New Zealand 2010
"Ancient Reptiles of New Zealand"
||Michel: 2670-2679 (mint), Bl. 254 (self-adhesive)
Scott: 2293-2297 (mint), 2297a-e (self-adhesive)
Yvert & Tellier: 2574-2578 (mint), 249 (self-adhesive)
||Stamps and coins were produced by Eklektus Inc., Wellington, New Zealand:
Graphic design was created by "The Alchemist".
The coin cases by Izzat Design.
Illustrations and writing by Eric Dorfman.
|Stamps in set
||5 mint + 5 self-adhesive imperforated
50c - Allosaurus
$1.00 - Anhanguera
$1.80 - Titanosaurus
$2.30 - Moanasaurus
$2.80 - Mauisaurus
|Size (width x height)
||stamps: 52.0mm x 37.5 mm,
Mini-Sheet of self-adhesive stamps: 230mm x 200mm
||20 stamps in sheet
||FDC x 1 PP x1,
Gummed and self-adhesive stamps,
||Tullis Russell 104gsm red phosphor gummed stamp paper
||14.40 x 14.60
||Southern Colour Print, Dunedin, New Zealand
||New Zealand Post
March 2010, the Postal Authority of New Zealand issued the stamps set
"Ancient Reptiles of New Zealand", as well as the set of
Mint (gummed) stamps were issued in individual sheets of 20
and numbered mini-sheets of all 5 stamps
were offered in the
Limited Edition Packs (only 2,000 produced).
The Limited Edition Pack also contain a booklet with insightful commentary by renowned New Zealand
geologist and palaeontologist Dr Hamish Campbell, as well as an FDC with his autograph
The self-adhesive stamps
were issued in sheets of 5 stamps only.
These stamps and coins were produced by Eklektus Inc - a collective that produced innovative visitor
experiences in New Zealand and overseas.
Eric Dorfman from Eklektus Inc (on the left) and Dr. Hamish Campbell from GNS Science (on the right)
in front of a dinosaur display at "Awesome Forces' - New Zealand's National Museum (Te Papa)
on the launch day of the stamps.
Image credit: Eklektus Inc. (the article does not exist anymore)
Dinosaurs reconstruction at New Zealand's National Museum (Te Papa).
Image credit: Traveler Trinkets
Dinosaur and pterosaur fossils of New Zealand.
These diagrams show the skeletons of two types of dinosaur (ornithopod and theropod) and a
pterosaur (flying reptile), and where fossil bone fragments fit into their reconstructed skeletons.
The lower two examples are from Mangahouanga Stream, inland Hawke’s Bay, where New Zealand’s first
dinosaur and pterosaur bones were unearthed.
Image credit: The
Encyclopedia of New Zealand
The team was excited to design the stamp and the coin sets of prehistoric reptiles, as it provided an
opportunity to bring to physical products a sense of engagement typically found in walk-through
The stamp presentation pack includes a map of his adventures, background information and even a
couple of surprises.
The coin case is beautifully crafted leather, designed to represent the adventurer’s journal.
Graphic design was created by "the Alchemist", the coin cases by Izzat Design, and illustrations
and writing by Eric Dorfman.
Paleontological assistance was provided by geologist and paleontologist Dr. Hamish Campbell
from Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences (GNS), New Zealand.
"Ancient Reptiles of New Zealand" explores the Cretaceous landscape, 70 million years ago, as if somebody
were able to travel back in time and observe it directly.
Illustrations on the stamps and coins were "field sketches" – reconstructions based on the most
up-to-date information on animal behaviour, ecology and New Zealand palaeontology.
Although there is an element of fantasy to the presentation, the facts reflect the most current scientific
The colourful three-panel presentation pack contain in-depth information, created in the style of a field
researcher’s notebook and accompanied by five gummed stamps, a miniature sheet, a set of stickers,
a first day cover (FDC) and an A2 map tracing the giant reptiles migration over the ancient super-continent
The prehistoric animals depicted in this series include two dinosaurs: a theropod [Allosaurus
and a sauropod (Titanosaurus
): two marine reptiles: a mosasaur (Moanasaurus
) and an elasmosaur
); and a flying reptile or pterosaur named Anhanguera
These are very fine representations of these animals and they are based on substantive research by many palaeontologists
over many years, but mainly on fossil discoveries in continental North America, South America, Africa, Europe and Asia.
The fossil remains of large animals have always fascinated mankind, and they can be found globally wherever
there are suitable sedimentary rock formations. In this regard, New Zealand is no exception.
