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.
Te whakamahi i tēnei tūemi
Geology Museum, University of Otago
Photograph by R. Ewan Fordyce
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