Note: the Maori are the Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa/New Zealand. Throughout this blog post, I use the Maori place and species names as much as possible to respect the history of this land and its peoples.
Have you ever heard of wētā? Maybe the word sounds familiar if you’re a fan of sci-fi and special effects, because of the famous visual effects house Weta Workshop based in New Zealand (they did the effects for Lord of the Rings!). Wētā are giant cricket-like insects that are uniquely found in Aotearoa/New Zealand. There are approximately 80 species of wētā, and they live all sorts of different lifestyles – from long-legged, jumping cave wētā (tokoriro) to slow-moving, veggie-crunching giant wētā (wētāpunga), they have adapted to just about every environment available to them in Aotearoa.
The latest infographic from Wapiti Studios helps to explain a recent study on the Wellington tree wētā, which is a species of tree-dwelling wētā called putangatanga. This study looked at a phenomenon called polyandry: females mating with multiple males. In animal behavioural studies, there has been a lot of research examining why males mate with multiple females (think of lions, with the maned males having a pride of females), but much less on why females mate with multiple males. In fact, the research community was not really aware that female multiple mating was a thing until relatively recently!
There are a lot of unanswered questions in the field of polyandry research, including how widespread polyandry is and whether it translates to “benefits.” In the evolutionary world, “benefits” means “more or better offspring!” So, this study asked: do female Wellington tree wētā have multiple mates? And if so, does that result in more or better offspring?
Check out the study results in the infographic below!