New Zealand has a range of interesting invertebrates (animals without a backbone). Some are microscopic, like zooplankton which can only be seen with a microscope, but some are much larger, like weta or freshwater crayfish (kōura).
We have some fascinating insects in the Wellington region. The peripatus, or velvet worm, is a carnivorous creature that hunts and traps its prey by spraying it with a sticky substance. They like to live in damp places under logs and in leaf litter.
Other invertebrates include moths and butterflies. New Zealand has a large number of moths in particular, some of which are quite large and colourful, like the puriri moth. The most commonly seen butterfly around our coasts is the copper butterfly which feeds on nectar producing plants like coastal pimelea, thick-leaved māhoe and tauhinu.
The types of aquatic invertebrates living in streams can tell us a lot about the health of the ecosystem. Some species, like mayflies and stoneflies, are very sensitive to poor water quality and prefer cool, shaded and clean environments. Others, like aquatic snails and worms, are much less picky and can live in quite polluted habitats.
Because of this, our Environmental Science team can use sampling of the invertebrate community to help them assess the health of waterways in the region.
For more information, check out Landcare Research’s Freshwater Invertebrates Guide or NIWA’s guide to stream restoration for invertebrates. Or check out our restoration pages for more about streams and riparian areas.