Murdoch University Research Repository

Welcome to the Murdoch University Research Repository

The Murdoch University Research Repository is an open access digital collection of research
created by Murdoch University staff, researchers and postgraduate students.

Learn more

Dinornis - An insular oddity, a taxonomic conundrum reviewed

Worthy, T.H., Bunce, M., Cooper, A. and Scofield, P. (2005) Dinornis - An insular oddity, a taxonomic conundrum reviewed. In: Proceedings of the International Symposium “Insular Vertebrate Evolution: the Palaeontological Approach”, 16 - 19 September, Mallorca, Spain pp. 337-390.

PDF - Published Version
Download (1MB)


The taxonomic history of the extinct moa genus Dinornis (Aves: Dinornithiformes) is reviewed. Until recently limb bone dimensions and island of origin (North or South) were the pre-eminent factors in species determination within the genus Dinornis due to the expectation that flightless birds on distinct landmasses could not be the same species. Recent morphological analyses applying modern concepts of biological variation reduced the number of acceptable taxa, but size remained of paramount importance in defining species boundaries. Recent analyses of mitochondrial and nuclear DNA have resulted in a radical new explanation of the size variation in Dinornis. Here we assess the new genetics-derived hypothesis of one species per island where the size variation seen in the morphometric data is due to reversed sexual dimorphism. Length data from main limb bones is analysed by region or site and demonstrates clear bimodality where averages for the male and female forms vary between regions/sites but move up or down in parallel. The regional datasets demonstrate that in the mid-late Holocene, birds were smallest in subalpine zones and montane forests and largest in low altitude and low rainfall regions such as Canterbury (in eastern South Island) and the Horowhenua coast north of Wellington in southern North Island.

Item Type: Conference Paper
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology
Item Control Page Item Control Page


Downloads per month over past year