Ask a Geoscientist

Do you have a geoscience question that you want help finding the answer to?

Submit your question to us and we will send it out to our network of Geopark geoscientists, including local geologists living in the Waitaki district and postgraduate geology students at the University of Otago. Responses are sent back within one week and all questions and answers are posted in our archive below.

We especially welcome questions specific to the Waitaki region that cannot be easily answered online, or questions derived from student discussion or activities. 

To participate in Ask a Geoscientist, email your earth science question, along with your name, school/community group, and age/year group to:

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing” – Albert Einstein

Questions archive:

Q: My family and I were out exploring the Elephant Rocks in the weekend. We saw this marking in one stone, which I feel is the shape of a jaw where some teeth used to be embedded. What do you think?

A: Thanks for sending through a photo of your discovery at Elephant Rocks! You could be right – based on what we can tell from your photo, it looks like someone has used a chisel to remove some of the rock. It looks like someone either chiselled around the circumference of a feature that they wanted to remove in one piece, or like you suggest, chiselled out a horseshoe-shaped feature such as a jaw with teeth. We’ve passed this on to the paleontology group here at the University of Otago and they confirmed that there are no known large sea creatures present in the Elephant Rocks limestone that have rounded jaws with that horseshoe shape. Rather, the penguin, whale and dolphin species known to have occurred in this area have quite narrow, pointy jaw shapes. So it’s unlikely that this shape represents a jaw of any of the species commonly found in the limestone, although there is always a very small chance that there are new species that we have yet to discover!

It's easier to determine features from photos when there is a scale to tell how big things age. Next time you find a cool feature to photograph, put an item in the photo that indicates the scale (i.e. keys, a pencil, your hand).

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"What a fantastic window into the past. Today we saw fossil bones in limestone at two different sites. One set were whale bones. Just awesome that this trail has been put together, maintained and promoted."

— Mark Shipman, 

Vanished World visitor