Story: Moa

Genetic tree of moa and close relatives

In the past, the skeletons of birds were examined to identify the moa’s closest relatives. Some of these analyses placed kiwi and moa close together, as might be expected from their shared geographical location. Recent genetic analysis suggests that the closest relatives of the moa are the tinamous of South America. This diagram, read from left to right, shows how different families of birds diverged over time.

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Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand
Reference: Matthew J. Phillips, Gillian C. Gibb, Elizabeth A. Crimp and David Penny, ‘Tinamous and moa flock together: mitochondrial genome sequence analysis reveals independent losses of flight among ratites.’ Systematic Biology 59, no. 1 (January 2010), pp. 90–107; Kieren J. Mitchell, and others, ‘Ancient DNA reveals elephant birds and kiwi are sister taxa and clarifies ratite bird evolution.’ Science 344, no. 6186 (May 2014), pp. 898–900

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How to cite this page:

Trevor H. Worthy, 'Moa - Scientific classification', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 22 September 2023)

Story by Trevor H. Worthy, published 24 Sep 2007, reviewed & revised 17 Feb 2015