Tag Archives: New Zealand

Tymbopiptus valeas Kuschel

Giant Waitomo Weevil (Tymbopiptus valeas)

The Giant Waitomo Weevil was described in 1987, it is one of the first New Zealand insects to have been described based on subfossil remains.

The remains were recovered from deposits of at least two localities in the Waitomo District in the west of the North Island of New Zealand, one of them being the Buried Forest of Pureora, a site that was formed by pumice ejected during an eruption of Taupo crater at around 186 AD..

The Giant Waitomo Weevil was a very large species, it reached a length of up to 2 to 2,3 cm and was 0,75 to 0,92 cm wide. [1]

***

Many of the larger beetle species dissapeared from the New Zealand main islands as soon as the first Polynesian people arrived here and brought with them Polynesian Rats (Rattus exulans (Peale)), which predated on these large insects; some of the species were widespread and thus survived on rat-free offshore islands while others, that were restricted to certain parts of the main islands, just went extinct.

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References:

[1] G. Kuschel: The subfamily Molytinae (Coleoptera: Curculionidae): general notes and descriptions of new taxa from New Zealand and Chile. New Zealand Entomologist 9: 11-29. 1987
[2] Corinne H. Watts; Maureen J. Marra; Chris J. green; Lynette A. Hunt; Danny Thornburrow: Comparing fossil and extant beetles in central North Island forests, New Zealand. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 49(1): 1-20. 2019

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Photo: Landcare Research New Zealand Ltd

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/deed.en

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edited: 05.11.2020

Cotes sp. ‘Benneydale’

Benneydale Ant-like Flower Beetle (Cotes sp.)

The genus Cotes is endemic to New Zeland, all of the about eight species currently assigned to it are probably feeding on decaying plant material.

***

The Benneydale Ant-like Flower Beetle is known only from subfossil remains that were recovered from deposits near Benneydale, a small town in the Waitomo District of western North Island, New Zealand.

This species appears to be extinct now.

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References:

[1] Corinne H. Watts; Maureen J. Marra; Chris J. green; Lynette A. Hunt; Danny Thornburrow: Comparing fossil and extant beetles in central North Island forests, New Zealand. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 49(1): 1-20. 2019

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edited: 05.11.2020

Damonita geminoropiformis Climo

Elliot’s Cave Snail (Damonita geminoropiformis)

This tiny snail species was described in 1981, it was originally known from only two specimens that were recovered from the deposits of Elliots Cave as well as ten that were found in the Ngarua Cave in the Takaka Valley. 

Some 103 specimens were subsequently recovered from the Hawke’s Cave in the 1990s; these deposits are dated to Otiran age (Late Pleistocene); however, it might have survived until the beginning of the Holocene and is thus mentioned here as well. 

The shells reach a size of about 0,3 cm in diameter and are highly furrowed. 

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References:

[1] T. H. Worthy; R. N. Holdaway: Quaternary fossil faunas from caves in Takaha Valley and on Takaka Hill, northwest Nelson, South Island, New Zealand. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 24(3): 297-391. 1994

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Photo: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
https://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/object/154902

(under creative commons license (4.0))
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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edited: 15.05.2021

Pycnomerus sp. ‘Benneydale’

Benneydale Ironclad Beetle (Pycnomerus sp.)

This up to now undescribed species is known exclusively from subfossil remains that were recovered from deposits near Benneydale, a small town in the Waitomo District of western North Island, New Zealand. [1]

The species is now extinct, it is one of countless large insect species that were eaten into extinction by Polynesian Rats (Rattus exulans (Peale)) that had been introduced by the ancestors of the Maori when they first arrived in New Zealand.

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References:

[1] Corinne H. Watts; Maureen J. Marra; Chris J. green; Lynette A. Hunt; Danny Thornburrow: Comparing fossil and extant beetles in central North Island forests, New Zealand. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 49(1): 1-20. 2019

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edited: 05.11.2020

Xanthorhoe bulbulata (Guenée)

South Island Yellow Looper Moth (Xanthorhoe bulbulata)

This species is endemic to the South Island of New Zealand and was once quite common.

