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MOA NECKS - HIGH, LOW, OR BOTH?



It's taken me three days of wading thru old emails and several 
computer crashes to get to here, but.. Greg Paul recently wrote...

> The suggestion on this list, following others work, that moas held 
> their necks low may be incorrect. Maori rock art shows them holding 
> their necks high. 

I presume Greg is referring to the Maori rock painting at Craigmore, 
South Island. This painting has been much reproduced and shows three 
large, ostrich-like birds which are presumably dinornithid moa. They 
are holding their necks in an erect ostrich-like pose. 

This may indicate, as Greg suggests, that all moa did walk around 
like erect-necked ostriches, and not like 'loop-necked' cassowaries. 
However; (1) the animals in the painting are dinornithids, and thus 
may not typify all moa species (all but three of which were emeids), 
(2) the animals are drawn following an observation in which they were 
almost certainly being harrassed by human hunters, and thus may be 
standing in an alert posture; and (3) the animals are stylised.

Morphological (viz, the way the moa neck 'plugs in' to the 
occiput) and ecological evidence (i.e., we know that moa were 
medium-height browsers) indicates that moa were not particularly tall 
in the neck. Also, other bush-dwelling ratites are low-necked and it 
has been suggested (Bertram 1985) that 'the constantly erect-necked 
ostrich profile is suited for a savannah lifestyle where big cats 
represent a threat. It would not be ordinarily beneficial to moa' 
(Naish 1998).

Indeed, the fact that old mounts restore moa as 
super-tall ostrich-like birds reflects the belief at the time that 
moa *were* super-tall ostriches. Having said this, I have no strong 
opinion on moa posture and admit that the evidence is inconclusive: 
'That moa were relatively low and horizontal in posture like emus 
and cassowaries ('loop-necked' according to Halliday (1978)) is 
equally likely or, according to some (Cooper et al. 1993), more 
likely. More contemporary skeletal mounts, such as those on display 
at the Waitomo Caves Museum and the Museum of New Zealand, depict moa 
in this way. I imagine that moa walked in a cassowary-like horizontal 
posture, but reared up to create an erect-necked ostrich-like profile 
when high-browsing. This is only an opinion and is not based on 
data..' (Naish 1998).

In a gratutious act of self-citation, the ref for this is..

NAISH, D.W. 1998. Cryptozoology of the moa: a review (part one). _The 
Cryptozoology Review_ 2 (3): 15-24.

"You can say , 'roses and other flowers', but you cannot say , 
'flowers and other roses'".

DARREN NAISH
darren.naish@port.ac.uk