This incredible insect has the ability to survive being frozen!
As a species, mountain stone wētā have been around for 60-80 million years. They live high in the Southern Alps and are exposed to high winds and low temperatures all year round. In winter it can survive down to -10°C with up to 80% of its body frozen. It has developed special proteins that prevent ice crystals forming inside its cells – the largest known insect that can do this. It can survive harsh winter conditions in this suspended animation. In spring, it thaws out, returning to the land of the living.
This wētā is vulnerable to native predators like ruru/morepork, as its defence mechanism is to play dead and vomit at the same time. However, as temperatures increase with climate change, more introduced predators are pushing up into the alpine zone.
Our alpine predator control will benefit this species.