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.
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