Bring­ing the moa back

Central Otago Mirror - - FEATURES -

Could the moa make a come­back?

Ac­cord­ing to Whanganui Re­gional Mu­seum cu­ra­tor and flight­less bird ex­pert Dr Mike Dickison, any­thing’s pos­si­ble. How­ever, there are some com­plex is­sues.

Moa DNA does not pre­serve or har­vest well com­pared to, let’s say, a mam­moth’s, whose re­mains have been con­ve­niently frozen for thou­sands of years, mak­ing ge­netic ma­te­rial rel­a­tively easy to col­lect and se­quence.

Mam­moth also has a sim­i­lar liv­ing rel­a­tive, the In­dian ele­phant, to clone cells, but the moa does not have a cousin of sim­i­lar size and pro­por­tions.

Con­trary to pop­u­lar be­lief, os­trich are not re­lated to moa. While both are gi­ant flight­less birds, that is where the sim­i­lar­ity ends.

Cloning birds is prov­ing to be a tough egg to crack, firstly be­cause less ge­nomic re­search has been per­formed on birds than on mam­mals and se­condly be­cause a shell im­me­di­ately be­gins to grow around a bird em­bryo, which makes it tricky to im­plant a cloned em­bryo within the fe­male’s body, with­out de­form­ing the egg or harm­ing her.

PHOTO: SUP­PLIED

Moa fan: Flight­less bird ex­pert Dr Mike Dickison with his favourite megafauna.

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