There are lots of different names used in the Young Ocean Explorers series. If you look at the name (or logo) on Riley Hathaway’s wetsuit, you see the title of her television series. Steve Hathaway has a different logo on his wetsuit: 93%. Steve’s logo refers to New Zealand’s huge underwater area – our exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The EEZ extends 200 nautical miles (370 kilometres) beyond our offshore islands, giving the country a zone of 4 million square kilometres, meaning that approximately 93% of New Zealand is actually under water!
Common and scientific names
Living things have many different types of names or labels. Most people use common names – like shark (or mangō in Māori), but common names can refer to a number of different species. For example, New Zealand has 70 shark species. To avoid confusion, living things are given scientific names. Systematic naming ensures that one species has one name worldwide. For example, in New Zealand, the blue shark has its common name, a Māori name (mangō aupounamu) and a scientific name (Prionace glauca).
Endemic, native and introduced species
Another way of labelling living things is by identifying them as endemic, native or introduced. When something is endemic, it is native to only one location. Species endemic to New Zealand naturally occur only in New Zealand but may have been introduced elsewhere in the world. Hector’s dolphin (Cephalorhynchus hectori) (tutumairekurai or tūpoupou) is an example of an endemic marine mammal.
Species native to New Zealand live in more than one country. They are either descendants from the ancient Gondwana or their ancestors swam, flew or were blown here. Dusky dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obscurus) (aihe) populations are found in South America, south-western Africa and New Zealand.
An introduced species is an animal or plant that has been brought in by humans, either on purpose or by accident. The small black Asian mussel (Musculista senhousia) was accidentally introduced in the 1970s in ships’ ballast water.
Uniquely New Zealand
New Zealand is well known for its unusual species. Our country is made up of a few isolated islands, which is one reason that many of our plants and animals are endemic. It’s amazing to think that, on land, endemic species include:
- 80% of native conifers, ferns and flowering plants
- 100% of native frogs
- 90% of native insects
- 85% of native land birds
- 10% of native sea birds.
When we move from the land to New Zealand’s huge underwater area (the EEZ), the list of native and endemic species becomes truly enormous. Around 80% of our native species actually live in the ocean!
Nature of Science
Scientists working in conservation and biosecurity must be able to identify specific organisms correctly. This ensures that, when they are communicating with other people, there is no confusion about the exact organism they are referring to. They use the universal (worldwide) classification system.