Deinacrida heteracantha

Wētāpunga are gentle flightless giants, slow and heavy, they are usually not aggressive. These characteristics made them an easy meal for invasive mammals such as rats. As such, the mainland population was driven to extinction, and only a small population survived on Little Barrier Island. Individuals have now been translocated to other predator-free areas, in order to help the species thrive again. D. heteracantha is currently considered a vulnerable species by the IUCN.

Giant wētā mostly feed at night on leaves, moving around in the forest on trees such as mahoe and pohutukawa. Females are larger than males, with some individuals weighing up to 70 grams (especially when full of eggs!). Females lay their eggs at night, using their long ovipositor (spike at the end of the abdomen) to insert them into moist soil.

Like many other Orthopterans, Wētāpunga have ears nears the knees of their front legs. They can also create noise using a stridulatory apparatus, mostly used as a defensive sound against would be predators.

Check these links for more info on Wētāpunga in NZ Observations of Deinacrida heteracantha

Wikipedia: Information on Deinacrida heteracantha

Auckland Zoo: Wētāpunga

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