Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search

 


Did small kiwi fly from Australia?


St Bathans Fauna. Illustration: Peter Schouton

Media Release

16 December 2013

Did small kiwi fly from Australia?

The kiwi, the iconic New Zealand flightless nocturnal bird, is not a dwarf version of a distant ancestor but more likely evolved from a tiny bird that could have flown from Australia, according to an Australian and New Zealand palaeontologists.

The findings of a study just published in the Proceedings of the 8th International Meeting of the Society of Avian Palaeontology and Evolution reveal the evolutionary pathway of the kiwi, overturning a commonly held theory championed by the late eminent evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould.

Dr Trevor Worthy, of Flinders University in Adelaide, and a team from New Zealand’s Canterbury Museum and Te Papa Tongarewa The Museum of New Zealand discovered the fossil three years ago at St Bathans in New Zealand’s Central Otago.

Dr Worthy said the study results are supported by the genetic evidence that the kiwi is related to the Australian emu and not the New Zealand moa, an enormous emu-like bird that became extinct some 700 years ago.

“One of the distinguishing attributes of the kiwi is that it lays an enormous egg, which is about a quarter of the bird’s body weight and occupies most of the bird,” said Dr Worthy, an internationally-recognised expert on the moa.

“Gould’s 1986 essay, which sought to explain the origins of the kiwi egg’s size, promoted the idea that the kiwi was highly derived from a large moa-like ancestor, and had shrunk in size while retaining the egg size of this ancestor,” he said.

Dr Paul Scofield of Canterbury Museum said “This fossil from the early Miocene, about 20 million years ago, shows us that it’s a tiny bird about one third of the size of a small kiwi today. It suggests the opposite is, in fact, the case – that the kiwi has developed towards a larger size, a trend that is seen in many birds from the early Miocene.

“And if, as the DNA suggests, the kiwi is related to the emu, then both shared a common ancestor that could fly. It means they were little and had wings, and that they flew to New Zealand.”

Dr Worthy said it was not uncommon for birds to “jump” from Australia to New Zealand, citing the Mallard duck, the little banded dotterel and the cattle egret as three species which regularly fly back and forth.

“We need to find wing bones to put the theory beyond all doubt,” Dr Scofield said.

The researchers plan to continue excavations at St Bathans this summer. This research was funded by The Australian Research Council, The Mason Foundation and the R.S. Allan Fund.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines

 

RMTU: Mediation Between Lyttelton Port And Union Fails

The Rail and Maritime Union (RMTU) has opted to continue its overtime ban indefinitely after mediation with the Lyttelton Port of Christchurch (LPC) failed to progress collective bargaining. More>>

Earlier:

Science Policy: Callaghan, NSC Funding Knocked In Submissions

Callaghan Innovation, which was last year allocated a budget of $566 million over four years to dish out research and development grants, and the National Science Challenges attracted criticism in submissions on the government’s draft national statement of science investment, with science funding largely seen as too fragmented. More>>

ALSO:

Scoop Business: Spark, Voda And Telstra To Lay New Trans-Tasman Cable

Spark New Zealand and Vodafone, New Zealand’s two dominant telecommunications providers, in partnership with Australian provider Telstra, will spend US$70 million building a trans-Tasman submarine cable to bolster broadband traffic between the neighbouring countries and the rest of the world. More>>

ALSO:

More:

Statistics: Current Account Deficit Widens

New Zealand's annual current account deficit was $6.1 billion (2.6 percent of GDP) for the year ended September 2014. This compares with a deficit of $5.8 billion (2.5 percent of GDP) for the year ended June 2014. More>>

ALSO:

Still In The Red: NZ Govt Shunts Out Surplus To 2016

The New Zealand government has pushed out its targeted return to surplus for a year as falling dairy prices and a low inflation environment has kept a lid on its rising tax take, but is still dangling a possible tax cut in 2017, the next election year and promising to try and achieve the surplus pledge on which it campaigned for election in September. More>>

ALSO:

Job Insecurity: Time For Jobs That Count In The Meat Industry

“Meat Workers face it all”, says Graham Cooke, Meat Workers Union National Secretary. “Seasonal work, dangerous jobs, casual and zero hours contracts, and increasing pressure on workers to join non-union individual agreements. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
Standards New Zealand

Standards New Zealand
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sci-Tech
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news