Conservation programmes aiming to suppress or remove invasive small mammal populations that threaten endemic fauna assume that eliminating an individual predator has the same effect as eliminating a conspecific in terms of decreasing risk to the prey species. However, marked between-individual variation in prey take could, at times, lead to uneven predation pressure. Such variation in the diets of introduced predators has long been hypothesised in New Zealand, suggesting that some observed rates of predation are not typical of the prey population as a whole.
Functional convergence of different communities in similar environments would be expected as an outcome of the operation of 'assembly rules'. At an ecological level, competitive exclusion would restrict the co-occurrence of species with similar niches. Repetition of competitive sorting on an evolutionary time scale might lead to character displacement.
The distinctiveness of New Zealand’s large endemic orthopterans and lack of small mammals in our forest ecosystems led to the description of weta as ecologically equivalent to rodents in other countries. We review the use of this metaphor and the characteristics, such as diet and reproductive behaviour, given to support it. We note, however, that species are rarely specified when comparisons are made, thereby neglecting the ecological diversity of both weta and rodents.