New Zealand

Palaeontologist and PhD student James Rule inspects the fossil skull of the newly identified monk seal species.
Palaeontologist and PhD student James Rule inspects the fossil skull of the newly identified monk seal species.

Discovery of seal fossils leads to new revelations

The discovery of the extinct monk seal species came about after an international team of biologists examined seven fossil specimens (including a complete skull) found on south Taranaki beaches in New Zealand between 2009 and 2016.

Named Eomonachus belegaerensis, the new species was about 2.5m long and weighed around 200 to 250kg. It is believed to have lived in the waters around New Zealand three million years ago.

Lockdown Local Diving

Photo by Kate Jonker: Speckled klipfish at Pinnacle dive site in Gordon’s Bay, South Africa

As many divers face travel restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic, our contributors highlight the often overlooked or unsung yet intriguing diving that can be found in one's own backyard.

Sperm whales off Dominica. The sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) or cachalot is the largest of the toothed whales

2016 New Zealand quake disrupted sperm whales' foraging behaviour

In November 2016, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake in New Zealand triggered underwater mudslides in the underwater canyon off the coastline. This led to high-velocity currents to flush 850 tonnes of sediment from the canyon into the ocean.

This "canyon flushing" caused what was once a diverse ecosystem of invertebrates along the Kaikoura underwater canyon to become as "quiet as a desert."

Lermontov Wreck

Make way for the shoreline— the ship is taking on water and fast! Perhaps these were not the exact words used to describe the situation, but the sinking of the MS Mikhail Lermontov has now become one of the largest diveable wrecks in New Zealand for both recreational and technical divers.

New Zealand

The Maori warrior cautiously moved towards us. His face was painted and body adorned in traditional combatant attire. He yelled words I did not understand and pounded the ground with his spear-like weapon to challenge us. More warriors appeared out of the darkness behind him, each taking defensive positions with wide eyes and tongues out to intimidate. Like the other visitors around me, I froze with excitement, waiting for their next move.