Story: Evolution of plants and animals

Fossil beech

Fossil beech

This fossil leaf is from a type of southern beech now extinct in New Zealand. Its leaf resembles that of deciduous trees in the northern hemisphere. Seventy million years ago New Zealand was at a high latitude inside the Antarctic Circle, and in midwinter was in 24-hour darkness. The tree may have lost its leaves in winter. In contrast, the small leaves of a related species growing in New Zealand today, mountain beech (Nothofagus solandri), are evergreen – an adaptation to New Zealand’s current mid-latitude position, where there is less seasonal variation than at high latitudes.

Using this item

Geology Museum, University of Otago
Photograph by R. Ewan Fordyce

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How to cite this page:

Matt McGlone, 'Evolution of plants and animals - Split from Gondwana', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 18 July 2024)

Story by Matt McGlone, published 24 Sep 2007