Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Tiny Bones Rewrite Textbooks: First New Zealand Land Mammal Fossil

Date:
December 14, 2006
Source:
University of New South Wales
Summary:
Small but remarkable fossils found in New Zealand will prompt a major rewrite of prehistory textbooks, showing for the first time that the so-called "land of birds" was once home to mammals as well.

Part of the fossilised jaw.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of New South Wales

Small but remarkable fossils found in New Zealand will prompt a major rewrite of prehistory textbooks, showing for the first time that the so-called "land of birds" was once home to mammals as well.

The tiny fossilised bones - part of a jaw and hip - belonged to a unique, mouse-sized land animal unlike any other mammal known and were unearthed from the rich St Bathans fossil bed, in the Otago region of South Island.

But the real shock to scientists was that it was there at all: until now, decades of searching had shown no hint that the furry, warm-blooded animals that thrived and prospered so widely in other lands had ever trodden on New Zealand soil.

The fact that even one land mammal had lived there, at least 16 million years ago, has put paid to the theory that New Zealand's rich bird fauna had evolved there because they had no competition from land mammals.

An international team led by Trevor Worthy, of the University of Adelaide, Alan Tennyson, of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, and Mike Archer, of the University of New South Wales, note that New Zealand separated from the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana more than 80 million years ago. The research has been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"This amazing find suggests that other mammals are waiting to be found there, and that New Zealand belonged to the birds only in more recent times," says Mr Worthy.

"It also suggests that New Zealand was not completely submerged, as some scientists thought, when sea levels were high about 25 to 30 million years ago."

The team believes that more mammal specimens may emerge, perhaps even other species that predate the split between pouched marsupials and live-bearing placental mammals.

The St Bathans fossil field - which has also produced many other species of animals, including fish and birds - also promises to shed new light on climate change in the Australasian region, recording a massive shift from a warm, wet phase to a much cooler and drier period.

"This promises to be a richly rewarding fossil field and the heraldic discovery of New Zealand's first non-flying mammal represents just the first page of a fascinating new chapter in the history of the world's mammals," says Professor Archer.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of New South Wales. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of New South Wales. "Tiny Bones Rewrite Textbooks: First New Zealand Land Mammal Fossil." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 December 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/12/061213104202.htm>.
University of New South Wales. (2006, December 14). Tiny Bones Rewrite Textbooks: First New Zealand Land Mammal Fossil. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/12/061213104202.htm
University of New South Wales. "Tiny Bones Rewrite Textbooks: First New Zealand Land Mammal Fossil." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/12/061213104202.htm (accessed October 23, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Goofy Dinosaur Blends Barney and Jar Jar Binks

Goofy Dinosaur Blends Barney and Jar Jar Binks

AP (Oct. 22, 2014) A collection of dinosaur bones reveal a creature that is far more weird and goofy-looking than scientists originally thought when they found just the arm bones nearly 50 years ago, according to a new report in the journal Nature. (Oct. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sunken WWII U-Boat That Fired On U.S. Convoy Found

Sunken WWII U-Boat That Fired On U.S. Convoy Found

Newsy (Oct. 22, 2014) U-576, a long-lost German U-boat the U.S. sank in 1942, has been found just 30 miles off North Carolina's coast and near the wreckage of another ship. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Turns Out Jack The Ripper's True Identity Is Still Unknown

Turns Out Jack The Ripper's True Identity Is Still Unknown

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) After testing DNA from a shawl found near one of Jack the Ripper's victims, a scientist said he'd identified the killer. New reports refute the claim. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Fish Fossil Shows First-Ever Sex Was Done Side By Side

Fish Fossil Shows First-Ever Sex Was Done Side By Side

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) A 380-million-year-old fish may be the first creature to have copulative sex - and it was side by side with arms linked, like square dancers. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins