New Zealand

Isolated for 80 million years, New Zealand is a hot spot of misfits and marvels…a kingdom ruled by birds.

Produced by NHNZ

Islands of alpine ice, endless coastline, and lush forests – New Zealand is a fairytale land which has been isolated in the Pacific Ocean for 80 million years.

It is home to misfits and marvels found nowhere else on the planet. Without the influence of land mammals, birds reign supreme, dominating every habitat. The massive mountain fortresses are ruled by alpine parrots, the rugged coastline teems with bizarre seabirds, and the primeval forests are home to birds that no longer fly.

Alongside the birds live other evolutionary oddities. An ancient reptile called Tuatara is the last of an order that lived alongside dinosaurs. Amazingly, it has a third eye. A giant carnivorous snail stalks the forest at night, in search of prey. And a weird bat walks on the ground looking for a “flower from hell”.

All these creatures have one thing in common. They are the survivors. They’ve adapted and evolved their way through one of the most violent tectonic histories on the planet. The land here has been broken, drowned, thrust up, and frozen. But mysteries about the past remain. A new theory says that maybe all of New Zealand was once swallowed by the sea, wiping out all living creatures. If so, where did modern New Zealand come from? How could the wildlife get here? And how did this land become such an evolutionary pressure cooker?

Answers are hard to come by, as most of the fossil evidence has been swallowed by the land. However, encoded in the behavior and genetic evolution of each of the bizarre creatures are clues to the jigsaw puzzle that is ancient New Zealand.

The Kiwi is a bird that symbolizes New Zealand, and is truly an island oddity. Its tiny wings are useless, so it stalks the forests on foot. With a keen sense of smell, low body temperature, and hairy coat…this bird has evolved to act more like a mammal. Millions of years of evolutionary engineering have equipped the kiwi to thrive in the black of night. And the Kiwi is not alone…many of the animals here are nocturnal. What, in the daylight, are they hiding from?

It seems a predator arrived to the bird paradise, and then evolved into a monster — one of the most terrifying creatures on the face of the planet. Evolution drove the island inhabitants into the cover of darkness to hide from this terror.

Episodes From This Series

Borneo

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Japan

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Brazil’s Cerrado

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Australia

50 minutes / 2010

New Zealand

50 minutes / 2010

Costa Rica

48 minutes / 2014

Africa’s Albertine Rift

1 hour / 2014

China – Roof of the World

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Western Ghats and Sri Lanka

1 hour / 2014

The Arid Namib

1 hour / 2014

Madagascar

1 hour / 2010

Africa’s Rift Valley lakes

1 hour / 2010