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Successful Expedition: Moa Bones Recovered


An expedition of nine people, lead by the Otago Museum, left for the Serpentine Range on Wednesday afternoon with great expectations of discovering more bones of the upland moa, Megalapteryx didinus. The expedition team, including Masterton paleobiologist Trevor Worthy, Brian Patrick and Sue Michelson-Heath from the Otago Museum, Doc officials and Natural History New Zealand flew up to the cave site from Routeburn in perfect weather conditions early on Thursday morning unaware of what they were about to find.

They were very excited to discover and recover a number of bones of an upland moa, including a skull, throat, left foot toes and a right foot. "We were thrilled to be able to recover these very special bones" say elated Brian Patrick, Collections and Research Manager of Otago Museum. "We have got very close to a full skeleton of an upland moa and we can now have the bones articulated".

Knowledge of the site came about early in 2002, when two hunters in Mount Aspiring National Park discovered part of a skeleton and an egg of an upland moa. The moa remains were later brought out from the site and passed on to the Otago Museum. The skeletal components were in remarkably good condition, being extremely clean, unbroken and without any erosion or damage to the bone surface. The egg, which was largely intact, still had some of its beautiful pale green pigmentation.

Based on this tremendous discovery, it was decided that the site may still have been housing a number of other moa remains, which was indeed the case.

The find is very significant because of the condition of the bones, the position of the accompanying egg and the site from which it was recovered. Few complete skeletons of this species have been recovered compared to those of lowland moa species and only 15 to 20 moa eggs have ever been found. It is also believed that no Megalapteryx didinus has previously been found with an unlaid egg still in position within the pelvis. The specimen may therefore yield very important information about the egg laying behaviour, anatomy and general ecology of this species.

This is a very important discovery that will contribute to knowledge of the ecology of the moa, New Zealand's very special flightless bird.

For more information please contact: Brian Patrick, Collections & Research Manager, +64 3 474 7476, or +64 3 453 4002, or +64 27 235 4444 Clare Wilson, Development & Planning Manager, +64 3 474 7473, or +64 27 244 9378, or +64 21 347 410 Ryan Helliwell, Marketing Officer, +64 3 474 7474 ext 845, or +64 21 238 8570

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