Monday, December 11, 2006

Ghosts of Gondwana

Recently I went to my favourite bookshop to pick up a book I had ordered, and spied this one that I also came away with. It is wonderful! I haven't got too far into it yet, as I tend to fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow at this time of year, but what I have read so far has been fascinating.

The book answers a lot of the questions I have had about New Zealand's living things. How much of it has evolved from the times of Gondwana and our separation from the Australian landmass? Why is it we have so many different species that are not found elsewhere? It tells me many things I had not realised, eg our mosses are hardly endemic at all, but our flowering plants are 84% endemic; and our lizards and stream insects are 100% endemic. The book also lists interesting things like our 'absentees' ie groups that are present in Australia but which are missing in NZ. I am up to the section in the book where it discusses exactly what historical biogeography is, and how Darwin's ideas, plate tectonic theory, and now molecular biology, all influence how we have shaped our ideas of how life in New Zealand has evolved.

Last year I did a Massey paper on biological evolution and this book helps me fit some of those ideas into a practical context. In 2007 I plan to do a Massey paper on New Zealand fauna, and the book is giving me a chance to get a broad understanding of some new ideas I know I will study in more detail.

The author has a very clear writing style and the book is beautifully produced. I can't wait for my holidays (starting next week!) to read the whole book.


  1. Looks a fascinating book! I like the picture of the Huia on the cover. I used to fantasize that I'd discover a living Huia when I was tramping through the Rimutakas!

  2. Did I ever tell you about the moa I saw once in the backcountry on the West Coast?

  3. No I'm not: I would never lie anout something like this! It was a realio, trulio, giant moa!

  4. simon.... it was right after I had noticed ten dinosaurs sunning themselves under some ponga trees.

  5. ha ah! Merry Christmas Kiwi!