The shift from hunting and gathering to cultivating crops and livestock was one of the most important developments in human history. But despite its significance, many questions still remain about how crops were first domesticated. One much debated question has been at what point during domestication is genetic diversity lost?Read more

Robin Atherton with the distinctive fruit of karaka. Robin studied karaka genetics for her PhD at Massey University and is a co-author on the new study. Photo credit: Robin Atherton

Karaka, with its large shiny leaves and bright orange fruit, is one of New Zealand’s most distinctive trees. But in pre-European New Zealand, karaka was much more than just a handsome tree – the kernels of its fruit provided an important food source for Māori. This was despite the poisonousRead more

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 theRead more

A new paper by Te Papa researchers and their colleagues from Massey University, NIWA and the Swedish Museum of Natural History, describes not one but THREE new species of hagfish. This increases the total number species found in New Zealand waters to eight. What are hagfish? These strange creatures, alsoRead more

With its long history of isolation from other land masses, New Zealand has been suggested to be an ‘ark’ for unusual species, such as tuatara and moa. But New Zealand has now been found to be a genetic ark for an introduced species – the stoat. A recent study reportedRead more

Citizen science is all the rage right now in New Zealand, especially given its emphasis in the National Science Challenges and Science and Society project. Getting the public participating in science experiments is seen as a way to get them engaged in science. Te Papa is currently running its ownRead more

Last week Te Papa Botany curator Leon Perrie and I attended the Uawa BioBlitz in Tolaga Bay. Organized by the Allan Wilson Centre and Groundtruth, the BioBlitz was an intense 24 hours of species discovery. Scientists from a variety of organisations were joined by members of the local community, includingRead more

Looking at the photos below, you wouldn’t expect these unstable rockslides, called screes, to be home to anything. But take the time to look a little closer and you’ll find a number of native New Zealand plants that have adapted to living in just such seemingly inhospitable environments. In earlyRead more

Christmas trees, carol singing, Christmas stockings – many Northern Hemisphere Christmas traditions have been brought to New Zealand. One that we haven’t ’embraced’ is kissing under the mistletoe. I wonder why not? Is it because of our reserved kiwi natures or is it our mistletoes…….? There are around 1300 species ofRead more