The population of the species started to decline sometime after the 1940s and was recorded only twice since, once in 1979 and then again for the last time in 1991; since then, the species is lost and might in fact be completely extinct. [1]

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References:

[1] Brian H. Patrick; Hamish J. H. Patrick; Robert J. B. Hoare: Review of the endemic New Zealand genus Arctesthes Meyrick (Lepidoptera, Geometridae, Laurentiinae) with descriptions of two new range-restricted species. Alpine Entomology 3: 121-136. 2019

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female
male

Photos: Manaaki Whenua
https://www.landcareresearch.co.nz

(under creative commons license (4.0))
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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edited: 27.04.2021

Schizoglossa major Powell

Giant Paua Snail (Schizoglossa major)

The Giant Paua Snail is known only from subfossil shells that had been found in the Waikato region in the northern part of the North Island of New Zealand.

The shells could grow to a size of about 5 cm, that means the snails body might have reached lengths of about 15 cm.

The species very likely was among the first that were extirpated by the rats that had been imported by the first Polynesian settlers in the 13th century.

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edited: 21.04.2022

Turnagra capensis ssp. minor Fleming

Stephens Island Piopio (Turnagra capensis ssp. minor)

Stephens Island, or Takapourewa in Maori, is best known for having been the last stronghold for another extinct species of bird, the Stephens Island Wren (Traversia lyallii (Rothschild)) whose last population is widely believed to have been wiped out by a single cat.

Yet, this island was also the home of another rather unknown bird, the Stephens Island Piopio, which was a small subspecies of the South Island Piopio (Turnagra capensis (Sparrman)).
The Stephens Island Piopio was formerly so numerous on the island that “there was scarcely a bush in which at least one could be seen.” [1] However, today only 12 museum specimens are all that remains of that bird. [2]

***

The Stephens Island Piopio was for some time considered to be synonymous with the nominate form, yet it differs from that race by its much smaller size and by its rather more rufescent color. [2]

***

The small piopio disappeared for the same reason as its more famous neighbor, the Stephens Island Wren: nearly complete habitat destruction and hunting pressure by introduced feral cats.

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[1] E. Lukins: Stephen Island. The French Pass and vicinity. Colonist 27 & 30 October 1894 
[2] David G. Medway: Taxonomic status of the Stephens island Piopio (Turnagra capensis). Notornis 51: 231-232. 2004

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edited: 03.10.2020

Ninox albifacies ssp. albifacies (G. R. Gray)

South Island Laughing Owl (Ninox albifacies ssp. albifacies)

The South Island Laughing Owl, as its name implies, was found on the southern main islands of New Zealand.

The species reached a size of about 32 cm; it is also known as whēkau, which is one of its Maori names, or as White-faced Owl.

Originally, the South Island Laughing Owl fed on birds and especially on geckos and skinks, whose subfossil remains still can be found at former roost sites, after the arrival of human settlers it also took mice and rats, and actually there exists at least one photograph that shows an owl with a mouse in its beak.

The species died out sometimes during the early 1920s.

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Depiction from: ‘George Dawson Rowley: Birds of New Zealand. Part 1. Ornithological Miscellany 1: 1.18. 1876’

(public domain)

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edited: 05.11.2021

Stigmella maoriella (Walker)

Maori Pigmy Moth (Stigmella maoriella)

This species is known from three male specimens that were collected sometimes prior to 1854 at or near the city of Auckland on the North Island of New Zealand.

The species has not been recorded since and is considered possibly extinct by some authors, however, it might in fact be still existing since all members of its family are extremely small and understudied. [1]

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References:

[1] Hans Donner; Christopher Wikinson: Nepticulidae (Insecta: Lepidoptera). Fauna of New Zealand 16: 1-92. 1989

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edited: 25.05.2021

Xenicus longipes ssp. variabilis Stead

Stokes’ Bushwren (Xenicus longipes ssp. variabilis)

Stokes’ Bushwren was endemic to Stewart Island and some of the small islets surrounding it, including Kotiwhenua- and Taukihepa Islands.

