The mysterious discovery of a 3,300-year-old giant claw made in New Zealand

A mysterious 3,300-year-old claw has been found by archaeologists who believe it belongs to a bird that went extinct 800 years ago.

New Zealand is a land full of enigmas, the island of the  Maoris  is home to more than 170 species of birds, 80% of which no longer exist anywhere else on the planet.

Other species are already extinct because of human settlements and the invasive pests that accompanied them. That’s why the discovery of a huge 3,300-year-old bird’s claw is not surprising.

The mysterious 3,300-year-old claw

In 1987, members of  New Zealand Speleological  were traversing the Mount Owen cave systems when they discovered something surprising; a claw that looked like it belonged on some kind of prehistoric animal, like a dinosaur.

The claw found in New Zealand.

To their surprise, it still had muscle and skin tissue, after further study they discovered that the claw belonged to an extinct species of flightless bird known as moas.

These birds were native to New Zealand and became extinct around 700 to 800 years ago. Archaeologists have estimated that the massive moa claw must have been around 3,300 years old when it was discovered.

The existence of moas dates back to the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana, around 80 million years ago, according to scientists.

Reconstruction view of Gondwana 420 million years ago, centered on the South Pole.

Its name comes from the Polynesian word meaning domestic bird, and the term actually refers to a group of birds that includes 3 families, 6 genera, and 9 species.

Their size varied greatly, some had the wingspan of a common turkey, while others were larger than the same ostrich, the 2 largest species of moas were 3.6 meters tall and weighed about 230 kilograms.

The fossil record revealed that most of these birds were herbivores, with a diet based on fruit, grass, leaves and seeds. Genetic analyzes reveal that the  South American tinamous , a flying bird that is a sister group to the ratites, were their closest living relatives.

But, the 9 species of moas, unlike the rest of the ratites, were the only ones that could not fly, they didn’t even have vestigial wings.

Tinamus is a genus of tinamiform birds in the family Tinamidae. These birds are popularly known as macuco, macuca, inhambu, inambu and tona.

The moas and their extinction

They were terrestrial and herbivorous animals, being the largest ones that dominated the forests of New Zealand.

The Haast eagle was the only natural predator of the moa, until humans arrived…

Recreation of a Haast eagle hunting two moas.

When Maoris and other Polynesians began arriving in the region in the early 13th century, it wasn’t long before they arrived on the island as well, as a result of which the moa quickly became extinct.

A short time later, the Haast eagles suffered the same fate.

There are some theories, but the most accepted is discriminated hunting and the reduction of their natural habitat.

According to  Trevor Worthy , a  paleozoologist  known for his long career in moa research, he stated that this was the main reason.

Trevor Worthy.

The discovery of this mysterious claw only confirms how colossal and majestic these creatures were, to the point that they were mistaken for a dinosaur claw.

Without a doubt, moas were one of the most extraordinary birds to walk the Earth.

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