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Keywords:

  • Bell Hill Vineyard Swamp;
  • dimorphism;
  • Makirikiri;
  • New Zealand;
  • paleoecology;
  • ratite

Abstract

Recent reinterpretation of the giant moa Dinornis as consisting of two sexually dimorphic allospecies permits thorough site-by-site investigation of the ontogeny and population biology of this genus. Analysis of subadult skeletal material from natural swamp sites in the North and South Islands of New Zealand forms the basis for recognition of growth series for each long bone element, characterized by sequential formation of fossulae in the femur and fusion of bones in the tibiotarsus and tarsometatarsus. Femora reached progressive developmental stages more rapidly than the other long bones, but all three elements reached maturity at about the same time. Patterns of bone fusion in Dinornis are more similar to those in Apteryx than in Struthio, and kiwi are recognized as a suitable developmental analog for interpreting moa ontogeny. Samples from Bell Hill Vineyard Swamp (South Island) and Makirikiri swamp (North Island) are interpreted as representing autochthonous moa populations; comparison with stages of kiwi long bone development suggests that Dinornis at these sites had high adult survivorship in strongly K-selected populations, with 72.5–87.3% of individuals having achieved adult body mass, and 55.9–78.2% being sexually mature. The pattern of low fecundity and probable high longevity in both Dinornis species suggests that populations were vulnerable to loss of adults, primarily through hunting, rather than as a result of habitat destruction. J. Morphol. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.