Peripatus is the general common name for members of a group of aberrant arthropods which exhibit some characteristics of the true worms and others of the true arthropods. The group is loosely described as being the “missing-link” between worms and arthropods. It is widespread throughout the Southern Hemisphere, and New Zealand has several species which occur in fairly strong populations throughout the country. These animals are caterpillar-like, approximately cylindrical in form, and not distinctly segmented. They are velvety bluish-black in colour, range from 1 in. to 3 in. in length, have a well-marked head with a pair of antennae, and many pairs of short, stumpy legs. They inhabit moist situations and shun light. Common habitats are moss on the forest floor, inside rotten logs, and within the shelter of leaf sheaths.
by Roy Alexander Harrison, D.SC., Senior Lecturer in Agricultural Zoology, Lincoln Agricultural College.