Being 12 feet tall and weighting 500 pounds didn’t save the giant moa (Dinornis robustus) from extinction, along with 11 smaller moa species on the islands of New Zealand. The ancient Maori, who may have hunted the massive flightless birds to extinction, probably knew well the moas’ favorite habitats.
But, for modern biologists, how moa’s used and shared the environment remained a mystery. Now poop has helped scientists decipher the mysterious movements of the moa.
Researchers analyzed pollen and other clues in fossilized feces from four species of the extinct bird. Each species’ feces contained different mixtures of plant remains. By matching the fossil plant species mixture with modern habitats, the researchers traced where the birds spent their time, before they disappeared in the early 1400s.