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Marine Life

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Antique lamp shell

The antique lamp shell is a representative of a group of ancient shelled-invertebrates known as Brachiopods. Brachiopods are studied all around the world, but are mostly known to scientists as fossils that are useful for dating the age of sedimentary rocks. During the Paleozoic (540-252 million years ago) lamp shells dominated the warm shallow seas, but they have been largely replaced by molluscs and other animals. New Zealand is, however, a hotspot for living brachiopods with 38 living species.


Pumilus antiquatus used to be abundant in Otago Harbour but is now rare, possibly as a result of water pollution. It has also been found in Lyttleton Harbour and at Karitane (north of Dunedin), and it is hoped that more populations will be found. ESF invites divers and snorkelers to search for this species in other coastal areas such as around Stewart Island, the Marlborough Sounds and Wellington Harbour.

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New Zealand sea lion

Multiple factors are putting the population of New Zealand sea lions under pressure, once again.

Re-establishment of sea lion breeding on mainland New Zealand hides the fact that their main population on the Subantarctic Islands is crashing. Threatened by infection, certain fisheries, and natural and environmental conditions, their population has dropped to around 10,000 adults.

Mountain View
Polychaete worm (Boccardiella magniovata)

A large-egged bristle worm with a narrow niche. This polychaete worm inhabits slightly salty muds in a few harbours and estuaries in the North and South Islands. It has been lost from at least one location following land reclamation. It possibly occurs in other places with similar conditions, so careful searching is needed.

Read more about this inconspicuous marine worm in our factsheet

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