A hundred million years ago, New Zealand's land formed the eastern margin of the southern super-continent
Separated by an ocean, "Zealandia" had its own group of dinosaurs, pterosaurs (flying reptiles) and giant marine reptiles
that thrived here for 20 million years.
The New Zealand fossils to which these animals relate are fairly limited.
For instance, our knowledge of the two dinosaurs Allosaurus
on single bone fossils.
They are both vertebrae (back bones) yet they are so distinctive that we can be quite certain of their
Similarly, only a few bones are known for the pterosaur, identified here as Anhanguera
A great deal more fossils are known for the marine reptiles, the short-necked
and the long-necked Mauisaurus
And there is a good reason for this: most of the Mesozoic sedimentary rocks of New Zealand are marine.
Dinosaurs were strictly terrestrial animals and terrestrial rocks are surprisingly rare in New Zealand.
Conspicuous fossil bones and teeth exposed in and/or on natural rock surfaces have always been observed in
various places around New Zealand.
However, professional geologists were the first to collect Mesozoic fossil reptiles in New Zealand
for scientific study and have done so since the 1850s.
There is a national inventory of all known fossil localities in New Zealand and it includes all
localities of Mesozoic reptile fossils.
This the 'New Zealand Fossil Record File', administered by the Geological Society of New Zealand and
Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences (GNS).
GNS also maintains the National Palaeontology Collections, and it is here that most collections
of Mesozoic reptile fossils from New Zealand are kept, but some are in regional museums and
The five representative Mesozoic reptiles depicted on the stamps serve as an unintentional but
fitting tribute to the achievements of palaeontologist Joan Wiffen
(1922-2008), who was shown on a stamp in 2022
Remarkably, she and her colleagues in the Hawke's Bay Palaeontology Group
(a small club formed in the early 1970's by Joan and her husband Pont) have discovered fossils of
all five of these animals at the one locality in sandstone formation of Late Cretaceous age,
about 75 million years old.
Paleontologist Joan Wiffen stamp of New Zealand 2022,
MiNr.: , Scott:
Specifically, their collections have all been from the Mangahouanga Stream,
a tributary of the Te Hoe River, inland Hawke's Bay, North Island.
The locality is remote, hard to get to and on private land.
In the family’s search through geological survey maps trying to find likely places to search
for fossils, Joan found a reference to rocks that contained ‘reptilian remains’ in a
remote part of inland Hawke’s Bay.
This comment can be attributed to observations made by Don Haw, a professional oil exploration
geologist employed by British Petroleum (BP), who surveyed the Te Hoe Valley in the late 1950s
and prepared a detailed report of his findings, including the discovery of fossil bones in
Associated fossil shells confirmed that the bone-bearing rock formation was a marine sandstone of
Late Cretaceous age.
However, nobody followed this up at the time, but it stimulates Joan Wiffen to search the area.
It took six months to get information on the locality and then to get permission from the landowner
On Saturday 2nd
December 1972 the Wiffens made their first visit to Mangahouanga Stream,
which flowed through steep, forest-covered hills.
The 'Maungataniwha' name, suggests that local Maori were aware of the fossil bones and attributed
them to some unknown monster or 'taniwha'.
Collecting and transporting the fossils was hard, physical work.
Access was by foot only, the terrain was extremely steep and rugged, and every rock they wanted to
study at home had to be carried to the car on their backs.
After several months searching, they found their first fossil bone from a marine reptile.
This was the beginning of many discoveries of other marine reptile fossils.
During the next few years the team collected many marine reptile fossils and
even some fossils from dinosaurs!
Opening of New Zealand's National Museum (Te Papa) on stamps from 1998,
MiNr.: 1657-1658, Scott:
Most of the fossil bones and teeth discovered by Joan Wiffen and her colleagues are housed within the
National Palaeontology Collections held by GNS Science at Avalon, Lower Hutt.
Some are on loan to the National Museum Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington, including the first three dinosaur
fossils ever found in New Zealand: a theropod tail vertebra, a toe bone (phalanx) of another theropod,
and a fragment of rib bone from an ankylosaur, an armour-plated ornithopod.
Also housed at the National Museum Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington is a remarkable dinosaur fossil
from Sussex, England.
It is a fossil tooth that is considered to be the very first fossil to be recognised as 'dinosaur'.
Its finding in a quarry near Cuckfield in 1820 is attributed to Mary-Anne Mantell, wife of
palaeontologist Gideon Mantell.
Gideon Mantell formally described his wife's famous fossil in 1822 and named it 'Iguanodon'.
