Object: Upland Moa, Megalapteryx didinus
This image has Some Rights Reserved. Creative Commons BY-NC-ND
You may download and use Te Papa’s images of this work as long as you meet the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives copyright licence. Fair dealing, as understood under the New Zealand Copyright Act 1994, also applies.
You must include the attribution credit provided when you download the image.
|Scientific name||Megalapteryx didinus|
|Identified by||Worthy, Trevor|
|Common / Maori name||Upland Moa|
|Country collected||New Zealand|
|Region collected||South Island|
|Precise locality||Honeycomb Hill, Enduro, Map Grid 1385N 720E|
|Collected by||Worthy, Trevor|
|Date collected||Mar 1987|
The entire skeleton of this upland moa had been lying in limestone cave for fifteen thousand years - since the last glacial period - when it was discovered in March 1987. The Honeycomb Hill Cave is in the remote Oparara Valley near Karamea in New Zealand's South Island. The cave consists of a 20-kilometre network of underground passages, at several levels. Over time, the roof had collapsed in several places, creating vertically sided potholes up to 50 metres deep - perfect pitfall traps for the moa that were abundant in the forest above. Once a flightless bird fell in, there was no escape; the now extinct giant eagles would then scavenge their corpses.
Usually with such finds, many bones have been broken or washed away, particularly after so many millennia. This complete skeleton was found lying in a dry passage 15 metres above the present stream. A sudden fall in the water level and the stable environment of the cave provided perfect protection.
The skeleton was excavated, then articualted back at the museum. It could then be seen that this moa species stood about 1 metre tall with a weight estimated at 56 kilograms. The skeleton shows also that moa were low-slung birds, with the head held only slightly above the level of the back - similar to modern cassowaries, but unlike ostriches. There are no wing bones at all; moa were unique among birds in having lost all traces of their wings.
Disclaimer: This information was created from historic documentation, and may not necessarily reflect the best available knowledge about the item. Some collection images are created for identification purposes only and may not be of reproduction quality. Some images are not available due to copyright restrictions. If you have information or questions about objects in the collection, contact us using our enquiry form. You can also find out more about Collections Online.