UNITED NEWS INTERNATIONAL (UNI) — New Zealand may have once been home to enormous, jet-black swans.
Legends from an indigenous group of people from the nearby Chatham Islands speak of a swan-like bird known as the Poūwa.
Some experts assumed the Poūwa was actually just the Australian black swan, but scientists at the University of Otago now say the Poūwa was its own unique species.
They studied DNA from dozens of Australian black swans and the remains of ancient swans found around New Zealand.
A report published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B suggests Australian black swans flew to New Zealand 1 to 2 million years ago and then evolved into the Poūwa.
Weighing more than 20 pounds and having shorter wings, these “mega swans” weren’t good fliers but they didn’t need to be because they were too big for most predators.
The Poūwa reportedly went extinct nearly 600 hundred years ago — just a couple centuries after humans arrived.