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Re: New Zealand (was: dino extinction)

At 17:13 12/11/96 -0500, Nick Liongrich wrote:

>       I sit and wonder how on earth the dinosaurs could have gone
>extinct, after all that success. And then when I'm done with that, I
>wonder how on earth mammals could have gone extinct. They did in one place
>in the world, New Zealand. New Zealand broke apart from the remains of
>Gondwana ~80 mya ago bearing a full cargo, and the only things that
>survived to modern times were ratites, geckos, the tuatara, frogs, etc.
>Now, what the HELL happened to all the mammals?

To the best of my knowledge there is no evidence whatever that terrestrial
mammals ever inhabited New Zealand (if you exclude the cryptozoological
rumours of the so-called "waitoreke").  Certainly even if there were
mammals on New Zealand at the time of its breakaway they could not have
lasted long, because the radiation of birds in New Zealand seems highly
likely to represent evolution in the absence of mammalian competitors.

Remember that 80 mya is still middle-to-late Cretaceous, and many of the
mammalian lineages around at that time are no longer with us anywhere.  I
do not know (someone here must) what Cretaceous mammal lineages are known
from Gondwana, that might possibly have been on New Zealand at the time of
its breakaway.  But I would have expected a fairly small fauna of little
jobs on NZ at best, and these may well have disappeared through natural
attrition at  almost any time.  Too bad, too - it would be fun to turn up a
zalambadestid or a multituberculate still alive there.  Maybe the waitoreke
is worth hunting for after all....
Ronald I. Orenstein                           Phone: (905) 820-7886
International Wildlife Coalition              Fax/Modem: (905) 569-0116
1825 Shady Creek Court                 
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada L5L 3W2          Internet: ornstn@inforamp.net