Ancient DNA provides new insights into the evolutionary history of New Zealand's extinct Giant Eagle
Bunce, M., Szulkin, M., Lerner, H.R.L., Barnes, I., Shapiro, B., Cooper, A. and Holdaway, R.N. (2005) Ancient DNA provides new insights into the evolutionary history of New Zealand's extinct Giant Eagle. PLoS Biology, 3 (1). e9.
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Prior to human settlement 700 years ago New Zealand had no terrestrial mammals - apart from three species of bats -instead, approximately 250 avian species dominated the ecosystem. At the top of the food chain was the extinct Haast's eagle, Harpagornis moorei. H. moorei (10-15 kg; 2-3 m wingspan) was 30%-40% heavier than the largest extant eagle (the harpy eagle, Harpia harpyja), and hunted moa up to 15 times its weight. In a dramatic example of morphological plasticity and rapid size increase, we show that the H. moorei was very closely related to one of the world's smallest extant eagles, which is one-tenth its mass. This spectacular evolutionary change illustrates the potential speed of size alteration within lineages of vertebrates, especially in island ecosystems.
|Publication Type:||Journal Article|
|Publisher:||Public Library of Science|
|Copyright:||© 2005 Bunce et al|
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