Discovery brings weevil back from the brink

Published by Communications and Development

2 February 2005

University of Canterbury masters student Laura Young made the discovery of a lifetime recently - she found a weevil thought to be extinct since 1922 living in Burkes Pass, South Canterbury.

Laura was studying Aciphylla (speargrass/spaniards) in the Burkes Pass Scenic Reserve last month as part of her Masters degree in ecology when she stumbled across the Canterbury knobbled weevil.

"Sarah Luxton, my friend and field assistant, and I were looking at hundreds of plants and applying various experimental treatments to them. I looked down at yet another plant and saw it climbing around the base of the plant between the leaves. It was huge," says Laura.

"We debated for over half and hour what to do with it. We gathered that it may have been the extinct weevil, but were rather doubtful."

The pair collected the specimen and took it to show DOC entomologist Dr Alison Evans, who soon confirmed that it was Hadramphus tuberculatus, the Canterbury weevil which looks like a small beetle with knobbly bumps along its back and grows to about 1.6cm long.

Laura says it is exciting to be responsible for a discovery that has attracted the interest of entomologists around the country.

"I'm happy that we have found this specimen - this must mean that there are more out there. It's really amazing to know that fauna thought to be extinct are still hanging on out there and persisting in areas such as this - right by the main highway. Imagine where else they may be. It also adds profile to the scary spiky spaniards or Aciphylla that I am studying, as these weevils are thought to be specific to Aciphylla."

DOC now plans to survey the Burkes Pass area to establish how big the weevil population there is and develop a conservation management plan for the species.

For further information please contact:
Maria Hand
Communications Officer
University of Canterbury
Tel: +64 3 364 2910
Fax: +64 3 364 2679