||Michel: 1314, 1315-1319, Bl.39,
39I Scott: 1180-1184,
1184a Stanley Gibbons:
1762-1767, 1768 Yvert: 1247-1251, 1252, 90,
92 UPU: N/A Category: pR
||Geoffrey Cox, Auckland, NZ
|Stamps in set
45c - Booklet stamp:
45c - Sauropod
80c - Pterosaur
$1.00 - Ankylosaur
$1.20 - Mauisaurus
$2.80 - Carnosaur
|Size (width x height)
||28 x 40 mm, Block 124 x 99 mm
||100 stamps in sheet
||FDC x 2, Souvenir-Sheet x 1, Booklet x1
||Harrison and Sons, red phosphor coated,
||Sheet stamps: 13.5,
Booklet stamp: 12,
Miniature Sheet stamp: 14.5 x 14
||Southern Colour Print, Dunedin, New Zealand
||New Zealand Post
On January 10th
1993, Post authority of New Zealand issued a set of 6
stamps and a Souvenir Sheet that shows various prehistoric animals.
New Zealand post issued 1 stamp from the set in booklet
The other stamps in the issue were published as individual sheets of 100 stamps.
The colorful Souvenir-Sheet incorporates the $1.50 stamp from the
issue and depicts a lively scene showing a conflict between two
and a pair of Hypsilophodonts
Between 1-10 October 1993 stamp collectors, postal administrations and
exhibitors flocked to Thailand to attend the Bangkok '93 World Philatelic
New Zealand Post produced an overprinted Dinosaur souvenir sheet
commemorate the event.
Even though the stamps set was called "Dinosaurs" not all prehistoric animals depicted on the stamps are
Dinosaurs per definition are terrestrial animals.
The pterosaurs are flying reptiles and plesiosaurs (Mauisaurus) are marine reptiles.
For 165 million years dinosaurs ruled the earth with unparalleled strength and power.
To date of the stamps issue (1993), some 500 types of dinosaur have been identified, but this is believed to
be only a fraction of the species that actually existed.
They came in all shapes and sizes (some were as small as chickens, while some were as tall
as five-storey buildings) and they displayed a wide range of social behaviour patterns
(some were gentle in nature and ate plant life, while others were violent and
threatening, and ate those that ate the plant life!).
The name 'dinosaur' originates from a combination of two Greek words: 'deinos'
meaning terrible and 'sauros' meaning lizard.
The term was introduced by prominent British paleontologist
Sir Richard Owen
By coining the term in his report, Owen refers to dinosaurs instead as 'fearfully great',
acknowledging their large size - significantly surpassing that of any living reptile.
It is these 'terrible lizards' - in particular those that once walked on New Zealand soil -
that are the subject of this stamp issue.
Fossils of prehistoric marine reptiles were known in New Zealand since 1861,
when Professor Owen communicated to the British Association a brief description of
certain fossils that had been discovered by Mr. T. H. Cockbvirn Hood, P.G.S., and presented
by him to the British Museum.
Paleontologist Joan Wiffen stamp of New Zealand 2022,
MiNr.: , Scott:
The theropod bone found by Joan Wiffen in 1975.
Image credit: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.
The fossil in the Te Papa Museum is a cast supplied by Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences (GNS).
The dinosaurs were not discovered in New Zealand for more than a century, until
in 1974 amateur fossil collector Joan Wiffen
and her team of family and friends
found an unusual bone in a Hawkes Bay riverbank from which she'd been retrieved prehistoric marine reptile fossils for years.
When she showed it to another palaeontologist, she learned it was part
of the backbone of a carnivorous dinosaur.
In that moment, the long held belief that dinosaurs had never roamed New Zealand,
because the country had been isolated from other lands for so long, was shattered.
In the next few years Joan Wiffen uncovered more dinosaur fossils and remains of pterosaur.
Unfortunately, every discovery so far (2022) has been of isolated bones, making complete identification impossible.
As a result, New Zealand dinosaurs have not been given scientific names but general descriptions such as
'carnosaur' and 'sauropod' - the equivalent of describing a modern animal as a 'cat' or 'horse'
rather than 'tiger' or 'zebra'.
Prehistoric animals of the stamps
45c - Sauropod
45c - Booklet stamp: a Carnosaur
attacks a sauropod
Sauropod on stamp of New Zealand 1993.
MiNr.: 1315, Scott: 1180
Booklet stamp of New Zealand 1993: Carnosaur attack Sauropod.
MiNr.: 1314, Scott: 1185
The sauropods were giant, herbivorous dinosaurs with extremely long tails and necks;
(also called Brontosaurus
being among the best known of them.
