Peripatus, spiders and other invertebrates.
The Peripatus - Ngaokeoke
Peripatus are predominantly found in the southern hemisphere, specifically in Australasia, Southeast Asia, Africa, and Central and South America. Amber dating back 40 million years from the Baltic countries indicates that they once had a wider distribution than they do today. These unique creatures are so distinct from other invertebrates that they have their own phylum: Onychophora. This uniqueness makes them significant in studying evolutionary and geographic relationships. They possess anatomical features of both segmented worms (Annelida), such as the common earthworm, and arthropods, the diverse group that includes crabs, shrimps, spiders, scorpions, millipedes, and insects.
Peripatus are often referred to as "living fossils" because they bear a striking resemblance to their fossil marine ancestors from the Cambrian period, approximately 500 million years ago.
During the day, Peripatus hide deep within rotten wood and leaf litter, emerging at night to prey on other invertebrates. They capture their prey by shooting out jets of sticky fluid from their heads, trapping their victims like glue.
The length of Peripatus ranges from 2 to 8 cm, depending on the species. Although the number of legs may vary (14, 15, or 16 pairs), the species share many similarities. They are estimated to live up to 5 years, and females produce 10-20 offspring. While some species lay eggs, most internally hatch their young, giving birth to live offspring. Every two to three weeks, they shed their skin, one pair of legs at a time, and consume the shed skin using their jaws.
Peripatus and Conservation - You Can Help
- Any forest on or near your property could be a potential habitat for Peripatus.
- Protect forest areas from invasive predators and weeds.
- Enhance forest areas by planting native plants specific to your region, such as tree fuchsia (Fuchsia excorticata).
- keep fallen trees, logs, and forest floor debris, and avoid breaking apart old rotten logs.
- Volunteer for revegetation projects.
- Report sightings to the Department of Conservation and the iNaturalist app.