A team of scientists led by the University of Adelaide has reconstructed a history of marine barriers, mountain building and glacial cycles in New Zealand over millions of years, using the first complete genetic history of the moa.
After almost being totally submerged around 25 million years ago, the current South and North Islands were separated by a large sea until around 1.5 million years ago, researchers say.
Project leader Professor Alan Cooper from the University of Adelaide’s Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD) says New Zealand is recognised as one of the world’s “great evolutionary laboratories” due to the absence of land mammals and the radiation of giant flightless birds such as the moa. “Yet this research is rewriting the geological history of New Zealand and shows how little we really know about it,” Professor Cooper says.
The team of Australian and New Zealand researchers sequenced DNA from hundreds of birds collected from caves and swamps, including all nine species of moa. The birds, which weighed up to 250kg, were the dominant animals in New Zealand’s pre-human environment but were quickly exterminated after the arrival of the Maori around 1280AD.
“We found that the remarkable evolutionary dispersion of the nine moa species took place in only seven million years and seems to have occurred as the Southern Alps rapidly rose up and created lots of new habitats,” Professor Cooper says. The evidence also suggests that many of New Zealand’s iconic species - including the kiwi, tuatara and kauri – evolved solely on the South Island.
“This raises the question of what was happening on the North Island during this time?” Professor Cooper says.
Lead author Dr Mike Bunce from Murdoch University extracted traces of DNA from moa bones, mummies and coprolites, which the researchers were able to use to create the first detailed evolutionary time frame for moa.
Professor Peter Kamp from Waikato University led the geological mapping that revealed the extent of the seaway separating the two islands, as well as the uplift history of the Southern Alps.
“When the seaway was first bridged by land around 1.5 million years ago, it is likely that a major interchange of species took place as also occurred between North and South America across the Panama isthmus around three million years ago,” Professor Kamp says.
Team member Dr Trevor Worthy from the University of NSW said the study was “an excellent example of how museum specimens can contribute to cutting-edge science”.
Dr Mike Bunce | Newswise Science News
What happens in the cell nucleus after fertilization
06.12.2016 | Helmholtz Zentrum München - Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt
Researchers uncover protein-based “cancer signature”
05.12.2016 | Universität Basel
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
06.12.2016 | Materials Sciences
06.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
06.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering