Until now, it hasn’t been possible to get the DNA out of a pressed dried plant (herbarium specimen) without destroying part of it by removing a leaf and grinding it up. But new research by scientist Lara Shepherd has proven that you can use an eraser to ‘rub off’ the DNA.Read 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

In regard to Bob Brockie’s recent article in the Dominion Post (24 June 2013, page A8), here is some rationale for viewpoints about plants that some commentators have teasingly called “eco-fascism”. Instead, they are logical expressions about the conservation of New Zealand’s biota and ecosystems, including their genetic integrity. ForRead more

Te Papa Conservator Robert Clendon removes Phar Lap’s skull from the rest of the skeleton, before extracting one of the incisor teeth. Photo Jean-Claude Stahl. © Te Papa.

Earlier this year, Te Papa received a request from scientists in Australia for a tooth sample from legendary race horse Phar Lap. The scientists are hoping to extract DNA from the tooth.  Then they will be able to compare Phar Lap’s DNA with other horses. Press release from the scientistsRead more

Tongue of a defrosted broad-billed prion.

Genetic research requires a small amount of tissue from animal or plant specimens to be destroyed in order to obtain DNA. Te Papa’s bird team recently pondered the best way to sample tissue for DNA whilst causing a minimal amount of damage to seabird specimens. In July 2011 a periodRead more

Articulated kiwi skeleton from Te Papa's collection. Photo by Lara Shepherd.

A number of biological specimens in Te Papa’s collection, particularly old specimens, lack information about when and where they were collected. This information may have been lost since the specimen was collected or was simply not recorded at the time. However, all is not lost! Sometimes we can use DNARead more