The form disappeared from Stewart Island already at the beginning of the 20th century but was still reasonably common on some of the offshore islets and survived on the predator-free Taukihepa Island until the invasion by Black Rats (Rattus rattus (L.)) in 1964. The New Zealand Wildlife Service attempted to save the species by relocating all the birds they could capture. They caught six birds and transferred them to Kaimohu Island, where, unfortunately, they did not survive and finally died out in 1972.

***

There are some photos taken in 1913 by Herbert Guthrie-Smith on Taukihepa (Big South Cape) Island, one is shown below.

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Photo from: “Herbert Guthrie-Smith: Bird Life on Island and Shore. 1925”

(public domain)

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edited: 21.01.2022

Lepidium amissum de Lange & Heenan

Waitakere Scurvy Grass (Lepidium amissum)

The Waitakere Scurvy Grass was described in 2013 in the curse of a genus revision, it is known only from four herbarium sheets one of which had been collected in 1870 and the other three in 1917.

The species was restricted to the coastlines of the Waitakere Ranges on the North Island of New Zealand. [1]

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References:

[1] P. J. de Lange; P. B. Heenan; G. J. Houliston; J. R. Rolfe; A. D. Mitchell: New Lepidium (Brassicaceae) from New Zealand. PhytoKeys 24: 1-147. 2013

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Photo from: ‘P. J. de Lange; P. B. Heenan; G. J. Houliston; J. R. Rolfe; A. D. Mitchell: New Lepidium (Brassicaceae) from New Zealand. PhytoKeys 24: 1-147. 2013’

(under creative commons license (3.0))
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

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edited: 16.09.2019

Tychanopais sp. ‘Fred Cave’

Fred Cave Weevil (Tychanopais sp.)

The Fred Cave Weevil is an up to now undescribed species that is known from a subfossil abdomen that was recovered from the deposits of a 14 m deep vertical limestone shaft on a farm in the Fred Cave Catchment in the Waitomo District in western North Island, New Zealand. [1]

The species is thought to be extinct; however, some few congeneric species still survive at rat-free offshore islets.

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References:

[1] G. Kuschel: The subfamily Molytinae (Coleoptera: Curculionidae): general notes and descriptions of new taxa from New Zealand and Chile. New Zealand Entomologist 9: 11-29. 1987
[2] Corinne H. Watts; Maureen J. Marra; Chris J. green; Lynette A. Hunt; Danny Thornburrow: Comparing fossil and extant beetles in central North Island forests, New Zealand. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 49(1): 1-20. 2019

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edited: 05.11.2020

Nestor chathamensis Wood, Mitchell, Scofield & Tennyson

Chatham Islands Kaka (Nestor chathamensis)

The family Nestoridae is endemic to the New Zealand faunal region and contains the Kaka (Nestor meridionalis Gmelin), the Kea (Nestor notabilis Gould) as well as the Kakapo (Strigops habroptila Gray); it formerly contained at least two additional species, including this one from the Chatham Islands.

***

The species is known from abundant subfossil remains, which, by the way, were known since about the end of the 19th century, but had been originally assigned to the Kea. In the 1950s the remains were studied again and subsequently assigned to the New Zealand Kaka. Only in 1999 the Chatham Islands form was recognized as a distinct species, differing from both the New Zealand Kaka and the Kea. The species was finally described in 2014.

***

The Chatham Islands Kaka was most closely related to the New Zeland Kaka, but was in fact a rather terrestrial species, very much like the Kea, it was on the way of becoming flightless and very likely was very tame and thus fel victim to the hunting of the first human settlers on the Chatham Islands.

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References:

[1] J. R. Wood; K. J. Mitchell; R. P. Scofield; A. J. D. Tennyson; A. E. Fidler, J. M. Wilmshurst; B. Llamas; A. Cooper: An extinct nestorid parrot (Aves, Psittaciformes, Nestoridae) from the Chatham Islands, New Zealand. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 172: 185–199. 2014
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edited: 16.02.2020

Anas chlorotis ssp. ‘Chatham Islands’

Chatham Islands Brown Duck (Anas chlorotis ssp.)

