August 18: Peripatus

It may look like a subterranean soft toy, but a prowling peripatus is anything but cuddly. The “velvet worm” is a voracious predator with a startling method of catching prey, and one of the forest’s more unlikely denizens.

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Below are some talking points and activities to pass the time, all relating to today’s story.

Talking points

Discuss the ideas presented in the story with your family—at home or over video conferencing. Find ways to involve as many people as possible, especially those who you know are isolated by the lock-down.

  • Looking at the photos, what creatures does the peripatus remind you of, and why? Do you think it looks like a “subterranean soft toy?” Would you have one on your bed?
  • Scientists say the peripatus is similar in some ways to arthropods, and similar in other ways to annelids. Do you know what either of these groups of animals are? How does it seem similar to each of them?
  • When you read the description of how the peripatus shoots glue onto its victim before pulverising its innards, can you imagine the peripatus being like a creature from science fiction? What is the best/most interesting/creepiest part of this description?
  • Peripatus usually don’t travel far from home, often only ranging a few metres from their hiding spot. This has meant there are lots of quite different peripatus species spread out across Aotearoa. Each one is suited to its local environment. What might be some of the ways their bodies and habits differ?
  • Had you heard of peripatus before reading this article? Why do you think they are not more well-known? Are there any other interesting leaf-litter species that you think deserve to be more well-known?


Do a leaf-litter bioblitz in your garden or a local reserve.

Take an ice-cream container, or something like a small hoop that you can use to mark out an area in your garden.

Go outside and find a place under the trees that should have some interesting decomposing leaf-matter in which invertebrates could hide.

Place your ice-cream container upside down and wiggle it gently so it makes a clear square mark. (Or, place the hoop down as a marker.) This shows the area you are searching in.

Gently disturb the soil or leaf litter and carefully look for creatures. Can you identify what you see? A magnifying glass may be useful. You could draw pictures of anything you find, or take photos, and try to identify them. Write down how many of each species you find.

You can do another search in a different area (what might be different about the creatures you find under an apple tree, or a native tree, or in the chicken run?)

Send us a picture of your leaf-litter bioblitz!