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  • Dan Moskovitz

SPINELESS CREATURES BAYBEE


DAN MOSKOVITZ (HE/HIM)



DAVID BREEN SEYMOUR - James Shaw's favourtie invertebrate

Aoteroa loves birds. Ask any kiwi about our biodiversity and you get loads of aroha towards our native kiwi, takahē, kākā, weka, and more. Here at Salient, we have a bird of the week. But here’s the thing: we shouldn’t. 


New Zealand loves birds too much. Our avian infatuation comes at the expense of other cool creatures.


New Zealand has 170 native bird species, not much more than our native lizard population of 126 species. But that pales in comparison to the invertebrate-to-vertebrate ratio. New Zealand has 35,000 species of animals in NZ, of which 33,000 are invertebrates. 


Yet our invertebrates here are neglected, as is the trend worldwide. In Europe for example, researchers studying mammals receive 500 times the funding than one looking at invertebrates. 


Invertebrates for reference are species without vertebrae (spines). Think insects, jellyfish, squid, starfish—pretty much anything which isn’t a bird, mammal, fish, reptile, or amphibian. 


Hence Salient (well, just me really) decided to give our native invertebrates some attention. I emailed every Member of Parliament to account and asked them the hard-hitting question; “What’s your favourite invertebrate?” 


We received a multitude of responses from a variety of MPs. Here are some prizes for my favourite responses..


Most culinary-based reason: Carmel Sepuloni, Greg Flemming, and Maureen Pugh all said crayfish (kōura) purely because of how tasty they are. Green MP Scott Willis also said the freshwater crayfish, though he didn’t mention eating them.


Funniest justification: Labour MP Arena Williams’s favourite invertebrate is the giant wētā—because one bit her badly enough to draw blood a few months back. 


Most popular invertebrate: Also the wētā. Its five votes beat out the aforementioned kōura (four votes), as well as bees and worms, which both had three responses each. And fair enough; wētā are awesome 


Most unique invert: National’s Suze Redmayne chose the colossal squid (which you can see at Te Papa). Colossal squids live up to their name; they can be up to 10 metres long, weigh 800 kilos, and fight life-and-death battles with sperm whales in the deep ocean. They’re the world’s largest invertebrate. 


My favourite answer: Alongside Salient, I also work as a research assistant here at Vic where I study velvet worms, also known as peripatus. So when Dunedin duo Rachel Brooking and Ingrid Leary responded with peripatus, I was a happy happy man. 



Cool inverts which I don’t have the words to get into: Pūriri moth, cinnabar moth, octopuses, powelliphanta snail, alpine grasshoppers, and more. 


Best response: “My favourite invertebrate is David Seymour” - James Shaw. 




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