The Moa the Merrier: Resolving when the Dinornithiformes went extinct


  • Floe Foxon Folk Zoology Society, PO Box 97014, Pittsburgh, PA 15229, USA



Moa, Dinornithiformes, extinction dynamics, folk zoology, cryptozoology


The Moa (Aves: Dinornithiformes) are an extinct group of the ratite clade from New Zealand. The overkill hypothesis asserts that the first New Zealand settlers hunted the Moa to extinction by 1450 CE, whereas the staggered survival hypothesis allows for Moa survival until after Europeans began to arrive on New Zealand. Alleged Moa sightings post-1450 CE may shed light on these competing hypotheses. A dataset of 97 alleged Moa sightings from circa 1675 CE to 1993 CE was constructed, with sightings given subjective quality ratings corresponding to various statistical probabilities. Cumulative probabilities of Moa persistence were calculated with a conservative survival model using these probabilistic sighting-records; a method recently applied to sightings of the Thylacine. Cumulative persistence probability fell sharply after 1408 CE, and across pessimistic and optimistic variations of the model, it was more likely than not that the Moa were extinct by 1770 CE. Probabilistic sighting-record models favour the overkill hypothesis, and give very low probabilities of Moa persistence around the time of European arrival. Eyewitness data on Moa sightings are amenable to scientific study, and these methods may be applied to similar animals.


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How to Cite

Foxon, F. (2024). The Moa the Merrier: Resolving when the Dinornithiformes went extinct. Belgian Journal of Zoology, 154, 1–9.