Perfectly Preserved Moa Prints Discovered
Michael Johnston was out taking his boss’s dog for a dip in a nearby river in Ranfurly, when he stumbled across some unusual markings in the waterbed. Jonathan Ore writes about the discovery for a story, which recently aired on Canada’s CBC Radio.
Johnston had a hunch that he had found something quite special, and contacted the Otago Museum in Dunedin. There, researchers confirmed that the fossilised prints belonged to moa, and were likely millions of years old.
“I was absolutely blown away by them when I first saw them,” Kane Fleury, natural science assistant curator at the Otago Museum, told As It Happens host Carol Off.
“The prints were amazing. They had crisp, square edges on them, and they were just very, very well-preserved.”
They’re the first moa prints found in the South Island. Fleury says they were preserved in sediment that could be anywhere from a million to 12 million years old.
“That potentially means that these are some of the oldest sort of evidence of moa in New Zealand,” he said. “Because New Zealand is such a geologically active country, it’s not very well preserved.”
Museum staff carefully extracted slabs of clay, after temporarily diverting much of the water away from the site and pumping the excess water, allowing them to cut the seven prints out. Each measured around 30cm by 30cm.
Moa were large flightless birds endemic to New Zealand that went extinct around 700 to 800 years ago.
According to Fleury, they could range in size from about that of a large turkey to “giant” varieties over two metres tall and weighing as much as 250kg.
Original article by Jonathan Ore, CBC Radio, May 21, 2019.