Description of Additions to the Collections in Colonial Museum.
The President then requested Dr. Hector to explain the various interesting additions to the collections in the Museum, which were on the table.
Dr. Hector first called attention to the Neck of a Moa which had been lent to the Museum for a time by Dr. Thomson, of Clyde, in Otago. This wonderful specimen is the most perfect fragment of the large extinct birds that has ever been found. It consists of six joints of the neck held together by the skin and muscles of one side. Some portions of the feathers still remain, and prove that the plumage of the Moa was more like that of the Emu than that of the Kiwi, which is the only allied bird now living in New Zealand. In alluding to the plumage of the Kiwi, Dr. Hector pointed out that although Mr. Buller and Dr. Finsch, in their last papers on the subject, are inclined to restrict all our Kiwis within two species, and to do away with Apteryx mantelli, still the examination of many specimens in the Museum shows that Apteryx australis is peculiar in not having the shafts of the feathers prolonged beyond the plumes, which is the case with both Apteryx mantelli and the Grey Kiwi, A. oweni, the skins of which are, in consequence, harsh to the touch.
A cast of the Egg of the Moa-like bird of Madagascar (Æpyornis), presented by Dr. Finsch, of Bremen, was exhibited and compared with models of the chief Moa eggs that have been found in New Zealand. The largest of these, 9.5 inches long, was that found by Mr. Fife at the Kaikoura Peninsula, but it looked quite small beside the Æpyornis egg, which is 12.9 inches long.
Dr. Hector corrected a mistake about the egg found at the Kaikouras, which, it had been stated in the newspapers and repeated by him in a paper to the Zoological Society, was found in a Maori burial place in the hands of a human skeleton. Mr. Buchanan, however, had been assured by Mr. Fife, the
discoverer of the egg, when he was at Kaikoura in 1866, that this was not the case, but that the egg was found in alluvial soil when digging a few feet below the surface. One of the models exhibited was of an egg restored by Mr. Mantell from small fragments.
Mr. Mantell explained that he had restored, more or less perfectly, about twenty eggs, and that he had, as a rule, found them imperfect at one end, as if a hole had been artificially formed for the purpose of extracting the contents, and perhaps to allow of the shell being used as a water vessel. All the shells he had found were near old Maori cooking ovens, which he had no objection to see assigned to the prehistoric period, seeing that New Zealand history only goes back for a few years. He was quite certain, however, that the Maoris in the south at the date of his early explorations in 1846 were well acquainted with the former existence of the Moas and the circumstances which led to their extermination.
Attention was then directed to tracings, by Mr. Cockburn Hood, of Footprints of Moas recently discovered in sandstone layers at Poverty Bay, and to a section showing their geological position, which is a very recent formation. (See Transactions, p. 124, et seq.)
Skins of the North Island Kokako (Glaucopis), which were recently obtained alive, were shown by Dr. Hector to determine satisfactorily that the differences that distinguish G. wilsoni and G. olivascens are due to sex.