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Moa Footprints Discovered in West Auckland

Moa Footprints Discovered in West Auckland

Some of the oldest moa footprints ever recorded have been recognised in cross-section in a road cutting in west Auckland. Auckland geologist, Dr Bruce Hayward has this week published his description of up to eight moa footprints from 1-2 million year old sediments near Muriwai. “The depressions have been visible in this road cutting for many decades,” says Hayward “but they have not previously been recognised because the footprints are in cross-section and do not look like footprints as we normally would view them from above. Clearly however, these depressions were produced by something heavy pushing down into soft wet sand and the indent then filling with more sand.”

The footprints occur in soft, friable sandstone within a sequence of sand dunes that accumulated along the west coast of Auckland during the early Pleistocene period (early Ice Ages). “At this locality the sandstones are horizontally layered and rippled and appear to have been deposited along the margin of a freshwater lake within the sand dunes. At least 8 ancient depressions (up to 16 cm across and 10 cm deep) in the road cut are probably the footprints of moa that had come to the edge of the lake to drink.”

The footprints are almost identical in cross-section to the dinosaur footprints recognised a few years ago in 70 million year old intertidal sedimentary rocks in north-west Nelson. “Dinosaurs became extinct 66 million years ago and the only creature in New Zealand likely to have produced footprints of the size in west Auckland a million or so years ago, were moa.”

All ten previous recorded finds of moa footprints have been recognised by their three large toe imprints in plan view. These previous finds were preserved in younger volcanic ash layers or soft mud. This new find is the first from the Auckland region and the first in a sand dune setting.


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