Introduction

Every Friday our Threatened Species Ambassador Nicola Toki chats to Jesse Mulligan from Radio New Zealand about the not-so-cuddly critters that need our attention.

Highlights

The Alborn Skink

Alborn skink.
Alborn skink
Image: James Reardon | DOC

14 December 2018

Discovered in the 1990s by famous herpetologist Anthony Whitaker (who died in 2014), in among other emerging research about skinks.

7 animals were found on separate occasions, which are now recognised as being Alborn Skinks.

Hear Nic talk about the Alborn Skink – Radio New Zealand website

Past Critter of the Week chats

The Notoreas Moth

Notoreas chioneres female.
Notoreas chioneres female 
Image: Birgit E. Rhode, Landcare Research NZ | (CC BY 4.0)

7 December 2018

The brightly coloured Notoreas Moth is endemic to New Zealand and flies around during the day. They spend all day flying, and never still – these moths always vibrate their wings even when landed.

Hear Nic talk about the Notoreas Moth – Radio New Zealand website

Chathams Island mudfish

Chathams Island mudfish.
Matai cave snail
Image: Te Papa | CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

30 November 2018

They might be called mudfish but are often found buried in the ground as they can survive out of the water!

Hear Nic talk about Chathams Island mudfish – Radio New Zealand website

Matai cave snail

Matai cave snail.
Matai cave snail
Image: Te Papa | CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

23 November 2018

This fresh water snail is endemic to New Zealand. In fact it's endemic to the Maitai Cave in Maitai Valley in Nelson. It was discovered by Frank Climo and then Martin Haase and Christina Mosimann distinguished it from other species in 2001.

Hear Nic talk about Matai cave snail – Radio New Zealand website

Pill millipede

Pill millipede.
Giant pill millipede
Image: Jeremy Rolfe | DOC

16 November 2018

Pill millipedes are shorter and wider than other millipedes - living in the soil/leaf litter, they don't travel above or below it, but instead bulldoze through it with their robust bodies.

They look a bit like slaters/woodlice but aren't closely related, instead they have evolved a similar physiology via a different arm of the family tree.

Hear Nic talk about pill millipede – Radio New Zealand website

Strigular lichens

Strigula nitidula.
Strigula nitidula
Image: Jeremy Rolfe | DOC

9 November 2018

Most species of fungi live as independent organisms, but some are 'lichenised' and most of these cannot survive independently of a partner, such as an alga or blue/green alga (cyanobacterium). These are the things we call 'lichens'. There are about 16 species of strigular lichens.

Hear Nic talk about strigula lichen – Radio New Zealand website

Hoiho

Yellow eyed penguin.
Yellow-eyed penguin (hoiho)
Image: DOC

2 November 2018

Featured on the $5 bank note, the distinctive yellow head-band and eyes of the hoiho make it one of our better known birds, but some recent DNA investigations have opened a new chapter in  how and when hoiho made New Zealand home.  We all know the yellow-eyed penguin, but how much do we really understand about its struggle to survive?

Hear Nic talk about the yellow-eyed penguin – Radio New Zealand website

Parasitoid wasp

Ichneumonid wasp.
Parasitoid wasp (Xanthocryptus novozealandicus)
Image: Greg Holwell CC BY-SA 4.0

26 October 2018

Think ‘wasp’, think ‘yellow and black’ and ‘sting!’  But in Aotearoa, far outnumbering those few easily recognised introduced ‘social’ wasps, are our native parasitoid wasps. Skinny, solitary and often all black, these wasps are full of purpose – find a host to lay their eggs in.

Hear Nic talk about the parasitoid wasp – Radio New Zealand website

Pygmy blue whale

Pygmy blue whale.
Pygmy blue whale spotted off the coast of Cape Farewell
Image: Leigh Torres © 

19 October 2018

Until recently, it was believed that the pygmy blue whales seen in the South Taranaki Bight were just animals passing through the area.  Research from a detailed, multipronged study published earlier this year instead shows these whales belong to a genetically distinct, New Zealand population.

