name = Weta
image_width = 250px
image_caption = Male Wellington tree weta
Weta are around 70
insect speciesendemic to the New Zealand archipelago. Weta are large by insect standards, some species among the largest and heaviest in the world. Their physical appearance is that of a cross between a cockroachand a cricket with the addition of large legs. The name comes from the Māori languageword 'wētā'. [The Māori name of the Giant Weta is 'wētā punga' (lumpy or jointed weta), a name that is sometimes rendered in English-language sources as 'god of ugly things'.]
By virtue of their ability to cope with variations in temperature, weta can be found in a variety of environments including alpine, forests, grasslands, caves, shrub lands and urban gardens. They are
nocturnaland flightless. Different species have different diets. Most weta eat other invertebrates but one group of weta endemic to New Zealand (the tree and giant weta) have evolved to eat mostly leaves, flowers and fruit.
Weta can bite with powerful mandibles. Tree weta bites are painful but not particularly common. Weta can inflict painful scratches (with the potential of
infection) but their defence displays consist of looking large and spiky, and they will retreat if given a chance. Tree weta are known to arc their hind legs into the air in warning to foes.The female weta looks like she has a stinger, but it is really an ovipositor which enables her to lay eggs inside rotting wood [Scratching for a living by Ruud Kleinpaste 1997]
New Zealand had no native land mammals apart from native bats for millions of years before humans arrived. Ecological niches that were filled by mammals in other parts of the world were filled by native fauna in New Zealand. It has been suggested that the weta’s place in the
ecosystemis comparable to that held by mice and other rodents elsewhere in the world. For example, like their foreign mouse equivalents, they are hunted by an owl: in this case the Morepork, New Zealand’s only surviving native owl. Weta also pass seeds of some plant species through their digestive tracts unharmed, thus acting as seed dispersers. It is yet to be seen how decreases in weta populations are affecting native plant species that rely on the weta's help.
Taxonomy and evolution
Weta may have survived virtually unchanged since the
Mesozoicera, although there is no fossil evidence of this. In this respect, they can be compared with the tuatara. Fossilized orthoptera have been found in Australia, and weta there are called King Crickets. Some people think that weta were present in ancient Gondwanalandbefore New Zealand separated from it although it is also possible they dispersed as they must have done so to colonise New Caledonia and the Chatham Islands.
Giant, tree, ground, and tusked weta are all members of the family
Anostostomatidae(traditionally in the Stenopelmatidae, but recently separated). Cave weta are members of the family Rhaphidophoridaecalled cave crickets or camel crickets elsewhere] , in a different Ensiferan superfamily.
There are 11 species of giant weta ("Deinacrida" spp.), most of which are significantly larger than other weta, despite already being large by insect standards. They are heavy insects with a body length of up to 10cm (4in) not inclusive of its lengthy legs and antennae, and weigh about 20-30g. A captive giant weta ("Deinacrida heteracantha") filled with eggs reached a record 70g, making it one of the heaviest documented insects in the world [cite web | title=Book of Insect Records | url=http://ufbir.ifas.ufl.edu/chap30.htm] and heavier than a
sparrow. The largest species of giant weta is the Little Barrier Islandweta, also known as the wetapunga. Giant weta tend to be less social and more passive than other weta. They are classified in the genus" Deinacrida", which is Greek for "terrible grasshopper". They are found primarily on small islands off the coast of the main islands.
Tree weta ("
Hemideina") are those most commonly encountered in suburban settings. They are up to 40 mm long and most commonly live in holes in trees formed by beetle larvae. A large hole, called a gallery, might house up to ten females and one male. Tree weta are nocturnal. Their diet consists of plants and small insects. The males, which have much larger jaws than the females, hiss and bite when threatened.
There are seven species of tree weta:
* The Auckland tree weta "Hemideina thoracica" (also called tokoriro) can be found throughout the
North Islandapart from the Wellington- Wairaraparegion.
* The Wellington tree weta "H. crassidens" occupies Wellington, the Wairarapa, the northern parts of
South Island, and the West Coast.
H. crassidens crassicruris" was described from Stephens Island but is now recognized as "H. crassidens".
* "H. trewicki" in
* "H. femorata" in Canterbury.
