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Dinosaurs and terrestrial reptiles

Where in NZ Mangahouanga Stream in Hawke’s Bay, Chatham Islands; Port Waikato, NW Nelson
When Cretaceous (145-65 million years ago)
Scale Large

What are they?

  • Air-breathing, cold-blooded, egg-laying vertebrates who lived on land.
  • Found as fragmentary bones from a few localities
  • At least 6 different species, including carnivores and the larger plant eaters
  • Some dinosaur and turtle material found in north-eastern North Island.
  • Footprints of large plant eating dinosaurs have been discovered in the northern South Island.
  • Fossils found at Mangahouanga Stream in Hawkes Bay include pterodactyl (flying reptile) bones.

In contrast to well preserved local marine reptiles, New Zealand dinosaurs are rare and represented mostly by fragments that washed from land into shallow seas. See our 3D fossil gallery!

Mosasaur skull, Mangahouanga stream

Mosasaur skull, Mangahouanga stream

The record has expanded greatly since the 1980s. Fossils from inland Hawke’s Bay, the Auckland region and the Chatham Islands include plant-eating sauropods, hypsilophodontids, ankylosaurs, and meat-eating theropods.

In 2009, fossil dinosaur footprints were identified in NW Nelson – the first known dinosaur traces from New Zealand, and the first evidence of dinosaurs in the South Island. See the video here.

Used for:

See some examples in our image gallery.