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Biodiversity conservation in New Zealand by Prof. Dan Rohlf

Posted by: | April 9, 2014 Comments Off on Biodiversity conservation in New Zealand by Prof. Dan Rohlf |

I’ll continue my discussion of Korea later, but I thought I’d mix it up a bit with a post about our visit to New Zealand.

Like many islands, New Zealand harbors unique biodiversity. The country separated from the Gondwana land mass about 80 million years ago, so evolution has been going its own way ever since. Fast forward to a millennium ago — before humans discovered the place — and New Zealand was home to a fascinating array of species found nowhere else on the planet. Denizens included tuataras, a foot-long lizard that is the last survivor of an entire family of dinosaurs, and a variety of giant insects. But biodiversity in New Zealand was most prominently marked by a conspicuous absence — no mammalian ancestors hitched a ride from Gondwanaland, so no native mammals inhabited the island — and a profusion of weird and wonderful bird life. The latter included giant moas, the largest and heaviest birds that ever lived, and the huge Haast’s eagle, the only thing that could take down a moa. A huge variety of other endemic birds also evolved, among them a wide variety of flightless birds. Kiwis, a few species of cute flightless nocturnal birds that poke around in the leaf litter for insects and other edibles, would later come to symbolize modern New Zealand and provide a nickname for its human inhabitants.

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under: General, International

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