Past Critter of the Week chats
16 February 2018
Paua slugs, or Schizoglossa, are a bit of everything.
These carnivorous slugs are found only in the North Island of NZ and have a distinctive paua shaped shell on their back.
They are officially a 'semi-slug', and like a paua are a gastropod but the resemblance of the shell is a coincidence
Paua slug on Critter of the Week
9 February 2018
Carmichaelia juncea occurs in South Westland and did occur in the Waimakariri area but fell prey to hares, rabbits, and collectors. However, within the last twenty years, a plant was found, on the other side of the world in the Edinburgh gardens!
Collectors from Scotland had at one stage in time take seed and planted it, and this became the father of all future C. juncea plants.
Carmichaelia juncea on Critter of the Week
Swamp helmet orchid
Swamp helmet orchid
2 February 2018
Corybas carsei, the swamp helmet orchid is a tiny orchid that will grow to twice its height when a seed capsule develops by way of the stalk of the capsule elongating to a mighty 5-6 cm tall! All the better for its dust-like seeds to be caught by the wind and disperse away from the parent plant.
This orchid also seems to need fire to survive!
Swamp helmet orchid on Critter of the Week
Cabbage Tree moth
Cabbage Tree moth
Image: Dan and Sharon | Creative Commons
26 January 2018
At rest, just like most other moths, the wings of the cabbage tree moth lie flat. Yet it’s as if the moth wears an invisibility cloak as it sleeps – the lines on its wings align perfectly with the veins on the dead leaves of (their host plant) cabbage trees (Cordyline spp.), making the moth nearly impossible to see.
They also lay their eggs on the leaves in neat and tidy parallel rows.
Cabbage Tree moth on Critter of the Week
Native NZ Bee
Image: Phil Bendle | Creative Commons
15 December 2017
New Zealand has 28 species of native bee, 27 of them are endemic.
DOC’s Threatened Species Ambassador, Nicola Toki, helps us to understand that when it comes to NZ native bees, we’re talking solitary, small, usually black insects that generally mind their own ‘beesness’ and that do not make honey!
Bee aware on Critter of the Week
Image: Jon Sullivan | Creative Commons
8 December 2017
New Zealand has about 40 species of cicada - all of them unique to us. There are about 2500 species known worldwide. Our cicadas are in five Genera, three of which are endemic as well - Amphipsalta, Rhodopsalta and Maoricicada.
The other two genera are almost ours - each have only one or two representatives in Australia and Norfolk Island - Notopsalta and Kikihia.
NZ Cicadas on Critter of the Week
Ohau Rock Daisy
Ohau Rock Daisy
Image: Shannel Courtney | DOC
1 December 2017
The Ohau Rock Daisy, or Pachystegia (which means "thickly covered" - referring to the dense felty hairs covering the leaf undersides and stems) is an endemic genus to New Zealand and is confined to North Canterbury and South Marlborough.
It's habitat was badly affected by the Kaikoura quake and efforts are underway to replant the rock daisy on the bedrock bluffs where it thrives..
Ohau Rock Daisy on Critter of the Week
Flax snail at Te Paki
Image: Greg Sherley | DOC
24 November 2017
Flax snails belong to the genus Placostylus, and were known to Māori as pūpūharakeke. Three native species are recognised.
They live in coastal broadleaf forests and surrounding scrubland in northern New Zealand.
The young live in trees and feed on micro-organisms that grow on the leaves. When they mature, they move down to the ground. Despite their name they do not feed on flax, but eat the fallen leaves of trees such as karaka, kohekohe and rangiora.
Flax snail on Critter of the Week
17 November 2017
The long-tailed bat is a tiny little creature the size of your thumb but they can fly up at 60 kilometres per hour and have very strong homing abilities. An aerial insectivore, it feeds on small moths, midges, mosquitoes and beetles.
They are chestnut brown in colour, have small ears and weigh 8-11 grams. The bat's echo-location calls include a relatively low frequency component which can be heard by some people.
Long-tailed bat on Critter of the Week
The New Zealand giant springtail
10 November 2017
New Zealand giant springtail
Image: Dwinter | Creative Commons
Springtails or collembola are teeny tiny wingless/flightless, litter dwellers that aid greatly in breaking down dead leaves to release nutrients.
The name springtail cannot always be used though, because not all of the Collembola have an appendage called a 'furcula' which is held under tension beneath the abdomen and released or flicked to throw the creature several centimetres away.
New Zealand giant springtail on Critter of the Week
Nau / Cook's scurvy grass
3 November 2017
Cook's Scurvy Grass: Lepidium oleraceum
NZ has several species in the genus Lepidium – the coastal cresses - and many of them are "in serious trouble" and very endangered. Without conservation management, extinction of one or more species is highly likely.
Today we focus on one of those species, Nau, which grows in many different coastal places in New Zealand but is the only endemic coastal cress found in the far north. It also has a connection with a historical visitor to that region.
Nau / Cook's scurvy grass on Critter of the Week
South island lichen moth
South Island lichen moth
Image: Landcare Research | CC-BY 4.0
27 October 2017
The South Island lichen moth is also known as the zebra moth. Despite appearing to be black and white, it camouflages perfectly with the lichen on tree trunks that it settles on.
You'll find it on the corner of the $100 bill (if you're lucky enough to have held one).
South island lichen moth on Critter of the Week.
Giant centipede Cormocephalus rubriceps
Image: Colin Miskelly | Te Papa
20 October 2017
It's the 100th episode of Critter of the Week, so to mark that we celebrate the centipede!
Well it doesn't actually have 100 legs, but it does have quite a few!
