Back off, extinct moa

Leaf color and shape may defend a New Zealand tree species from a long-gone giant bird

5:00pm, August 19, 2009

Odd shape shifts and color changes during a New Zealand tree’s lifetime may be a botanical form of paranoia.

Lancewood trees’ skinny, mottled-brown early leaves could still be defending themselves against the long-extinct moa, flightless birds that lived in New Zealand hundreds of years ago, report Kevin Burns of Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, and his colleagues.

Using information about the visual system of the ostrich, the moa’s closest living relative, Burns and his colleagues tested what lancewood leaves (Pseudopanax crassifolius) might have looked like to a moa.  

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