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the moas

The Moas
The Moas of New Zealand are a good reminder of the fact that man is not the only factor involved in extinctions. Moas existed in New Zealand from at least the late Miocene or early Pliocene and the oldest known fossil is (Anomalapteryx antiquus). About 20-25 species are known from the fossil record. All are relatively large flightless birds. The species thought to have died out last is Megalapteryx diderius which some authorities claim existed on the South Island until about 300 years ago. The Maoris arrived in New Zealand around 1350 AD so this would mean that the Moas became extinct about 300 years after the Maoris arrived. Some authorities however maintain that all the Moas were extinct before the Maoris arrived. There were human inhabitants of New Zealand before the Maoris arrived and there is no doubt that they killed and ate both Moas and their eggs.

However, the New Zealand climate had been changing steadily for several thousands of years, becoming much wetter and causing changes in vegetation. Slowly the grasslands that the Moas evolved in had been replaced by forests. Most authorities agree that this was an important factor in the decline of the Moas. It may have been that human hunting and firing/burning of the remaining grasslands merely hastened the process of extinction that the rest of nature had already been working towards in its own inevitable way.

Most information on this page was contributed by EarthLife. 

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Last updated: 01 January 2003