Moa ankle bones


Two moa ankle bones are shown for size comparison. The smaller bone is a 13 cm tall tarsometatarsus or ankle bone from Mantell's moa (Pachyornis geranoides). The larger bone is from a heavy-footed moa (Pachyornis elephantopus), and is almost twice as tall (24 cm) and much more massive.


The ankle bones of these extinct birds tell us a lot about how the animals must have looked, and how they walked. In life, each bone would have supported much of the weight of the animal. From the major size differences we can easily imagine that the heavy-footed moa was a much larger animal than the closely related Mantell's moa. 


These bones is part of the University of Auckland Geological Collections (Specimen AU 4028.173).

Teaching connection

Students enrolled in 199.330 Ornithology at Massey University learn to recognise different bird bones. 199.330 Ornithology teaches students about the evolution, taxonomy, morphology and behaviour of birds. In addition to bird bone studies, the practical work in this paper includes   analyses of plumage colouration and vocalisations.

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