New Zealand's Sub-Antarctic Islands - 2008

that form the islands. Geologists say these features are the creation of the volcanic action caused by the constant pressure of the two tectonic plates, the Australian plate moving southwest and the Pacific plate moving northerly. The fissures and earthquakes cause mountains to continue rising and lakes to form in depressions and the coastline to change continuously over geologic time. Geologists say that the city of Christchurch on the eastern coast of New Zealand’s South island is moving in a different direction from Wellington on the southern tip of the North Island by about 4 millimeters a year! That’s rather quickly in geologic time! The geologists postulate that this strange journey occurs because the North Island rides the Australian plate and half the South Island sits on the Pacific plate. 1000 years ago when the Maoris discovered Aotearoa, they postulated that the island was a gift from the ocean! Modern plate tectonic theory does not disagree. After the great rending off, New Zealand was a “whale rider” apart from the other sections of the supercontinent. Its plant and animal life developed completely separately from the rest. Even its geologic development was unlike the other remaining land chunks. No mammal ever evolved in New Zealand with the exception of three bat species, one of which is already extinct. There are some amphibians and reptiles, but no snakes. There is also a “living fossil” from the dinosaur age, the tuatara—an iguana-like creature. Insects and plants evolved riotously on the islands, but they are distinct from those elsewhere in the world. But where Mother Nature produced the most flamboyant evolutionary pattern is in the avian world. Birds have filled every niche possible so that birds take the places usually occupied by mammals or marsupials in other parts of the globe. Thus there are birds that live like squirrels or others like forage like mice and occupy similar homes. Most amazing is that many of these native birds became flightless because there were no predators to create an advantage to flight. No wonder pre-historic New Zealand is described as a paradise for the creatures who lived there!

For millennia, that paradise continued undisturbed except by the slow mechanisms of evolution, the alterations in weather patterns, the uplifts and

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