Moa Meals Uncovered
University of Otago postgraduate Jamie Wood collects moa dung, or coprolites, which he finds on tip-offs from hunters who report findings of moa bones. Alan Cooper of the University of Adelaide, who specialises in ancient DNA and who co-wrote a paper on documenting the discovery of 15 samples of moa faeces for the December issue of the Quaternary Science Review, performed DNA typing for Woods. “Jim Wood will meander around the outback of New Zealand looking for rocky areas with overhangs and scoop out the sheep poo and go through the dirt and very often come across coprolites,” Cooper says. “The main thing is the extent of the poo. Pretty much everywhere we have looked for it, we have found it.” As for the coprolite record in Australia, Cooper says: “Our leading hypothesis at the moment is that the termites have got it all.” Cooper is eager to use Wood’s proven sleuthing abilities to mount a more systematic search of likely sites in Australia.