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Re: MOA NECKS - HIGH, LOW, OR BOTH?



At 12:27 +0000 13/5/98, darren.naish@port.ac.uk wrote:
>Greg Paul 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.

There was a TV documentary on the Moa aired this week, they showed the
rock paintings which depicted the Moa.  Apparently there are very few rock
paintings which depict anything at all like a Moa and only one set that
are unambiguous.

>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.

One important observation made in the documentary was that there is an
extreme dearth of Maori folklore about the Moa.  In fact the Moa is
not mentioned by name in any legend, which is particularly interesting
as all the other local creatures have whakapapas (genealogies) and
legends associated with them.  This implies that the term Moa is a recent
invention.  Also the most likely large bird is only mentioned in one
legend (the ancestor who brought the Kumara (sweet potato) arrived on the
back of a large bird).  Apart from that they are almost unmentioned.

Also, by studying Maori middens it seems apparent that the Moa were
consumed to extinction extremely rapidly (in less than 400 years) and
were pretty much forgotten during the subsequent 600 years of Maori
history.

The documentary was fairly inconsistant about its reconstruction of the
neck but they stated that it was most likely to have held the neck in
a lowish posture.  The robot reconstruction they made held the neck
in an almost 45 degree position which was inconsistant with either the
super ostrich, or super cassowary positions.

Anyway, I'd be more inclined to follow reconstructions of neck posture
based on morphology than on a set of cave paintings which may not even
have been drawn while the Moa were still extant.

Intruigingly other evidence for relatively low browsing was presented
to do with the behaviour of various native plants.  Many New Zealand
trees have various stages in their life cycle where the young/low stage
has tangled branches for the first two or three metres (or grows very
rapidly to that height) and then starts putting out succulent leaves
once it has reached a height greater than that of it's historical
browser, the Moa.  The height of succulent growth was a little lower than
one would expect from a monster ostrich with a permanently erect neck
posture.

The last ten minutes were devoted to alleged sightings of Moa, one
particularly convincing sighting was of what sounded like a smallish
Moa in a fairly remote area.  They didn't pour too much scorn on Paddy
Freaney (although it was mentioned that being an Irish publican called
Paddy didn't help his credibility rating very much), his sighting seems a
little bit incredible though, seeing as it was in a fairly well travelled
part of the country and not far from a well travelled trail.  Still,
there's a remote possibility that this debate could be answered by
the discovery of a live Moa.

I wouldn't hold my breath though.

--- Derek







---
Derek Tearne.   ---   @URL Internet Consultants  ---  http://url.co.nz
Some of the more environmentally aware dinosaurs were worried about the
consequences of an accident with the new Iridium enriched fusion reactor.
"If it goes off only the cockroaches and mammals will survive..." they said.