It is housed in New Zealand because his son Walter built a career in the early colonial days of New
Zealand (1840s to 1880s) and was a key figure in the development of the Colonial Museum (now Te Papa).
He inherited his father's belongings in the 1850s, including the Iguanodon tooth.
Prehistoric animals of the stamps
: A large part of the following text was copied from the booklet included into
the Limited Edition Pack. The text for the booklet was written by
renowned New Zealand geologist and palaeontologist Dr. Hamish Campbell from
Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences (GNS)
50c - Allosaurus
At 12 metres long, Allosaurus
was the largest meat eater on land in the region.
It was at the top of the food chain and, it has been suggested, had a cooperative
social behaviour, hunting in packs, much like lions do today.
The dinosaur was able to open its jaws extremely widely, allowing it to attack large prey.
Allosaurus on "Ancient Reptiles of New Zealand" stamp from 2010,
MiNr.: 2670, Scott:
A life-sized replica Allosaurus skeleton can be seen in Canterbury Museum, Christchurch, New Zealand.
Image credit: website of Canterbury Museum
This 10 centimetre-long toe bone is the first New Zealand's
dinosaur bone found by Joan Wiffen in 1975.
Image credit: Museum of New Zealand
The fossil in the Te Papa Museum is a cast supplied by Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences (GNS).
The bulk of Allosaurus remains have come from North America's Morrison Formation,
with material also known from Portugal (Allosaurus europaeus
- appeared on several
stamps of Portugal
A life-sized replica Allosaurus
skeleton can be seen in Canterbury Museum, Christchurch, New Zealand.
At the time of the stamp issue, only a single bone of Allosaurus
was known from New Zealand.
In 1975 Joan Wiffen discovered the first dinosaur fossils in New Zealand in the Mangahouanga Valley
in Northern Hawkes Bay.
The bone was very different.
It was small but clearly a back bone (vertebra).
She puzzled over its identity for some years.
Eventually she had it examined by vertebrate palaeontologist Dr, Ralph Molnar at Queensland Museum
(Brisbane, Australia), who declared it to be a tail bone of a carnivorous theropod dinosaur
Together they announced their findings in February 1980 at the
'Fifth International Gondwana Symposium' held in Wellington.
It was a remarkable discovery that rewrote the textbooks of New Zealand' natural history.
Before then, there was no evidence that dinosaurs had ever lived in the country.
Most people believed that New Zealand had never had dinosaurs as the country
had been isolated from other lands for so long that it did not seem likely.
According to our knowledge today, during Mesozoic time, New Zealand was just part of
continental eastern Gondwanaland and it was fairly close to the South Pole.
Then about 83 million years ago, in Late Cretaceous time, the continent Zealandia, was rifted away
and moved to the northeast with the formation of the Tasman Sea.
Zealandia carried a cargo of Gondwanan plants and animals, including dinosaurs and pterosaurs.
$1.00 - Anhanguera
This pterosaur was the most common flying reptile in Zealandia.
Fish eaters with a five-metre wingspan, they formed large coastal nesting
colonies, similar to the seabirds of our time.
They laid leathery eggs, and the flight centres in the brains of the young developed
well before hatching, suggesting that they could fly from birth.
Anhanguera pterosaur on "Ancient Reptiles of New Zealand" stamp from 2010,
MiNr.: 2671, Scott:
A small number of pterosaur fossils have been recorded from New Zealand in Late Cretaceous rocks at
Mangahouanga Stream and also the Waipara area in north Canterbury.
Pterosaur bones are distinctive and easily recognised, but determining their more specific identity
(genus and species) is not so easy when there are only a few fragmental and/or incomplete bone and teeth
No pterosaur skulls or skeletons have been found in New Zealand (2010), and the best preserved fossils
are from Mangahouanga Stream.
They include relatively complete bones and some isolated teeth that were discovered,
collected, prepared and described by Joan Wiffen and her team.
One of the best preserved pterosaur fossils is a shoulder bone (scapula) and is on display at Te Papa.
This bone is most similar to the scapula of a pterosaur described from Cretaceous rocks in
(after a village with the same name meaning 'little devil' in Portuguese).
$1.80 - Titanosaurus
was the last descendant of the giant sauropods.
It was small for a member of this group of dinosaurs, just 14 metres long, but
was still massive and weighed about 13 tonnes.
Titanosauridae bone discovered by Joan Wiffen at Mangahouanga Stream.
Dimensions - length: 130mm, width: 95mm (length), Height: 95mm (length).
Image credit: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
It was tall enough to browse the treetops and large ferns, travelling as part of an extensive
herd to protect itself from predators.
