Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa
Volume 3, 1870
This text is also available in PDF
(257 KB) Opens in new window
– 24 –

1. Notice of a Meteor observed by Mr. E. Stowe.

The Meteor was seen at Wellington, at 5.19 p.m. on Tuesday, May 31, 1870. Direction, S.E. by S. Altitude, about 50°. Travelled (in slight ascending curve) from left to right at right angles to a line drawn from eye of observer to S.E. by S. Light, brilliant white, accompanied by train of sparks, presenting exactly the appearance of a rocket when high in air, and to all appearance was travelling at about a similar rate. Disappeared suddenly, at about the same altitude as when first observed. Seemed visible for a period (approximately) of five seconds. There had been a fine sunset, and the greater part of the sky, including the whole area of the meteor's path, was perfectly clear. Size of the meteor, very large,—four times that of Venus.

2. “On a specimen of a New Zealand Rat,” by W. Buller, F.G.S. (See Transactions.) This paper gave the description of a specimen of the true native rat, or Kiore, which was exhibited. These rats are now very rare, but this particular specimen had been identified by the Maoris at Wanganui, as the true native rat which at one time formed a principal article of food among their ancestors. The author pointed out that in its appearance it strongly resembled the ancient black rat of Britain, which had also become extinct through the introduction into the British Islands of the brown rat.

Dr. Hector exhibited a drawing, by Captain Hutton, of a supposed native rat, that was deposited in the Auckland Museum in 1853, and pointed out that it differed materially from Mr. Buller's specimen.

Mr. Travers, from enquiries he had made, doubted that any native now living could identify the real Maori rat, and was inclined to doubt if there was really a specimen of it.

The President said that in the South Island the native rat had survived longer than in the North, and asked Mr. Paterson, the Native Member, in the House of Representatives, for Kaiapoi, if he could identify the rat.

Mr. Paterson said the old people used to eat them, but he had never seen one.

– 25 –

3. “On the Anarhynchus frontalis,” by T. H. Potts. (See Transactions.) This paper confirmed the specific characters of the Crooked bill Plover, of the South Island, and by the description of the young bird when only a few days old, a specimen of which was exhibited, proved that the peculiar twist of the beak is congenital, and not an accidental deformity. The eggs and manner of nidification were also exhibited, and contrasted with those of Charadrius bicinctus, with which species the crooked billed birds have, by some naturalists, been confounded.

The specimens attracted much interest, and some discussion ensued, from which it appeared that that bird is by no means so rare as has been supposed.

4. “On the Habits of the Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus),” by W. T. L. Travers, F.L.S. (See Transactions.) The author had enjoyed a favourable opportunity of collecting facts on the subject, at Lake Guyon, an inland lake situated at an altitude of 1,800 feet, between the Kaikouras and the Spencer Mountains, where the manager of his station lived. Among other points, the author stated that this bird made additions to its nest, to avoid immersion when the water of the lake rose during the period of incubation, and that from observation it had been found that the eggs would maintain their vitality after immersion in water for a considerable period. This bird is very rare, and is becoming rapidly exterminated.

Dr. Hector pointed out as singular, that a bird possessing such short feeble wings, and evidently adapted for swimming and diving, should inhabit the mountain tarns in all temperate parts of the world,—the New Zealand bird not being distinguishable, according to Professor Finsch, from the European. However, mountain tarns are much the same all over the world, which is probably the reason why the species has such a wide distribution, with so little variation of character.

5. “On a Comparison of the Tooth of the Ziphid Whale with that of the Cachelot,” by F. J. Knox, L. R. C. S. E. This paper, which was illustrated by beautiful sections of the teeth and a large series of drawings, is supplementary to the notice read before the Society, in January, of the dissection of a specimen of this rare whale which was cast ashore at Worser's Bay.

6. “On a Hybrid Acæna,” by J. Buchanan. The Acæna, or Burr, of Australia, has been introduced, and has already formed a hybrid with the New Zealand species; specimens of which were exhibited.

Mr. Hamilton pointed out that the Australian species was abundant at Horikiwi, but very local. He was inclined to think that it was not

– 26 –

an introduced plant, but had no doubt of its identity with Australian specimens.

The Hon. Mr. Hall thought the Australian burr must have been introduced by imported cattle.

7. “On the Salmonidæ of New Zealand,” by Dr. Hector. (See Transactions.) The author called attention to the importance of knowing what fish belonging to this order were indigenous to the New Zealand streams, as the English trout is now firmly established in many of the streams of the South Island, and as they will probably undergo, as they usually do in all streams, considerable modification of form, mistakes might arise from their being confounded with nearly allied fish which we already possess. This investigation is more necessary as the best and latest works only describe one species of the Salmonidæ, as occurring in New Zealand, viz, Retropinna Richarsonii. The author, after describing the character of this species, and identifying it with specimens on the table, exhibited three other very distinctive forms. The first of them had a general resemblance to the above specimen, but is four times the size, and possesses some of the external characters of a true Osmerus, or English smelt. The specimens he exhibited were obtained from the Kakapo Lake, on the west coast of Otago, in 1863.

The third species was the common Opokororo, from the Hutt river. This fish is at once distinguished from the others by the small head, large deep body, dark trout colour, forward position of the dorsal fin, and small soft mouth almost devoid of teeth. In some of its characters it approaches the genus Coregonus, to which the White fish of the North American Lakes belongs. It was pointed out that notwithstanding the very marked differences which are such as to characterize different genera of European fish, certain external characters, such as the number of the rays in the fins, were common to all these forms; the only exception being in the pectoral fin, in which the last mentioned fish had fifteen instead of eleven rays. We are thus placed in a dilemma, as either there is only one species which undergoes most extreme variations, so as to simulate different genera, or we have three different genera, the representatives of which in New Zealand accidentally possess some trivial characters.

The subject deserves the attention of observers, and the author hoped he would be assisted in the investigation by the collection of specimens from different streams in the country, before it was complicated by the introduction of foreign species of trout. He stated, for the assistance of collectors, that the Salmonidæ could be distinguished from all other fish in our streams, by the little fleshy fin that they have between the large dorsal fin and the tail.

– 27 –

A drawing was also shown of the rare and beautiful Argentine (Scopelus), that was captured in Milford Sound, by the author, which under former classifications, would have formed a fourth Salmonoid fish, but the genus has been separated from this family in recent works.