Posts written by Alan Tennyson

Another extinct bird: Northland’s unique shag

Leucocarbo Tennyson 216

Curator of vertebrates Alan Tennyson discusses another previously unknown New Zealand bird extinction, published in a new article today.  Last month it was revealed that New Zealand had lost its unique swan in prehistoric times. That list of extinctions continues to grow at an alarming rate as research, led by an Otago University team, published… Read more »

Another extinct bird: New Zealand’s prehistoric swan

Cygnus chathamensis skeleton

Curator of vertebrates, Alan Tennyson, discusses new findings published today that New Zealand and the Chatham Islands had their own unique prehistoric swan.  Black swans (Cygnus atratus) are a common and prominent part of New Zealand’s wetland fauna today – but have they always been here, or are they recent invaders? For many decades it has been unclear… Read more »

The global hunt for the original wandering albatross

"Chocolate albatross" in Vienna

Vertebrate Curator Alan Tennyson explores the history of the name of the wandering albatross and the hunt for the original specimens. The wandering albatross is one of the world’s greatest ocean wanderers, with individuals circumnavigating the Southern Ocean and travelling 120,000 km in a year. These albatrosses have been among the most high-profile of seabirds ever since… Read more »

Albatross vs Shark

Seal shark head, jaws open showing teeth

This beauty and the beast tale did not end happily ever after for either character. Te Papa staff member Hokimate Harwood collected a rather smelly deceased albatross on Wellington’s south coast on 15 November. A Shark Tale In the lab we were astounded to see a shark’s tail protruding from its neck. When we cut… Read more »

World-renowned dinosaur expert visits Te Papa

Steve at the famous Lyme Regis fossil site in England.

On 16 October 2014 Te Papa hosted tyrannosaur expert Dr Stephen Brusatte who revealed the newest members of the tyrannosaur family to an enthusiastic audience. We heard about his global travels to dig up fossils and the latest research on tyrannosaur diversity and evolution. Only this year Steve helped describe the new long-snouted Chinese tyrannosaur… Read more »

Elephant bird DNA reveals that the Kiwi is not an Aussie

Alan Cooper holds a giant elephant bird leg bone in front of a kiwi skeleton for media as Alan Tennyson looks on. Photo: Jean-Claude Stahl © Te Papa

A study published in the journal Science today reveals a new and unexpected origin for New Zealand’s iconic kiwi and overturns the previous idea that the ancestors of kiwi flew directly over from Australia (see Miocene fossils show that Kiwi are probably not phyletic dwarves, Paleornithological Research 2013, and St Bathan’s kiwi – NZ Birds Online). … Read more »

Were broad-billed prions from The Snares part of the massive die-off of this species in 2011?

  • South Bay Snares
  • Dead skua prey remains
  • Skuas feeding
  • Broad-billed prion chick, Snares Island. Te Papa

This was one of the key questions that we were trying to answer when four Te Papa scientists – Colin Miskelly, Antony Kusabs, Jean-Claude Stahl and I – set off for the subantarctic Snares Islands in November-December 2013.  The Snares are one of the world’s great seabird islands and broad-billed prions – a small blue-and-white… Read more »

Science Live: Whalebirds – the mystery of the storm riders. Part 8. Prion evolution

  • Fossil bones of fairy prions are abundant in some South Island West Coast caves showing that the species nested there in huge numbers before humans brought rats to New Zealand.  Photo: Te Papa collections, Alan Tennyson
  • Alan Tennyson with a South Island Giant Moa leg bone. Photo © JC Stahl
  • The evolutionary history of prions is poorly understood but prions have been riding the winds of the southern oceans for at least the last 4 million years.  Photo: Fairy Prion, Philip Griffin, NZ Birds Online
  • The blue petrel is a close relative of prions but unlike prions it has a long narrow beak and a white, rather than black tip to its tail.  Photo: South Atlantic, David Boyle, NZ Birds Online

Here is the final instalment in our series of blogs all about prion biology! This is in preparation for our upcoming Science Live event on Oct 22nd (today!) at 1:50 pm NZ time when you can accompany us into the lab via live streaming (a permanent link to the YouTube video can be found below).  For… Read more »