Friday, February 18, 2011

Creature of the month: Giant weta

Giant wetas are endemic to New Zealand, and are examples of island gigantism. There are 11 species of giant weta, most of which are larger than other weta, despite the latter already being large by insect standards. Large species can be up to 10 cm (4 in) not inclusive of legs and antennae with body mass usually no more than 35g. One captive female reached a mass of about 70 g (2.5 oz), making it one of the heaviest documented insects in the world and heavier than a sparrow. That's right heavier than a sparrow!, scary. This is, however, unnatural as this individual was unmated and retained an abnormal number of eggs. The largest species of giant weta is the Little Barrier Island giant weta, also known as the wetapunga. Giant weta tend to be less social and more passive than other weta. Their genus name, Deinacrida, is Greek for terrible grasshopper. They are found primarily on New Zealand offshore islands, having been almost exterminated on the mainland islands by introduced mammalian pests.

The Little Barrier Island giant weta or Wetapunga is the biggest weta of them all and weighs up to 71 grams. That’s three times heavier than a mouse! The name Wetapunga means god of ugly things but hasn’t stopped rats and other predators almost wiping it out! It is now only found on Little Barrier Island.

Quick Facts

• The weta is only found in New Zealand and is so old it has outlived the dinosaurs.

• Weta are large by insect standards. Some of the giant weta are enormous and are amongst the heaviest insects in the world.

• The weta is sometimes called the dinosaur of the insect world.

Types of Weta

There are five different types of weta – tree weta, cave weta, giant weta, tusked weta and ground weta. All together there are over 100 different species of weta.


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