[Read before the Philosophical Institute of Canterbury, 26th November, 1879.]
In a former volume of the Transactions of the New Zealand Institute,*, I offered a description of the skeleton of this interesting Southern Ziphioid Whale. I then stated on the authority of the late Mr. F. Fuller, taxidermist of the Canterbury Museum, who went to secure the skeleton of that specimen, stranded in Lyttelton Harbour, some details about the characteristic form and colour of the skin of the animal in question. When my informant arrived where the fishermen were at work, he found that the blubber had nearly all been taken off, so that he could only partially obtain the required measurements. From the observations I am about to offer to the Society, on two more specimens stranded since then on our sea-beach, it will be seen that some of the statements were far from being correct.
In fact, the animal was so much cut about that its lower part was taken for the upper, and vice versâ and consequently no dorsal fin could be found where it was looked for. The first of the specimens under review was stranded on Sunday, the 17th of November, 1878, near New Brighton. There were numerous visitors at the time who observed another whale (according to other lookers-on, two whales) in the offing, by which the animal was driven into the surf, where soon it became helpless. Gradually it was drifted upon the low sandy beach, where it died only after a long struggle. Having received prompt information, I arrived early next morning on the scene, and found the animal quite intact, so that I could not only take the necessary measurements, but also have a careful sketch prepared, which, as the sequel will show, is of importance, in offering us some curious information as to the habits of this species of Ziphioids.
Colour: Head, neck, and anterior portion of the back, as far as the dorsal fin, white; the rest of the body black; a white narrow line running along the edge of the dorsal fin, which is otherwise black. The line of division between the two colours is everywhere well marked, except upon
[Footnote] * Trans. N. Z. Inst., Vol. IX., p. 430
the cheeks, where blackish blotches advance some distance towards the nose. The cylindrical form of the animal for its length is rather slender, its height at the occiput being only 2 feet 3 inches, and at about nine feet from the tip of the lower jaw 3 feet 3 inches, after which it tapers gradually to the tail. The animal proved to be a young female.
The two teeth at the termination of the lower jaw stood half an inch above the gums, having a diameter of one inch where they rose above the latter. They are conical, and have a sharp apex, and are not covered anywhere with enamel, not even on the tip. The dentine shows a number of horizontal lines one above the other, running round the tooth. They are therefore quite different from the teeth of the two specimens described in Vol. IX. (Transactions of the New Zealand Institute), which were found to be covered with a rough cement. They are also different from those of another specimen, of which I shall give some details further on.
A single fold begins below the throat, 1 foot 1 inch from the top of the lower jaw. After rising rapidly for four inches, it continues for seven inches more at a smaller angle, ceasing where the black colour of the throat begins. This fold is separated into two portions by a ridge of the breadth of half an inch below the centre of the throat.
Lips flesh-coloured; roof of mouth slaty-black; no signs of teeth along the jaws; there is, however, a hardened ridge along both sides of the palate. The extremity of the lower jaw projects about two inches beyond the upper. The head rises steeply above the upper lip to the forehead.
The blow-hole is situated on the vertex of the head just above the eye. Both the form and the size of the dorsal fin and of the tail-lobes, show that this species must be a remarkably swift swimmer.
|From point of lower jaw to the beginning of the pectoral fin||4||9|
|From fork of tail to termination of falcate dorsal fin||6||5|
|Length of the opening of the mouth||1||3|
|From point of lower jaw to eye||2||6|
|From point of lower jaw to beginning of fold below throat||1||1|
|Diameter of blow-hole concave towards head||0||6|
|From fork of tail to went||5||4|
|From fork of tail to pudendum||6||6|
|Breadth of caudal fin||6||1|
|Base of dorsal fin||1||1|
|Height of dorsal fin||0||8|
|Breadth of pectoral fin||0||7|
|Length of pectoral fin||2||6|
|Eye, horizontal diameter||0||1/12;|
|Eye, vertical diameter||0||1|
Before giving a description of the external appearance of the specimen under review, I wish to allude to another female, 21 feet 6 inches long, of the same species, stranded on May 15th, 1879, on the sea-beach near Kaiapoi, and of which the skeleton was also secured.
This was, doubtless, a full-grown, aged animal, the terminal epiphyses being so well anchylosed to the body of the vertebræ that even the line of junction could be scarcely distinguished, while in the New Brighton specimen these discs were still unanchylosed, and detached themselves readily during maceration.
