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Feces reveal much about giant extinct bird

Jan. 13, 2009 at 3:07 PM   |   Comments

AUCKLAND, New Zealand, Jan. 13 (UPI) -- Scientists in New Zealand say they have found feces from giant birds that became extinct thousands of years ago.

The feces were uncovered from beneath the floors of caves and rock shelters in southern New Zealand, Professor Alan Cooper, Director of the Australian Center for Ancient DNA.

The feces trove is allowing scientists to build the first detailed picture of an ecosystem dominated by the giant moa, a bird which weighed as much as 550 pounds, stood nearly 7-feet tall and dropped feces as long as 6 inches, Cooper said,

DNA analysis shows the moa grazed on tiny herbs, in contrast to the widely held view that they were shrub and tree browsers, Cooper said, adding the research raises questions about ancient life in Australia, which has a similarly arid climate.

"Australia should probably have similar deposits from the extinct giant marsupials," Cooper said. "A key question for us is `where has all the Australian poo gone?' "

Topics: Alan Cooper
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