Art. XXII.—On Some Moa Feathers.
[Read before the Wellington Philosophical Society, 28th October, 1871].
When at Dunedin last July, I was shown by Mr. Purdie some feathers of the Moa which had been found by Mr. Samuel Thompson with moa bones, buried in sand, about fifty feet from the surface, at the junction of the Manuherikia with the Molyneux River, and quite recently some more moa feathers have been received at the Colonial Museum from Dr. Thomson, of Clyde, which were found between Alexandra and Roxburgh, eighteen feet below the ground.
The feathers from both these places are so much alike that there can be little doubt but that they belong to the same species of bird, their differences being simply due to their coming from different portions of the body. They
are all quite fresh in appearance, and the colouring is as bright as if just plucked from the bird, but unfortunately all are more or less broken, and only one (in the Otago Museum) shows the tube that enters the skin. In this feather the length of the tube is 0.25 of an inch, and it contains two plumes or feathers. The main plume is unbroken, and is 4.75 inches in length, and 0.5 of an inch broad at the tip; the other, or accessory plume, is 2.75 inches long and broken off, but in size it almost equals the main plume. The greater number of the feathers have a very peculiar shape, gradually enlarging from the tube to the apex, where they are rather bluntly rounded off; some, however, especially the more downy ones, have the sides more parallel. The largest I have measured was 7 inches long, and 0.75 of an inch broad at the apex. The barbs are unconnected and rather distant, but not so much so as in most Struthious birds. They are furnished with barbules up to the very tips of the feathers, except in a few cases where for a short distance the barbs are simple. No barbicels exist on any part of the feathers, the downy portion being simply formed by the barbules being more elongated and set closer together. The shafts are slender and flexible, and do not project beyond the barbs.
In colour the feathers are brown for about the basal two-thirds, the more downy ones being of a redder brown than the others. This brown gradually shades off into black, which colour is kept as far as the rounded portion of the tip, which is pure white. The shaft is of the same colour as the feather.
The structure of the feathers, therefore, is decidedly of the Struthious type, but owing to the nearness of the barbs, and the presence of barbules to the tips, it is not so typical of that order as some living species. The long after shaft and the numerous barbs in the feathers of the Moa show an affinity to the Emu, while the egg, as I have previously remarked, shows an affinity to the Rhea, thus connecting the Moa more nearly with the Struthiones of South America and Australia than with the Ostrich of Africa. (Pl. IX).