Posts categorized as Biodiversity

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 »

A Bird in the Hand: How to catch a Westland Petrel

A Bird in the Hand: A Westland Petrel is gently held by Te Papa scientist Jean-Claude Stahl after being weighed.
Photo: Kate Whitley, 2015 © Te Papa

The last vestiges of light are fading over Paparoa National Park, Westland in the South Island of New Zealand. As the skies darken, a magnificent silhouette can be seen soaring above a small group of scientists. Soon one silhouette becomes many and within fifteen minutes of the first sighting, birds begin to plummet down into… Read more »

Extinct birds of New Zealand, Part 2 – Songbirds

  • Skull and mandible of Chatham Island raven (Corvus moriorum). Te Papa Collections Online S.028679
  • Skull and mandible of South Island stout-legged wren (Pachyplichas yaldwyni). Te Papa Collections Online S.023578
  • Lyall’s wren (Traversia lyalli). Te Papa Collections Online OR.005098
  • Huia (Heteralocha acutirostris). Te Papa Collections Online OR.001328

Songbirds are perhaps our most familiar birds, including most of the species that visit our gardens. They also include our best-known extinct bird – the huia, which has been extinct for about a century. Many people blame hunting by humans (for specimens to sell to collectors, or for the much-prized tail feathers) for the huia’s… Read more »