Hear Nic talk about the pygmy blue whale – Radio New Zealand website

Giant land snails

Giant land snail.
Giant land snail (Powelliphanta augusta)
Image: Kath Walker | DOC

12 October 2018

Slow-growing and slow-moving, long-lived and only found here; New Zealand's giant land snails are not the ones to blame for the holes in your garden lettuces. Powelliphanta augusta and other snails of this genus are carnivorous and have adapted over millions of years to exist only in very specific habitats.

Hear Nic talk about the Giant land snail – Radio New Zealand website

Banks Peninsula fork fern

Fork fern.
Banks Peninsula fork fern (Tmesipteris horomaka) on a tree fern trunk
Image: L.R. Perrie © Te Papa 2004 | Creative Commons

5 October 2018

The Banks Peninsula fork fern (tmesipteris horomaka) is a bit distant from what might ordinarily come to mind when we think of ferns. This small fern's nearest relatives are fossils from the Devonian period.

Hear Nic talk about the Fork fern – Radio New Zealand website

Micro land snails

Micro snail.
Micro mollusc (suteria ide), has a shell only slightly larger than 5 mm 
Image: DOC

28 September 2018

In rich, healthy ‘litter-layers’ on forest floors all over New Zealand, our critter this week is busy doing its thing.  But you’d hardly know – our micro land snails are exactly that – really really tiny and a microscope is needed to see most of the species. 

Hear Nic talk about these micro-molluscs – Radio New Zealand website

Sphagnum porina moth

Ghost moth.
Sphagnum porina moth (Heloxycanus patricki)
Image: Birgit E. Rhode, Landcare Research NZ Ltd | Creative Commons

21 September 2018

Heloxycanus patricki, also known as the ghost moth, have no mouths so they never eat and some only live for one day. One of Aotearoa’s very own ghost moths is the Sphagnum porina moth; a species that lives in habitats with names like ‘moss bogs’ and ‘blanket mires’, in Otago and Southland. 

Hear Nic talk about the Ghost Moth – Radio New Zealand website

Mt Allen buttercup

Mt Allen buttercup.
Mt Allen buttercup (Ranunculus viridis)
Image: Rowan Hindmarsh-Walls

14 September 2018

Numbering fewer individuals than the kākāpō it used to share habitat with, the Mt Allen buttercup grows only on the slopes of….Mt Allen; part of the Tin Range in Rakiura/Stewart Island which is regarded as one of the most inhospitable places in all of Aotearoa.

Hear Nic talk about the Mt Allen buttercup – Radio New Zealand website

Black corals

Black coral colony with encrusting invertebrates.
Black coral colony (Antipathella fiordensis) with encrusting invertebrates, Poor Knights Islands
Image: Crispin Middleton | NIWA

7 September 2018

Corals are always a little tricky to figure out: what exactly is a coral? What does it do? Why does a black coral look white? DOC's Threatened Species Ambassador, Nicola Toki tries to help us understand it all and talks about a species of black coral that calls the dark waters of Fiordland home.

Hear Nic talk about Black corals – Radio New Zealand website

The Chatham Petrel

Chatham petrel.
Chatham petrel, Pterodroma axillaris
Image: Don Merton | DOC

31 August 2018

The Chatham petrel (Ranguru) is a burrow-nesting oceanic species. Due to loss of habitat after the introduction of mammalian predators, their sole breeding site was (until recently) predator-free Rangatira Island. 

Hard work, dedication, time and adaptive management have substantially increased numbers of Chatham petrel and changed the threat status in the right direction, from ‘Nationally Endangered’ in 2005 to 'Nationally Vulnerable' in 2016.  Extinction has been prevented!

Hear Nic talk about the Chatam petrel – Radio New Zealand website

Hamilton’s frog

Hamilton's frog.
Hamilton's frog, Leiopelma hamiltoni
Image: Phil Bishop | Creative Commons

24 August 2018

Hamilton’s frogs are home-bodies extraordinaire, moving around only a few square metres in their entire life.  That's only one of the oddball features of this endemic frog – there’s no croaking, tadpoles or webbed toes either.

