Posts categorized as Biodiversity

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 »

Plant collecting in south Canterbury and Marlborough

On our first collecting day, we set a new elevation record for Te Papa’s new 4WD, with 1100 m on Mount Studholme near Waimate.  We smashed that with 1700 m on our last collecting day, on top of Marlborough’s Black Birch Range.  The snow-capped Tapuae-o-Uenuku of the Inland Kaikoura Range is the backdrop. Photo Leon Perrie. © Te Papa.

An important function for Te Papa’s natural history collections is to document the plants and animals we have in New Zealand. What species are present, how can they be distinguished, and where do they occur? These questions need addressing before our biodiversity, both indigenous and exotic, can be managed in an informed manner. It is… 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 »

Bolstering local plant populations through propagation

Muehlenbeckia astonii SinclairHead 10_reduced

Increasing plant populations through propagation is one way to help threatened species.  Last week, Wellington City Council biodiversity staff collected cuttings and seed from several plant populations in the Te Kopahou area on the coast south of Wellington.  I tagged along. The targeted species Spectacular, steep habitat Wellington’s south coast is a spectacular landscape, and… Read more »

Today is World Habitat Day and this week is World Space Week. I’m observing both of these events by databasing bryophyte (moss and liverwort) botany specimens which are habitat for space travellers. Bryophytes are among the ‘preferred’ habitat for microscopic animals called tardigrades, otherwise known as waterbears or moss piglets.  Although, tardigrades aren’t that fussy about… Read more »

How many plants are in New Zealand?

  • The fork fern Tmesipteris tannensis is indigenous to New Zealand, being present here without human intervention. Moreover, it is endemic, being indigenous to New Zealand and nowhere else in the world. About 45% of the indigenous ferns and 80% of the indigenous seed plants are endemic to New Zealand. Photo Leon Perrie CC BY-NC.
  • Stereocaulon ramulosum is a common New Zealand-indigenous lichen. I suspect few New Zealanders would know it, which is symptomatic of the attention given to lichens, even though they contribute significant biomass to many ecological communities. Photo Leon Perrie CC BY-NC.
  • African club moss (Selaginella kraussiana) is an introduced lycophyte (and not a moss). It is very invasive, even into relatively undisturbed indigenous forests. It carpets the ground, suppressing the regeneration of indigenous plants. WELT P026410. Photo Leon Perrie. © Te Papa CC BY-NC-ND.
  • Anyone visiting New Zealand’s coast is likely to have seen Neptune’s necklace (Hormosira banksii). It is a very common, indigenous brown seaweed. But many New Zealand seaweeds are only poorly known. Photo Leon Perrie CC BY-NC.

I gave a talk on “Understanding and valuing our plants” at the recent open day of Otari-Wilton’s Bush in Wellington. I’m very interested in why New Zealand’s native species might be valued. I am hoping you can help me think about that – I welcome your input; look out for an upcoming blog post. But… Read more »