Mystery

Pile of 3000-Yr Old Strange Bones Connected to Skin Fragments found in Mount Owen

Mount Owen Moa
Written by Staff

The existence of humans and animals in this earthly abode is shrouded in mystery.

In 1986, an expedition to New Zealand’s Mount Owen, beneath the vast network of its caves, revealed yet another mystery. In the unexplored and isolated caves, the team a pile of strange bones. Why strange? The 3000-year old pile was still connected to shredded fragments of skin, as though it was fresh!

Mount Owen Moa Fossils

Source: Wikimedia Commons

As it turns out, the bones were of the Moa bird, a flightless animal that went extinct all those year ago. Seeing the claws, one can very well imagine how dangerous they were!

The Mount Owen Moa Discovery

In 1839, a member of the Māori tribe gave a fossilised bone to John W. Harris, a natural history enthusiast and a flax trader by profession. The fossilised bone found its way to Sir Richard Owen. Sir Richard worked in the Hunterian Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons, London.

For 4 years, he studied the fossil but it couldn’t be identified. He concluded that the fossilised bone belonged to a complete new species. Even though the scientific community ridiculed the theory, it came to be accepted years later.

Within the next few years, other similar finds led to the reconstruction of the complete Mount Owen Moa skeleton.

Source: Wikimedia Commons (Sir Richard Owen with the Mount Owen Moa)

Most of the Mount Owen Moa remains have been found in swamps, caves and dunes.

The Mount Owen Moa Extinction

The Mount Owen Moa birds were a dominant species of the New Zealand’s forest. They had a flourishing population and existed for thousands of years.

In the 13th century, the Polynesians arrived in New Zealand and slowly, the herbivorous Moa became an endangered species due to habitat destruction and over hunting. Since the birds took time to reach maturity, they couldn’t reproduce to maintain population.

According to the Natural History Museum, “as they reached maturity so slowly, they would not have been able to reproduce quickly enough to maintain their populations, leaving them vulnerable to extinction. All Moas were extinct by the time Europeans arrived in New Zealand in the 1760s.”

Also, the Moa birds were hunted by the Giant Haast Eagles. As the Moa became extinct, so did the Haast eagles.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Moa Revival

Trevor Mallard, a member of the New Zealand Parliament, has commented that scientists will be able to revive the Moa bird within the next 50 years.

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