In form of the body, and colouration, this animal resembled in every respect the New Brighton specimen. However, the two teeth existing at the tip of the lower jaw could not be felt when passing the fingers over the gums, and were only disclosed when making incisions.
The teeth are the smallest of all those known to me, being 1·98 and 2 inches long, and only ·46 of an inch broad. The left tooth weighs 66 and the right 62 grains. The flattened root is square, and somewhat constricted a quarter of an inch above the base, after which the tooth expands, being broadest about the middle. It then contracts rapidly, running out to a sharp point. This is thus confirmatory evidence that the teeth, with age, are absorbed, and disappear gradually below the gums; although it is possible that even below the gums they may still be of some use to the animal. It is a peculiar character of the small teeth of the Kaiapoi specimen that they should be so very thin, and terminate in a sharp point; and that the latter should be covered with real enamel, different from any observed upon the dentine in any other teeth of the same species.
Returning to the first-mentioned specimen from the New Brighton beach, of which the annexed sketch (Pl. VIII.) gives a faithful representation, it must strike us with astonishment to see the skin of this animal, a female, so fearfully lacerated. The late taxidermist of the Museum, when giving me some notes of the external appearance of what remained of the specimen stranded in Lyttelton Harbour in July, 1872, informed me that the upper portion was marked by numerous oval spots, 2–3 inches across, like the skin of the leopard; this, as I observed already, was the lower portion. Moreover, he thought that the animal must have had fearful struggles amongst the rocks, the skin appearing torm in all directions. These peculiar oval spots were visible at the first glance on the skin of the New Brighton specimen; but when examining them more closely it at once became clear that they were not natural, but were the scars of injuries the animal had received during life-time at various periods.
At the same time, the animal being also covered with a number of seamed scars, running in all directions, their form and regularity proved
also that they could not have been caused by the animal being thrown amongst the rocks; but must have been inflicted by some other animal. Examining the oval spots, I found that, although they varied from a length of 2 inches, to that of 3 inches, and from a breadth of 1 inch, to that of 2 inches, they had invariably the same character, viz.: that of an oval scar of a dirty whitish colour, both in the white and the black colouration of the skin, with two well-marked points in the centre, always about 1 1/4–1 1/2 inches apart. These two dots had evidently been the wounds inflicted, round which the scar had been formed. In some instances these points were quite healed over, so as to show that the injury had been done long ago; in others there were two fresh sores, as if the animal had been struck only a few hours before its death. Although occurring all over the body, with the exception of the back, these oval scars were most frequent below the belly, and principally round the pudendum, where they were often so close together that the scars not only ran into each other, but evidently covered each other, so as to show that the same spot had been struck repeatedly. The seamed scars, on the other hand, occurred more on both sides of the animal. Only a few crossed the back or reached to the belly. With a few exceptions these seamed scars were always in pairs, 1 1/4–1 1/2 inches apart, and each about 1/4 inch broad. Some of them were running for a considerable distance, 7–8 feet, others only for a space of a few inches. That there had been considerable struggle became evident from the direction these seamed scars had taken, some forming, as at a, regular hooks. Some of these wounds were evidently of long standing, being well healed, others had only been inflicted a very short time before the stranding of the animal, as they were quite fresh and deep, and sometimes have a breadth of 3/4 of an inch. From the character of these wounds, it appears certain that they could have only been made by an animal or animals of the same species with the two teeth of the lower jaw, the distance of their apices being 1 1/4–1 1/2 inches from each other, and thus corresponding with both the oval and seamed scars. The aged female from the Kaiapoi beach, of which I gave some particulars on the preceding pages, was scarred and seamed in exactly the same manner. It is thus evident that the females are subject to attacks either from the males during rutting time, or that they fight amongst themselves. In the latter case, which, however, appears to me to be rather improbable, the teeth of the figured specimen must have been of considerable use to the animal, and it is then difficult to understand how the full-grown or aged animals, when their teeth disappear below the gums, can successfully resist the attacks of the younger members of the same species, unless their greater bulk, or probably greater speed, make up for this disadvantage. Of the males of Ziphius novœ-zealandiœ we know nothing at present, but there
is no doubt in my mind that with them the teeth in front of the lower jaw are both permanent and of larger size than those of the females, just in the same manner as they exist in other Ziphioid genera. Fortunately, however, there is some evidence at hand strengthening such an hypothesis.
