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

 

Wine: 20% Of Marlborough Storage Tanks Damaged By Quake

An estimated 20 percent of wine storage tanks in the Marlborough region, the country’s largest wine producing area, have been damaged by the impact of the recent Kaikoura earthquake. More>>

ALSO:

ACC: Levy Recommendations For 2017 – 2019 Period

• For car owners, a 13% reduction in the average Motor Vehicle levy • For businesses, a 10% reduction in the average Work levy, and changes to workplace safety incentive products • For employees, due to an increase in claims volumes and costs, a 3% increase in the Earners’ levy. More>>

Women's Affairs: Government Accepts Recommendations On Pay Equity

The Government will update the Equal Pay Act and amend the Employment Relations Act to implement recommendations of the Joint Working Group on Pay Equity. More>>

ALSO:

Immigration: Increase In Seasonal Workers For RSE

The current cap will be increased by 1,000 from 9,500 to 10,500 RSE workers for the 2016-17 season. Mr Woodhouse says the horticulture and viticulture industry is New Zealand’s fourth largest export industry, producing almost $5 billion in exports. More>>

ALSO:

Hurunui: Crown Irrigation Invests Up To $3.4m In North Canterbury

Crown Irrigation Investments will invest up to $3.4m in the Hurunui Water Project, an irrigation scheme that will be capable of irrigating up to 21,000 hectares on the south side of the Hurunui River in North Canterbury. More>>

ALSO:

Not So Great:Butterfly Eradication Success

The invasive pest great white butterfly has been eradicated from New Zealand in a world-first achievement, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy and Conservation Minister Maggie Barry say. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Government’s Tax Cuts Fixation

Long before the earthquake hit, the dodginess of the government tax cuts programnme was evident in the language of its packaging. It is being touted as a “tax cuts and family care” package... More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sci-Tech
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news