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New Zealand Fossils in 3D

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Use your curser to rotate the images in any direction to see the specimens from all sides.

Fossil Broadleaf

The ribs of this leaf are clearly visible. It is from an extinct flowering plant of the Late Cretaceous (65 – 84 million years old) and was found at the Strongman Mine near Greymouth. The specimen is 14 x 9 cm in size, but you can see that it is broken and would be 2 or 3 times longer if complete. Not much else is known about this particular specimen, but other plant fossils found in the same rocks tell us that the forests in the area at that time were very diverse.

Fossil Paua

This fossil is easy to recognise for New Zealanders, although it is from 25 to 34 million years old. It comes from inland Kaikoura. It has a very rough outer surface and you can see a line of respiratory (breathing) holes near the outer part of the lip. Similar in size to a modern paua (8.5 x 6 x 2 cm) it would have lived on a rocky sea shore, clinging onto the surface using its muscular ‘foot’.

Echinoid_3D.pdf 2.46 MB

Little is known about this sea urchin. It was found in Mesozoic rocks (65 – 250 million years old) but its exact age is uncertain. Like other echinoderms (‘spiny skins’) such as star fish, it has a radiating symmetry. Its body is made up of rigid plates and it would have once been covered with spines for protection. The specimen is about 7 x 6 x 5 cm in size.

Bivalve Lima

This double-valved fossil shell is called Lima colorata and is 8 x 7 x 4 cm in size. It was found in Upokongaruru stream, east Wairarapa, in rocks that are 6.5 - 13 million years old. These relatively young marine sediments along the East Coast have been uplifted due to the Australian tectonic plate over-riding the Pacific plate further to the east. The specimen would have lived as a filter feeder in the mud of the sea floor.


This 7.5 cm long snail fossil from the north shore of Parengarenga Harbour is still embedded in its muddy matrix. Turning the image around allows you to fully appreciate its geometric spiral form. It is from 16 – 22 million years old.

Bivalve Inoceramus

This type of bivalve is called Inoceramus. Like the ammonite it was also found at Kawhia Harbour, in rocks aged 153.5 - 157.5 million years. It is double-valved and is 9.5 x 6 x 5.5 cm in size. Other members in the family from New Zealand reach sizes of more than 1.7 m long. The corrugated pattern of the shell is typical of this type of bivalve and represents growth lines of the shell margin.

Ammonite_3D.pdf 2.46 MB

This ammonite from Kawhia is Late Jurassic in age (145 – 156 million years). Although this specimen is 12.5 cm across, much larger ammonites have been found in the same area. They are related to the squid family, like the nautilus, and would have had their head and tentacles sticking out from the wide end of the spiral. As they grew, the spiral shell would get larger, with empty cavities inside it used for buoyancy. The ammonites were wiped out at the end of the Cretaceous (65 million years ago) along with many other animals and plants, including the dinosaurs


This beautiful specimen, called Aturia coxi, comes from rocks in southwest Nelson that are 11 – 13 million years old. These extinct animals were carnivores, feeding on other marine life. Extant members of the family have remained relatively unchanged for millions of years. This specimen is about 5 cm across and 2 cm thick, however some members in the Aturiidae family may reach half a metre in diameter.

Titanosaurus vertebra

This is the vertebra of a very large dinosaur from about 80 million years ago. The specimen is about 13 cm long and has been badly eroded by having been washed along in a riverbed. It is a very significant find because it shows that even the largest types of dinosaur were present in New Zealand at that time. It was found by famous dinosaur hunter, Joan Wiffen.

Theropod toe bone

This toe bone is 10 cm long. It is from the hind leg of a Theropod (belonging to a group of large carnivorous dinosaurs, such as Tyrannosaurus rex). This specimen was found in inland Hawkes Bay in Late Cretaceous (70 million years old) rocks.