The artistic performance of the eagle Haast attacking the moa. Credit: John Megahan – Ancient DNA tells the story of the evolution of a giant eagle. PLoS Biol 3 (1): e20. doi: 10.1371 / journal.pbio.0030020.g001

Ancient moa DNA has made it clear how species respond to climate change, a study by Otaga University found.

After analyzing the ancient DNA of extinct eastern moa, researchers from the Department of Zoology found that giant birds changed their distribution as the climate warmed and cooled.

Lead author Dr. Alex Vera says the species was distributed throughout the eastern and southern South Islands during the warmer Holocene, but was limited to the southern South Island at the height of the last ice age about 25,000 years ago.

This is compared to the heavy-footed moa that retreated to both the southern and northern regions of the South Island, while the mountain moa inhabited four different areas.

“The response of the eastern moa had consequences for him population size and genetic diversity – the last ice age led to a pronounced genetic bottleneck, which meant it ended lower genetic diversity than other moa living in the same areas, ”says Dr. Verry.

A study published in Letters on Biologythis is the first time that high-performance DNA sequencing, which simultaneously sequentially sequences of millions of DNA fragments, has been used to study moa on population level.

The results highlight how past climate change has affected species differently, and that the “one size fits all” model is impractical.

“It makes us wonder what will happen to species if they try to adapt to climate change today and in the future? Will they also try to relocate to new areas to survive?”

“For some species, this will be impossible, some species will run out of space, such as alpine species, which will have to move up, but they can only go so far until they are no longer” up “,” he says.

Co-author Dr. Nick Rowlens, director of the Otago Paleogenetics Laboratory, says the study is a rare example of the effects of the past climate change about extinct megafauna from New Zealand.

It also demonstrates how fossil remains and museum collections can be used to answer new questions about the past.

“It really brings the power of paleogenomics to New Zealand’s research issues, whereas previously most research and interest has focused on Eurasian or American species. We are really starting to build capacity for this research in New Zealand, ”he says.

Blue-eyed shags survived the ice age in New Zealand

Additional information:
Genetic evidence of postglacial expansion from the southern refugium in the eastern moa (Emeus crassus), Letters on Biology (2022). DOI: 10.1098 / rsbl.2022.0013.… .1098 / rsbl.2022.0013

Citation: DNA provides a unique look at moa and climate change (2022, May 10), obtained May 10, 2022 from

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