Lost Worlds, Vanished Lives

Proposal to mine fossil-rich site in New Zealand sparks campaign to protect it

Nic Rawlence Jun 17, 2019

An Australian company’s application to mine a fossil-rich site in the south of New Zealand has been met with fierce criticism and a campaign to protect it in perpetuity. Foulden Maar, near Dunedin, is arguably the most important terrestrial fossil site in New Zealand. It comprises a complete ecosystem. This makes it one of the most important … Read More

How to make a flightless bird

Nic Rawlence May 13, 2019

Visit any major museum in Aotearoa New Zealand and you will see a giant moa skeleton on display. The first thing you notice, apart from its enormous size, is the complete lack of wing bones. The answer to how the tūpuna of moa arrived on our shores and subsequently lost their wings has been one of New Zealand’s greatest evolutionary … Read More

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From the mists of time: the enduring mystery of the adzebills

Nic Rawlence Mar 07, 2019

As a kid, I remember visiting Canterbury Museum with my Dad. I was fascinated and terrified in equal measure by the giant moa skeleton in the entrance, just as my four-year-old is today. But what really interested me was the much smaller, but not less diminutive, skeleton of an extinct adzebill. The adzebills were built like tanks. They … Read More

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Are deer the new moa: Ecosystem re-wilding or a flight of fancy?

Nic Rawlence Feb 08, 2019

It’s the depths of winter and I’m squatting in the snow, surrounded by southern beech forest, using a pair of tweezers to pick up fresh steaming deer poo. Pooper scooper: Braving the cold in the name of science, these deer droppings are a harbinger of a changing world. Photo courtesy of Jamie Wood. My wife Maria, and palaeoecologist … Read More

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Sentinels of change: prehistoric penguin species raise conservation conundrum

Nic Rawlence Nov 27, 2018

Fossil hunting along the rugged and beautiful Wairarapa coastline is a dangerous exercise. Prevail against the harsh winds that blow you off your feet and fossil penguins will be your reward – prehistoric nuggets of gold from a lost world that is only now yielding its secrets. Risking life and limb: At the rugged Te Kaukau Point, bones of … Read More

Make taxonomy great again

Nic Rawlence Oct 26, 2018

On a dark and stormy Wellington street, Kerry is head down, bum up, searching for an elusive and rather dull looking snail. Kerry is one of a new breed of up-and-coming scientists that is taking up the mantle of taxonomy (the science of describing and naming new biodiversity) as members of the old guard get closer to imminent retirement. As … Read More

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Critically endangered but not lost: the fight to save Te Papa’s collections from extinction

Nic Rawlence Jul 23, 2018

In an unassuming building at the top of Tory Street in Wellington lies buried treasure: the remains of a lost world that rivals Smaug’s hoard, but the equivalent of the five armies is closing in. The proposed restructure of our national museum means we are in danger of losing the key to unlocking the secrets these biological taonga hold. Read More

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Fossil Lucky Dip from a Lost World

Nic Rawlence Jul 10, 2018

I’m lying on a beautiful golden sand beach. The bright sun is beating down upon me. I could be on an isolated, tropical island, if not for the lone giant moa sculpture looming above my head. This sentinel to a lost world stands at the aptly named Old Bones Backpackers at Awamoa, (originally named Te Awa Kōkōmuka), south of Oamaru. Read More

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