The New Zealand sauropod was much smaller than Apatosaurus
- probably about the size of a
At the date of the stamp issue, Sauropod of New Zealand was identified from a piece of rib,
which would originally have been 1 to 2 meters long.
The fossil is so distinctive in terms of its size and shape that it can be confidently assigned
but more information is necessary to make a more specific determination of the genus or species to which this bone belongs.
It relates to an animal that was about eight metres in length.
In 2009 some footprints of sauropods, thought to be about 70 million years old, were discovered
in the north-west Nelson region.
The discovery of the first dinosaur footprints ever found in New Zealand and the first evidence
of dinosaurs in the South Island has amazed scientists around the world.
The giant dinosaur was herbivore that used its long giraffe-like neck to graze on lush tree top vegetation
and lived in herds.
80c - Pterosaur
Pterosaur on stamp of New Zealand 1993.
MiNr.: 1316, Scott: 1181
The pterosaurs were the first animals (other than insects) to take to
the air and fly.
Unlike birds, however, their wings did not have feathers but a large membrane of skin,
like bats' wings.
In 1985, amateur palaeontologist Mr. Trevor Crabtree stumbled on an unusual bone at
Mangahouanga Stream on the North Island of New Zealand.
The delicate layered bone looked to be that of a bird.
Painstaking cleaning and consultation with overseas authorities showed it to be something more
astounding: the lower wing bone (distal) of a pterosaur.
This was the first evidence of a pterosaur from New Zealand,
the third from the Late Cretaceous of the southern hemisphere, and represents the extreme
southern occurrence of a pterosaur.
In 1988, amateur palaeontologist from New Zealand Mrs. Joan Wiffen
vertebrate palaeontologist Dr. Ralph Molnar from the Queensland Museum,
, published an article about the bone.
"First pterosaur from New Zealand" was printed in Australian palaeontology journal "Alcheringa".
They estimated the age of these fossils as equivalent to Campanian-Maastrichtian stages
(70.6 million years ago) of Late Cretaceous.
This age estimation was based on molluscan fossils found in boulders derived
from the local sandstone of the Mata Series and collected from Mangahouanga Stream, where the fossil
These beds were deposited on the continental shelf, apparently under shallow, near-shore conditions.
Wiffen and Molnar found some similarity of the bone to the distal bone of
(named after the Araripe
who had an estimated wingspan of 4 meters.
However, relationships of this pterosaur was difficult to determine in the relative absence of
The Crabtree's fossil is the first described pterosaur fossil from New Zealand, but it is perhaps, not
the first pterosaur fossil discovered in the country.
In 1955, Sir Charles Fleming discovered a piece of bone that has been unofficially identified as that of
a pterosaur, from Mikonui Stream, Canterbury.
However, the Fleming’s specimen has not been formally identified and described yet (2022).
$1.0 - Ankylosaur
Ankylosaur on stamp of New Zealand 1993.
MiNr.: 1317, Scott: 1182
are a group of herbivorous dinosaurs of the order Ornithischia.
It includes the great majority of dinosaurs with armour in the form of bony osteoderms, similar to turtles.
were bulky quadrupeds, with short, powerful limbs.
Its head was square and flat and was broader than it was long.
Its teeth, like those of the related stegosaurs, consisted of
a simple curved row of irregularly edged (crenulated) leaf-shaped teeth.
Ankylosaurus’s long tail terminated in a thick “club” of bone, which it probably swung as
a defence against predators.
This club was formed by the last tail vertebrae, which were nested tightly against each other
and a sheath of several bony plates.
Although a slow-moving herbivore, Ankylosaur
presented anything but
an easy target for meat-eating dinosaurs heavy bone armour, coupled with bony
horns across its back and head, saw to that.
were up to three metres long and weighing around half a tonne.
They are known to have first appeared in the Middle Jurassic, and persisted until the end of the
The two main families of Ankylosaurs
and Ankylosauridae are primarily
known from the Northern Hemisphere, but the more basal Parankylosauria
are known from southern
Gondwana during the Cretaceous.
was first named by Henry Fairfield Osborn in 1923.
To the date of the stamp issue, Ankylosaur
fossils of New Zealand were represented
by two tail vertebra and a piece flattened rib.
All three bones were discovered by Joan Wiffen in 1998.
$1.20 - Mauisaurus
Mauisaurus on stamp of New Zealand 1993.
MiNr.: 1318, Scott: 1183
was a 20-metre marine reptile, the largest of its kind in the world.
It was an "elasmosaur", the type of plesiosaur with a tiny head and very long neck.
This meant that, for all its size, its diet was restricted to small fish and squid in
the shallow coastal waters in which it lived.
According to recent research (2022) on plesiosaurs,
contrary to earlier depictions, plesiosaurs necks were not very flexible, and could not be held high
above the water surface or incurve as by swan, as shown on the stamp.
