Story: Whales

Fossil of baleen whale

There are well-preserved fossils of early whales in New Zealand which help document their evolution from land-based mammals. The Waitaki valley in north Otago is especially rich in such fossils. This fossil of a baleen whale, found in the nearby Awamoko valley, is about 26 million years old. The view is from the back of the skull looking forward. The skull, the two cylindrical lower jaws, and some of the skeleton are also displayed. The specimen is held in the Geology Museum at the University of Otago.

Dr R. Ewan Fordyce, who collected the specimen and is a leading specialist in whale fossils, explains why they are found so far inland.

Sound file from Radio New Zealand Sound Archives Ngā Taonga Kōrero. Any re-use of this audio is a breach of copyright. To request a copy of the recording, contact Sound Archives Ngā Taonga Kōrero (Science – discovery of 20 baleen whale fossils/Reference number C880823)

About this item

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

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How to cite this page:

Gerard Hutching. 'Whales - Whales in New Zealand', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 7-Nov-14
URL: http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/speech/7075/fossil-of-baleen-whale