Posts written by Lara Shepherd

Introducing Imber’s petrel: a new recently extinct seabird species for New Zealand

Holotype of Imber’s petrel. Sampling bones for DNA typically involves drilling holes or cutting chunks out of them. However, for this bone we were able to soak DNA out of the bone without damaging it.

New Zealand has a new species of seabird. Te Papa scientists recently described Imber’s petrel (Pterodroma imberi) from the Chatham Islands as a new species. A previous study that measured a large number of seabird bones from the Chatham Islands found three size categories.   The largest bones belong to the Magenta petrel/taiko (Pterodroma magentae)… Read more »

Te Papa’s new DNA lab is up and running.

Te Papa Botany curator Carlos Lehnebach looking at spider orchid DNA in the new lab.

Last week I performed the first DNA extraction in Te Papa’s brand new genetics laboratory. Our lab is the first genetics lab in a New Zealand museum and will allow Te Papa scientists to analyse the DNA of our unique plants and animals. Genetic information is increasingly being used to examine the relationships between species and help us… Read more »

Meet three new species of hagfish

Like something out of a horror movie the common hagfish (Eptatretus cirrhatus) bares its teeth. Photo: Carl Struthers. Copyright Te Papa

A new paper by Te Papa researchers and their colleagues from Massey University, NIWA and the Swedish Museum of Natural History, describes not one but THREE new species of hagfish. This increases the total number species found in New Zealand waters to eight. What are hagfish? These strange creatures, also called snot eels, lack jaws… Read more »

Last week Te Papa Botany curator Leon Perrie and I attended the Uawa BioBlitz in Tolaga Bay. Organized by the Allan Wilson Centre and Groundtruth, the BioBlitz was an intense 24 hours of species discovery. Scientists from a variety of organisations were joined by members of the local community, including kids from the Tolaga Bay… Read more »

Living life on the edge – plants of screes

Notothlaspi australe, Parachute Rock track, Lake Rotoiti.  Photo: Lara Shepherd.

Looking at the photos below, you wouldn’t expect these unstable rockslides, called screes, to be home to anything. But take the time to look a little closer and you’ll find a number of native New Zealand plants that have adapted to living in just such seemingly inhospitable environments. In early January I spent a week… Read more »

Miniature Hikes: a public art installation in celebration of Wellington’s wild places.

  • Crystal Hut, Aro Valley. Photo: Lara Shepherd.
  • Crystal Hut, Aro Valley. Photo: Lara Shepherd.
  • The logbook for the Mt Victoria Hut is on a pulley system under the hut.
  • Robin Hut, Red Rocks, hunkering down against the weather. Photo: Lara Shepherd.

If you want to get outside this summer and explore Wellington’s wild places then consider visiting the miniature huts created for the public art project Miniature Hikes. This series of public sculptures are hidden in some of Wellington’s most scenic spots including Red Rocks, Matiu Somes Island and Mt Albert. Local artists Kemi Whitwell and Niko Leyden of Kemi Niko… Read more »

A Natural History of Christmas Part 2: Underneath the mistletoe…..

Red mistletoe (Peraxilla tetrapetela) Temple Stream, Ram Hill, Otago. Photo: Leon Perrie.

Christmas trees, carol singing, Christmas stockings – many Northern Hemisphere Christmas traditions have been brought to New Zealand. One that we haven’t ’embraced’ is kissing under the mistletoe. I wonder why not? Is it because of our reserved kiwi natures or is it our mistletoes…….? There are around 1300 species of mistletoe worldwide and all are… Read more »

A blue fairy, pink candy, a crab-lipped spider, several donkeys and a flying duck.

  • Lilac sun orchid (Thelymitra cornicina), Maringup. Photo: Leon Perrie.
  • Slender hammer orchid (Drakaea gracilis), Albany. Photo: Lara Shepherd.
  • Tall leek orchid (Prasophyllum elatum), Balingup. Photo: Leon Perrie.
  • Flying duck orchid (Paracaleana nigrita), Maringup. Photo: Leon Perrie.

Not only do south-western Australian orchids have imaginative common names but their flowers are arguably some of the most stunning in this biodiversity hotspot. The flowers of the 320 or so species have a wide range of colours and shapes. Many orchids don’t produce nectar to attract insects to spread their pollen, instead using deception… Read more »