Associate Professors Mary Morgan-Richards and Steve Trewick with a stick insect (Acanthoxyla) and green gecko (Naultinus elegans) and their new book.

Secret lives of New Zealand species in new book

Massey University evolutionary biologists have uncovered the unique life and history of New Zealand wildlife in a new bestselling book.

NZ Wild Life draws on the latest research from Associate Professors Mary Morgan-Richards and Steve Trewick from Massey’s Institute of Agriculture and Environment, and is written for a general audience.

“We have tried to capture the secret life of ordinary species that New Zealanders will be very familiar with but won’t know the details of their natural history and the evolutionary context,” Dr Morgan-Richards says.

“For example, harakeke (flax) is endemic to New Zealand and its presence on Norfolk Island is proof that Māori didn't stop travelling after reaching New Zealand, but took harakeke roots with them to Norfolk Island and the Chatham Islands.”

“Another example is that pukeko often have helpers at the nest, so as well as mum and dad, there can be an auntie and cousins helping feed and defend the chicks,” Dr Morgan-Richard says.

The book highlights a variety of New Zealand plant and animal species including takahē, weka, parrots, bats, glow worms, weta, ngārara, freshwater crayfish, stick insects, ferns, fungi, pohutukawa, rimu, and many more.

Associate Professor Trewick says the book shows how New Zealand’s biological diversity has developed in an ever-changing natural landscape. “The evolution of New Zealand’s wildlife is a dynamic interplay between isolation and colonisation, and between species formation and extinction.”

NZ Wild Life made the top-ten on Nielsen’s New Zealand Bestseller Chart for adult non-fiction this month.