Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa
Volume 29, 1896
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2.“Notes on Moa-bones in Gold-drift” (collected by Mr. Lukin in the Sherry River district, Nelson), by Sir J Hector.

Sir J. Hector said, from Mr. Lukin's notes it appeared that these bones were found at the base of a Recent river-gravel deposit 20ft. thick resting

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on the denuded surface of a marlstone formation of Miocene age. The gravel was being worked by hydraulic sluicing, and the gold was chiefly found in the bottom layer, which also contained the bones. These were all in rolled or water-worn fragments, and, as they had a honeycombed structure, a considerable amount of gold had lodged in them, which the miners obtained by crushing and washing the bones. From his knowledge of the locality, he believed the gravel to be quite recent, and formed long after the lignite and auriferous gravels of Pleistocene age which occurred in the same district. The bones were probably of the species Dinornis robustus, and were as follow: 3 dorsal vertebra; 1 sacrum; 2 fragments of tibias, of different birds; 1 fibula of left side; 1 ischium, and acetabulum—left side; 1 ischium, right side; 1 ischium, right side of a smaller bird; 3 ribs; 1 fragment of sternum: so that probably several birds are represented in the collection.

Mr. Travers said he knew the locality. It yielded rich auriferous gravels that had been worked for the last thirty-five or forty years, but under great difficulties, owing to the absence of water, without incurring a large expenditure. Now he believed the property had changed hands, and £70,000 was to be spent in developing the field.

Mr. Hudson asked if moas were supposed to have had external rudimentary wings. He could not understand why birds should lose their wings because they did not require the use of them.

Sir James Sector replied that some forms of the moa had very small rudiments of a wing. Disuse led to the diversion of nourishment from any organ to other parts of the body that were used in excess. No doubt the development of the ponderous legs of the moa was effected at the expense of the blood-supply diverted from the wings. The interesting point was that in New Zealand there were not only many kinds of true Struthionidæ, which is a family in which the breast muscles for flight were not developed, but there were also many other families of birds that else-where had power of flight, but yet in New Zealand had lost that power and the mechanism required for it.