I think one of the most marvelous creatures in New Zealand is the Weta.
I have posted before about the Huhu beetle and its tasty larvae, but I think Weta Rulz! And not just because of the association with a famous New Zealand company.
At last I have a good photo of one to share. Isn't she beautiful? Don't be afraid, she is a gentle giant.
Weta* are very special creatures for many reasons.
1. They are older than the dinosaurs.
2. They have hardly changed for 100 million years (obviously a good design!)
3. They are found only in New Zealand.
4. The largest weta species (there are many) is the Giant Weta (imaginatively named) and one female has been recorded weighing three times heavier than a mouse.
5. Tree Weta can bite and hiss, but most weta prefer just to raise their spiky back legs when they are threatened. I made her cross so you can see her doing this in this pic:
7. Some weta are carnivorous, some herbivorous, and some, like this lovely specimen, eat both plant material and insects.
8. They are nocturnal, so people don't see them often.
9. Weta's main predator was the (now rare) Tuatara lizard - a slow-moving reptile. However with the coming of humans to New Zealand, rats, dogs and cats have found weta easy prey.
10. Many weta species are endangered, and all are much rarer than they used to be.
So if you are ever lucky enough to see one, appreciate its ancient lineage, and don't step on it!
Added later: Here are some wonderful pics of the larger members of the family.
* The plural of Weta, is Weta. Like 'sheep' and 'fish' This is the same for all New Zealand native fauna.