Waitomo’s Caves

posted in: Nature, New Zealand | 1

I will admit that, while I was excited about many of the things I have done so far, I was really excited about this particular activity. I have done rafting in the past, but black water rafting was going to be a first for me. I couldn’t help, but wonder what it would be like to do rafting on an underground stream. Second, I couldn’t wait to see the glow worms and Waitomo is definitely the place to see them.

We opted for the Legendary Black Water Rafting Company to explore the caves on a tube.
Black water rafting was definitely different. It was way more relaxing, except maybe when it came to jumping down the small waterfall. The water was relatively cold, but still comfortable while wearing a wetsuit. 
The glow worm were amazing, it really did look like a starry night in the dark of the caves when all our headlamps were off. 
Our guides were young and lively, sometimes saying improper things, but then again, sometimes improper is so fitting to the situation.
I will try to loosely quote the summary given to us by one of the guides: “Basically, you bunch came all the way down here to watch carnivorous, cannibalistic maggots with bioluminescent poo who, upon reaching adulthood, shag until they die.”
And, somehow, this appears to be a very fitting description for the glow worms. The maggot which hatches first will indeed eat the eggs surrounding it, since there are no other food source available to it at that moment. By eating its unborn siblings, the glow worm will get the nutrients necessary to produce a sort of silky fishing line, not unlike the strands of a spider web. The glow worms are not bioluminescent per say, it is their poo that light the darkness. In this way, when an insect gets washed down the caves it will try to fly up thinking the lights are stars and by doing so will get caught on the fishing line cast by the maggot and thus become its next meal.
When it is time for the maggot to transform, it will go in cocoon and come out as a mosquito-like insect with no mouth to feed. At this point, it has a life expectancy of two days. The male will copulate for almost 48 hours straight, before falling asleep from exhaustion and dying. The female will have to find an adequate spot to lay its eggs and will eventually die of hunger.
Albeit in a morbid way, it is fascinating isn’t it?

I’m sorry there are no pictures for this post, I’m still waiting for the shots from my travel companion of the time.

One Response

  1. I don’t get the part where having no mouth counts as an evolutionary step forward.. but it is fascinating!

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