Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa
Volume 3, 1870
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Art. XIX.—Short Notice of a remarkable Tooth of a Cetacean.

[Read before the Wellington Philosophical Society, November 12, 1870.]

The tooth now exhibited before the Society is the property of a friend, and in the course of a conversation with him, was kindly shown to me. I observed numerous points of difference from the specimens in my possession— unmistakably recognized as those of the Cachalot, or sperm whale; and, by the kind permission of my friend, had a section made of it, carrying the saw as nearly as possible in a curved line, following the axis of the tooth. This truly magnificent section, for the cutting of which I am indebted to my friend, Mr. Kebbell, displays a surface at once of the most artistic beauty, and, to me, perfectly novel. The nearly total absence of a dental cavity for the nervous pulp, found in all the teeth of the Cachalot I have had an opportunity of examining, and, indeed, the general form of the tooth, viewed externally, suggests to me the probability of its having been the tooth of a dolphin, allied to the Ziphid family of Dr. Gray; and looking over Dr. Gray's Catalogue, my attention was forcibly drawn to that of the Ziphius Sowerbii, of which an engraving is given (Table 37).

It appears that the specimen of the skull from which the engraving is taken is in the Oxford Museum, and the engraving appeared when first seen by me so unnatural as to create a doubt in my mind as to its history, and consequent value to science. It would be most interesting to obtain the history of the cranium, however meagre, more especially as to the external appearance of the animal previous to dissection. Did the teeth protrude through the gun? This is a most important point, as in the case of Hunter's Bottle-nose, the animal has evidently been christened under different names by succeeding naturalists not less than six or eight times.