds. Which deals primarily with Madagascar's Elephant bird- particularly the size of it's eggs. But there's also a bit about the moa towards the end. Plus, it's David Attenborough, so- WIN.

Posted by YouTube user: Samael994