A part of Hawke's Bay known for yielding finds from another time has yet again borne fruit for a beginner fossil hunter.
Senior Department of Conservation manager Brent Beaven found a rare marine mammal fossil at least 16 million years old in the Mangahouanga Stream in Maungataniwha Native Forest on only his second fossil finding trip in April.
He was accompanied on a hunting trip by businessman and conservationist Ed Chignell and Pete Shaw, forest manager of the Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust and experienced fossil finder.
"One of the key things that triggered our interest in the fossil when we first saw it was the difference in texture between it and our usual finds," Shaw said.
He said it took all three of them to move the 70kg rock the fossil was embedded in to the side of the stream.
The fossil itself is about 11 centimetres wide at its widest point.
John Simes, emeritus curator at GNS Science, and his colleague, National Paleontological Collection manager Marianna Terezow, were sent photos and then the fossil itself to examine.
They, and colleagues Dr Kyle Bland and Henry Gard, were able to recently determine the fossil was from an early Miocene stage cetacea, making it between 16 and 19 million years old.
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The fossil is only the second Cenozoic ('recent' life) cetacean fossil found in the Mangahouanga Stream area after Simes found pieces from a 5 million-year-old dolphin skull in 2010.
Terezow said the fossil record is a valuable part of the whakapapa of Aotearoa's biodiversity and is integral for understanding the state of our past, current and future biodiversity
"Both these Cenozoic finds bring interesting new layers and value to the story of the Mangahouanga Valley, adding to its already-rich paleontological history," she said.
Maungataniwha is a significant site as it is where renowned New Zealand palaeontologist Joan Wiffen first discovered evidence of dinosaur fossils in New Zealand.
"If any one place is the epicentre of New Zealand palaeontology Maungataniwha, and particularly the Mangahouanga Stream, is probably it," Shaw said.