Bringing the moa back
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.
Moa fan: Flightless bird expert Dr Mike Dickison with his favourite megafauna.