The Chatham Islands Brown Duck is only known from subfossil remains found on the Chatham Islands, that have not yet been described, it may have been a subspecies of the New Zealand Brown Duck (Anas chlorotisGray) (see depiction below) or even a distinct species.

The taxon was apparently already wiped out by the Moriori, the first human settlers on the Chatham Islands. [1]

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References:

[1] Trevor H. Worthy, Richard N. Holdaway: The Lost World of the Moa, Prehistoric Life of New Zealand. Indiana University Press, Bloomington 2002

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New Zealand Brown Duck (Anas chlorotis) (the two birds on the left) together with Auckland Teal (Anas aucklandica Gray)

Depiction from: ‘John C. Phillips: A Natural History of the Ducks. Boston; Houghton Mifflin Company; 1922-1926’

(public domain)

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edited: 10.11.2021

Tadorna sp. ‘Chatham Islands’

Chatham Island Shelduck (Tadorna sp.)

The Chatham Islands once harbored a set of endemic bird species that were closely realted to those on the New Zealand main islands, yet distinct enough to be considered distinct species, the same applies to this duck species, which is known from subfossil remains and which has not yet been described.

The closest relative of the Chatham Island Shelduck were the Australian Shelduck (Tadorna tadornoides(Jardine & Selby)) from Australia and the Paradise Shelduck (Tadorna variegata (Gmelin)) which is endemic to New Zealand (see photo).

The Chatham Island Shelduck probably disappeared soon after the Chatham Islands were discovered and settled by humans. [1]

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References:  

[1] Trevor H. Worthy, Richard N. Holdaway: The Lost World of the Moa, Prehistoric Life of New Zealand. Indiana University Press, Bloomington 2002

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Paradise Shelduck (left); Australian Shelduck (right)

Depiction from: ‘John C. Phillips: A Natural History of the Ducks. Boston; Houghton Mifflin Company; 1922-1926’  

(public domain)

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edited: 13.09.2020

Zelandiscus worthyi Climo

Worthy’s Disc Snail (Zelandiscus worthyi 

This species was described in the year 1989.  

Worthy’s Disc Snail is known only on the base of empty shells, which had been found on the floor of the Aurora cave near the city of Te Anau in the south of New Zealand’s South Island.  

The shells reach an average size of about 0,45 cm and are uniformly grey in color. [1][2]  

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References:  

[1] F. M. Climo: The panbiogeography of New Zealand as illuminated by the genus Fectola Iredale, 1915 and subfamily Rotadiscinae Pilsbry, 1927 (Mollusca: Pulmonata: Punctoidea: Charopidae). New Zealand Journal of Zoology 16(4): 587-649. 1989 
[2] M. J. Heads; R. C. Craw; J. R. Grehan: Panbiogeography: Tracking the History of Life: Tracking the History of Life. Oxford University Press, USA 1999

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edited: 04.11.2020

Myosotis traversii var. cinerascens (Petrie) L. B. Moore

Greyish Forget-me-not (Myosotis traversii var. cinerascens)

The Greyish Forget-me-not, a subspecies of Traver’s Forget-me-not (Myosotis traversii Hook. f.), was restricted to exposed limestone cliff faces in the semi-alpine Castle Hill Basin in Canterbury, South Island, New Zealand.

The plant is known only from a handful of specimens collected in the 18th and 19th century, it was not found since and is thought to be possiblky extinct.

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edited: 04.09.2019

Mergus milleneri Williams & Tennyson

Chatham Island Merganser (Mergus milleneri)  

The extinct Chatham Island Merganser, which was originally described in 2014, is known only on the basis of subfossil bones which were excavated in the 1990s.  

The species was originally regarded as being identical with the Auckland Islands Merganser (Mergus australis Hombron & Jacquinot), which is likewise extinct. The two species, however, are clearly osteologically separable (by their bone structure), and, as known meanwhile, also genetically. The Chatham Island Merganser was smaller than the species from the Auckland Islands, it furthermore possessed a shorter head and somewhat downscaled wings. [1][2]  

***

The Chatham Island Merganser was probably endemic to Chatham Island, where it inhabited the so called ‘Te Whanga Lagoon’, a giant salt lake that makes out a large part of Chatham Island and which represents the remainder of a former part of the sea that has become an internal water due to silting.  

