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Kiwi Feathers

1. Scientific name: Apteryx australis

Common name: Kiwi

Maori name: Tokoeka


2. Feather structure in flightless birds (Ratites), such as kiwi, is significantly different from flighted birds. One difference is the reduction/loss of barbules. Barbules are hook like structure which help feathers adhere, creating a more rigid which aids in flight. Since flight was selected against, barbules were lost. Lacking barbules, kiwis are covered in soft, fluffy down like feathers. Having these feathers may have helped them adapt and survive in New Zealand’s cooler climate. Maori historically made ceremonial cloaks out of them for this reason.

3. Kiwi evolution is contentious. Morphological evidence places them as most closely related to the moa. However, genetic analysis indicates Kiwis are more closely related to the emu and ostrich than to moa. Under this theory the Kiwi is likely to have arrived from Australia much later than the moa. One theory is that they flew across the Tasman sea 40mya and become flightless once arriving. However, some view this skeptically, as it assumes ancestral flight in a lineage of flightless birds.

4. Latitude: -46.861306 Longitude: 168.106306

5. Here’s a simple genetic phylogenetic tree of flightless birds (Ratites). birds

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Taken on January 7, 2012