Posts categorized as Science

The distribution of kōwhai and its close relatives throughout the Southern Hemisphere has intrigued scientists, including Charles Darwin, for over 150 years. Recent research led by Lara Shepherd has revealed more about the relationships among this iconic group of plants. Sophora sect. Edwardsia is a group of 19 species of small trees or shrubs mostly… Read more »

Metamorphosis and pineapples: The illustrations of Maria Sibylla Merian

Detail from The Surinam Album

Who was Maria Sibylla Merian? Librarian Christine Kiddey uncovers the fascinating story of the woman behind the remarkable The Surinam Album, full of lavish illustrations of flora and fauna from the former Dutch colony of Suriname in South America. Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717) was born in Frankfurt into a family of artists and book publishers, and… Read more »

Help us identify some 17th century butterflies, moths, and bugs

Hollar blog 6

Think you know your bugs? Art curator Dr Mark Stocker has been working on a project along with our bug experts, Dr Phil Sirvid and Dr Julia Kasper, to identify a number of butterflies, moths, and other insects (including a snail) in some 17th century prints by Anglo-Czech etcher Wenceslaus Hollar. But they haven’t managed to identify them… Read more »

At Te Papa we’re constantly photographing our collection items – whether that be art works, historical objects, or scientific specimens.  Recently, our imaging specialist Jean-Claude Stahl has taken pictures of some bizarre creatures – water bears, also known as tardigrades. Here, Jean-Claude explains why photographing a water bear is such a ‘bugbear’ and bug expert Phil Sirvid fills us in… Read more »

Another extinct bird: Northland’s unique shag

Leucocarbo Tennyson 216

Curator of vertebrates Alan Tennyson discusses another previously unknown New Zealand bird extinction, published in a new article today.  Last month it was revealed that New Zealand had lost its unique swan in prehistoric times. That list of extinctions continues to grow at an alarming rate as research, led by an Otago University team, published… Read more »

In photos: Giant eggs, tiny eggs, and the eggceptionally rare

  • Eggstremes. South Island giant moa and rifleman eggs to the same scale. Specimens ME.012749 and OR.007264 (latter collected by Captain John Bollons at Akaroa, date unknown). Photogtaph by Jean-Claude Stahl. Te Papa
  • Laughing owl egg (44.2 mm x 39.5 mm). Locality and date unknown. Specimen OR.030062. Photograph by Jean-Claude Stahl. Te Papa
  • New Zealand dotterel clutch, Maketu Spit, Bay of Plenty, October 2011. Specimen OR.029416, eggs approx. 45 mm x 32 mm. Photograph by Jean-Claude Stahl. Te Papa
  • South Island kokako egg (42.0 mm x 27.4 mm), Hokitika, date unknown. Specimen OR.007626. Photograph by Jean-Claude Stahl. Te Papa

Bird expert Colin Miskelly highlights some of the treasures in our egg collection, including those thought to be held only by Te Papa – as well as giant moa eggs, tiny rifleman eggs, and eggs that were acquired during dramatic events in New Zealand’s conservation history. Digitising our egg collection Most of the bird eggs held… Read more »

Another extinct bird: New Zealand’s prehistoric swan

Cygnus chathamensis skeleton

Curator of vertebrates, Alan Tennyson, discusses new findings published today that New Zealand and the Chatham Islands had their own unique prehistoric swan.  Black swans (Cygnus atratus) are a common and prominent part of New Zealand’s wetland fauna today – but have they always been here, or are they recent invaders? For many decades it has been unclear… Read more »

Myrtle rust: why local New Zealand species are under threat

Myrtle rust is characterised by yellow pustules. Photo by Scot Nelson.

Sadly, the discovery of more sites in New Zealand infected with myrtle rust suggests that it is here to stay. Originally from South America, myrtle rust invaded Australia in 2010 and rapidly spread.  Botanist Lara Shepherd discusses what Australian scientists have discovered about myrtle rust over the last seven years. What does myrtle rust infect?… Read more »

A new bird for New Zealand – Cox’s sandpiper

  • New Zealand’s first Cox’s sandpiper, Lake Ellesmere, November 2016. Photograph: Michael Ashbee, NZ Birds Online
  • Pectoral sandpiper. Photograph: Steve Attwood, NZ Birds Online
  • Curlew sandpiper. Photograph: Neil Fitzgerald, NZ Birds Online
  • Sharp-tailed sandpiper. Photograph: Tony Whitehead, NZ Birds Online

The latest addition to the New Zealand bird list is a legendary shorebird so rare that there are times when it is likely that none exist anywhere in the world. Bird expert Colin Miskelly introduces the Cox’s sandpiper. Sandpipers are small wading birds that separate people with a serious interest in bird identification from casual… Read more »