Moa bird a ‘bog phoenix’ as 500 year old skeleton of world’s largest extinct flightless bird goes on show
Media Release, Thursday 18 September 2008
A preserved skeleton of the wingless New Zealand Moa bird - extinct since around 1500 AD - has been successfully re-assembled by staff from the University of Melbourne, and is on show to the public in a rare opportunity during this weekend’s Cultural Treasures Days event.
Preserved in a peat bog for centuries, this Moa skeleton was given to the University in the early twentieth century. After many years in storage, it has now been assembled for display in the Tiegs Zoology Museum.
The assembled skeleton of the emu-like bird stands at almost 2.5m in height, and is the most magnificent specimen in the museum, according to Tiegs Zoology Museum Director, Dr David Young.
“Although peat is an excellent preservative, the atrophied bones are very fragile, and piecing it together had to be done very carefully”, explains Dr Young.
“The bones have been stored away in boxes and its assembly was made easier because they had all been carefully numbered. It is a truly wonderful specimen, and will be a highlight for visitors to the museum”.
All of the ten known species of Moa are believed to have been extinct by 1500 AD, mainly due to hunting. Before the arrival of humans to New Zealand, the Moa had no predators except the Haast’s eagle and the Moa were the dominant herbivores of New Zealand.
The Moa is the only known completely wingless bird, lacking even the vestigial wings of other flightless birds, such as the Australian emu. Visitors will be able to see how much larger the moa is because the Tiegs museum also has an emu skeleton on display.
Although the Tiegs Museum is usually only open by appointment to specialist researchers, the general public has a rare opportunity to see the Moa skeleton as part of the University of Melbourne’s special collections event, the Cultural Treasures Days, from Thursday 18 – Sunday 21 September.
What: View the extinct Moa skeleton – part of University of Melbourne Cultural Treasures Days
When: Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 September 12-3.30pm
Where: Tiegs Zoology Museum, 1st Floor, Department of Zoology
Dr David Young, Director, Tiegs Zoology Museum (office: 8344 6247 / or museum: 8344 7041)
IMAGES OF THE MOA BEING ASSEMBLED ARE AVAILABLE