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Land vertebrates

New Zealand TuataraAuckland Museum's outstanding land vertebrates collection comprises over 12,500 bird specimens, 2,500 amphibians and reptiles and 1,000 land mammals.

These specimens are primarily from northern New Zealand, but there is also a significant amount of material from elsewhere in the country, from islands of the south-west Pacific, from Australia and from around the world.  The collection is particularly strong in kiwis and moas, oceanic seabirds, penguins, cormorants, ducks, waders and allies (Charadriiformes), passerine birds, tuataras, geckos, skinks , Pacific reptiles and New Zealand bats.

Our aim is to hold representative samples reflecting the geographic, seasonal, sexual, individual and age variations of each species and some of the best mounted animals from New Zealand are displayed in the galleries on the first floor of the Museum.

Curator Land Vertebrates
Matt Rayner
+64 9 309 0443
[email protected]

  • History of land vertebrates collection

    This collection has been formed over the Museum's 150-year history and includes the oldest surviving New Zealand stuffed birds, bought from Mr I. St John, a taxidermist of Nelson, around 1856-57.

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Types of preparations

The types of preparations held include: mounts (illustrating the finest taxidermy), study-skins, outstretched wings, feather sheets, articulated skeletons, bones, whole specimens in ethanol, eggs and nests.

Most specimens are stored in the research and reference collection, and are accessible to researchers by appointment. These voucher specimens establish the presence of species at particular places and times, and are used for scientific studies where large samples are measured or recorded. They also serve in the identifications of unknown specimens by comparison.

Most of the catalogues are now computerised which permits listing of specimens in numerous ways, whilst new specimens are today acquired by the presentation of animals that members of the public (including students, professional researchers and conservation staff) find dead.