In 2017, Taranaki collector Alastair Johnson found the fossil of a giant petrel. Initially, it was encased in rock but careful preparation revealed something stunning. Not only was it a complete skull but it was the first fossil ever found of an intriguing kind of seabird. Two years later, Alastair found part of a wing bone of a giant petrel too. Both fossils are 3 million years old. Vertebrate Curator Alan Tennyson and Research Fellow Rodrigo Salvador describe the distinctions and fierce habits of giant petrels.
New DNA research by Science Researcher Lara Shepherd and Vertebrate Curators Colin Miskelly and Alan Tennyson has revealed parallel evolution in the small seabirds called prions. This unexpected result requires recognition of an eighth species of prion. Their research also revealed that all the birds formerly known as ‘fulmar prions’ are endemic to Aotearoa New Zealand. This means that we have gained two additional endemic bird species, and Australia has lost a breeding species.
This month, Curator Vertebrates Alan Tennyson and the Department of Conservation’s Johannes Fischer, published a scientific paper that clarified the identity of a common subantarctic seabird. Alan explains why this was necessary and what a surprising and incredible history this research revealed.
In 2011, Alastair Johnson was hunting for fossils on a remote beach in Taranaki. Three-million-year-old fossil oysters and scallops are common but remains of vertebrates are much rarer. However, on this occasion, something magical appeared out of the rock – the most complete fossil albatross skull ever found. Curator of vertebrates Alan Tennyson tells us more.
On 16 October 2014 Te Papa hosted tyrannosaur expert Dr Stephen Brusatte who revealed the newest members of the tyrannosaur family to an enthusiastic audience. We heard about his global travels to dig up fossils and the latest research on tyrannosaur diversity and evolution. Only this year Steve helped describe
A study published in the journal Science today reveals a new and unexpected origin for New Zealand’s iconic kiwi and overturns the previous idea that the ancestors of kiwi flew directly over from Australia (see Miocene fossils show that Kiwi are probably not phyletic dwarves, Paleornithological Research 2013, and St Bathan’s
This was one of the key questions that we were trying to answer when four Te Papa scientists – Colin Miskelly, Antony Kusabs, Jean-Claude Stahl and I – set off for the subantarctic Snares Islands in November-December 2013. The Snares are one of the world’s great seabird islands and broad-billed