Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Giant moa had climate change figured out

Date:
August 3, 2012
Source:
University of Adelaide
Summary:
An international team of scientists has used ancient DNA from bones of giant extinct New Zealand birds to show that significant climate and environmental changes did not have a large impact on their populations.

University of Adelaide researchers in a New Zealand cave.
Credit: Photo by Jamie Wood

An international team of scientists involving researchers from the University of Adelaide has used ancient DNA from bones of giant extinct New Zealand birds to show that significant climate and environmental changes did not have a large impact on their populations.

Related Articles


The population size of the giant moa remained stable over the past 40,000 years until the arrival of humans in New Zealand around 1280 AD.

The study was undertaken by researchers from the University of Adelaide's Australian Centre for Ancient DNA, the University of Colorado, and the University of Waikato and Landcare Research in New Zealand. The results are published online in the journal Quaternary Science Reviews.

The giant birds -- measuring up to 2.5 metres high and weighing 250 kilograms -- were the largest herbivores in New Zealand's pre-human environment but were quickly exterminated after the arrival of Polynesian settlers.

"Until now it has been difficult to determine how megafauna responded to environmental change over the past 50,000 years, because human arrival and climate change occurred simultaneously in many parts of the world," says Dr Nic Rawlence, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral research fellow from the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA and the University of Waikato.

"Using ancient DNA, radiocarbon dating and stable dietary isotope analysis, we have been able to show that before humans arrived, moa mitigated the effects of climate change by tracking their preferred habitat as it expanded, contracted and shifted during warming and cooling events," Dr Rawlence says.

"Moa were not in serious decline before humans arrived, as has been previously suggested, but had relatively stable population sizes. The overwhelming evidence suggests that the extinction of moa occurred due to overhunting and habitat destruction, at a time of relative climatic stability."

Co-author of the study, Dr Jamie Wood from Landcare Research, says the results "show that range shifts and minor population fluctuations observable in the fossil and genetic record are a natural response to environmental change and do not necessarily lead to extinction."

"Climate change has been blamed for megafaunal extinctions in other parts of the world, but this is not the case for moa," says co-author Dr Jessica Metcalf from the University of Colorado.

ACAD Director and project leader Professor Alan Cooper says: "The very recent extinctions in New Zealand provide a unique opportunity to examine the extinction of Ice Age megafauna and the relative roles of human hunting and climate change."

The study was funded by an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Grant.


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. Nicolas J. Rawlence, Jessica L. Metcalf, Jamie R. Wood, Trevor H. Worthy, Jeremy J. Austin, Alan Cooper. The effect of climate and environmental change on the megafaunal moa of New Zealand in the absence of humans. Quaternary Science Reviews, 2012; DOI: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2012.07.004

Cite This Page:

University of Adelaide. "Giant moa had climate change figured out." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 August 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120803114412.htm>.
University of Adelaide. (2012, August 3). Giant moa had climate change figured out. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120803114412.htm
University of Adelaide. "Giant moa had climate change figured out." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120803114412.htm (accessed October 23, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Oldest Bone Ever Sequenced Shows Human/Neanderthal Mating

Oldest Bone Ever Sequenced Shows Human/Neanderthal Mating

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) A 45,000-year-old thighbone is showing when humans and neanderthals may have first interbred and revealing details about our origins. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Goofy Dinosaur Blends Barney and Jar Jar Binks

Goofy Dinosaur Blends Barney and Jar Jar Binks

AP (Oct. 22, 2014) A collection of dinosaur bones reveal a creature that is far more weird and goofy-looking than scientists originally thought when they found just the arm bones nearly 50 years ago, according to a new report in the journal Nature. (Oct. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sunken WWII U-Boat That Fired On U.S. Convoy Found

Sunken WWII U-Boat That Fired On U.S. Convoy Found

Newsy (Oct. 22, 2014) U-576, a long-lost German U-boat the U.S. sank in 1942, has been found just 30 miles off North Carolina's coast and near the wreckage of another ship. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Turns Out Jack The Ripper's True Identity Is Still Unknown

Turns Out Jack The Ripper's True Identity Is Still Unknown

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) After testing DNA from a shawl found near one of Jack the Ripper's victims, a scientist said he'd identified the killer. New reports refute the claim. Video provided by Newsy
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