The bird possessed enlarged salt glands in its skull, which it used to exude unnecessary salt.  

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References:  

[1] Trevor H. Worthy, Richard N. Holdaway: The Lost World of the Moa, Prehistoric Life of New Zealand. Indiana University Press, Bloomington 2002 
[2] Murray Williams; Alan J. D. Tennyson; Dalice Sim: Island differentiation of New Zealand’s extinct mergansers (Anatidae: Mergini), with description of a new species from Chatham Island. Wildfowl 64: 3-34. 2014  

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edited: 08.03.2017

Ninox albifacies ssp. rufifacies (Buller)

North Island Laughing Owl (Ninox albifacies ssp. rufifacies)

The North Island Laughing Owl, described in 1904, inhabited the North Island of New Zealand; it is said to have differed from the nominate race by its more rufous feathers.

The species was already rare in the 19th century after having been widespread in earlier times.

The owl was last seen in 1989.

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Depiction from: ‘Walter Lawry Buller: Supplement to the ‘Birds of New Zealand’ Vol. 2. London: the author 1905’

(public domain)

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edited: 05.11.2021

Trilepidea adamsii (Cheeseman) Tiegh.

Adams’ Mistletoe (Trilepidea adamsii)

Adams’ Mistletoe was described in 1880, it is one of several mistle species that are endemic to New Zealand; it was apparently restricted to a few sites on the North Island of New Zealand. It was preferably growing on mamangi (Coprosma arborea Kirk.).

The species was last seen in 1954 on Sanitorium Hill, Maungakawa, near the Waikato town of Cambridge.

The reasons for the extinction of this species appear to be unknown, it is often thought to have disappeared due to browsing by the indroduced Brushtail Possums (Didelphis vulpecula (Kerr)), however, this seems rather to be unlikely. [1]


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References:

[1] David A. Norton: Trilepidea adamsii: An orbituary for a species. Conservation Biology 5(1): 52-57. 1991

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Depiction by: Georgina Burne Hetley; about 1888

(public domain)

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edited: 24.10.2020

Leiopelma markhami Worthy

Markham’s Frog (Leiopelma markhami)

Markham’s Frog was described in 1987 based on subfossil remains that were found both on the North- as well as the South Island of New Zealand.

The species was larger than the four surviving congeneric species, reaching a body size of about 5 to 6 cm. [1]

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References:

[1] Trevor H. Worthy: Osteology of Leiopelma (Amphibia: Leiopelmatidae) and descriptions of three new subfossil Leiopelma species. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 17(3): 201-251. 1987

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edited: 29.05.2019

Thotmus halli Broun

Hall’s Thotmus Weevil (Thotmus halli)

Hall’s Thotmus Weevil was described in 1911; it was apparently endemic to Pitt Island, the second largest island of the Chatham Islands, east of New Zealand’s main islands; it is still only known from the type.

The species reached a length of 1,3 cm, it is believed to have been an inhabitant of the sea shores, it was, however, never recorded since its description and might well be extinct.

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Photo: Landcare Research New Zealand Ltd

(under creative commons license (4.0))
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/deed.de

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edited: 23.04.2022

Aoraia mairi (Buller)

Buller’s Swift Moth (Aoraia mairi)  

This species was described on the basis of a single specimen, which had been found in the year 1867 in the Ruahine Range on New Zealand’s North Island.  

The moth reached a wingspan of about 15 cm.  

The type specimen, unfortunately, was lost in the 19th century, all that remained is the depiction, produced for the species description.  

***

The caterpillars of the swift moths live in the wood of live and dead plants, they often reach remarkable sizes – some such giant caterpillars, which may have possibly turned out to be the larvae of Buller’s Swift Moth, had been found around 1985 in the Orongorongo Range on the North Island of New Zealand, however, they unfortunately died before they could pupate.  

