Mammals native to New Zealand

There are two marine mammals that could be considered native if you include the surrounding nearby waters. It’s surprising (to me at least) no marsupials are native.

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Yes, the two bats are our only native terrestrial mammals that are extant. A third species of bat became extinct in the 1960s. There have been a very few fossils of primitive land mammals found here, but clearly they didn’t survive. One is described as “mouse-like” and apparently died out 16-19 MYA. Proto-New Zealand separated from Gondwana about 80 MYA, and mammals were certainly on the scene by then, so it’s not a total surprise that we had a few. I’m not sure if there are any theories about why they didn’t persist.

There are lots of marine mammals considered native—the latest threat ranking exercise assessed 57 taxa, of which 11 are considered vagrants.


You are correct. I misstated. What I meant to say was that there are two marine mammals native only to New Zealand. The New Zealand sea lions and Hector’s dolphins.

NZ has such a high rate of endemicity that the distinction between endemic (only found here) and native (found here and elsewhere) becomes much clearer

The term to use in this situation is “endemic”

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