This fossil leaf is from a type of southern beech now extinct in New Zealand. Its leaf resembles that of deciduous trees in the northern hemisphere. Seventy million years ago New Zealand was at a high latitude inside the Antarctic Circle, and in midwinter was in 24-hour darkness. The tree may have lost its leaves in winter. In contrast, the small leaves of a related species growing in New Zealand today, mountain beech (Nothofagus solandri), are evergreen – an adaptation to New Zealand’s current mid-latitude position, where there is less seasonal variation than at high latitudes.
Using this item
Geology Museum, University of Otago
Photograph by R. Ewan Fordyce
This item has been provided for private study purposes (such as school projects, family and local history research) and any published reproduction (print or electronic) is an infringement of copyright law. It is the responsibility of the user of any material to obtain clearance from the copyright holder.