New Zealand has several species of centipede – some endemic, some native – they are found in many different habitats from sea level to altitude. They also vary in size from less than a centimetre to the very freaky, giant Cormocephalus rubriceps.
Giant centipede on Critter of the Week.
Image: Andrew Walmsley ©
13 October 2017
The wrybill/ngutu pare is the only bird in the world with a laterally-curved bill!
It breeds on large braided rivers in central south island, preferring large dynamic rivers that will not become overgrown with weeds.
After breeding, almost the entire population migrates north to winter in the harbours of the northern North Island, notably the Firth of Thames and Manukau Harbour.
Wrybill on Critter of the Week.
6 October 2017
The chevron skink is one of New Zealand's rarest and most secretive lizards.
They are currently only known to be found on Great Barrier Island / Aotea and Te Hauturu-o-Toi / Little Barrier Island in the Hauraki Gulf.
There have only been around 500 sightings reported since it was first described in 1906.
Chevron skink on Critter of the Week.
Black foot pāua
Black foot pāua
Image: H. Zell | Creative Commons
29 September 2017
Pāua shells can be seen in jewellery and souvenirs stores around the country but there's only one species that have the beautiful shells, the black foot pāua.
There are two other species in New Zealand waters, clinging with all their might to rocks so they don't get swept away.
Black foot pāua on Critter of the Week.
Image: Greg Sherley
22 September 2017
The Hochstetter's frog are small, nocturnal, and are hard to see as they camouflage themselves very well. Three of our species live on land in shady, moist forested areas, and one is semi-aquatic, living on stream edges.
They are also different from frogs elsewhere in the world because they have no external eardrum. They also have round rather than slit pupils in their eyes, they don't croak much and they don't have a tadpole stage!
Hochstetter's frog on Critter of the Week.
Image: Dick Veitch
15 September 2017
Kākābeak or ngutukākā is named for its beautiful red flowers, which hang in clusters of 15-20 blooms and are shaped like a kaka's beak.
Kākābeak is a plant of special significance to New Zealand. There are two species, both seriously threatened with extinction in the wild: Clianthus puniceus and Clianthus maximus. Its conservation status is Nationally Critical and is found only in New Zealand, with its closet relative in Australia.
Kākābeak on Critter of the Week.
Image: Brent Tandy
8 September 2017
Leopard seals move on land like a lumbering caterpillar. Their hind flippers are fused to the pelvis in a way that means they cannot bring them together under their bodies to walk on them.
But underwater they are extremely streamlined. They are adapted to diving to decent depths and can spend a long time underwater between breaths.
Leopard seal on Critter of the Week.
Image: Brian Patrick ©
1 September 2017
The bat-winged fly is found in the Paparoa Range south of Fiordland. Like other alpine insects (butterflies, cicadas) it basks in the sun on stones and rocks, presumably absorbing heat/energy from the sun and this is amplified for the male by his large, dark, pantaloon wings.
Bat-winged fly on Critter of the Week.
Back Beach beetle
Back Beach beetle
Image: Andy Macdonald ©
25 August 2017
The Back Beach beetle is only found in one place in the world, and it also happens to be one of this country's most beautiful beachs - Back Beach (part of Tahunanui Beach in Nelson).
The Back Beech beetle is a very small, flightless ground beetle. Its body is about 4 mm long and 1.3 mm wide. These beetles live in open or sparsely vegetated sand in the high intertidal area, and their habitat is inundated by spring tides each month.
Back Beach beetle on Critter of the Week.
Kawakawa looper caterpillar
Image: Phil Bendle | Creative Commons
Kawakawa looper catepillar and moth
11 August 2017
Ever wondered what makes those holes in the leaves of the kawakawa shrub?
The kawakawa looper moth is found throughout New Zealand. The caterpillar chews its way out of the egg. It feeds on young leaves of its favoured host plant, kawakawa, and other native trees and shrubs.
Kawakawa looper on Critter of the Week.
4 August 2017
Eldon's galaxiid is one of our non-migratory galaxiids - endemic freshwater fish, and so named for the 'galaxy' of silvery gold spots on their backs which were compared to the stars in a galaxy by those who first identified them.
There are 12 species of non-migratory galaxiids and a further 13 indeterminate taxa recognised in New Zealand.
Eldon's galaxiid on Critter of the Week.
New Zealand fur seals
New Zealand fur seal
28 July 2017
This week Nicola tells us all about the New Zealand fur seal. Usually we do the less cutesy critters, but she says the fur seal is sometimes a bit misunderstood and maligned.
New Zealand fur seal on Critter of the Week.
The vegetable caterpillar
21 July 2017
Vegetable caterpillars are neither vegetables, nor caterpillars (well not living ones anyway), but are instead the mummified remains of Porina moth caterpillars found in the forest, that have been taken over by a fungus!
They have been a curious object of fascination by New Zealanders for hundreds of years, but they are a well-studied species of fungus called Ophiocordyceps robertsii.
Vegetable caterpillar on Critter of the Week.
14 July 2017
These tiny little crazy looking aquatic creatures that are some of the most hardy species on earth. They have been around for over 500 million years and have super powers!
They can exist at temperatures below -272 Degrees Celsius, can exist in space in a vacuum, and can be frozen for thirty years, only to come back to life!
Tardigrade on Critter of the Week.
Image: Sabine Bernert ©
30 June 2017
Gecko's are fascinating creatures. They have 'sticky' feet: their toes are covered with microscopic hairs that allow them to climb sheer surfaces and even walk upside down across the ceiling.
Unlike skinks, geckos cannot blink and must lick their eyes to keep them moist.
Jewelled gecko on Critter of the Week.
More Critter of the Week
See the entire Critter of the Week collection on the Radio New Zealand website.