Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa
Volume 34, 1901
This text is also available in PDF
(165 KB) Opens in new window
– 563 –

Sir James Hector directed the attention of the meeting to a collection of some forty or fifty out of a large collection of water-colour drawings of our native fishes by the late Mr. F. E. Clarke, a member of the Society.

He said Mr. Clarke's knowledge of fish was minute and accurate, and it would be difficult to exaggerate the beauty and scientific fidelity of his drawings. A special value attached to these drawings inasmuch as some represented rare and others absolutely unique specimens which had come under Mr. Clarke's observation—one of these, notably, a large shark of a kind which Sir James had never seen, and which was undescribed save by Mr. Clarke, while it differed remarkably from any other known species. At some distant day, perhaps, these valuable drawings might be reproduced and issued in book form—that was, if they could be secured for the Museum; as it was, they were in danger of being lost or dispersed. Mrs. Clarke was willing to dispose of them, and he hoped the collection would be purchased in its complete form by the colony.

The meeting expressed its concurrence.

Sir James, in continuing his remarks, said that something more than accurate delineation of our fishes was needed. We had still much to learn of their habits and life-history, though we knew far more about them than might be supposed from occasional reports published at public expense, in which, it was not too much to say, a great deal of nonsense might be found. One fact we could not escape—that New Zealand was an island, and that the surrounding hundred-fathom limit within which fishing operations could be conducted was a narrow one. It was impossible, in the absence of breeding-grounds such as the North Sea or the banks off Newfoundland, that New Zealand could ever establish a great fishing industry. He then called attention to some curious facts

– 564 –

about fishes, which, though no doubt familiar enough to naturalists, were not commonly known. The herring and the pilchard, he said, were so closely allied that the external resemblance might deceive an expert, yet they differed widely in their habits. The herring glued her ova to stone and seaweed at the bottom, where it hatched; but the pilchard discharged hers in the open water, to float to the surface and be hatched by the sun. The fishes themselves were so much alike that the usual test was to balance doubtful fish by the dorsal fin. If the head went up it was a pilchard, if the tail went up it was a herring. Pilchards were abundant off our coasts, but New Zealand had no herring. The flat fishes, he explained, started in life symmetrical and swimming upright, like other fishes. While still young they took to deeper waters, sunk, and lay at the bottom, turning to one side or the other. Deformation gradually set in, the upper side darkened, the eye underneath, being useless in its place, forced itself through the skull and came out on the upper side. A distinction between the sole and flounder tribe was that the sole lay with the left side and the flounder with the right side uppermost. A curious distinction between the English and New Zealand mackerel was that the southern fish was provided with a swim-bladder, which was absent in the English species. But the distinction was not a matter altogether of northern and southern distribution, for the only other mackerel besides that of New Zealand possessing the swim-bladder was found in the Black Sea.

A letter was received from Mr. J. T. Stewart calling attention to the fact that in boring in the Wanganui district for artesian water the water was obtained from below the papa rock. (Transactions, p. 451.)

Sir James Hector remarked that if this was the case it was a most Important thing for the whole district.