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This site attempts to find a happy median between the more “scientific” aspects of identification and the “picture-book” taxonomy that sometimes leads to misidentification. Apart from the formal classification, the animal terms used are general ones mostly familiar to the public or whose meaning is easily obtained from various dictionaries on the web. Some details in the classification are different from those available elsewhere on the web. This has been a deliberate move so as to stimulate research and to show that classification is not fixed and durable. The advent of RNA and DNA analyses has already changed our views of species relationships and these changes are just one part of a continuum of understanding.


The New Zealand fauna is complex, not simple or uninteresting. It is certainly different from that in most other countries because of the very high endemism. It is certainly different in general composition too. There are few butterflies and many moths (>1500 species), and there are more flatworm species at one known site of a few hectares than there are in the entire North American continent.


Biodiversity is not a simple concept. Some take it to mean just the total of all species living within a given area, begging the question as to what a “species” is and how large is an “area”. It is easy to define “New Zealand” but it is far less easy to enumerate all the species that are found within the country. Those species that breed here is one definition - but this would exclude regular non-breeding visitors eg godwit, shining cuckoo. There are many, many species which are unknown, especially among the worms, insects, other arthropods and the single-celled animals of the soil and litter. How are these to be estimated or interpreted for legislation concerning biodiversity? The simple total of species is known for very few countries and perhaps it will be 200 years before even a close approximation will be had for New Zealand. The number of species in New Zealand possibly changes daily, certainly monthly as species arrive adventitiously, establish populations and become part of our fauna.


Species are distributed around the country in complex mosaics. Some species are common and widespread, others common and very local, and others rare and highly local. The mosaics are now very much modified by human activities: fire, farming, urban developments, and competition with species deliberately or accidentally introduced from other countries. Maori and Pakeha settlers brought with them the familiar and useful plants and animals and modified the environment so they might live. Not only have the natural mosaics been modified by alien species, but also by “native exotics”. These are species that have been transported around the country by human activities and live now outside their original home and compete with local endemics. Some native species have become very common species in the modified habitats of pastures, urban gardens through to exotic pine plantations (eg grassgrub, porina, bluebottle fly, some hoverflies, many moths, Arthurdendyus triangulatus) and are now living well outside of their original sites within the mosaic.




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New genera and species of rare New Zealand endemic carabids. (Coleoptera:Carabidae)

Updated 23/7/2006

to be continued.