Flightless parrots, burrowing bats helped parasitic Hades flower

Ancient dung from a cave in the South Island of New Zealand has revealed a previously unsuspected relationship between two of the country’s most unusual threatened species.

A New Zealand short-tailed bat pictured while eating dactylanthus.
Photo by Nga Manu Nature Reserve.

Fossilised dung (coprolites) of a now rare parrot, the nocturnal flightless kakapo, contained large amounts of pollen of a rare parasitic plant, dactylanthus (commonly known as “wood rose” or “Hades flower”), which lives underground and has no roots or leaves itself.

Researchers from the Environment Institute’s Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD) and Landcare Research and the Department of Conservation in New Zealand report the discovery in a new paper published in the journal Conservation Biology.

The paper is titled ‘A Lost Link between a Flightless Parrot and a Parasitic Plant and the Potential Role of Coprolites in Conservation Paleobiology‘ and was written by Jamie Wood (Landcare Research), Janet Wilmshurst (Landacare Research), Trevor Worthy (University of NSW), Avi Holzapfel (Department of Conservation, NZ) and Environment Institute member Alan Cooper (Director, ACAD).

Read the Media Release

Download the paper

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