The necks of plesiosaurs were fully unlike those of animals with really flexible necks like
many birds for example.
The neck posture was corrected on the New Zealand's stamp of 2010
(see on the right).
The vertebrae were rather short and there was very little space between the centers of the vertebrae.
Their dorsal spines were very long and broad, which reduced the amount of possible vertical movement a lot.
Unlike those of many other long-necked animals, the individual neck vertebrae on plesiosaurs were not
particularly elongated; rather, the extreme neck length was achieved by a much increased number of vertebrae.
's neck could reach up to 60% of the entire length of the animal
by having 72 neck or cervical vertebrae.
The weight of its long neck placed the center of gravity behind the front flippers.
Thus, Elasmosaurus could have raised its head and neck above the water only when in shallow water,
where it could rest its body on the bottom.
The weight of the neck, the limited musculature, and the limited movement between the vertebrae would
have prevented Elasmosaurus from raising its head and neck very high.
The statement that "plesiosaurs probably came ashore to lay their eggs, burying them in the sand
of beaches, as modern turtles do."
from the booklet, issued by New Zealand's post in 1993, designed by Geoffrey Cox,
is outdated, according to recent research.
In 2011 plesiosaur fossil of adult female with a fetus inside it
(both were identified as the same species - Polycotylus latippinus
was reported by F. Robin O’Keefe of Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia, USA.
As there is also no evidence that the adult ate the juvenile, such as damage from stomach acid,
O’Keefe suggested that the long-necked plesiosaurs that roamed the seas during the dinosaur era gave
birth to live young.
They probably cared for their offspring and may even have lived in large social groups, like
O’Keefe says it’s not surprising that plesiosaurs gave birth: reptilian eggs are hard-shelled
and must be laid on land, and plesiosaurs were too big to clamber out onto the shore.
fossils have been found in marine sedimentary rocks (mainly sandstone and
siltstone) of Late Cretaceous age, between 100 and 65 million years ago, all over the world.
A well preserved elasmosaur skull is on display at Te Papa.
This superb specimen was discovered by Joan Wiffen and her colleagues at Mangahouanga Stream, Te Hoe Valley,
It was subsequently prepared and described by Joan Wiffen and vertebrate palaeontologist Dr Ralph Molnar,
and formally named Tuarangisaurus keyesi
The genus name relates to its New Zealand origins and means 'lizard from Tuarangi'.
The species name honours Ian Keyes, a skilled fossil preparator, palaeontologist and curator with
New Zealand Geological Survey, and a significant mentor to Joan Wiffen.
As with all other fossils at this locality, it is derived from the Maungataniwha Sandstone Formation.
$1.50 - Carnosaur
Carnosaurs hunt Hypsilophodonts on Souvenir-Sheet of New Zealand 1993.
MiNr.: Bl. 39, Scott: 1184a
At the date of the stamp issue, the remains of three theropod (carnivorous) dinosaurs were
discovered in New Zealand.
One of the fossils belongs to Carnosaur
dinosaur was depicted on an individual stamp and on the stamp in the Souvenir-Sheet.
A fearsome flesh eater, Carnosaur
weighed about two tonnes and
may well have been capable of speeds as fast as 50 kilometres per hour.
It walked on its hind legs, had powerful clawed hands.
An adult human would barely have reached the largest Carnosaur
are featured on the Souvenir-Sheet produced with this issue,
once on the stamp and another one on the margin - this
time attacking a pair of Hypsilophodonts
were the gazelles of the dinosaur world - small, fleet-footed
herbivores without defensive armour or weapons.
The specimen found in New Zealand was about three metres long and
is known from part of its pelvis.
Part of the hip of Hypsilophodont
was discovered by Joan Wiffen.
There is evidence the "gazelle-like" creatures, which probably wandered in herds, lived in the
North and South islands.
|FDC autographed by the designer of the stamps
||Example of circulated covers
- Technical details and release notes:
Focus Magazine form April 13, 1993,
Virtual New Zealand Stamps.
- Fossils discoveries in New Zealand:
- Sauropoda discoveries in New Zealand:
Science Learning Hub,
- Pterosaur discoveries in New Zealand:
- Ankylosaurus discoveries in New Zealand:
- Mauisaurus discoveries in New Zealand:
The History of Ichthyosaurs Discovery,
- Carnosaurus discoveries in New Zealand:
- Hypsilophodont discoveries in New Zealand:
Many thanks to
Dr. Peter Voice from Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences, Western Michigan University,
for the draft page review and his very valuable comments.
Many thanks to
Dr. Marianna Terezow, Collection manager at National Paleontological Collection from
Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences (GNS), New Zealand, for her very valuable comments.