Skip to comments.Giant bird feces records pre-human New Zealand
Posted on 01/12/2009 11:22:01 AM PST by Red Badger
A treasure trove of information about pre-human New Zealand has been found in faeces from giant extinct birds, buried beneath the floor of caves and rock shelters for thousands of years.
A team of ancient DNA and palaeontology researchers from the University of Adelaide, University of Otago and the NZ Department of Conservation have published their analyses of plant seeds, leaf fragments and DNA from the dried faeces (coprolites) to start building the first detailed picture of an ecosystem dominated by giant extinct species.
Former PhD student Jamie Wood, from the University of Otago, discovered more than 1500 coprolites in remote areas across southern New Zealand, primarily from species of the extinct giant moa, which ranged up to 250 kilograms and three metres in height. Some of the faeces recovered were up to 15 centimetres in length.
'"Surprisingly for such large birds, over half the plants we detected in the faeces were under 30 centimetres in height," says Dr Wood. "This suggests that some moa grazed on tiny herbs, in contrast to the current view of them as mainly shrub and tree browsers. We also found many plant species that are currently threatened or rare, suggesting that the extinction of the moa has impacted their ability to reproduce or disperse."
"New Zealand offers a unique chance to reconstruct how a 'megafaunal ecosystem' functioned," says Professor Alan Cooper, Director of the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA, which performed the DNA typing.
"You can't do this elsewhere in the world because the giant species became extinct too long ago, so you don't get such a diverse record of species and habitats. Critically, the interactions between animals and plants we see in the poo provides key information about the origins and background to our current environment, and predicting how it will respond to future climate change and extinctions."
"When animals shelter in caves and rock shelters, they leave faeces which can survive for thousands of years if dried out," Professor Cooper says. "Given the arid conditions, Australia should probably have similar deposits from the extinct giant marsupials. A key question for us is 'where has all the Australian poo gone?' ".
The team's findings have recently been published in Quaternary Science Reviews, an international geological research journal.
Petrified poop ping...............
Sounds like a description of my peacock cage.
See there, extinction didn’t hurt our acquiring more than enough knowledge about those birds.
“Imagine having this as a job description................”
Even neater on your resume. Trying to imagine how it would be described.
Experience: Petrified Poop Inspector............
Being the #2 man at the University of Adelaide isn’t such a bad gig.
I wonder how big that is in Courics?
Gotta be at least a couple!.........
Thanks Red Badger.
· Discover · Nat Geographic · Texas AM Anthro News · Yahoo Anthro & Archaeo ·
· The Archaeology Channel · Excerpt, or Link only? · cgk's list of ping lists ·
Birdy birdy in the sky,
Now I don’t cuss and I don’t cry,
But I sure am glad cows don’t fly
“Pre-human New Zealand” might mean as little as 700 years ago.
You mean the Maori weren’t there then?........
A recent study discovered the Maori were responsible for most of the extinctions in NZ.
Yes. New Zealand is supposed to be one of the last places to be settled by humans. The exact date is not clear but could be as recent as 700 years ago. When the Maori arrived the giant Moa birds were still walking around.
You need to get Pitsy one of those scoopers.
Bird faeces happens!
“Former PhD student Jamie Wood, from the University of Otago”
The parents must be so proud.........
Were they charged a dumping tax? There are cows alive today who think these birds got off light.
Cheers for the ping, Allegra!
It’s true: giant birds called Moas once occupied New Zealand. The Maori made them extinct. One Moa could provide KFC for a whole tribe! We’re talking about a bird with a body the size of a small cow...
Out where I live they occasionally find Moa bones in pits: the moas would fall in the pits and they couldn’t get out, so they’d basically die right there. Amazing animals!
Occasionally people claim to sight moas out in the deep New Zealand bush. The bush is dense enough and there are enough places in New Zealand where man has never gone that his is only just possible — but unlikely. Still...
> Yes. New Zealand is supposed to be one of the last places to be settled by humans. The exact date is not clear but could be as recent as 700 years ago. When the Maori arrived the giant Moa birds were still walking around.
That’s very true. They can be reasonably sure about approximately when the Maori got here because the Maori kept very good oral records of their ancestry, going all the way back to the canoes that they arrived in New Zealand on from a place called “Hawaiki”. To this day there are Maori who can recite their whakapapa (ancestry) with great accuracy from memory.
We know that these ancestries are reasonably accurate because they cross-check: as you’d expect in a population that is tribal and based on an island, there is a fair bit of marriage between families and complex relationships. For the most part, when the Maori recite their ancestries, these relationships cross-check and agree.
So somewhere between 700 and 900 years is the generally accepted arrival timeframe for Maori in New Zealand.
There have been theories of pre-Maori settlements: the Celts, the Phoenicias, the Vikings, the Chinese, the Maoriori were all supposed to have a turn, but these theories are not generally accepted and lack much evidence (tho there is some).
(BIG GRIN!) I wish my dogs would learn that trick!
Are those the ones that tried to eat D’leh and Evolet in “10,000 BC?”
Yeah, and I’m going to go “make history” sometime after lunch today, too... :-)
No. The only Ratite in Africa is the Ostrich. The nasty birds were some species of Terror Bird. This was pure fiction, on the scale of the use of mammoths. (There were elephants in Mediterranean Africa, until the Romans hunted them to extinction_)
If I remember, these were New World predators, which went extinct a few million years ago due to competition/predation by sabre tooths and other large cats. Not that I trust wikipedia completely, but here is their account.