Dinornis
Including‭ ‬D.‭ ‬novaezealandiae,‭ ‬a.k.a.‭ ‬the North Island Giant Moa, and D.‭ ‬robustus,‭ ‬a.k.a.‭ ‬the South Island Giant Moa.

Name: Dinornis (Terrible bird).
Phonetic: Die-nor-nis.
Named By: Richard Owen‭ ‬-‭ ‬1843.
Synonyms: Dinornis struthioides,‭ ‬Dinoris,‭ ‬Moa,‭ ‬Movia,‭ ‬Owenia,‭ ‬Palapteryx,‭ ‬Tylopteryx.
Classification: Chordata,‭ ‬Aves,‭ ‬Paleognathae,‭ ‬Dinornithiformes,‭ ‬Dinornithidae.
Species: D.‭ ‬novaezealandiae,‭ ‬D.‭ ‬robustus.
Diet: Herbivore.
Size: At maximum elevation,‭ ‬3.6‭ ‬meters high‭ (‬for females,‭ ‬see main text for details‭)‬.
Known locations: New Zealand.
Time period: Late Pleistocene to Holocene.
Fossil representation: Multiple specimens of males and females.

       When you are presented with an image of a moa bird,‭ ‬chances are you are looking at Dinornis,‭ ‬which internationally is the most famous of the moa.‭ ‬This fame is mostly down to the immense size of Dinornis,‭ ‬individuals of which at full elevation of the neck could reach up to just over three and a half meters high.‭ ‬Feathers of Dinornis have even been recovered,‭ ‬study of which reveals that in life Dinornis would have been a reddish brown in colour.‭ ‬However,‭ ‬being secondarily flightless,‭ ‬the feathers had‭ ‘‬de-evolved‭’ ‬into more primitive hair-like structures.‭ ‬These would have provided not only insulation,‭ ‬but a weatherproof coat that kept the skin dry when it rained.‭ ‬Only the legs as well as parts of the‭ ‬head and throat were devoid of feathers.‭ ‬Like its relatives,‭ ‬Dinornis had small heads with a beak that curved slightly downwards.‭ ‬This beak allowed‭ ‬Dinornis to selectively snip off small portions of the most edible plants of the forests that once covered all of New Zealand.
       In the past‭ ‬Dinornis has been treated as something of a wastebasket taxon with almost any moa remains being attributed to Dinornis upon their discovery.‭ ‬This has led to the Dinornis genus previously attaining one of the longest species name lists of any moa,‭ ‬but fortunately,‭ ‬later palaeontologists that inherited moa study from their forebears realised for themselves that something was up.‭ ‬Later study of Dinornis remains has now seen most of the fossils of former species re-assigned to different moa genera,‭ ‬while a few species such as D.‭ ‬struthioides were found to be synonyms to existing Dinornis species.‭ ‬At the time of writing there is now just two universally recognised species of Dinornis.‭ ‬These are D.‭ ‬novaezealandiae from the North Island,‭ ‬and D.‭ ‬robustus of South Island.
       The Dinornis genus of moa is perhaps the best example of the extreme sexual dimorphism that can be seen in these birds.‭ ‬The females of Dinornis can be as much as one and a half times taller than the males,‭ ‬and at the same time be almost three times as heavy.‭ ‬So extreme were these size differences that males and females were once thought to be separate species,‭ ‬with males being classed under D.‭ ‬struthioides,‭ ‬and females under D.‭ ‬robustus.‭ ‬It was not until the advent of DNA analysis that the truth was discovered and that D.‭ ‬struthioides became a synonym to D.‭ ‬robustus.
       DNA analysis of Dinornis specimens has also revealed the presence of two previously unknown lineages within known Dinornis fossils.‭ ‬This means that in the near future two new species of Dinornis may become listed,‭ ‬but at the time of writing further details on these are unavailable.‭ ‬The use of DNA analysis in Dinornis however also illustrates how palaeontologists are continually‭ ‬trying out and‭ ‬using techniques originally designed for other scientific areas to help them to understand and reveal more of the truth about long extinct animals.‭ ‬Unfortunately however,‭ ‬the vast majority of fossils of extinct animals in general do not contain any testable DNA,‭ ‬they have just been fossilised for too long.
       Care should be taken not to confuse Dinornis with the similarly named Dromornis from Australia.

Further reading
-‭ ‬On the remains of Dinornis,‭ ‬an extinct gigantic struthious bird‭ ‬-‭ ‬Richard Owen‭ ‬-‭ ‬1843.
-‭ ‬Extreme reversed sexual size dimorphism in the extinct New Zealand moa Dinornis‭ ‬-‭ ‬Michael Bruce,‭ ‬Trevor H.‭ ‬Worthy,‭ ‬Tom Ford,‭ ‬Will Hoppitt,‭ ‬Eske Willerslev,‭ ‬Alexei Drummond‭ & ‬Alan Cooper‭ ‬-‭ ‬2003.
-‭ ‬Nuclear DNA sequences detect species limits in ancient moa‭ ‬-‭ ‬L.‭ ‬Huynen,‭ ‬C.‭ ‬D.‭ ‬Millar,‭ ‬R.‭ ‬P.‭ ‬Scofield‭ & ‬D.‭ ‬M.‭ ‬Lambert‭ ‬-‭ ‬2003.
-‭ ‬Reconstructing the tempo and mode of evolution in an extinct clade of birds with ancient DNA:‭ ‬The giant moas of New Zealand‭ ‬-‭ ‬Allan J.‭ ‬Baker,‭ ‬Leon J.‭ ‬Huynen,‭ ‬Oliver Haddrath,‭ ‬Craig D.‭ ‬Millar‭ & ‬David M.‭ ‬Lambert‭ ‬-‭ ‬2005.



----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Random favourites