Beta Weta Geta: Rhaphidophoridae taxonomy in New Zealand

Josephine Fitness *1, Steve Trewick 1, Mary Morgan-Richards 1, Loraine Cook 1

1 Massey University, Private Bag 11222, Palmerston North 4442, New Zealand

     Rhaphidophoridae are a diverse group in New Zealand with 18 genera in the subfamily Macropathinae. All genera are endemic and many have just a single species described (monotypic) although there are many undescribed species in collections.  Combining genetic data (DNA sequence of the mitochondrial gene COI) with morphological information has contributed to a revision of the large-cave dwelling species. This work resulted in the synonymy of the genera Pachyrhamma and Gymnoplectron and tentatively Turbottoplectron.  Characters used to distinguish Turbottoplectron are unreliable.  We are continuing to assess the validity of the generic groups using multigene DNA phylogenetics and morphology, and work at the population level to determine species status of the small forest species of cave weta.   Many of the smaller species of New Zealand Rhaphidophoridae are poorly known and similar problems in the delimitation of generic boundaries probably exist with Neonetus and Isoplectron as is seen in the large cave genera.  The project is developing tools for identifying New Zealand Rhaphidophoridae genera and species; this involves identifying morphological traits that are diagnostic for genera and species, revising descriptions, and providing easily used guides for identification of adults and juveniles. Molecular phylogenetics and population genetics are being used to help understand the relationships among genera and species. Identification tools will be developed as an online resource that people can use to identify Rhaphidophoridae.     

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