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Depiction from: ‘W. L. Buller: Notice of a New Species of Moth in New Zealand. Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New Zealand 5: 279-280. 1872’  

(public domain)

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edited: 22.09.2020

Oxyura vantetsi Worthy

New Zealand Stiff-tailed Duck (Oxyura vantetsi)

The New Zealand Stiff-tailed Duck was described in 2005 based on subfossil remains.

The species appears to have been rather rare, since only 19 bones are currently known of it; it was apparently hunted to extinction by the first Maori settlers already in the 16th century.

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edited: 02.05.2022

Lepidium obtusatum Kirk

Obtuse-glanded Scurvy Grass (Lepidium obtusatum)

The Obtuse-glanded Scurvy Grass was described in 1892, the species were known from two populations on the North Island of New Zealand: one at the coastline of the Waitakere Ranges, and another one on the Miramar peninsula on the southeastern side of the city of Wellington.

The first of these population disappeared around 1917, the other one from Wellington was last seen in 1950, thus the species is now considered extinct. 

The species is furtermore known to have hybridized with a close relative, Cook’s Scurvy Grass (Lepidium oleraceum G. Forst. ex Sparrm.) with which it grew sympatrically at at least one site, Seatoun, a suburb of Wellington. [1]

***

For a very short glimpse of time this species was about to “rise from the dead” – seeds, collected from a specimen that had been collected in the late 1930s was sown in 1993, and it indeed begun to germinate!

However, this experiment did not succeeded because the seedlings died shortly after.

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References:

[1] P. J. de Lange; P. B. Heenan; G. J. Houliston; J. R. Rolfe; A. D. Mitchell: New Lepidium (Brassicaceae) from New Zealand. PhytoKeys 24: 1-147. 2013

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Photo from: ‘P. J. de Lange; P. B. Heenan; G. J. Houliston; J. R. Rolfe; A. D. Mitchell: New Lepidium (Brassicaceae) from New Zealand. PhytoKeys 24: 1-147. 2013’

(under creative commons license (3.0))
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

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edited: 16.09.2019

Leiopelma waitomoensis Worthy

Waitomo Frog (Leiopelma waitomoensis)

The Waitomo Frog was described in 1987 based on subfossil bones that were excavated from a cave near the village of Waitomo on the North Island of New Zealand.

The species was about twice the size of all other endemic New Zealand frogs, reaching a body length of nearly 10 cm. [1]

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References:

[1] Trevor H. Worthy: Osteology of Leiopelma (Amphibia: Leiopelmatidae) and descriptions of three new subfossil Leiopelma species. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 17(3): 201-251. 1987

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edited: 29.05.2019

Waitomophylax worthyi (Leschen & Rhode)

Worthy’s Waitomo Beetle (Waitomophylax worthyi)

Worthy’s Waitomo Beetle was described in 2002 based on subfossil material that was recovered from Holocene deposits from a cave in the Waitomo region on the north Island of New Zealand.

The remains are nearly complete and the species had reached a size of about 2,45 cm in length making it the largest known member of its family.

Worthy’s Waitomo Beetle was flightless which made it especially vulnerable to predation by introduced mammals like rats. [1][2]

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References:

[1] Richard A. B. Leschen; Birgit E. Rhode: A new genus and species of large Ulodidae (Coleoptera) from New Zealand. New Zealand Entomologist 25(1): 57-64. 2002
[2] Richard A. B. Leschen; Birgit E. Rhode: A replacement name for Archaeophylax Leschen and Rhode (Coleoptera: Ulodidae). New Zealand Entomologist 27: 125. 2004

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edited: 26.04.2021

Anagotus sp. ‘Waitomo’

Waitomo Tussock Weevil (Anagotus sp.)  

The Waitomo Tussock Weevil is an up to date undescribed species that is known from several subfossil remains that were recovered from the deposits of a 14 m deep vertical limestone shaft on a farm in the Fred Cave Catchment in the Waitomo District in western North Island, New Zealand; additional material (at least one elytron) was also found in the deposits of the so-called Buried Forest of Pureora, which was buried under pumice ejected during an eruption of Taupo crater at around 186 AD..

