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Berentson, Quinn: Moa. The Life and Death of New Zealand's Legendary Bird.

[dagger][dagger] BERENTSON, Quinn Moa. The Life and Death of New Zealand's Legendary Bird Craig Potton Pub, 2012 300pp NZ$49.99 ISBN 9781877517846 SCIS 1592468


The winner of the Best First Book Award (NZ Post Book Awards) 2013 as well as the Science Book Prize Winner 2013 from the Royal Society of New Zealand, this massive tome is clearly a result of an extraordinary commitment by the author to be a 'book palaeontologist,' fossicking around in the dark spaces of history to find and tell the story of the Moa. Today we may well be dismissive of the need to know about this extinct bird but Berenston invites us to dig a bit deeper into our ecological history. What emerges is an extraordinary story that touches on Maori myth and legend, and tensions within Victorian social order as much as the egocentricity of individuals and their scientific aspirations. As the author puts it, 'The moa has fascinated and bamboozled the finest minds in natural history for 170 years and so, rather than write an encyclopaedia, I've tried to tell the story of its rediscovery, with all the twists and turns, devious personalities and unlikely events, and summarize the latest scientific discoveries that have occurred in just the last few years and have totally changed our perception of the giant birds. Basically almost everything we thought we knew about the moa has been turned on its head over the last 10 years because of advanced DNA analysis. It turns out for most of the last 170 years we had a totally mistaken view of what the birds looked like, how they lived and even where they lived. Now New Zealand scientists have finally solved many of the mysteries that baffled the best minds in natural science for the last century.'

If you think that the moa can be reasonably compared to the ostrich, a flightless bird that moves rapidly through open spaces, then you will be challenged by recent discoveries. This book is very much a detective book where supposition and contemporary myth needs to be unpacked--a surprising journey. Recommended for high school libraries. JMcK

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Author:McKenzie, John
Publication:Reading Time
Article Type:Book review
Date:Nov 1, 2013
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