Giant Claw: The Terrifying Discovery of Mount Owen!
Archaeologists have found a giant claw that is 3,300 years old and belongs to a bird that has been extinct for the last 800 years.
New Zealand’s ancient past is full of mystery and intrigue. The remote island home of the Maori is also home to over 170 species of birds, of which over 80% are endemic, meaning they no longer exist anywhere else in the world. And many species are now extinct. The extinction of those birds is largely attributed to human settlement and the many invasive species that came with it.
However, there are still some remains of these unique creatures from an earlier era. This discovery of an unusually large 3,300-year-old giant claw bird from New Zealand is a small but important reminder of how fragile life on Earth can be.
More than three decades ago in 1987, members of the New Zealand Speleological Society made a strange but fascinating discovery of giant claw. They were exploring the cave systems of Mount Owen in New Zealand when they discovered a breathtaking find – a giant claw that appeared to belong to a dinosaur and much to their surprise, it still had muscle and skin tissue attached.
Later, they learned that the mysterious clasp belonged to an extinct flightless bird species called a moa. Native to New Zealand, moas, unfortunately, went extinct about 700 to 800 years ago.
So, archaeologists then believe that the mummified moa paw must have been over 3,300 years old at the time of discovery! It is estimated that the lineage of moas can be traced to the ancient supercontinent Gondwana, about 80 million years ago.
The name “moa” is derived from a Polynesian word meaning domestic fowl, and the term refers to a group of birds that includes three families, six genera, and nine species.
The sizes of these species varied widely; Some were similar in size to a turkey, while others were much larger than an ostrich. The two largest of the nine species were about 12 feet (3.6 m) long and weighed about 510 lb (230 kg).
The fossil record suggests that extinct birds were primarily herbivores; Their diet mainly consisted of fruits, grasses, leaves and seeds. According to genetic analyses, the South American tinamous (a flightless bird that is a sister group of the ratites) was their closest living relative. However, the nine species of moa, unlike all other ratites, were the only flightless birds to lack vestigial feathers.
Moas used to be the largest terrestrial animal and herbivore that dominated the forests of New Zealand. The Haast’s eagle was its only natural predator before the arrival of humans.
Meanwhile, Māori and other Polynesians began arriving in the area in the early 1300s. Unfortunately, shortly after humans arrived on the island, they became extinct and were never seen again. Shortly afterwards Haast’s eagle also became extinct.
Many scientists claimed that hunting and loss of habitat were the main reasons for their extinction. Trevor Worthy, a paleontologist known for his extensive research on moa, seems to agree with this notion.