Posts categorized as Mammals

What (or which) was New Zealand’s first protected dolphin?

  • Pelorus Jack (a Risso’s dolphin, Grampus griseus) accompanies a vessel in Admiralty Bay, 1901–09. Image: James McDonald (Te Papa C.025085).
  • Children playing with Opo (a bottlenose dolphin, Tursiops truncatus), Opononi, 1956. Image: Eric Lee-Johnson (Te Papa O.007809/04).
  • Hector’s dolphin (Cephalorhynchus hectori) – New Zealand’s first protected dolphin – but only in the waters of Cook Strait between 26 October 1956 and 1 March 1959, and 17 March 1966 to 4 July 1968. Image: Steve Dawson, New Zealand Whale and Dolphin Trust
  • MA_I152094 resized

New Zealanders have had the privilege of enjoying the company of many dolphins that chose to interact with people or boats. Some became household names, including Pelorus Jack (1888-1912), Opo (1955-56), Horace (1978-79), Aihe (1987-93), Maui (1992-97) and Moko (2007-10). The close bond that people developed with these dolphins led to concern about their welfare… Read more »

How to deal with human DNA contamination of your DNA sequencing: an example from a Malawian dance garment.

Dance garment, c. 1900, Malawi (Chewa culture), Photograph by Kate Whitley. Copyright Te Papa MA_I.374711

You’ve probably seen forensic scientists on TV taking swabs and fingerprints from crime scenes. They aren’t wearing labcoats, hairnets and gloves to look cool but to prevent them contaminating their forensic evidence with their own DNA. But how do scientists deal with items that are already contaminated with unwanted human DNA? I recently encountered this… Read more »

W.R.B. Oliver – jack-of-all-trades and master of most

  • Chatham Island red-crowned parakeet (Cyanoramphus novaezelandiae chathamensis Oliver, 1930) – named by Oliver in his first edition of New Zealand birds. Image: Dave Crouchley, Department of Conservation/New Zealand Birds Online
  • Reginald Oliver collecting plants at Wilmot Pass, Fiordland, March 1927. Image by J.T. Salmon, Dominion Museum. Te Papa (MA_B.014931)
  • Dominion Museum building, 1984 (then known as the National Museum). Image: Mark Strange, Te Papa (MA_B.016888)
  • IShepherd’s beaked whale (Tasmacetus shepherdi Oliver 1937) stranded at Ōteranga Bay, Wellington, September 1998. Photograph by Peter Simpson, Department of Conservation Te Papa Atawhai (10041750)

Te Papa turned 150 years old on 8 December 2015. To celebrate 150 years since the opening of the Colonial Museum in Wellington, the exhibition ‘You called me WHAT?!’ is open on Level 3 until the end of 2016. The exhibition, and this series of blogs, explore the history of the museum by showcasing some… Read more »

Sir James Hector and the Kerguelen connection

  • Lyallia kerguelensis, Ile Mayes, Iles Kerguelen. Image: Colin Miskelly, IPEV / Te Papa
  • Hectorella caespitosa, Sealy Range, Southern Alps. Image: Antony Kusabs, Te Papa
  • Commerson's dolphin, Golfe du Morbihan, Iles Kerguelen. Image: Colin Miskelly, IPEV / Te Papa
  • Hector’s dolphin. Image: Steve Dawson, New Zealand Whale and Dolphin Trust

The Kerguelen Islands are among the most remote islands on the planet, lying in the middle of the southern Indian Ocean about 7300 km west of New Zealand (or 17,000 km east if you prefer). Yet they have at least two unlikely connections with New Zealand – a plant and a dolphin. And both are… Read more »

The mysterious attraction of the Hutt River to crabeater seals

  • Crabeater seal, Melling, Lower Hutt, July 1934. Image: John Salmon, Te Papa image MA_A.000173
  • Weddell seal, Napier, June 2007. Image: Department of Conservation
  • Ross seal, Paekakariki, September 2002. Image: Department of Conservation
  • Crabeater seal beside the Hutt River, March 2015. Image: Anneke Mace, Department of Conservation

In late March 2015, a crabeater seal swam up the Hutt River (which flows into Wellington Harbour) and died. It was a remarkable occurrence – the crabeater seal is an Antarctic species rarely recorded in New Zealand – but no-one realised at the time that this was precisely the place in New Zealand where a… Read more »

A glimpse of ancient Mauritius: Ile aux Aigrettes, restoration island

  • White-tailed tropicbird chick being hand-fed, Ile aux Aigrettes. Image: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa
  • Mauritius fodies: male (left) and female (right), Ile aux Aigrettes. Image: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa
  • Pink pigeon, Ile aux Aigrettes. Image: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa
  • Telfair's skink, Ile aux Aigrettes. Image: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa

I first heard of Ile aux Aigrettes at a conference on island pest eradications held in Auckland in early 2001. A delegate from Mauritius spoke about a failed attempt to eradicate Indian musk shrews from the 25 ha island, which had already been cleared of feral cats and ship rats. The island next registered in… Read more »

Once were dodos

  • Dodo statue, Ile aux Aigrettes. Image: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa
  • Mauritius kestrel. Image: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa
  • Pink pigeon. Image: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa
  • What am I

The dodo is the world’s most famous extinct bird. Its quirky appearance makes it instantly recognisable in popular culture, including in classics such as Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ and the animated short film ‘Ice Age’. One of the reasons it is so well known is that it is considered to be the first… Read more »

Very rare indeed: a Malawian dance garment

  • Hair fibers from each respective sampled area, GH024606; shown at 200x magnification. Image copyright Te Papa.
  • GH024606, detail of skins used to make the garment. Image copyright Te Papa.
  • Images of hair fibers removed from GH024606 showing exterior scale patterning and the structure of the interior. Images by A. Peranteau, copyright Te Papa.

Witchy tale In 1936, the Dominion Museum was given a gift so rare and strange that it made the news.  Described in the Auckland Star and in museum records as a “witch doctor’s outfit”, the garment was subsequently displayed for many years in the Buckle St building that opened that same year.   During an… Read more »

A week on Ile Mayes, Iles Kerguelen

  • Commerson's dolphin
  • Mayes hut
  • Aymeric & Charly in hut
  • Light-mantled sooty albatrosses, Ile Mayes. Image by Colin Miskelly, copyright IPEV/Te Papa

After 36 hours at Port aux Français, it was time for Charly Bost and me to head into the field again. We were accompanied by Aymeric Fromant, another IPEV ‘VSC’ (Volontaire Service Civique) volunteer. There are a dozen such ‘volunteers’ on Kerguelen each year, with two (Côme Rebaudet and Aymeric Fromant in 2016) focused on… Read more »