Australia claims another NZ icon
New Zealand’s kiwi bird may join a list which includes pavlova, Weetbix, Crowded House and Russell Crowe – all things Australia liked so much it pinched them from its neighbour.
New research by Australian scientists suggests the kiwi may have evolved from a bird that flew to the NZ islands from across the Tasman.
So, not only did we have the kiwi first – ours could fly as well.
Palaeontologist Trevor Worthy of Adelaide's Flinders University says recently-discovered fossils show the kiwi did not evolve from the moa – an extinct giant bird. He says it is much more likely that the kiwi is related to a more familiar character; the giant flightless Australian emu.
Dr Worthy says it now appears both birds share a common, flying ancestor.
“If, as the DNA suggests, the kiwi is related to the emu, then both shared a common ancestor,” he said.
“It means they were little and volant [able to fly] and that they flew to New Zealand.”
“We need to find wing bones to put the theory beyond all doubt,” he said.
A preliminary study has been published by the Society of Avian Paleontology and Evolution. It is rumoured that scientists are now working on a contrary report claiming it was the Australian land mass that broke away from New Zealand, not vice-versa.
The Mallard duck, the little banded dotterel and the cattle egret are all modern examples of birds which are known to hop the gap and appear in both countries.