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Here are links to Science Learning Hub resources for primary teachers related to life cycles in the Living World strand of the New Zealand Curriculum. 

Explore the life cycles of butterflies, crabs, eels, ferns, green-lipped mussels, human beings, Inanga (whitebait), insects, moths and plants.


Explore the life cycles of native and introduced New Zealand butterflies.

Unit plan: Butterflies (lower primary)

Unit plan: Butterflies (upper primary)

Butterflies – Introductory article with links to media, articles and activities

Monarch butterflies – Article

White butterflies – Article

White butterfly life cycle – Activity


Crab larvae develop in open water, not near the reef where they started their life. Fertilised crab eggs are released into the water and float with the currents while they develop into the larval form. They find their way back to suitable habitats from long distances.

Crabs finding home – Article 

Crab life cycle – Image


The life cycle of eels has long been a mystery. The eels breed only once at the end of their life cycle. In the autumn, adult eels leave the rivers and streams and head for the ocean. From there, they make a long journey of thousands of kilometres to a place somewhere in the South Pacific ocean. Scientists think the spawning grounds may be close to Tonga.

Longfin eels – Article

Adapting SLH activities: changing the topic – PLD

Role-play – building science knowledge and Role-play – playing the game and reflections – Videos

Inanga life cycle - Image

Life cycle of freshwater eels - Image

Longfin eel – on a path to extinction? – Article


Ferns are unique amongst land plants in that they have 2 separate living structures in their reproductive cycle.

What is a fern? – Article

Fern life cycle - Interactive

Fern propagation – Activity

Why are ferns unique? – Video

Fern reproduction – Video

Human beings

Find out about the key stages in the development of a human.

Fertilisation to adulthood – Timeline

Inanga (whitebait)

Whitebait lay their eggs in freshwater, and after hatching, the larvae are swept down to the ocean where they grow. The young then move back up into freshwater in large shoals known as runs. 

Whitebait – Article

Inanga and other whitebait – Video

Scale insects

Scale insects are tiny in size but have a significant impact on the forest ecosystem.

Scale insect lifecycle – Video


Glow-worms spend most of their lives as larvae – where their famous light is produced most brightly. The other stages are surprisingly short in comparison.

Glow-worms – Article


Find out how to rear moths using basic equipment such as a plastic lunchbox to grow eggs and caterpillars into moths.

Rearing insects – Activity

Rearing moths – Video


Humans have many reasons to grow plants: for food, for building materials or simply for pleasure. A plant really just has one reason to grow – to reproduce to make more plants like it.

Unit plan: Pollination (lower primary)

Seeds, Stems and Spores – Introductory article with links to media, articles and activities

Plant reproduction – Article

Plant reproduction without seeds – Article

The seed-flower life cycle – Article

Flowering plant life cycles – Article

Pollination pairs – Activity

Trees and natural cycles – Article

Green-lipped mussels

During its life cycle, the green-lipped mussel undergoes enormous changes, including fundamental changes in shape. It changes from a free-swimming larval form (which swims in the ocean) to a settled juvenile and adult form (which is anchored to one spot).

Life of a green-lipped mussel - Article

    Published 2 July 2015 Referencing Hub articles