Saving the ‘God of ugly things’

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Science  09 Jun 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6342, pp. 1001-1003
DOI: 10.1126/science.356.6342.1001

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In many countries, insect conservation might be an afterthought. But New Zealand's weta are hard to overlook. In size and lifestyle, the giant weta is a mouse in cricket's clothing. Weta, from a word meaning "god of ugly things" in the language of the indigenous Maori, diversified in a New Zealand free of almost all mammals. But some weta species have had brushes with extinction since the arrival of rats and other mammalian predators. Efforts are underway in New Zealand to provide mammal-free habitats, where offspring of some of the few remaining individuals of several species now seem to be thriving. In a world where insects are undervalued and where numbers of many beneficial species are dwindling, the weta story stands out as a hopeful story, for now.