Titanosaurus on "Ancient Reptiles of New Zealand" stamp from 2010,
MiNr.: 2672, Scott:
, literally meaning 'titanic lizard', was named after the mythological Titans.
It was the first Indian dinosaur to be named and properly described, having been
recorded for the first time in 1877.
Titanosaurid fossils are cosmopolitan in that they are known from all continents
(but not Antarctica as yet) including Zealandia, the New Zealand continent.
They were also diverse.
At least 40 different genera of dinosaur are attributed to the titanosaurids and more than 75 species.
They were the dominant sauropods during Late Cretaceous time, 90-65 million years ago.
A single fossil, an incomplete back bone (vertebra), was recovered by Joan Wiffen from the Mangahouanga
Stream locality in the 1990s.
She and vertebrate palaeontologist Dr, Ralph Molnar formally described this fossil in 2008, less than a
year before her death at age 87.
The fossil is so distinctive in terms of its size and shape that it can be confidently assigned
titanosaurid, 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.
$2.30 - Moanasaurus
The mosasaurs (including Moanasaurus
) were the top predators of the shallow coasts of Zealandia.
At 12 metres long, with a 78-centimetre long skull, Moanasaurus
would have been a fearsome
predator, undulating its snake-like body through the water a little like a crocodile with paddled feet.
Although mosasaurs were widespread across the world, Moanasaurus
was specific to this region.
They were strictly aquatic and they would have been air-breathing.
Like modern marine mammals, they would have had to surface in order to breathe.
Moanasaurus on "Ancient Reptiles of New Zealand" stamp from 2010,
MiNr.: 2672, Scott:
Mosasaur fossils were first discovered in New Zealand in 1869.
Since then, a significant number of fossil bones attributable to mosasaurs have been found in rocks of
Late Cretaceous age, many by the early New Zealand geologists and most notably Julius von Haast,
Alexander McKay and Sir James Hector.
The main fossil localities are at Mangahouanga Stream (Hawke's Bay), Haumuri Bluff, Conway River,
Waipara (Canterbury) and Shag Point (Otago).
Sir James Hector (1834-1907) on stamp of New Zealand from 1967,
MiNr.: 479, Scott: 407.
In 1874, James Hector who was Director of the Geological Survey of New Zealand,
wrote in "On the Fossil Reptilia of New Zealand":
"The first notice of the occurrence in New Zealand strata of representatives of the Reptilian fauna
characteristic of the mesozoic epoch, was made in 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.
These fossil remains were obtained by Mr. Hood in a ravine on one of the tributaries of the Waipara River,
at the northern extremity of the Canterbury plains.
They comprise the vertebral centra, ribs, and coracoid bones, all belonging to the same individual which
Professor Owen referred to a new species — Plesiosaurus australis
No further discovery of Saurian remains was made till after the occurrence of a great flood, in 1868,
when Mr. Hood again obtained a large collection, and shipped it to England, unfortunately, by the
ship "Mataoka" which was lost on the homeward voyage. Dr. Haast, however, communicated a short account
of this collection to the Philosophical Institute of Canterbury, and states that he
In 1874 James Hector described some Mosasaur remains, now known as Taniwhasaurus haumuriensis.
"made drawings and took measurements of all the more important
specimens, so that, in case the collection should not reach its destination, the
information, at least, will not be altogether lost to the scientific world."
This foresight was most fortunate, as, notwithstanding the great number and variety
of the remains since found, that collection appears to have contained the only
skull fragment, with jaws and teeth, of a true Sauropterygian
that has yet
In 1867 I had visited the locality along with Mr. W. T. L. Travers, and obtained only a few fragments
of these fossils; but after Mr. Hood's second discovery I sent Mr. R. L. Holmes, provided with the
requisite appliances, to obtain a more complete collection for the Colonial Museum.
Drawings of these, forwarded to Professor Owen, enabled him to add two new species, which he named
and Plesiosaurus hoodii
In the following year Dr. Haast made a detailed survey of the district, and
obtained a large series of Saurian and other fossils, which are now in the
Mosasaur fossils tend to be large as they relate to animals that were up to eight metres in length, and
therefore preserve well, but they are very difficult to extract from solid rock.
To do so is labour intensive and requires much skill and care.
Nevertheless, over the years several relatively complete skeletons have been excavated and prepared,
particularly at Canterbury Museum, Christchurch.
But the most spectacular fossils are of skulls.