* A rare "H. ricta" species in
* The West Coast bush weta "H. broughi" largely overlaps with the Wellington tree weta on the West Coast.
* "H. maori", the mountain stone weta, lives in the drier areas of the central South Island High Country. At most sites it lives on the ground, under stones or in crevices but in at least two sites which have not be modified greatly it happily lives both in trees and on the ground
Mountain stone weta can survive being frozen for months at a time in a state of suspended animation down to temperatures of -10°C. This is because their
haemolymph(the insect equivalent of blood) contains special proteins which prevent ice from forming in their cells.
When the territories of species overlap, they may interbreed, although offspring are sterile.
Tusked weta are distinctive because of the males having long curved tusks projecting forward from their jaws. The tusks are used to push an opponent; they are not used for biting. The females are similar to ground weta. Tusked weta are mainly carnivorous, eating worms and insects. They consist of three species: the Northland tusked weta "
Hemiandrusmonstrosus", the Middle Island tusked weta "Motuweta isolata", and a newly-discovered species called the Raukumara tusked weta, "Motuweta riparia". The Northland tusked weta lives in tree holes similar to tree weta. The Middle Island tusked weta, also called the Mercury Island tusked weta after the islands on which it lives, was only discovered in 1970. It is a ground-dwelling weta, covering its shallow burrows with leaves. The Middle Island weta is the most endangered weta species and a Department of Conservation breeding program is establishing new colonies on other islands of the Mercury Island group. The Raukumara was discovered even more recently, in 1996, in the Raukumara Rangenear the Bay of Plenty. There are probably more species still to be identified.
Ground weta are classified in the genus "
Hemiandrus" There are about 40 species of ground weta in New Zealand and another seven in Australia. Most of the Hemiandrus have not been described. They hide in burrows in the ground during the day and conceal the exit hole with a door. During the night ground weta hunt invertebrate prey and eat fruit.
The sixty species of cave weta have extra-long antennae, longer legs, a passive demeanour and
deafness. Cave weta may be active within the confines of their caves during the daytime. They are classified as being in genera in Subfamily Ceuthophilinae of family Rhaphidophoridae, thus making them distant cousins of the other types of weta.
Although the weta had native predators in the form of birds, reptiles and bats before the arrival of humans, introduced species such as cats, hedgehogs, rats (including
kiore) and mustelids have caused a sharp increase in the rate of predation. They are also vulnerable to habitat destruction caused by humans and modification of their habitat caused by introduced browsers. New Zealand’s Department of Conservationconsiders that 16 of the 70 species of weta are now at risk. Programmes to prevent extinctions have been implemented since the 1970s.
Peter Jackson's workshop is named Weta Workshopand his digital studio is named Weta Digital; his 2005 remake of "King Kong" features creatures bearing a strong physical resemblance to wetas, called Weta-Rexes.
* Weta is also the name of a now-disbanded rock group from the late 1990s, early 2000s.
* The Wetas is also the name of a now-disbanded rock group, from 1980.
* Wetas were occasionally featured in the New Zealand comic strip series
* Johns, P. M. (1997). "The Gondwanaland weta: family Anostostomatidae (formerly in Stenopelmatidae, Henicidae or Mimnermidae): nomenclatural problems, world checklist, new genera and species". "Journal of Orthoptera Research" 6: 125-138.
* [http://www.doc.govt.nz/templates/podcover.aspx?id=33170 New Zealand Department of Conservation’s page on weta]
* [http://johnbokma.com/weta/ Weta from New Zealand]
* [http://weta.boarsnest.net/ The Weta of New Zealand]
* [http://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/research/biodiversity/invertebratesprog/invertid/order_page.asp?Or_ID=18 Bug identification - Orthoptera]
* [http://www.kcc.org.nz/animals/weta.asp Kiwi Conservation Club]
* [http://web.mac.com/clintkelly1/iWeb/Site/Home.html Sexual selection research on weta]
* [http://www.teara.govt.nz/TheBush/InsectsAndOtherInvertebrates/Weta/en "Wētā"] in Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand
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