Sunday, August 24, 2008

Eerie Star Trek Connections: New Zealand Update

In April 2006, we introduced readers to an uncanny resemblance of Jolene Blalock's character (Sub-Commander T'Pol), the Vulcan officer in Star Trek: Enterprise, to a New Zealand ship's female figurehead. Check it out at left.
Pretty close?

At the time, we also noted the existence of a restored "Vulcan Hotel" (1869) in the former New Zealand goldmining town of St Bathans. Little other linkage was found, however, until now: The wooden mermaid figure does not have pointed, Vulcan ears like T'Pol's. How are those pointy ears justified?

The Saint Bathans mammal

Only 3 months after our April 2006 posting, scientists reported finding nontherian mammal fossils in the Manuherikia Group near Saint Bathans. Previously it had been thought that bats were the only terrestrial mammals native to New Zealand. Excerpts:

The material implies the existence of one or more ghost lineages, at least one of which (based on the relatively plesiomorphic partial femur) spanned the Middle Miocene to at least the Early Cretaceous, probably before the time of divergence of marsupials and placentals >125 Ma. ... We conclude that at least one previously unknown group of terrestrial mammals of uncertain affinities inhabited NZ between the Late Cretaceous and Early Miocene.

Since the subclass Theria includes humans, whatever the St Bathans mammal was, it was not human.

Previously it had been thought that bats were the only terrestrial mammals native to New Zealand. Note the distinctive points on a few bats' ears.

The New Zealand Greater Short-tailed Bat (Mystacina robusta) was one of only two species of short-tailed bats, a family (Mystacinidae) unique to New Zealand. The Greater Short-tailed Bat was widespread before the Māori arrived. It flew slowly, never rising more than two or three yards over the ground. The last of these bats ever identified was netted on Solomon Island in April 1965, the year before Star Trek (The Original Series) debuted on television. The original Vulcan character, Spock, appeared in Roddenberry's 1964 TV outline for Star Trek described as having semi-pointed ears.

Had pilot and author Gene Roddenberry, recipient of a Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions in the U.S. Army Air Corps in the Pacific Theatre of World War II, spent any time in New Zealand?



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