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Response of a Tree Weta Population (Hemideina crassidens) After Eradication of the Polynesian Rat from a New Zealand Island



Abstract A population of Hemideina crassidens (the Wellington tree weta) was monitored over a 4-year period after the eradication of Rattus exulans (the Polynesian rat kiore) and Gallirallus australis australis (the South Island weka) from Nukuwaiata (Chetwode Islands), Pelorus Sound, New Zealand. A novel survey technique (entrance scores) was used in combination with a conventional technique (random searches for active weta) to measure changes in weta population parameters after the removal of predation pressure and to investigate impacts of exotic predators on tree weta. Tree weta density did not increase markedly over the 4-year period, but the proportion of active adults did increase. Weta were observed to move into larger and more crowded galleries (refuges), to occupy galleries closer to the ground, and to spend less time sitting in gallery entrances. It was concluded that endemic tree weta are well adapted to withstand some introduced vertebrate predators but are able to live a more “relaxed” lifestyle in the absence of this predation. The most significant change detected was in weta age structure, with adults increasing their proportion of the population.