New Zealand’s moa, a group of giant flightless birds including the largest birds ever to have lived, died out because they grew almost ten times slower than living species, reveals a study by researchers at the Zoological Society of London’s Institute of Zoology (IoZ) in London.
The new study published today in the journal Nature, in collaboration with the University of Oxford and the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, analysed moa leg bones and discovered up to nine growth rings (similar to tree rings) in bone cross sections, revealing that moa took almost a decade to reach their adult body weight. Moa then took several more years to reach sexual maturity. This is very different to all living birds, which all reach adult size within 12 months.
“This study gives a fascinating insight into the growth rate of birds in the absence of mammalian predators,” says Dr Sam Turvey of the IoZ. “New Zealand’s unique environment prompted the evolution of ‘delayed maturity’ in moa, enabling them to grow slowly over a long period of time.”
Clare Kingston | alfa
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