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The name "weta" is an informal designation, referring to two families of New Zealand grasshopper, the Anostostomatidae and the Rhaphidophoridae.
Phylum Arthropoda Siebold & Stannius 1895
Tactopoda Budd 2000
Subphylum Euarthropoda Cuenot 1949
Ensiferans are the "longhorned" orthopterans characterised by thread-like antennae which can reach to several times the body length.
The group is largely nocturnal and many taxa are long-lived with adult life spans of over a year. Females inject eggs into plant material or soil through a long ovipositor (Chopard 1938, Beier 1972, Kevan 1989, Rentz 1996). Several taxa that have a reduced or absent ovipositor show maternal care of eggs or nymphs (Gwynne 1995).
Ensiferans include most of the major groups of singing insects, taxa in which males stridulate to call mates. Stridulation involves rubbing together modified portions of the forewings in katydids (or bush-crickets (Tettigoniidae)) (Bailey and Rentz 1990), true crickets and their allies (Otte 1992, Desutter 1995) and Haglidae (Morris and Gwynne 1978) and a femur-abdominal mechanism in certain weta (Stenopelmatidae) (Field 1993).
The more than 9000 described species in the suborder show a broad range of habits and habitats. They are found worldwide in diverse habitats. Some species retreat to crevices and burrows (Kevan 1989), an ancestral habit (Gwynne 1995) whereas others avoid natural enemies with a remarkable mimicry of leaves and other plant parts.
Anisoura nicobarica Ander, 1938
Deinacrida connectens (Ander, 1939)
Hemiandrus pallitarsis (Walker, 1969)
Hemideina crassidens (Blanchard, 1851)
Motuweta isolata Johns, 1997
Family Rhaphidophoridae Kirby 1883
Rhaphidophoridae includes the cave or jumping weta.
The cave weta need revising. All species are endemic to New Zealand and there are many awaiting description or perhaps even discovery (Johns, 1991, and subsequent observations). A long forgotten name (130 years!) can now be applied to a recently collected form. A number have needed slight changes in their names, as indicated below, to follow the ICZN rules of nomenclature concerning gender agreement.
Talitropsis has recently been placed in its own tribe (Gorochov, 1995) and is said to be primitive. But the entire family is in need of revision at the higher levels as one key character, the lack of stridulatory pegs on the abdomen similar to those present in the ground weta (Anostostomatidae), are present and often well developed in many New Zealand species. There is still much confusion at the generic level which Ward (1997) partly remedies. But it is the 10 or more new species in Isoplectron and Neonetus, which will pose a great problem with their merging variation in presently fixed generic characters. Talitropsis is already known to vary in "key" characters.
The Subantarctic Islands (Antipodes, Auckland, Bounty, Campbell and Snares) each have a monospecific genus (excepting Antipodes a species has been seen there but not caught!). These too may represent the ends of variation in one (esp. Pleioplectron) or more mainland New Zealand genera.
Dendroplectron aucklandense Richards, 1964
Gymnoplectron acanthocerum (Milligan,
Insulanoplectron spinosum Richards,
Ischyroplectron isolatum Hutton, 1897
Isoplectron aciculatum Karny, 1937
Macropathus filifer Walker, 1869
Neonetus huttoni Chopard, 1923
Novoplectron serratum Hutton, 1897
Pharmacus brewsterensis Richards,
Pallidoplectron peniculosum Richards,
Pleioplectron diversum Hutton, 1897
Paraneonetus multispinus Salmon, 1948
Petrotettix cupolensis Richards, 1972
Setascutum ohauense Richards, 1972
Turbottoplectron cavernae (Hutton,
Talitropsis crassicruris Hutton, 1897
Weta thomsoni Chopard, 1923
See also the Forest and Bird page on wetas.
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