Lost Worlds, Vanished Lives

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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Back to the Future in Northland: Fossils illuminate a flight path towards ecosystem restoration

Nic Rawlence Apr 18, 2018

Ground control to Major Tom: The otherworldly Herangi Hill at Motu i Pao/Cape Maria van Dieman where Fred found the ancient Moho skull. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Carol. In the pouring rain, surrounded by flowing sand lava and cascading lahars, Fred Brook gingerly walks towards Matt Rayner and me. He’s sliding across a steep sand dune, his hands carefully … Read More

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Through the looking glass: Fossils reveal a Miocene Wonderland at St Bathans

Nic Rawlence Mar 19, 2018

It’s the height of the Central Otago summer – barren, dry and dusty. Driving down the gravel road to St Bathans, we’re travelling back in time, down the rabbit hole to a world long gone. Only ghosts remain of this lost world and that’s what we’ve come here to find. The fossilised bones of a myriad of animals dating back … Read More

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A tale of two penguins: Bice and Rosie

Nic Rawlence Mar 05, 2018

New Zealand has long been considered the cradle of penguin evolution. But two new fossil discoveries, affectionately known as Bice’s, (pronounced Bee-chee’s), and Rosie’s Penguins, are rewriting early penguin evolution and have taken the world by storm. Move aside Penguins of Madagascar; there are some new and cool kids on the block! But how did we get to this … Read More

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Traditional Chinese medicine: Eye of newt and toe of frog

Nic Rawlence Dec 09, 2017

‘Double, double toil and trouble; fire burn, and cauldron bubble’ chant the three witches in the cavern, lightening flashing outside, in Act 4, Scene 1 of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. It’s images like these, conjured up by the great bard himself, that I associate with traditional Chinese medicines and herbal remedies. The implied promise that if I take this concoction, my health … Read More

Will the real frog please stand up…

Nic Rawlence Dec 05, 2017

Luke Easton, a PhD student from our laboratory studying Conservation Palaeontology, is about to drop into Martinborough’s Cave of Bones. Abseiling into the tomo he is assaulted by the putrid rich smell and sight of rotting sheep carcases that lie between him and his treasure. You see, Luke is on the hunt for the bones of some of the … Read More

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