Monday, June 06, 2005

Animal of the Week June 06, 2005 -- Oi va voi, what's this?

Hello Chums,

This week's animal of the week is Deinacrida heteracantha (giant weta, wetapunga, Little Barrier Isalnd weta, demon grasshopper). Our recipient in the land of the long white cloud will likely be more than familiar with wetas by now, but others among you (those who never watched Shortland Street) may not be. Weta's are ancient flightless crickets, although widespread in the southern hemisphere they have reached astounding diversity and size on New Zealand. Until the maoris delivered the polynesian rat a thousand or so years ago and Europeans took ferrets to the islands a couple of hundred years ago, wetas filled the ecological niches filled by small mammals. Giant wetas, known to Maoris as "god of small ugly things", are the heaviest insects in all the world. The heaviest recorded weighed 71 g, not huge granted, but still, three times the size of a house mouse. Despite their less than cuddly appearence, weta's are quite docile, this is what comes from evolving where your most feared predator is a kiwi. In hit ninetess soap opera, Shortland Street, plucky female nurse Carmen was afraid of wetas, with hilarious consequences.

I give you the following song: a man named Johnny eats things that bite him. He also eats a weta which does not, according to the available history, appear to have bitten Johnny. This seems unfair to the weta. I believe it should be sung to the tune of Alouetta

[Chorus]Ate a wetaJohnny ate a weta, Ate a weta Johnny ate one too!
Johnny ate a katipo, 'cos it bit him on the toe. Katipo, on the toe, and then a weta . . . . Chorus.
Johnny ate a Buller eel, cos it bit him on the heel. Buller eel, on the heel Katipo, on the toe and then a weta . . . . Chorus.
Johnny ate a bumble bee, cos it bit him on the knee. ETC Johnny ate a big sandfly, cos it bit him on the thigh.
Johnny ate a possum, cos it bit him on the bottom. Johnny ate a mountain goat, cos it bit him on the throat. Johnny ate a wild deer, cos it bit him on the ear.


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