Paleontologists have discovered a trail of seven moa footprints and an associated separate footprint on a riverbank outcrop of the Maniototo Conglomerate Formation in the Kyeburn River, South Island, New Zealand.
He Moá is an extinct order of giant flightless birds (Dinornithiformes) comprising nine species that lived during the late Quaternary era.
Some species showed high levels of sexual dimorphism and females were considerably larger than males.
moa species appear It has adapted to different habitats and diets, inhabiting a wide range of environments, including subalpine areas, forests and shrublands, and open grasslands.
They were important species as a natural food source for the Maori until their extinction approximately 600 years ago.
The first known moa footprints were found near the mouth of the Tūranganui River at Tairawhiti Gisborne in 1866.
Since then, several other sporadic finds have been made in the North Island, but moa tracks have recently been found in the South Island.
These include the recently described Kyeburn footprints, as well as those found at Paeroa, south of Timaru, South Canterbury, in 2022.
In his studio, Explore the Otago Museum paleontologist Kane Fleury and colleagues discovered that a member of the Moa family left a trail of seven Kyeburn footprints Emeidaemost likely of the genus pachyornis.
The footprints were 4.6 cm deep, 27.2-30 cm wide, and 26-29.4 cm long.
The track builder had an average mass of 84.61 kg and was traveling at a speed of 2.61 km/h.
To the researchers’ surprise, a 3D photogrammetry model of the fossil site later revealed the presence of a second moa.
This individual left a separate footprint about 44.8 cm wide and 28.5 cm long.
The bird was family. Dinornithidaemost likely of the genus dinornis with an estimated mass of 158 kg.
These footprints are the second oldest fossil record of moa, and given the dimensions of the only Dinornithidae footprint, moa had reached their legendary gigantic size in the Pliocene.
“Many moa remains or traces are extremely recent in geological terms: they are less than 10,000 years old,” Dr Fleury said.
“However, the Kyeburn footprints were buried 3.6 million years ago, so they offer a rare glimpse into a poorly understood period of moa evolution, making them even more significant.”
He study was published in the Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand.
Kane Fleury et al. Pliocene and early Pleistocene moa tracks from Kyeburn, Otago, New Zealand. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand, published online November 14, 2023; doi:10.1080/03036758.2023.2264789