New Zealand’s Geological and Climatic History and Its Biogeographical Context

  • R. M. McDowallEmail author
Part of the Fish & Fisheries Series book series (FIFI, volume 32)


New Zealand is part of Zealandia, an ancient continent that originated along the margins of East Antarctica in the late Cretaceous, and formed along the joint edges of the Australian and Pacific tectonic plates. It has been as isolated in the southwestern Pacific Ocean as it is today, for about 60 million years. The Chatham Islands are young and volcanic, having been emergent only for a few million years, and the Auckland and Campbell Islands to the south for a little longer, none of these islands having had land connections to the main islands since they emerged from the sea. Despite its Gondwanan origins New Zealand’s biogeography probably has few direct biotic connections to these origins because most, perhaps all, of its present land surface was submerged by Ocean in the Oligocene. It is widely believed that most of its biota has dispersal origins, mostly from Australia, but also far more widely. New Zealand was warm temperate with low relief in the Miocene, but climatic cooling since then, linked also with substantial mountain building has led to the evolution of a distinctive alpine biota.


Cenozoic Climate change Dispersal Geology Glaciation Gondwana Mountain building Plate tectonics Volcanism 


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© Springer Netherlands 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Institute of Water and Atmospheric ResearchChristchurchNew Zealand

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