Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Giant Bird Feces Record Pre-human New Zealand

Date:
January 13, 2009
Source:
University of Adelaide
Summary:
A treasure trove of information about pre-human New Zealand has been found in feces from giant extinct birds, buried beneath the floor of caves and rock shelters for thousands of years.

Giant moa bird.
Credit: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

A treasure trove of information about pre-human New Zealand has been found in feces from giant extinct birds, buried beneath the floor of caves and rock shelters for thousands of years.

Related Articles


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 feces (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 feces recovered were up to 15 centimetres in length.

"Surprisingly for such large birds, over half the plants we detected in the feces 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 feces 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?'"

Other University of Adelaide members of the research team include Dr Jeremy Austin, Dr Trevor Worthy and Mr Nicolas Rawlence from the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA, part of the University's newly-established Environment Institute.

The team's findings have recently been published in Quaternary Science Reviews, an international geological research journal.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Wood et al. Coprolite deposits reveal the diet and ecology of the extinct New Zealand megaherbivore moa (Aves, Dinornithiformes). Quaternary Science Reviews, 2008; 27 (27-28): 2593 DOI: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2008.09.019

Cite This Page:

University of Adelaide. "Giant Bird Feces Record Pre-human New Zealand." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 January 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090112110115.htm>.
University of Adelaide. (2009, January 13). Giant Bird Feces Record Pre-human New Zealand. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 27, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090112110115.htm
University of Adelaide. "Giant Bird Feces Record Pre-human New Zealand." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090112110115.htm (accessed November 27, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Classic Hollywood Memorabilia Goes Under the Hammer

Classic Hollywood Memorabilia Goes Under the Hammer

Reuters - Entertainment Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) The iconic piano from "Casablanca" and the Cowardly Lion suit from "The Wizard of Oz" fetch millions at auction. Sara Hemrajani reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Pet Dogs to Be Used in Anti-Ageing Trial

Pet Dogs to Be Used in Anti-Ageing Trial

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) Researchers in the United States are preparing to discover whether a drug commonly used in human organ transplants can extend the lifespan and health quality of pet dogs. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
From Popcorn To Vending Snacks: FDA Ups Calorie Count Rules

From Popcorn To Vending Snacks: FDA Ups Calorie Count Rules

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) The US FDA is announcing new calorie rules on Tuesday that will require everywhere from theaters to vending machines to include calorie counts. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Feast Your Eyes: Lamb Chop Sent Into Space from UK

Feast Your Eyes: Lamb Chop Sent Into Space from UK

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Nov. 25, 2014) Take a stab at this -- stunt video shows a lamb chop's journey from an east London restaurant over 30 kilometers into space. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). 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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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