Flora & Fauna

Flora

The Auckland Islands have the richest flora of the five New Zealand Sub-Antarctic island groups with 233 species recorded, of which 196 taxa are indigenous. This gives them the greatest diversity of the Sub-Antarctic Islands as well as being the farthest south that trees grow naturally.

The strange diversity of the plants gives the Auckland Islands gives a surreal atmosphere. Tree ferns scattered in certain places throughout rata forest make it appear subtropical. The southern rata Metrosideros umbellata grow to only half the height of M. umbellata on the mainland, spreading horizontally. The alpine zone is no less foreign in form, with tussocks and megaherbs in abundance.

Megaherbs in the Sub-Antarctic islands have enormous leaves and flowers, an adaptation to make use of the limited sunlight and harsh weather in the Sub-Antarctic. Anisotome latifoliais not dissimilar to purple broccoli, Stilbocarpa polaris comparable to a large rhubarb and bright yellow Bulbinella rossii from the lily family are abundant on Enderby Island but are restricted to steep cliffs where pigs cannot access on Auckland Island.

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Red flowering rata forest

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Anisotome latifolia on the northern coast of Enderby Island.

Fauna

25 million years of isolation has led to speciation and a number of endemic species to Auckland Islands that are closely related to New Zealand mainland species. These species are strongly tied to the islands and make the islands an important sea bird breeding ground with an abundance of albatrosses, penguins, petrels, sooty shearwater and the endemic Auckland Island Shag.

The Auckland Island snipe, teal, rail, tomtit and shag are all examples of land birds who have speciated since their isolation from mainland populations. Land birds include the 4 endemic species and red fronted and yellow crowned parakeets, tui, New Zealand Bellbird, New Zealand pipit. The Auckland Island Dotterel is a race of the mainland banded dotterel and the Auckland Island Falcon are a race of the mainland species. Auckland islands have the largest number of New Zealand Sub-Antarctic invertebrates with over two hundred species of insects, 12 endemic moths, 24 species of spider and 11 species of springtail. Weta have also speciated into an endemic form called Dendroplectron aucklandensis. There are also 19 species of endemic freshwater invertebrates. The islands support five species of marine mammal, New Zealand Sea Lion, New Zealand Fur Seal, Southern Right Whale and the occasional visit from Elephant seal and Leopard Seal. This is also the main breeding ground for the New Zealand sea lion.

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New Zealand sea lion within the rata forest.

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Southern right whale in Port Ross.

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Royal Albatrosson Enderby Island