It was a very large species, reaching a length of about 2,5 cm; it is a member of the species group that includes the Tussock Weevil (Anagotus lewisi (Broun)), thus is believed to have been associated with species of the native tussock grass (Chionochloa sp.) too.

The species is extinct, it fell victim to the Pacific Rats (Rattus exulans (Peale)), introduced by the Maori.  

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References:  

[1] G. Kuschel: The subfamily Molytinae (Coleoptera: Curculionidae): general notes and descriptions of new taxa from New Zealand and Chile. New Zealand Entomologist 9: 11-29. 1987
[2] Corinne H. Watts; Maureen J. Marra; Chris J. green; Lynette A. Hunt; Danny Thornburrow: Comparing fossil and extant beetles in central North Island forests, New Zealand. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 49(1): 1-20. 2019

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edited: 05.11.2020

Megadyptes waitaha ssp. waitaha Boessenkool et al.

Waitaha Penguin (Megadyptes waitaha ssp. waitaha 

This species was described in 2009 based on numerous subfossil remains that were found on New Zealand’s South Island as well as on Stewart Island.  

These bones were originally assigned to the recent Yellow-eyed Penguin, locally known as Hoiho (Megadyptes antipodes (Hombron & Jacquinot)) (see photo), but were found not only to be smaller but also to differ genetically.  

The Waitaha Penguin disappeared shortly after the colonization of New Zealand by the Maori, sometimes between 1300 and 1500 AD. [1]  

***

Only some 200 years after the extinction, the species was replaced by immigrating Yellow-eyed Penguins, whose main island populations are now threatened likewise with extinction, mainly by introduced predators. [2]  

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References:  

[1] Sanne Boessenkool; Jeremy J. Austin; Trevor H. Worthy; Paul Scofield; Alan Cooper; Philip J. Seddon; Jonathan M. Waters: Relict or colonizer? Extinction and range expansion of penguins in southern New Zealand. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 276(1658): 815–821. 2009 
[2] Nicolas J. Rawlence; George L. W. Perry; Ian W. G. Smith; R. Paul Scofield; Alan J. D. Tennyson; Elizabeth A. Matisoo-Smith; Sanne Boessenkool; Jeremy J. Austin; Jonathan M. Waters: Radiocarbon-dating and ancient DNA reveal rapid replacement of extinct prehistoric penguins: Quaternary Science Reviews 112: 59-65. 2015  

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Yellow-eyed Penguin (Megadyptes antipodes)

Photo: Twiddlebat 

(under creative commons license (2.0)) 
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0

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edited: 06.11.2017

Xenicus longipes ssp. longipes (Gmelin)

Bushwren (Xenicus longipes ssp. longipes)

The Bushwren, called huru-pounamumatuhimatuhituhi, or piwauwau by the Maori, was a 9 to 10 cm small, nearly flightless bird that was originally found very abundantly in the dense forests of New Zealand’s three main islands, each inhabited by an endemic subspecies respectively.

***

The nominate race was endemic to South Island, it was still very common in the middle of the 19th century, when Walter L. Buller in his “A history of the birds of New Zealand” wrote the following note.:

It is generally met with singly or in pairs, but sometimes several are associated, attracting notice by the sprightliness of their movements. They run along the boles and branches of the trees with restless activity, peering into every crevice and searching the bark for the small insects and larvae on which they feed. It is strictly arboreal in its habits, never being seen on the ground, in which respect it differs conspicuously from the closely allied species Xenicus gilviventris. It has a week but lively note, and its powers of flight are very limited.” [1]

***

The Bushwren begun to disappear very quickly after Stoats (Mustela erminea L.) were introduced to New Zealand in the 1880s with the last official sigthing of birds of the nominate race having taken place in 1968 in the Nelson Lakes National Park in the northern part of South Island.

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References:

[1] Walter L. Buller: A history of the birds of New Zealand. London: John Van Voorst 1873

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(the two birds above)

Depiction from: ‘Walter L. Buller: A history of the birds of New Zealand. London: John Van Voorst 1873’

(public domain)

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edited: 17.04.2019

Myosotis laingii Cheeseman

Waiautoa Forget-me-not (Myosotis laingii)

The Waiautoa Forget-me-not was apparently endemic to a very small area at terraces adjacent to the Clarence River near Lake Tennyson in southern Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand.

