Story: Peripatus

Page 3. Reproduction

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Rare matings

Little is known about the mating behaviour of peripatus. Those in New Zealand probably mate the same way as a South African species. The male deposits a spermatophore (packet containing sperm) anywhere on the female’s body, and she slowly absorbs it. Other species overseas may deposit the spermatophore directly into the female’s genital opening.

Once absorbed, the sperm travel to the eggs or are stored in sperm receptacles until needed. A female may need to mate only once in her lifetime. She can have 16 embryos at different stages of development in her two uteri.

Giving birth

Velvet worms have a variety of birth strategies:

  • Oviparity – the female lays an egg from which young eventually hatch.
  • Ovoviviparity – the female gives birth to live young which have hatched from an egg inside her body.
  • Placental viviparity – the young develop inside the female’s body, and receive nutrients from her via a placenta.

In New Zealand the Peripatoides species give birth to live young, and the Ooperipatellus lay eggs. As far as is known only Australian and New Zealand velvet worms lay eggs. The young resemble adults in shape, but most are white when they are first born or hatched. Their colouring develops later on.

No parental care

Once a female velvet worm gives birth or her eggs hatch, the young fend for themselves. Their mother may occasionally eat them.

How to cite this page:

Paddy Ryan, 'Peripatus - Reproduction', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 23 September 2021)

Story by Paddy Ryan, published 24 Sep 2007