Huia are one of Aotearoa’s most well-known birds, despite going extinct over 100 years ago. Early European scientists were fascinated by the radically different bills of the male and female huia, a feature called sexual dimorphism. More recently scientists recognised the New Zealand wattlebird family, which includes huia, as one of three families worldwide containing the most extreme variation in bills. A new study by Massey University’s Gillian Gibb and Te Papa’s Lara Shepherd used DNA sequences to determine when the New Zealand wattlebird family and the extraordinary sexual dimorphism in huia evolved.
Songbirds are perhaps our most familiar birds, including most of the species that visit our gardens. They also include our best-known extinct bird – the huia, which has been extinct for about a century. Many people blame hunting by humans (for specimens to sell to collectors, or for the much-prized
Ngā rau kura – Precious feathers In 2007 I identified the birds in Te Papa’s Māori cloaks using microscopic analyses of feather down and museum bird skin comparisons. My findings have provided a deeper knowledge of the museum’s natural history and Māori collections but also an appreciation and understanding of
By Ricardo L. Palma, Curator of Terrestrial Invertebrates Managing the survival and conservation of animal species which are in danger of extinction has become a widespread activity in many parts of the world. Until now, most of the conservation effort has been concentrated on birds and mammals, probably because they