Hear Nic talk about Hamilton's frog – Radio New Zealand website

Waiuatua

Waiuatua or "shore spurge".
Waiuatua, Euphorbia glauca
Image: Alan Liefting | WikimediaCommons

17 August 2018

Waiuatua, or shore spurge, is a species of Euphorbia which decorates many traffic islands around the capital.

Its milky sap has been used to sooth the skin and relieve dermatological ailments for decades.

It is also known as sea spurge and sand milkweed. Its most familiar relation is the poinsettia, a traditional New Zealand Christmas pot plant.

Hear Nic talk about Waiuatua – Radio New Zealand website

Burgan Skink

Burgan skink.
Burgan skink.
Image: Geoff Patterson | Creative Commons

10 August 2018

Burgan skinks (oligosoma burganae) are one of our nationally critical species of reptile, and are thought to only exist in two separate populations in Central Otago.  These fascinating high-altitude skinks have special adaptations for cold, which include using the burrows of weta and giant worms, to escape the freezing temperatures that might otherwise threaten their survival.  

Hear Nic talk about skink – Radio New Zealand website

Antipodes Island Parakeet

Antipodes Island parakeet.
Antipodes Island parakeet.
Image: Tui de Roy ©

6 August 2018

The Antipodes Island parakeet (cyanoramphus unicolor) is definitely one of our ‘cuter’ critters, but with an interestingly gross habit.  This pretty parrot is also known to prey on seabirds and scavenge carcasses on the remote Subantarctic Antipodes Island.  Instead of living in trees, these birds nest underground and hop amongst the windswept tussocks of Antipodes Island.  

Hear Nic talk about parakeet – Radio New Zealand website

New Zealand glow worm/titiwai

NZ glow worm.
New Zealand glow worm larvae
Image: Emma-Louise Crawford | Creative Commons

20 July 2018

Titiwai (arachnocampa luminosa) translates to 'the constellation of the caves'. Like most glow worms, these critters aren't actually worms, they're a fungus gnat.

New Zealand has over 300 species of fungus gnat, but titiwai is the only one that can produce light. Titiwai need damp places to construct their snares, and are therefore usually spotted in caves or tunnels. They're under threat from spiders and a white fungus that attacks glow worm pupae.  

Hear Nic talk about titiwai – Radio New Zealand website

Southern right whale/tohora

Southern right whale in Wellington harbour.
Southern right whale in Wellington Harbour
Image: Freya Hjorvarsdottir | DOC

13 July 2018

Wellingtonians were recently treated to a visit from a southern right whale/tohora (Eubalaena australis).

Tohora are the only large baleen whales that can be regularly seen from the beach. Nic explains the threats tohora face and New Zealand's official rankings of endangered species. 

Hear Nic talk about tohora – Radio New Zealand website

Hagfish

Hagfish with mouth turned inside out.
Hagfish with mouth turned inside out
Image: Vincent Zintzen | Creative Commons

6 July 2018

Hagfish have been around for 300 million years, changing very little. They release slime as a defence mechanism, using it to choke the gills of their would-be predators.

Scientists are now investigating the possibilities of creating hagfish slime synthetically. According to an article from IFLscience: “They think the slime could be used in everything from protective clothing to food packaging, bungee cords to bandages. That’s because hagfish slime threads have some impressive properties; they might be 100 times thinner than human hair, but they’re 10 times stronger than nylon.”

Hear Nic talk about hagfish – Radio New Zealand website

Past Critter of the Week chats

Eyelash seaweed

Dione arcuata under a microscope.
Dione arcuata under a microscope
Image: Tracy Farr, NIWA

29 June 2018

This seaweed got nicknamed ‘eyelash seaweed’ because of its similarity to our eyelashes – very small, curved and fine. If you can imagine trying to find your eyelashes on a rocky ocean shoreline, you can imagine how hard it is for scientists to find where it lives. And as Nic explains, even when found, its existence isn’t guaranteed.

Hear Nic talk about eyelash seaweed – Radio New Zealand website

Red-billed gulls

Red-billed gulls.
Red-billed gulls
Image: David Cook Wildlife Photography ©

22 June 2018

Pestering you for the leftovers from the fish n’ chip packet, or making raucous noise and squabbling with each other to get the best place to stand on a rail – anyone who lives by the coast will be familiar with the red-billed gull. 

