9 Feb 2012

Giraffe Weevils

From Our Changing World, 9:20 pm on 9 February 2012

giraffe weevil, and Greg Holweell and Chrissie Painting

A male giraffe weevil has its antennae at the end of the long rostrum (which is an extension of its head), and Greg Holwell and Chrissie Painting (images: A. Ballance)

Giraffe weevils are a very distinctive kind of beetle, with a long elongated rostrum on the top of their head which gives them the appearance of a six-legged horizontal giraffe. Despite the fact they can grow very large – up to 9 centimetres – and they can occur in large mating aggregations numbering several hundred individuals on a single tree, very little is known about giraffe weevils and they have a low public profile. PhD student Chrissie Painting, at the University of Auckland’s School of Biological Science, is determined to change both of those things. Alison Ballance joins Chrissie and her supervisor Greg Holwell in Forest and Bird’s Makutu reserve in the Waitakere ranges for her first-ever encounter with these extraordinary insects. She learns, among many things, that males can be anywhere in size from 1.5 to 9 centimetres long, and that little males can be just as successful as larger males at mating with females.

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