Posts categorized as Biodiversity

Wellington’s summer spiders

Male sheetweb spider

Ever felt like you’re removing more spiders from your home in summer compared to the rest of the year? Our bug expert Phil Sirvid explains why spiders are so prevalent in summer, and what kinds commonly turn up in Wellingtonian’s homes. The black-headed flax jumping spider While spider numbers in general are up during the warmer months,… Read more »

Sunshine, fishing – and changes in Coromandel birdlife over 45 years

  • Papa Aroha beach. Image: Colin Miskelly
  • Brown teal, Papa Aroha, December 2016. Image: Colin Miskelly
  • Part of the Motukawao island group. Gannets nest on Motukaramarama (Bush) Island on the left. Image: Colin Miskelly
  • Spotted shags, Firth of Thames. Image: Jenny Atkins, NZ Birds Online

From welcome swallows to Australian magpies, bird expert Colin Miskelly looks at the variety of birdlife who’ve come to call Coromandel home over the past half-century. Spending the summer at the beach is part of the great New Zealand holiday tradition. For many families, attachment to a particular location results in them returning to the… Read more »

The petrels of Dusky Sound

  • broad-billed-prion-adult
  • Broad-billed prion chick, Seal Islands, Dusky Sound, November 2016. Image: Colin Miskelly
  • Mottled petrel in spotlight beam, Dusky Sound, November 2016. Image: Jean-Claude Stahl
  • Mottled petrel, Dusky Sound, November 2016. Image: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa

Have you ever wondered which New Zealand bird was the first to be given a published scientific name? The unlikely answer is the broad-billed prion, named as ‘Procellaria vittata’ by a 22-year-old Georg Forster in 1777. The second species was the little penguin (as ‘Aptenodytes minor’) named by Georg’s father, Reinhold Forster, four years later…. Read more »

Dusky Sound – rich in history and wildlife

  • Mottled petrel, Dusky Sound, November 2016. Image: Jean-Claude Stahl, Te Papa
  • Flax weevil (Anagotus fairburni), Dusky Sound, November 2016. Image: Jean-Claude Stahl, Te Papa
  • Adult tawaki / Fiordland crested penguin, Dusky Sound, November 2016. Image: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa
  • Kakapo on Anchor Island, November 2016. Image: Jean-Claude Stahl, Te Papa

A team of Te Papa scientists recently visited Dusky Sound as the first stage in an investigation of changes in biodiversity since Cook’s visit in 1773. Cook named the area ‘Dusky Bay’ when he sailed past on his first voyage in March 1770, and explored the sound and its wildlife more thoroughly during a 6-week… Read more »

Cuckoos, toxic caterpillars, citizen science, and cinerarias

  • Shining cuckoo in gum-tree. Image: Rob Lynch, New Zealand Birds Online
  • Juvenile shining cuckoo with monarch caterpillar, Upper Moutere. Image: Anna Barnett, New Zealand Birds Online
  • Magpie moth caterpillar (Nyctemera annulata). Image: Gonzalo Avila, Plant & Food Research
  • Cinerarias. Image: Colin Miskelly, New Zealand Birds Online

Cuckoos are well-known for eating spiky and poisonous foods, but did you know they can eat toxic monarch caterpillars? Shining cuckoo The pure, whistling call of the shining cuckoo is New Zealand’s harbinger of spring. This small cuckoo is one of our few migratory landbirds, spending the winter on tropical islands east of Papua New Guinea,… Read more »

Critters of Taumaka (Open Bay Islands)

  • Taumaka skink (Oligosoma taumakae) on Taumaka, September 2016. Image: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa
  • Red admiral butterfly (Vanessa gonerilla) on Taumaka, September 2016. Image: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa
  • Red admiral butterfly (Vanessa gonerilla) on Taumaka, September 2016. Image: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa
  • Taumaka gecko (Mokopirirakau undescribed species) on Taumaka, September 2016. Image: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa

Taumaka is a 20 ha Māori-owned island lying about 4 km off the South Westland coast. Our visit to the island last month was to track foraging trips of breeding tawaki / Fiordland crested penguins, and was undertaken with the permission and support of the Taumaka me Popotai Trust. The island has a large New… Read more »

A new species of fern for New Zealand, Asplenium lepidotum

The abundance of scales on the upper surface of young fronds is a distinguishing feature for Asplenium lepidotum.  These scales appear as black dots.  Photo by Leon Perrie.  © Te Papa.

Finding and naming new species is a core part of the job for Te Papa’s scientists.  More than 2500 animal and plant species have been named by museum staff since 1865.  A recent example is the fern Asplenium lepidotum, described by myself and Pat Brownsey.  This brings the number of indigenous ferns and lycophytes in… Read more »

Botanic gardens: our outdoor museums and why they matter

Hobbits enjoying the hobbit hole at the Oldenburg Botanic Garden. Sept 2016. Photo by Heidi Meudt.

My name is Heidi Meudt and I’m a Research Scientist in Botany at Te Papa, currently doing taxonomic research on New Zealand’s native forget-me-nots. As part of my job, I attend scientific conferences in New Zealand and overseas. Over the course of my botany travels during September, I’ve managed to visit five botanic gardens in three different… Read more »