30 Jan 2010

Moa may once have flown - study

12:39 pm on 30 January 2010

Prehistoric moa may have been able to fly, according to a new study.

An analysis of DNA from moa bones by Massey University researchers found the moa is closely related to the tinamou, a small bird still found throughout central and southern America, which can fly.

One of the researchers, Gillian Gibb, says the group of birds to which the moa and tinamou belong probably lost flight independently of each other, rather than their ancestor being large and flightless, as traditionally thought.

The researchers say there are more than 100 cases of birds becoming flightless on Pacific islands because of the absence of mammal predators.

They say it appears likely that the ancestor of the moa flew, or was blown, to New Zealand via Antarctica before it froze over.