The species is known only from some few specimens that were collected between 1860 and 1912, it has never been recorded since and is thus believed to be extinct.

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edited: 18.04.2019

Cygnus sumnerensis ssp. sumnerensis Forbes

New Zealand Swan (Cygnus sumnerensis ssp. sumnerensis)

The New Zealand Swan was described in 1890 based on subfossil remains, which, however, were apparantly lost later. The name was then declared a nomen nudum and the species was redescribed (using only bones from Chatham Islands birds) as Cygnus chathamensis Oliver in the 1950s. [1]

***

The species was for some time thought to have been identical to the Australian Black Swan (Cygnus atratus Latham) (see photo), a species that was deliberately introduced to New Zealand in 1864, though there is evidence for self-introduction around this time and possibly prior to this. [1]

The remains of the New Zealand Swan were compared to those of the Australian species and it was found that both differed significantly from each other by their size, but only in 2017 DNA samples were compared which showed that both swan forms were indeed distinct from each other. The New Zealand Swan was closely related to the Australian Black Swan but differed from it by being larger and more stoutly build, it is furthermore split into two subspecies, one, the nominate, formerly inhabiting the main islands and one having been endemic to the Chatham Islands. [1]

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References:

[1] Nicolas J. Rawlence; Afroditi Kardamaki; Luke J. Easton; Alan J. D. Tennyson; R. Paul Scofield; Jonathan M. Waters: Ancient DNA and morphometric analysis reveal extinction and replacement of New Zealand’s unique black swans. Proceedings of Royal Society B. Biological Science 284: 20170876. 2017

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Australian Black Swan (Cygnus atratus Latham)

Photo: Anagoria

(under creative commons license (3.0))
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

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edited: 17.04.2019

Deinacrida sp. ‘Canterbury’

Giant Canterbury Weta (Deinacrida sp.)

The Canterbury Museum houses about 5000 specimens of weta, some preserved in ethanol but most pinned, one of them is this enigmatic form that may or may not constitute a distinct species.

Not much is known about this one specimen besides that it was collected sometimes during the late 1880s in Canterbury, New Zealand, and that it apparently is a juvenile female.

If this form turns out to be indeed a distinct species, it is now extinct, since species of its genus only survive on some small offshore islands but not on New Zealand’s main islands.

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edited: 15.05.2021

Heteralocha acutirostris (Gould)

Huia (Heteralocha acutirostris)  

The Huia is a very well-known extinct bird, it is furthermore well-known especially for its remarkable sexual dimorphism with the males and females differing so much from each other in the form and length of their beaks, that originally both sexes were described as distinct species respectively (see depiction below, which shows the heads of the female above, described as Neomorpha acutirostris Gould and the male below, described as Neomorpha crassirostris Gould).  

***

DNA investigations on stuffed specimens in 2009 showed that some of the short-billed, alleged male individuals in fact were females; it is now assumed that probably all females had short beaks like the males when they were young, which then started to elongate subsequently. [1]  

***

The species originally inhabited all parts of North Island, New Zealand, but was already pushed back to a few areas with small relict populations by the Maori in pre-European times.  

The final end, however, came when the tail feathers, highly prized by some of the Maori tribes, were “discovered” by the European fashion industry as accessory for hats. The birds were shot in great numbers, and the former dense forests were cut down.  

The last Huia were finally seen at the beginning of the 20th century, but there are sometimes rumors that they may survive somewhere in the deep forest of New Zealand’s North Island, yet, no such forest exists any longer, thus the Huia is and will stay extinct.  

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References:  

[1] David M. Lambert; Lara D. Shepherd; Leon Huynen; Gabrielle Beans-Picón; Gimme H. Walter; Craig D. Millar. The Molecular Ecology of the Extinct New Zealand Huia: PLoS ONE 4(11): e8019. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0008019. 2009  

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Depiction from: ‘John Gould: A synopsis of the Birds of Australia and the adjacent islands. London 1837-38’  

(public domain)

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edited: 31.10.2017