Posts categorized as Biodiversity

Seasonality in birds and birdwatchers

  • Shining cuckoo graph
  • Shining cuckoos are often secretive, but are unmistakeable when seen well. Image: Duncan Watson, New Zealand Birds Online
  • An adult grey warbler (left) feeds a recently fledged shining cuckoo chick. Image: Malcolm Pullman, New Zealand Birds Online
  • An adult shining cuckoo shows its iridescent dorsal plumage. Image: Nathan Hill, New Zealand Birds Online

One of the characteristic sounds of spring in New Zealand is the clear, upward-slurred whistle of the shining cuckoo. Along with its long-tailed cousin, the two cuckoos are the only New Zealand forest birds that migrate away from New Zealand after breeding. This is in sharp contrast to temperate countries in Europe, Asia and North… Read more »

Charles Darwin was unimpressed with the south coast of Western Australia when he visited in March 1836 calling it ‘dull and uninteresting’. If, however, he had visited during the spring wildflower season its likely he would have come to the opposite conclusion. These days botanically-inclined tourists, such as myself, flock to southwestern Australia during wildflower season…. Read more »

Doodia rasp ferns become Blechnum hard ferns

  • Blechnum neglectum, previously Pteridoblechnum neglectum, found only in north-eastern Australia. Right: Blechnum diversifolium, from New Caledonia. Blechnum diversifolium is more closely related to the species previously placed in Pteridoblechnum than it is to most species of Blechnum. Photos Leon Perrie. Composite © Te Papa.
  • Blechnaceae ferns are common in several parts of the world. For instance, all New Zealanders will be familiar with kiokio and its relatives in the genus Blechnum, colloquially known as “hard ferns” because of their coriaceous fronds.  Kiokio (Blechnum novae-zelandiae) is a common sight on road cuttings, amongst other habitats, and occurs throughout the country. Photo Leon Perrie. © Te Papa.
  • Left: rasp fern, Blechnum parrisiae, previously called Doodia australis, occurs in both Australia and New Zealand. Right: Blechnum gibbum, from New Caledonia. Blechnum gibbum is more closely related to the species formerly placed in Doodia than it is to most species of Blechnum. Photos Leon Perrie. Composite © Te Papa.
  • Blechnum orientale, in Fiji. Most species of Blechnum in New Zealand are “dimorphic”, with obviously different fertile and sterile fronds. (The exception is Blechnum fraseri, which is only partially dimorphic.) However, many overseas Blechnum are “monomorphic” like Blechnum orientale, which is widespread in the tropics from Asia through Australia to the Pacific.  Photo Leon Perrie. (c) Te Papa.

A key principle in the scientific classification of animals, plants, and other living things is that the system of scientific names reflects their relationships. This is because there is only a single evolutionary history, and it provides an objective basis by which to name life. As we learn more about these evolutionary relationships, scientific names… Read more »

Colossal New Addition to Te Papa’s Scientific Collections

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  • Powder Coated Cabinet
  • Jar and pail storage at Te Papa's collections facility. Photo: Rick Webber, Copyright Te Papa.
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Today we’ve been hearing about the most recent addition to Te Papa’s scientific collections, a new colossal squid Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni. We’re playing host to a dozen or so media representatives as well as our own live-streaming film crew, who are following intently the activity of five visiting squid scientists from AUT, led by Dr Kat… Read more »

Common plant names for Māori Language Week

  • Whauwhaupaku is readily recognised by its leaves with (usually) five stalked leaflets. It is common in the North Island, and extends into the South Island, with a southern limit around Dunedin. Photo © Leon Perrie.
  • Tarata is a widespread tree that is also common in cultivation, because of its fast growth and lemon-scented flowers. The leaves, when crushed, also smell of lemon. Photo © Leon Perrie.
  • Tawhai trees dominate much of New Zealand’s remaining forests, being adapted to cold (or dry) conditions. If you want to be more specific, tawhairaunui can be used for red and hard beech, and tawhairauriki for black and mountain beech. The photo shows silver beech, known simply as tawhai. Photo © Leon Perrie.
  • Porokaiwhiri is a common and widespread small tree. Photo © Leon Perrie.

For many of New Zealand’s indigenous plants, the Māori name is the ‘common’ name, and English names are rarely, if ever, used; think rimu, tōtara, kauri, pōhutukawa, and mamaku. Other species have both Māori and English names, but it is the latter that is predominant, at least in my experience. Below are some such examples… Read more »

New Zealand’s best bird photographer?

  • A vagrant Japanese snipe photographed at Lake Rotokaeo, Hamilton. Image: Neil Fitzgerald, New Zealand Birds Online
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  • The holotype of Pelagornis miocaenus (a fossil seabird) from Armagnac, France, held in the Paris Museum. There is a single specimen referred to this species from North Canterbury. Image: Alan Tennyson, New Zealand Birds Online
  • The red-kneed dotterel has been seen once in New Zealand. This adult was photographed at the Werribee sewage treatment works in Victoria, Australia. Image: Sonja Ross, New Zealand Birds Online

Three hundred photographers (and two painters) have contributed images to the New Zealand Birds Online website, which was launched in June 2013. Each of the 461 bird species on the website has its own page, with one image selected as the ‘master’ image, and additional images presented as a gallery of thumbnails that can be… Read more »

What ferns were found during the ‘Find ferns…’ competition?

  • Button fern, Pellaea rotundifolia, was one of the most frequently reported ferns. Photo (c) Leon Perrie.
  • Hound's tongue, Microsorum pustulatum, was one of the most frequently reported ferns. Photo (c) Leon Perrie.
  • Male fern, Dryopteris filix-mas, is an introduced weed in New Zealand.  It was reported several times. Photo (c) Leon Perrie.
  • Mamaku, Cyathea medullaris, was one of the most frequently reported ferns.  Photo (c) Leon Perrie.

Thanks to those who entered our ‘Find ferns and win!’ competition as part of our Science Live: The Secret World of Ferns broadcast. And, congratulations to the lucky winner! Watch The Secret World of Ferns. Lots of different ferns were spotted – some 44 species. One of the interesting finds was reported by shona_t via… Read more »