New Zealand did not sink underwater 26 million years ago, say scientists

January 15th, 2008 - 4:53 pm ICT by admin  

Wellington, Jan 15 (ANI): A team of evolutionary geneticists has rebuffed the theory that New Zealand sank underwater 26 million years ago, based on DNA samples taken from the native kauri forests in the country.

According to The Dominion Post, though it is accepted that New Zealand’s landmass broke away from the super-continent Gondwanaland more than 80 million years ago, some scientists have argued that it was completely submerged around the Oligocene “drowning” period 26 million years ago.

But now, DNA taken from native kauri by Massey University evolutionary geneticist Peter Lockhart and his team has contradicted the notion that New Zealand sank.

“The results with the kauri are very difficult to explain if New Zealand was completely submerged [as] all flora and fauna would have been extinguished,” said Lockhart.

“The simplest explanation is that New Zealand has existed ever since it rafted away from Gondwana. If this is so, [our] kauri may well have a whakapapa that traces back to 90 million-year-old South Island fossils,” he added.

According to Wellington geologist Hamish Campbell, it was widely accepted that large parts of the country were underwater during the Oligocene period, but there was a good geological and biological case for the landmass being completely submerged about 23 million years ago.

“So few animals and plants are older than 20 million years, the kauri must be the only one. It’s an anomaly, so one has to question the data,” said Wellington geologist Hamish Campbell.

“It’s an interesting result, which will tease the mind of researchers. It’s important to have it out there,” he added.

Further study of native flora and fauna’s genetic diversity is needed to unearth exactly how life in New Zealand had developed and was important for conservation and climate change issues. (ANI)

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