Dr. Hector, in his account of the skull of Epiodon chathamiensis,* obtained in the Chatham Islands, describes the teeth of this species, as follows:—“The lower jaw * * * terminates in two, short, stout, slightly compressed teeth, 2 inches long, and 4 inches in circumference, implanted in shallow sockets. The teeth have slight, irregular striæ, and are worn down into two lateral facets, divided by an acute ridge. The position of the teeth, when the jaws are closed, is 2 inches beyond the upper mandible, and unless they are applied against callosities on the upper lip, it is difficult to conceive how they are worn down to this acute form. Weight of teeth 817 and 836 grains.”
“Two teeth, of similar form, taken from the jaw of a whale cast up on the Manawatu beach, have their facets forming an obtuse pyramidical tip.' Of this last pair of teeth no weight is given, but it is evident, from the drawing, that they must be as heavy as the former. The teeth of the females, examined by me, range from 62 to 200 grains. There is no doubt that the form and chief characteristic features of the skull from the Chatham Islands, described as Epiodon chathamiensis, and those of the two female whales secured by me, are almost identical, if we except the teeth, which in the former are at least four times as heavy as in the latter. In my paper on Ziphius novœ-zealandiœ, in Vol. IX., of the Transactions of the New Zealand Institute, I pointed out already that the skull of this Chatham Island whale might have belonged to the male of Epiodon novœ-zealandiœ, thus accounting for the difference. After having seen the two female animals stranded on our beach, scarred in such a remarkable manner, I am more than ever inclined to this opinion. If the three specimens alluded to had been males, it would be easy enough to understand that the wounds had been inflicted during their fights in rutting time, or for supremacy, as this is the case with most of the terrestrial animals. However, the fact that the wounds inflicted in striking against the animal, by which the oval scars were produced, are mostly in close proximity to the pudendum, suggests forcibly that they have been inflicted by male animals. In respect to the external appearance of the different species of other Ziphioid genera, such as Mesoplodon, Berardius, and Oulodon, of which several specimens, both male and female, have been examined by me, I may state that none of them had the least scar or wound upon them.
Of course, this may be accounted for by the fact, that the teeth of most of these genera are situated so far backwards that they could scarcely be used
[Footnote] * Trans. N.Z. Inst., Vol. V., p. 165.
for the same mode of attack. Dr. Hector* has given an account of the capture of an adult male of Berardius arnuxii in the entrance of Wellington Harbour, on January 12th, 1877, from which it appears that “the teeth did not penetrate the gums, nor could their position be discovered till deep incisions were made.” This leads me to conclude that the male of this species cannot use the teeth in the same manner as Ziphius novœ-zealandiœ does. Thus this species of Ziphioid Whale, as far as our observations in New Zealand go, stands apart in this strange habit of life by which, as far as we know at present, both young and aged females are made sufferers, the form and peculiar position of the teeth in front of the protruding lower jaw, making these savage attacks possible. It will be of some interest to obtain a male of the same species, in order to ascertain if it is also covered with similar scars. The outlines of the right side of the animal were drawn from, careful measurements, and the oval and seamed scars conscientiously copied from nature by Mr. T. S. Cousins.
Finally, I should like to make a few observations on the nomenclature, and the changes proposed.
There is no doubt that the generic name Epiodon has to give way to Ziphius, but I think it rather premature to follow Dr. Hector's example, and to merge our New Zealand species into the European Ziphius cavirostris of Cuvier, till we possess some more detailed accounts of the form, colour, and anatomical structure of the different species of Ziphius described under various names from other countries. For instance, we know already that the Epiodon australe, of Burmeister, had a light ash-colour (ceniza clara), that it was darker on the back, lighter on the belly, and moreover, that its forehead was not swollen. Epiodon desmarestii, according to Risso, is steel grey, with numerous irregular white streaks, beneath white, head not swollen, ending in a long nose. Consequently, in both these well-described species, there is considerable difference in their appearance when compared with the New Zealand Ziphius, a difference which certainly is of some specific value, and ought not to be set aside without good cause being shown to the contrary.
In plate VIII., b is the vent, c the pudendum, and d the fold.
[Footnote] * Trans. N.Z. Inst., Vol. X., p. 338.