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MOA FOR DINNER



Gregory Scott Paul asks...

> For the moa people, which moa were the probable victims of the giant 
> eagle Harpagornis? In particular, was the upland Megalapteryx in the 
> eagle's habitat. If not which small moas would be more suitable? 

You will have to check Richard Holdaway's phd thesis for the full 
details - he documented and described all moa elements 
(mainly pelvic girdles) that bore evidence of injury. I can say for 
certain that he found some specimens of _Dinornis_ with eagle talon 
marks, and though I know that smaller moa were also known to have 
been attacked, sorry, don't know what taxa. The so-called Little bush 
moa (_Anomalopteryx didinus_) is a good candidate, as are the 
two smaller _Pachyornis_ species. _Harpagornis_ almost certainly did 
not get to attack _Megalapteryx_: this was an upland bird that did 
not frequent the forests inhabited by _Harpagornis_.

FYI, here is an excerpt from a silly little article I have just 
published on eagles...

"One eagle that evolved on New Zealand was _Harpagornis_ - with a 10 
ft (3m) wingspan and a maximum weight of 29 lb (13kg), the biggest 
eagle of all time - which clearly became adept at exploiting the moa 
resource [sic]. Available evidence shows that _Harpagornis_ was able 
to attack and kill the biggest of all moa. According to Dr. Richard 
Holdaway - the zoologist who has worked on this bird more than anyone 
else - it seems to have done so by swooping down at very high speed 
from the forest canopy and raking its enormous, hugely muscled talons 
across its prey's back. Archaeological finds show that _Harpagornis_ 
was alive a mere 500 years ago - perhaps it died out when, at about 
1600 AD, the Maori hunted its prey, the moa, into extinction.
     "Now, is it just coincidence that the Maori have legends of 
giant man-eating birds of prey, called Pou-kai? Jared Diamond wrote 
of _Harpagornis_ in 1990 "One can only speculate about what this 
powerful specialist in attacking tall bipedal prey did when it saw 
the first arriving Maoris". Perhaps, as some say, there are no such 
things as coincidences." (Naish 1999).

Naish, D. 1999. Big bad killer eagles. _Fortean Times_ 122: 48.
I publish in all the best journals.

DARREN NAISH
darren.naish@port.ac.uk