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Kiwi Genetically Closer to Extinct Elephant Birds Than to the Emu

timothy posted about 8 months ago | from the but-it's-totally-ok-for-them-to-mate dept.

Earth 46

"A new study by the University of Adelaide's Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD), has solved a 150-year-old evolutionary mystery about the origins of the giant flightless 'ratite' birds, such as the emu and ostrich, which are found across the southern continents. This group contains some of the world's largest birds - such as the extinct giant moa of New Zealand and elephant birds of Madagascar. ... [A]ncient DNA extracted from bones of two elephant birds held by the Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa, has revealed a close genetic connection with the kiwi, despite the striking differences in geography, morphology and ecology between the two." Which means that the emu is not, as conventional wisdom has long held, the kiwi's closest link. Here's more on the research from the University of Adelaide.

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News for birds... (0, Offtopic)

KingOfBLASH (620432) | about 8 months ago | (#47086485)

...stuff that matters?

Re:News for birds... (1)

RamiKro (3019255) | about 8 months ago | (#47086545)

The pursuit of tastier and bigger chickens always matters.

Re:News for birds... (1)

davester666 (731373) | about 8 months ago | (#47088081)

Unfortunately, also has the taste of elephant...

Re:News for birds... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47086569)

stuff that splatters

Re:News for birds... (2)

dbIII (701233) | about 8 months ago | (#47086651)

A 275kg (600 pound) bird three metres (10 feet) tall doesn't matter?
How about if it's yellow?

Re:News for birds... (0)

KingOfBLASH (620432) | about 8 months ago | (#47086669)

Still don't care. Unless you can make buffalo wings from it. ::drools:: mmmm...giant buffalo wings...

Re:News for birds... (2)

Carewolf (581105) | about 8 months ago | (#47086727)

Why do you think they went extinct upon first contact with humans?

Re:News for birds... (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 8 months ago | (#47086749)

That's what you get when you give Col. Sanders an expedition corps.

Re:News for birds... (2)

CRCulver (715279) | about 8 months ago | (#47086777)

A recent visit to Madagascar really put paid to any naive belief I might have had that "primitive tribes" lived in harmony with nature. Sure, the death blow to the island's forest cover is being dealt now by an industrial China hungry for exotic wood, but in fact the bulk of deforestation happened before European colonialism. The island's giant bird (said to be the inspiration for the roc of Arab legend) was also hunted to extinction well before human beings showed up.

A pre-industrial society can do plenty of damage on its own.

Re:News for birds... (2)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 8 months ago | (#47086819)

The island's giant bird (said to be the inspiration for the roc of Arab legend) was also hunted to extinction well before human beings showed up.

Well before human being showed up???

What were they hunted by? Giant cats?

Re:News for birds... (1)

CRCulver (715279) | about 8 months ago | (#47086833)

Oops, sorry, my mistake, I meant to write "Well before Europeans showed up".

Re:News for birds... (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 8 months ago | (#47086843)

That's that EEEVIL Eurocentrism I've heard about, isn't it?

In any case, I agree completely. Primitive people are more than capable of screwing up the ecology without any help from the rest of us, and are generally too ignorant and poor to have any real chance of doing anything other than screwing things up....

Re:News for birds... (1)

joh (27088) | about 8 months ago | (#47088329)

Humans have started to heavily wreck the environment long before modern times, yes.

This is hardly surprising. Humans were neophytes almost everywhere and disrupted the local fauna and flora. They also multiplied like rabbits.

But this has become a global problem now, with more than 7 billion of us. The number of existing species is plummeting, just like the number of living animals of all species that are not our pets or cattle. We are the cause of a modern mass extinction event that is very similar to the handful of former extinction events, just that it happens much faster.

Re:News for birds... (2)

C0R1D4N (970153) | about 8 months ago | (#47086769)

I happen to work at a safari which has rhea, ostrich and emu; so I found this to be very helpful to me :)

Re:News for birds... (0)

rossdee (243626) | about 8 months ago | (#47087025)

What continent has all three of those birds?

Re:News for birds... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47087045)

One that has heard of 'importing'.

Re:News for birds... (2)

Senior Frac (110715) | about 8 months ago | (#47086803)

You really have to try hard to come up with a headline that makes even the most hardcore slashdotter scream "OMG what a NERD" when reading it.

Re:News for birds... (3, Insightful)

MoaDweeb (858263) | about 8 months ago | (#47089807)

Mate, this matters to New Zealanders! For 20 years our national symbol has been linked as a descendant of the Australian ratites, coupled with our national inferiority complex (see below) the psychological impact has been devastating. Now we are free to clomp around with the flightless chicken-sized kiwi free from any Australian associations.

lab rat mutant monkeys to replace unchosens? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47086487)

designed in our own image, http://rt.com/news/monkeys-customized-mutation-study-435/ we are now official fictional deities too. order your own personally customized mutant monkey(s) (limit 100,000) online; hymen: __yes __no, real eyes or glassholes __both (only choice), house trained: __yes __no __ what is this?, language spoken: __en__ (one choice again this is easy), genderous: __male __one of the hers __trysexual. .. plus loads of other 'options' when you log on to mutantmonkeysuncle.naz after jumping through some hoops almost anyone can qualify to be a customized mutant monkey keeper

couldn't be any worse than current bloodline (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47086595)

talk about breeding away our softer side?; 'It is not just that his views show how out of touch he and his PR team are with the nation and the real world, but Charles’ flippant remarks draw unwelcome attention to his own and his family’s close connections to Nazis, and related war-mongering.

His father Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh was educated for a time in Nazi Germany and his four sisters married black-uniformed SS officers (three of them, Sophie, Cecile and Margarita, joining the Nazi party). Philip admitted to then having 'inhibitions about the Jews' to an American academic and feeling 'jealousy of their success.' Charles’ great uncle, the abdicated ex-King Edward VIII, was such a swastika-waver that MI6 had to banish him to Bermuda for the duration of World War Two, thwarting his and his Nazi wife Mrs Simpson’s attempts to join Hitler by crossing into occupied Europe.

Charles himself has come quite close to publicly endorsing Hitler’s slippery chief Architect and Armaments Minister Albert Speer by hiring Speer’s greatest devotee, Léon Krier, as his own chief architect for his Duchy of Cornwall’s extensive building projects. Writer and broadcaster Jonathan Meades in his 1994 documentary, ‘Jerry Building’ nails Krier as the ‘Speer-carrier’ and ‘Keeper of the Toxic Flame’, pointing out that every one of Speer’s creations, which include the Nuremberg rally stadium, is inseparable from the inhuman experimentation and forced concentration camp labor used to construct them.

Charles’ great grandfather George V was one of the three ‘great’ architects of World War One, the so-called ‘Cousins’ War’, four years of mindless slaughter that began exactly a century ago. With two more Saxe-Coburg Gotha cousins, George’s hapless subjects slugged it out in trench warfare with Germany’s Wilhelm II and Russia’s Nicholas II's unfortunates leaving, by 1918, a total of some ten million dead for no discernible purpose.

When in 1917 ill-mannered soldiers began pointing out that German Gotha bombers from another branch of the King’s family business were killing them, George V blithely announced that his surname was changing from ‘Saxe-Coburg Gotha’ to the more English-sounding ‘Windsor’.'

New Zealanders? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47086499)

Had to read this twice before I realised they weren't talking about New Zealanders in general.

Re:New Zealanders? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47086587)

Had to read this twice before I realised they weren't talking about New Zealanders in general.

considering another recent study on the increasing obesity rate among kiwi woman I am starting to see a link

Neither New Zealand Inhabitants nor Fruit (1)

MaizeMan (1076255) | about 8 months ago | (#47086875)

And here I was looking forward to an argument about how large birds and delicious fuzzy brown fruit are NOT in fact closely related.

Re:Neither New Zealand Inhabitants nor Fruit (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47091389)

Jurassic Park? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47086523)

Ok, having read several of these stories now, I'm calling bullshit on that one study a while back that said DNA would only last a few hundred years. We've got partial DNA matches from giant elephant birds and woolly mammoths and etc. Now where the heck is my Jurassic Park?

Jurassic Park? Its possible (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47087035)

story [livescience.com]

Yea, that 100 year thing has been known to be wrong for a while now. They have actual DNA from a T-Rex from 68 million years ago. Not common, but it happens on rare occasions.

There is also a guy trying to "clone" T-Rex from chickes by messing with the protiens as the chicken develops in the egg. I believe he has gotten teeth and a bigger tail from chickens doing this, just to prove its "somewhat possible".

OMG! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47086537)

This changes everything!

Boondoggle science (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47086577)

The next time some idiot says, "Without government support, we wouldn't have any science!!!" point out this shit.

As if all government "investment" is NASA-level research right? (Hey, it gave us billion dollar tang ;-).

Does anyone actually think Adelaide's Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD) sounds like a good way to allocate our scarce resources? And are they willing to pay for it themselves?

Re:Boondoggle science (2)

Trepidity (597) | about 8 months ago | (#47086629)

Yeah, what has biology ever done for us...

Re:Boondoggle science (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47091599)


why compare birds to a fruit? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47086601)

It seems silly to compare a kiwi to an ostrich. What's next, comparing bananas to snakes?

Re:why compare birds to a fruit? (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 8 months ago | (#47086757)

Rather not. "Bananas on a plane" sounds more like something you get from Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker.

Re:why compare birds to a fruit? (1)

rossdee (243626) | about 8 months ago | (#47087333)

When I was a kid the fruit was called chinese goosberry

News for birds. Stuff that splatters. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47086645)

...once upon a time.

bbq (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47086659)

The sad thing about both the moa and the elephant bird is that these marvelous creatures were both doing fine up until a few hundred years ago. Unfortunately they both tasted a bit too much like chicken to our ancestors.

