A megafauna's microfauna: gastrointestinal parasites of New Zealand's extinct moa (Aves: Dinornithiformes)

Jamie Wood, Janet Wilmshurst, Nicolas Rawlence, K. Bonner, Trevor H. Worthy, John Kinsella, Alan Cooper

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    47 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    We perform the first multidisciplinary study of parasites from an extinct megafaunal clade using coprolites from the New Zealand moa (Aves: Dinornithiformes). Ancient DNA and microscopic analyses of 84 coprolites deposited by four moa species (South Island giant moa, Dinornis robustus; little bush moa, Anomalopteryx didiformis; heavy-footed moa, Pachyornis elephantopus; and upland moa, Megalapteryx didinus) reveal an array of gastrointestinal parasites including coccidians (Cryptosporidium and members of the suborder Eimeriorina), nematodes (Heterakoidea, Trichostrongylidae, Trichinellidae) and a trematode (Echinostomida). Parasite eggs were most prevalent and diverse in coprolites from lowland sites, where multiple sympatric moa species occurred and host density was therefore probably higher. Morphological and phylogenetic evidence supports a possible vicariant Gondwanan origin for some of the moa parasites. The discovery of apparently host-specific parasite taxa suggests paleoparasitological studies of megafauna coprolites may provide useful case-studies of coextinction.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere57315
    Pages (from-to)e57315
    Number of pages9
    JournalPLoS One
    Volume8
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 25 Feb 2013

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