But, as Nic tells us, the population of this species is declining.

Hear Nic talk about red-billed gulls – Radio New Zealand website

Freshwater crabs (Amarinus lacustris)

Crab.
Amarinus lacustris
Image: Jeremy Rolfe | DOC

15 June 2018

Far smaller than even our 10c coin, the only freshwater crab in New Zealand has to avoid being eaten by introduced trout. But first, says Nic, the trout have to find the crabs in the murky water these crabs prefer.

Hear Nic talk about freshwater crabs – Radio New Zealand website

Wellington south coast speargrass weevil

Wellington south coast speargrass weevil.
Wellington south coast speargrass weevil
Image: Greg Sherley | DOC

8 June 2018

Weevils sometimes get a bad rap, but the Wellington south coast speargrass weevil (Lyperobius huttoni) is one of the most threatened weevil species in New Zealand. 
While you won't find them eating your cereal, these flighless, slow-moving insects are at risk from a lack of host plants. Their only food source is speargrass, which is decreasing due to grazing, pig rooting and competition from weeds.

Hear Nic talk about the Wellington south coast speargrass weevil – Radio New Zealand website

New Zealand falcon/kārearea

NZ Falcon.
New Zealand falcon/kārearea
Image: Janice McKenna ©

1 June 2018

The kārearea is one of Nic's favourite birds, and not just because it can fly at speeds of over 100 km per hour. It's unlike any of the 37 other falcon species around the world, and one of New Zealand's three remaining avian predators.

Hear Nic talk about kārearea – Radio New Zealand website

Leptinella filiformis/Slender button daisy

Lepinella
Leptinella filiformis 
Image: DOC

25 May 2018

A creeping, mat-forming daisy with a compact habit, small, green, feathery leaves and small, white/cream flowers with no petals (think the daisy without the petals) borne on thin stalks. 

Once believed extinct this species was rediscovered in 1998 in a lawn at Hanmer Springs. 

Leptinella filiformis on Critter of the Week

The Rangatira spider

Rangatira spider
Rangatira spider
Image: Markanderson72 | Creative commons

18 May 2018

This spider measures up to 12 centimetres long and loves to munch on wētā. They don't use the usual method of webs to catch their food, instead they pounce. 

They are found on Rangatira island and two other islands within the Chathams. This means there is a slim chance you will ever encounter one. 

The Rangatira spider on Critter of the Week

The White bellied skink

White bellied skink
White bellied skink
Image: Fauna Finders ©

11 May 2018

In just a few places in the mid-Canterbury high-country, White bellied skinks slink and slither between the sliding stones of scree slopes. 

This critically endangered reptile has a very long tail and a built-in visor to cope with the sun’s rays.

The White bellied skink on Critter of the Week

The kōtuku / White Heron

Kotoku
The kōtuku
Image: DOC

27 April 2018

In honour of ANZAC day - a bird we share with Australia (and South East Asia), the beautiful white heron (Eastern great egret).

In New Zealand it only breeds near Whataroa, South Westland, between September and January. This colony is in the Waitangiroto Nature Reserve and guided jet boat tours take visitors to view the birds from an observation hide.

During the breeding season time, the birds feed in the large coastal lagoons in the area, particularly the nearby Ōkārito Lagoon.

After breeding, the birds disperse widely and may be seen at coastal freshwater wetlands or estuaries throughout the country.

The kōtuku on Critter of the Week

Giant Kōkopu

Giant kokopu
Giant Kōkopu
Image: Sjaan Bowie | DOC

20 April 2018

Aotearoa has five species of migrating fish. This week, to signify World Fish Migration Day, we talk about the largest species - Giant Kōkopu - and how barriers in waterways can prevent them from migrating.

Giant Kōkopu on Critter of the Week

Muehlenbeckia astonii

Muehlenbeckia astonii
Muehlenbeckia astonii
Image: Emma Neill | DOC

13 April 2018

In the wild, this attractive shrub is critically endangered, but many listeners will be familiar with Muehlenbeckia astonii as a popular garden plant.

