Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Ancient DNA Helps Solve The Legend Of Giant Eagles

Date:
January 11, 2005
Source:
McMaster University
Summary:
Gigantic eagles swooping from the skies to rescue Frodo and Sam in the Lord of the Rings may not be just the stuff of legends and fairytales, according to research published in the journal PloS Biology.

Haast's Eagle hunting moa.
Credit: Image courtesy of John Megahan

Hamilton, ON - Gigantic eagles swooping from the skies to rescue Frodo and Sam in the Lord of the Rings may not be just the stuff of legends and fairytales, according to research published in the journal PloS Biology.

McMaster University anthropologist Michael Bunce has shed new light on the evolution of the extinct Haast’s eagle, the giant bird that once ruled the skies over New Zealand.

Weighing between 20 and 30 pounds, the enormous Haast's Eagle dominated its environment. It was 30 to 40 per cent heavier than the largest living bird of prey around today, the Harpy Eagle of Central and South America.

Working in New Zealand, Bunce extracted DNA from fossil eagle bones dating back about 2000 years.

He says, "When we began the project it was to prove the relationship of the extinct Haast's Eagle with the large Australian Wedge-tailed Eagle. But the DNA results were so radical that, at first, we questioned their authenticity."

The results showed that the New Zealand giant was in fact related to one of the world's smallest eagles – the Little Eagle from Australia and New Guinea, which typically weighs under two pounds.

"Even more striking was how closely related genetically the two species were. We estimate that their common ancestor lived less than a million years ago. It means that an eagle arrived in New Zealand and increased in weight by 10 to15 times over this period, which is very fast in evolutionary terms. Such rapid size change is unprecedented in birds and animals," adds Bunce.

Before human settlement 700 years ago, New Zealand had virtually no terrestrial mammals. Apart from bats, the only inhabitants were approximately 250 species of birds. At the top of the food chain was the Haast's Eagle, the only eagle known to have been the top predator in a major terrestrial ecosystem. The eagles hunted moa, the herbivorous, flightless birds of New Zealand, which can weigh more than 400 pounds. Scientists believe the eagle died out within two centuries of human settlement of New Zealand.

McMaster University, named Canada’s Research University of the Year by Research InfoSource, has world-renowned faculty and state-of-the-art research facilities. McMaster's culture of innovation fosters a commitment to discovery and learning in teaching, research and scholarship. Based in Hamilton, the University has a student population of more than 20,000 and more than 112,000 alumni in 128 countries.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by McMaster University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

McMaster University. "Ancient DNA Helps Solve The Legend Of Giant Eagles." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 January 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/01/050111093910.htm>.
McMaster University. (2005, January 11). Ancient DNA Helps Solve The Legend Of Giant Eagles. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/01/050111093910.htm
McMaster University. "Ancient DNA Helps Solve The Legend Of Giant Eagles." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/01/050111093910.htm (accessed April 19, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home

Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home

AP (Apr. 18, 2014) Dairy farmers and ethnic groups in Vermont are both benefiting from a unique collaborative effort that's feeding a growing need for fresh and affordable goat meat. (April 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) Not only are these newly discovered bugs' sex organs reversed, but they also mate for up to 70 hours. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Little Progress Made In Fighting Food Poisoning, CDC Says

Little Progress Made In Fighting Food Poisoning, CDC Says

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) A new report shows rates of two foodborne infections increased in the U.S. in recent years, while salmonella actually dropped 9 percent. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Great British Farmland Boom

The Great British Farmland Boom

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 17, 2014) Britain's troubled Co-operative Group is preparing to cash in on nearly 18,000 acres of farmland in one of the biggest UK land sales in decades. As Ivor Bennett reports, the market timing couldn't be better, with farmland prices soaring over 270 percent in the last 10 years. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins