Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/2440/37001
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Type: Journal article
Title: Ancient DNA provides new insights into the evolutionary history of New Zealand's extinct Giant Eagle
Author: Bunce, M.
Szulkin, M.
Lerner, R.
Barnes, I.
Shapiro, B.
Cooper, A.
Holdaway, R.
Citation: PLoS Biology, 2005; 3(1):1-10
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Issue Date: 2005
ISSN: 1544-9173
1545-7885
Statement of
Responsibility: 
Michael Bunce, Marta Szulkin, Heather R. L. Lerner, Ian Barnes, Beth Shapiro, Alan Cooper, Richard N. Holdaway
Abstract: 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.
Keywords: Animals; Eagles; DNA; Body Size; Ecosystem; Evolution, Molecular; Paleontology; Fossils; Molecular Sequence Data; New Zealand
Rights: Copyright: © 2005 Bunce et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
RMID: 0020065905
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0030009
Appears in Collections:Earth and Environmental Sciences publications
Australian Centre for Ancient DNA publications
Environment Institute Leaders publications

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