Kiwis have Closest Relation with Madagascar Elephant Bird

Kiwis have Closest Relation with Madagascar Elephant Bird

On performing DNA analysis of New Zealand's famed kiwi, a shy chicken-sized flightless bird, and the flightless elephant bird of Madagascar, scientists at the University of Adelaide have found closest relation between two bird species. Despite of having difference in sizes, body shape and lifestyle of both the birds, researchers found close genetic link to kiwis. Earlier, it was believed that the kiwi's closest relatives were the emu and the cassowary.

The long-extinct flightless Madagascar elephant bird was having height of up to three meters and weight about 275 kilograms. Scientists got surprised on seeing Kiwi’s relation with the elephant bird of Madagascar as the latter bird went extinct few centuries ago.

Alan Cooper, Prof. at the Adelaide team, led the discovery at Te Papa on Thursday. Lizzy Perrett, Otorohanga Kiwi House wildlife manager, said kiwi’s always have been a New Zealand icon.

Currently there are 17 Kiwi as well as a selection of other animals in the Otorohanga Kiwi House which opened in 1971.

Perrett added that there are many other kiwis that are a bit feisty and had attitude to fit much larger bird. Main thing regarding latest discovery is finding that kiwi’s closest relative was extinct, lent extra importance to conservation efforts such as the kiwi house's breeding program.

Kieren Mitchell, of the University of Adelaide's Australian Centre for Ancient DNA, said: “It does seem a little ironic, but in fact it's the simplest explanation for the facts we observe”.


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