It's one of New Zealand's few truly deciduous plants ((divaricate = stretch or spread apart; diverge widely).

Muehlenbeckia astonii on Critter of the Week

The Pseudoscorpion

Scorpion
Pseudoscorion
Image: Phil Bendle | Creative Commons

6 April 2018

Although New Zealand is thankfully free of scorpions, we do have pseudoscorpions. They look very similar to their counterparts, but without the fearsome tail and sting.

These tiny critters maintain a small carbon footprint – by hitching rides on other flying insects.

Pseudoscorpion on Critter of the Week

Galaxias “Teviot”

Teviot.
Galaxias “Teviot”

23 March 2018

This freshwater fish is one of the group of 'non-migratory galaxiids' - they live out their days in the exact same stream or river in which they hatched.

The Teviot flathead galaxias are very rare, they share the same threat status as the kākāpo, but they're hardy fish that can withstand cold winters and scorching summers.

Galaxias “Teviot” on Critter of the Week

Little brown moth

Little brown moth.
Little brown moth

16 March 2018

This moth is so diminutive and endangered that it doesn’t even have a common name.

Clinging to existence in a few coastal sites near Invercargill, the ‘little brown moth’ will be emerging from as an adult moth over the next couple of weeks. 

Little brown moth on Critter of the Week

Toheroa

Toheroa.
Toheroa
Image: Philip Ross ©

9 March 2018

Once harvested, canned and enjoyed by many in a strong-tasting soup; our large and endemic bivalve mollusc toheroa was taken in such high numbers that restrictions have been in place since the ‘70s, culminating in a total ban except for some customary take. 

Toheroa on Critter of the Week

Mottled Petrel

Mottled petrel
Mottled Petrel

2 March 2018

This week we look at Pterodroma inexpectata, Kōrure or Mottled Petrel.

The short black billed seabird is endemic to the country, breeding only at a few sites in southern New Zealand. 

Mottled Petrel on Critter of the Week

Te Kakahu skink

Te Kakahu skink
Te Kakahu skink

23 February 2018

Te Kakahu/Chalky Island skink is known to only live in one small area in Chalky Inlet, Fiordland.

It was first discovered in 2002 by members of the Kakapo Recovery Team and was formally described in 2011.

Although very similar to the southern and cryptic skink the Te Kakahu skink is genetically distinct. It is more sturdy than the cryptic skink and has small black markings on its back

Te Kakahu skink on Critter of the Week

Paua slug

Paua slug
Carmichaelia juncea 

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

Carmichaelia juncea

Carmichaelia juncea
Carmichaelia juncea 

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.
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
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

Bee aware

Native NZ bee
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

NZ Cicadas

Chorus cicada
Chorus cicada
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
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

Flax snail at Te Paki
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

Long-tailed bat

Long-tailed bat.
Long-tailed bat
Image: DOC

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.
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
Cook's Scurvy Grass: Lepidium oleraceum 
Image: DOC

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 (Declana egregia) Photo: Landcare Research CC-BY 4.0.
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

Centipede Cormocephalus rubriceps. Image: Colin Miskelly Te Papa.
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.

Wrybill/ngutu pare

Wrybill/ngutu pare.
Wrybill/ngutu pare
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.

Chevron skink

Chevron skink - close up of head.
Chevron skink

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. Photo H. Zell CC BY-SA 3.0.
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.

Hochstetter's frog

Hochstetter frog.
Hochstetter frog
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.

Kākābeak/ngutukākā

Kākābeak/ngutukākā.
Kākābeak/ngutukākā
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.

Leopard seal

Leopard seal.
Leopard seal
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.

Bat-winged fly

Bat-winged fly. Image: Brian Patrick.
Bat-winged fly
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.
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.
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.

Eldon's galaxiid.
Eldon's galaxiid

Eldon's galaxiid

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 seal.
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

Vegetable catepillar.
Vegetable caterpillars

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.

Tardigrade.
Tardigrade

Tardigrade

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.

Jewelled gecko. Image: Sabine Bernert copyright.
Jewelled gecko
Image: Sabine Bernert ©

Jewelled gecko

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. 

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