Portal:New Zealand/Selected article/Week 33, 2006

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Poor Knights Giant Weta.

The weta family comprises around 70 insect species endemic to the New Zealand archipelago. They 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 cockroach and a cricket with the addition of large legs. Their name (strictly, wētā) comes from the Māori language, but has been incorporated into New Zealand English, so the plural "wetas" may appear.

Weta have survived virtually unchanged since the Mesozoic era, possibly because they had few native predators. In this respect, they can be compared with the tuatara.

In the 19th century farmers believed that weta were responsible for the loss of sheep in high-country South Island pastures. It is now known such behaviour in weta is impossible because they are solitary and never hunt in groups; nonetheless, at the time the government instated a bounty on weta, which nearly wiped out weta in some areas.

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