Tokoriro taxonomy: progress with an online resource for recognition of cave weta and other orthopera

Steve Trewick *1, Prasad Doddala 1, Josephine Fitness 1, Mary Morgan-Richards 1

1 Ecology Group, Massey University, Private Bag 11-222, Palmerston North

Taxonomy and systematics of the New Zealand Rhaphidophoridae are in disarray, yet this group of insects is diverse in New Zealand forests and relatively high profile. Possibly there are too many genera described (~17), but there are also species that await description. Many existing generic and specific descriptions are defficient and/or contradictory. To help expedite an improvement in this situation we have begun establishment of a web-based resource on tokoriro and other weta, assisted by funding from the Terrestrial and Freshwater Biodiversity Information Sysytem programme (TFBIS). This approach puts the cart before the horse in some respects, but we think that clarifying the existing situation with regards to recognition and taxonomy of tokoriro is a valuable first step in rectifying the situation. In parallel with development of the website, which is called the BetaWetaGeta, we are actively working on species discovery, testing and systematic revision using ecological, morphological and genetic data. Recently we demonstrated synonymy of three genera that represent the largest and most frequently encountered tokoriro, that represent many of the populations encountered in caves. Pachyrhamma subsumes Gymnoplectron and almost certainly Turbottoplectron too. Our emerging data reveals that what was true for these large and prominent species is true for the majority of the fauna that are small, cryptic and do not form aggregations in caves. We will present information on the developing web resource and on developments with tokoriro taxonomy. Draft pages of BetaWetaGeta are visible at (or by clicking through Gallery&Links > A cave weta on the site). We welcome helpful feedback and ideas as well as contributions of information and images.

Download (PDF)