Where Is My Lunch? (1)

Jim Sadler (3430529) | about 8 months ago | (#47087165)

Maybe we can get enough DNA to bring back these big birds. But then again it seems like our society screws things up. Remember the ostrich craze? People spent huge sums to get ostriches under the theory that an ostrich ranch was the next big thing. Supposedly businesses just could not get enough ostrich parts and the meat was going to be a big seller as well. The price of an ostrich passed 80K.. But none of us are seeing ostrich meat at the markets. I wonder how many millions were lost on the ostrich scams. The earth worm scam preceded the ostrich scam. People invested a lot of money getting supplies to start farming worms in warehouses. they were told that that the shampoo industry used protein from worms and all were told they could make a fortune with the worms doing the work.

Re:Where Is My Lunch? (1)

iggymanz (596061) | about 8 months ago | (#47087341)

plenty of ostrich ranches are still in business. and emu ranches too. Eight out of ten business startups fail anyway, regardless of what the business is.

Re:Where Is My Lunch? (1)

bloodhawk (813939) | about 8 months ago | (#47090779)

still in business yes, but the operating now at more realistic prices and production levels for such a niche product.

Re:Where Is My Lunch? (1)

iggymanz (596061) | about 7 months ago | (#47102785)

yup, just like any other new startup space

Re:Where Is My Lunch? (4, Informative)

synaptic (4599) | about 8 months ago | (#47088259)

My folks raised ostriches, rheas, and emus during the breeder's market craze. I think the most we paid for an adult breeding pair was $35k. The ostriches laid anywhere from 40-60 eggs/yr, sometimes more, which we incubated and hatched. Ostrich chicks were sold for $1500-3000/ea at a few days to a few weeks old. Our facilities were inspected by the USDA and we were licensed by them. Occasionally we would sell fertile eggs for ~$1000/ea.

Consider a cow that requires grazing space and has one, maybe two calves a year. An ostrich pair can produce >40x the many offspring in less space and the chicks mature to slaughter age in 14 months, the same as a cow. A single male can service a dozen females and this can all be done in a few acres of land, with less waste products as well. Our rheas were much more prolific, with one of our breeding pairs churning out over 120 fertile eggs per year. Our emus didn't produce well.

The ostrich cornea was said to be compatible with humans, the feathers are in demand, and the leather is strong and light. Even the egg shells have been used by Faberge and others. I didn't really care for an ostrich egg omlette but the meat is low in both cholesterol and fat like chicken or turkey meat but is a red meat. The adults weigh around 300lbs.

There were sometimes problems though. We had issues with egg shells that were too thick where the chicks couldn't peck through it and we would have to drill through the shell and help them hatch. Impaction was a big issue as the chicks would basically eat so much grass they would get bound up and couldn't get any nutrients. I did the autopsies. They will also eat any shiny piece of metal or nails and die. And if their body grows too fast, their legs cannot support the weight and they get bowed legs and other leg problems. The older birds will sometimes die just from the stress of being moved. We had a yearling once that walked on a slick surface and lost its footing, blowing out its knees and there's little you can do to help them recover from that. These problems aren't intractable, the poultry industry has solved a lot of them, and some of it was due to our own ignorance about proper feeding schedules and diet.

I still think there are merits for eating ostrich meat over cow meat. I feel like an ostrich farm can scale larger than a cow farm with less environmental impact. But I just don't think Americans want to eat ostriches.

Re:Where Is My Lunch? (1)

LMariachi (86077) | about 8 months ago | (#47089491)

Most Americans would be eager to eat ostriches if they'd ever interacted with one.

Re:Where Is My Lunch? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47123585)

Some years ago, my girlfriend's parents' neighbors had an ostrich farm, and we were given 25 pounds of ground ostrich. It wasn't bad, at first, but after a few weeks of the stuff, I began to dread the prospect of another meal containing ostrich. It has a distinct flavor. I think we finally threw away the last few pounds because neither of us could face eating it. But, then again, I think I'd probably begin to feel the same way about beef, if I had to eat it for every meal, so there's that.

Re:Where Is My Lunch? (1)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about 8 months ago | (#47142145)

You do know the poultry industry's 'solution' for their over feeding regimes of garbage the animals aren't meant to eat is to restrict all their movement right? Then just package up the bits of the 'unfortunates' and presto mechanically seperated meat. Though one or two broken or mutated limbs can just be hacked off and sold as a utility chicken.

No, we definitely do not need more ostrich farms and more of these 'solutions'.

Explains the big eggs? (1)

silvermorph (943906) | about 8 months ago | (#47088631)

If kiwis are related to the much bigger elephant birds, that might explain why they lay such ridiculously big eggs - they've shrunk but their eggs haven't caught up yet.

Radio interview with reasearcher (2)

Rangataua (820853) | about 8 months ago | (#47090277)

Radio NZ did a 40 minute interview [radionz.co.nz] with evolutionary biologist Alan Cooper (the lead researcher) on Saturday. It is well worth a listen if you've got the time.

I'm calling BS! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47096037)

How could an animal be more closely related to a piece of fruit than another animal?!

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