Monday, March 24, 2014

Humans to Blame for Giant Bird's Extinction

By Megan Gannon, News Editor

Fossils are all that's left of the giant wingless birds called moa that once roamed New Zealand. These big-bodied megaherbivores, some of them weighing up to 550 pounds (250 kilograms), disappeared soon after Polynesians colonized the islands in the late 13th century.
Some researchers had argued the nine species of moa were already in decline by the time humans entered the scene. Others had proposed the birds' population collapsed in the wake of volcanic eruptions or the spread of diseases, before they ever met Homo sapiens. A new study, however, suggests humans are responsible for the birds' demise.
"Elsewhere the situation may be more complex, but in the case of New Zealand the evidence provided by ancient DNA is now clear: The megafaunal extinctions were the result of human factors," Mike Bunce, a professor at Curtin University in Australia, said in a statement. [Wipe Out: History's Most Mysterious Extinctions]
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