CAVE WETA ecology

Cave weta - Ecology and biodiversitya group of Pachyrhamma edwardsii in a cave

New Zealand species of Rhaphidophoridae are classified in the subfamily Macropathinae along with their relatives in other parts of the Southern Hemisphere.

The cave weta (~60 New Zealand species) have extra-long antennae, and may have long, slender legs and a passive demeanour. Although they lack hearing organs (tympana) such as those seen on the front legs of Hemideina and Deinacrida species, cave weta are sensitive to ground vibrations detected through pads on their feet. Specialised hairs on the cerci and organs on the antennae are also sensitive to low frequencyvibrations in the air.

Rhaphidophoridae are nocturnal although those cave weta that live up to their name and occupy caves or similar dark places, show some activity during daylight hours. The majority of New Zealand species conceal themselves during daylight hours in and among leaf litter, logs, tree holes and amongst broken rocks.

Dietcave weta licking native slug
Cave weta have small mouths. They do not bite and they do not appear to use leaves as food to any greatextent. Observations suggest that fungi, algae and lichens growing on trees and rocks, and dead insects are browsed. On offshore islands, dead seabirds seem to provide important food resources and usually result indense aggregations of cave weta at night. Cave weta will certainly eat any dead insect that they come across but they have not been seen to attack prey. They are instead opportunists that take advantage of the most nutricious foods that they come across.

Cave weta have been observed to "lick" native slugs, but this has never been formally reported. They do notappear to eat the slugs but may gain moisture and some nutrients from the slime.