This page is part of What if the Asteroid Missed? , a project run by member KaptainWombat.
Birds compose most of the large animals of New Zealand, much like they did on home earth until human arrival in the Middle Ages.
Anseriformes (Ducks, Geese, Swans)Edit
New Zealand, like it was on home earth, is dominated by large flightless birds. The large herbivores of the island are a family of giant flightless ducks known as the Peloravians, which don't actually resemble ducks at all and look like massive, robust versions of home earth ratites. Peloravian means 'monster bird', and with some species growing to heights of 4.5 metres and weighing over 500 kg, they certainly live up to their name. The larger species, the sauropods of the islands, are known as 'Megaducks', and move relatively slowly through the forests of the South Island. The more common, but smaller Emugeese, are more cursorial, and omnivorous. Emugeese also live on the North Island. Though these two names describe two quite different birds, genetic tests show that the family may have evolved the two body forms several times, and that the living species may be the result of several radiations
- Goliath Megaduck, Peloravis maximus
- Sprinting Emugoose, Peloravis rapidus
Avirixatoriformes ( Jaakays, Bully Birds, Hell Parrots)Edit
Most of the predatory bird fauna fall into this order, including the largest predators. The South Island is the stronghold of this order, with almost all the large species being found there.
Avirixatoridae (Jaakays, Bullybirds)Edit
This family includes the largest predators predators of the South Island, though are absent from most of the North Island. The largest and best known of all Avirixatoriformes is the type species itself, the Jaakay. Named after the call it makes, the Jaakay is built similar to the home earth terror birds, but with a much more robust build, being in many ways like the tyrannosaur of the avian world. The Jaakay has several smaller relatives, all flightless, known collectively as bullybirds. These birds are all much smaller than the Jaakay, ranging from the size of a chicken to the size of a fox, but the birds are much more social, and may use this to bully much larger animals off carrion, even their larger relative, the Jaakay. The family as a whole is thought to have evolved from flying ancestors soon after they arrived on the islands, and subsequently went extinct on the North Island.
- Jaakay, Avirixator praegrandis
- Vulpine Bullybird, Avirixator vulpinus
Infernopsittacidae (Hell Parrots)Edit
This family includes the much smaller but more common Hell Parrots. These birds are widespread throughout both Islands, and are a particularily strong presance around what is known on home earth as the Auckland Volcanic Field. The family in general is very prevalent around volcanic areas, giving rise to their common name.
- Taupo Hell Parrot, Infernopsittacus taupoensis
The cosmopolitan Odontaviformes also maintain a presance on the islands. The birds are relatively rare, though widespread, and all are flighted, which they use to haul prey into trees, much like leopards do on home earth. They are thought to prey largely on Emugeese.
The toothbirds here are unusual, and descend from a now extinct lineage of giant oceanic Odontaviformes. These extinct birds have been found in marine sediments dated all the way back to the Eocene, but the competition from the newly evolved Hydroazdarchids, and Ichthyornithiforms eventually drove the oceanic species to extinction in the Pliocene. On New Zealand, the birds evolved into the species we see today, though remained very rare.
Unlike most of the other birds on the Islands, the Odontaviformes of New Zealand are extremely agressive, which, in addition to their large size and rarity, makes studying them very difficult and sometimes dangerous. In fact, so few have attempted to study them that only one species has been formally described, the Pouakai, after the Maori name for the Haast's Eagle.
- Pouakai, Caetuornis pouakai
Only two genera of pterosaurs are known to inhabit the landmass, though they have a significant presance.
Harpydraco (Night Fury)Edit
By a chance violent storm, the Aerocarcharid pterosaurs arrived on New Zealand. While they eventually went extinct due to competition with native Odontaviformes on the South Island, the North Island pterosaurs secured their place as apex predators. These north island pterosaurs evolved into the genus Harpydraco, composed of two species, the massive nocturnal Night Fury, the largest known genus of Anurognathoids, with a wingspan of almost four metres, and the smaller and more diurnal Falconer. Both are major predators.
- Falconer, Harpydraco rapidus
- Night Fury, Harpydraco nocturnus
Aotearoazdharchinae (New Zealand Hydras)Edit
This subfamily of the Hydroazdharchidae contains only two genera,of which only the genus Aotearoazdarcho nests on New Zealand. The pterosaurs are migratory.
- New Zealand Hydra, Aotearoazdarcho navigans
Tuataras have proved far more successful here than they did on home earth, with roughly 11 species being known, as opposed to the two known from home earth.
In home earth, Sphenodontids, the Tuataras, are represented by two rare lizard-like reptiles found in patchy distributions. But with the K-Pg extinction never properly happening, the Tuataras are more diverse, not just in species count, with over five species of p-Sphenodon alone, but the family has branched out to become the dominant herbivours of the North Island, looking something like an odd cross between an iguana and an ankylosaur. These species compose the large armoured fauna of the North Island. The largest species, the Wortortle, can measure up to three meters long, and up to one meter high at the sholder. The Wortortle is heavily predated on when it is young, but if it can survive past its third birthday, which is but a tiny 5% of individuals, their armour will protect them from almost all predators they might encounter, save for the occasionally cannibalistic adults, and some of the large pterosaurs. By the time it is an adult, at 25 years of age, they can measure over three metres long, and at this size they have no terrestrial predators. The maximum they are believed to live is an astounding 260 years, and possibly up to 300, making them one of the oldest living creatures known. There are also 'normal' tuataras on the island of New Caledonia, which differ from the home earth species by being giants, over 3 metres long, the islands equivalent to monitor lizards, and the apex predators of the island.
- Tuatara, p-Sphenodon punctuatus
- New Caledonia Giant Tuatara, Sphenodon varanoides
- South Island Tuatara, Sphenodon australis
- Wortortle, Ankylosphenodon giganteus
Th Sphenodontids also moved into semiaquatic niches, particularily that of the crocodilians. The largest species, the Alligatara, is a large animal, measuring almost 4 metres long, with a huge head, measuring almost a quarter of its total length. There is a smaller species, the Waitoreke, which ranges in size from 1.5 to 3 metres long, and mostly lives in rivers and lakes on the north island.
The family is split into two genera, the freshwater Exteralligator, and the coastal marine Aquaplateodon. The only species in the genus Aquaplateodon is the Marine Tuatara, a saltwater species that mostly feeds on shellfish, in some ways like primative Placodonts. The Marine Tuatara most likely adapted to this lifestyle due to competition with smaller piscivores, like penguins and small mosasaurs. These animals ignored shellfish and echinoderms, so the ancestors of the Marine Tuatara took the niche. Unlike the majority of marine reptiles in this timeline, the Marine Tuatara lays eggs on the beach, similar to sea turtles. Unlike its relatives, the Marine Tuatara has grinding plates which replace their teeth as they grow older.
- Alligatara, Exteralligator latetus
- Waitoreke, Exteralligator waitoreke
- Marine Tuatara, Aquaplateodon endurodontis
Undoubtedly the strangest sphenodontian to inhabit this continent is the enigmatic Beaksnake, which has no legs at all, and superficially resembles many of the home earth legless lizards that are common around the world. Very little is known about the Beaksnake, though it is believed to be largely restricted to the North Island, with reported scattered populations throughout small parts of the South Island.
- Beaksnake, Aotearophis monocranius.