Ecology and Development in an Island Population of Wellington Tree Weta (Hemideina crassidens).
Sexual selection and the mating system of the Wellington tree weta has been extensively studied during the last 15 years. In the past 10 years, nutritional ecology and factors affecting the distribution of species in the genus Hemideina have also been examined in great detail. This recent work and the extensive studies of New Zealand tree weta species that preceded it provide much context and comparison for this thesis, which examines the ecology of a population of tree weta living on Matiu/Somes Island. Less is known about factors affecting the development of the exaggerated male weaponry that is characteristic of much of the genus Hemideina. This thesis firstly presents a mark-recapture study conducted over 42 months on Matiu/Somes Island to obtain ecological information about the population. Secondly, this thesis presents an experiment on the effects of protein supplement on growth and weaponry in male Wellington tree weta derived from the Matiu/Somes Island population. The results of the field study indicate that male tree weta live longer than females on Matiu/Somes Island and weapon size is positively related to adult longevity of males. Seasonal patterns shown in the population on Matiu/Somes Island and inferences about aspects of their life cycle are discussed. Female tree weta on Matiu/Somes Island formed harems throughout each year and there was a positive relationship between males weapon size and the number of females in a harem. Results do not indicate seasonal differences in harem-forming behaviours of females. The results of the captive rearing study include a shorter development time and larger weaponry as adults in males raised on a protein supplemented diet, compared to individuals raised on an entirely herbivorous diet. Details of differences in the course of development are also discussed for the two diet treatment groups.