This mosasaurus skull was discovered by the late Joan Wiffen in the Urewera range,
then donated to GNS Science. Image credit: Stuff.co.nz
One of these found by Joan Wiffen and her colleagues in Mangahouanga Stream, inland Hawke's Bay, is on
display at Te Papa in Wellington.
It is considered to be one of the finest mosasaur specimens known globally.
They have a markedly different skull structure and limbs that project from the sides of their bodies,
In terms of their skeletal structure and also the nature of their teeth, mosasaurs may be thought of as
giant swimming lizards.
All known mosasaur fossils in New Zealand are from sedimentary formations that originally accumulated as
sand and silt on the sea floor.
They are commonly associated with other fossils, mainly shellfish (molluscs) including ammonites and
belemnites, and plankton (microfossils).
At least six species of mosasaur have been described from New Zealand with genus names such as
Prognathodon, Moanasaurus, Rikisaurus, Taniwhasaurus
(The skull of the Prognathodon overtoni
is shown on the background of
Wiffen stamp of New Zealand 2022
Some of these colourful names are distinctly New Zealand.
$2.80 - Mauisaurus
was a 20-metre marine reptile (plesiosaur), the largest of
its kind in the world.
It was an "elasmosaur", the type of plesiosaur with a tiny head and very long neck.
Mint and self-adhesive Mauisaurus stamps from "Ancient Reptiles of New Zealand" stamps set from 2010,
MiNr.: 2672/2679, Scott:
This Elasmosaurus skull was discovered by the late Joan Wiffen in the Urewera range.
the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences (GNS)
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.
Their 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.
bones are the most common vertebrate fossils that have been found at the
Mangahouanga Stream locality, but as with mosasaur fossils, they are known from number of other
localities of Late Cretaceous age from elsewhere in New Zealand, especially at north Canterbury and
Shag Point (Otago).
Thus far, three elasmosaur genera have been from New Zealand, all with distinctive New Zealand names.
They include Tuarangisaurus
The almost complete skeleton of Kaiwhekea from Shag Point was collected, prepared and described by
Professor Ewan Fordyce and colleagues, and is on display at Otago Museum, Dunedin.
Since 2000, a more 'precise' age for the Maungataniwha Sandstone has been established on the basis of
The age is 75 million years, plus or minus one or two million.
This is based on the presence of very distinctive microscopic dinoflagellates, which are a group of marine
These fossils look like geometric armour-plated capsules (they are reproductive vessels) with tassels at
each corner, and are so tough that they can be extracted from hard rock using powerful acids.
(bottom side of Sheets of 20 and numbered Mini-Sheet from Limited Edition Pack )
(issued in Mini-Sheets only)
||FDC from the Limited Edition Pack,
signed by Dr. Hamish Campbell,
Geologist and Research Scientists, GNS Science
(same design, but different colors)
|The Limited Edition Pack
Limited edition pack includes a numbered gummed Miniature Sheet
specifically designed for this edition (see above), a signed First Day Cover (see above),
a full set of stamps, colour separations of the $2.80 stamp and
a booklet with plate blocks (two bottom rows from Sheets of 20 - see above)
insightful commentary by renowned New Zealand geologist and palaeontologist Dr Hamish Campbell.
||The Booklet (used as one of major references for this article )
||Colour separations strip of the Mauisaurus stamp
|The Presentation Pack
Presentation Pack was in the style of a field researcher's notebook which included set of stamps,
a Miniature Sheet (see above), a set of stickers, a First Day Cover (see above - the regular FDC)
and an A2 map tracing the reptiles' migration accross Gondwanaland.
|Cover of the Pack
- Technical details and release notes:
Eklektus Inc. (the article is not available anymore).
"Ancient Reptiles of New Zealand", by Dr. Hamish Campbell, page 5 of Focus Magazine Nr. 49 from April 2010,
- Joan Wiffen:
Museum of New Zealand,
Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand,
Science Learning Hub,
- Prehistoric animals of the stamps:
The booklet from the Limited Edition Pack, the text for the booklet was written by
New Zealand geologist and palaeontologist Dr. Hamish Campbell from
Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences (GNS) .
List of Dinosaurs and other Mesozoic reptiles of New Zealand: Wikipedia,
- Allosaurus: Wikipedia,
- Anhanguera: Wikipedia,
- Mauisaurus: Wikipedia,
- Moanasaurus: Wikipedia,
University of Otago,
"On the fossil reptiles of New Zealand", by James Hector, M.D., F.E.S., Director of the Geological Survey of New Zealand, published in
Transactions and proceedings of the New Zealand Institute, vol 6, 1874
Science Learning Hub,
Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
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.