Revision of the Eels of New Zealand
[Read before the Auckland Institute, June 19, 1935; received by Editor, July 1, 1935; issued separately, June, 1936.]
It is improbable that the eels described in this revision constitute the total number that may be found in New Zealand. Our extremely rugged coast-line and numerous feeding-grounds provide ideal conditions for such creatures, and it is therefore quite likely that further species will from time to time be recorded.
References to allied Australian species have been included, and in this connection I desire to thank Mr Gilbert P. Whitley, of the Australian Museum, for many valuable observations and references. My thanks are also due to Mr G. Archey, Director of the Auckland Museum, and to Mr W. J. Phillipps, of the Dominion Museum, for assistance in the arrangement and completion of the synonymy of the species.
|A. Body covered with minute scales.||Family Anguillidae.|
|AA. Body naked.|
|B. Tip of tail surrounded by fin-membranes.|
|C. Posterior nostril superior or lateral.|
|D. Pectoral fin present.||Family Leptocephalidae.|
|DD. No pectoral fin.||Family Muraenidae.|
|CC. Posterior nostril in upper lip near eye.||Family Echelidae.|
|BB. Tip of tail free without fin-membranes.||Family Ophichthyidae.|
Genus Anguilla Shaw.
Gen. Zool. (Pisc.), iv (I), p. 15, 1803.
Key to the New Zealand Species.
Angle of mouth far behind the eye.
Origin of dorsal fin well in advance of the anal.
1. A. dieffenbachii Gray.
Angle of mouth below the posterior margin of the eye.
Origin of dorsal fin not far in advance of the anal.
2. A. australis schmidtii Phillipps.
Anguilla diffenbachii Gray. (Long-finned eel; Orea, Tuna.)
(Plate 5, fig. 1, and text-fig. 1.)
Anguilla dieffenbachii Gray, Zool. Miscell. (5), p. 73, June, 1842; Richardson, in Dieffenbach, Travels in New Zealand, vol. 2, p. 225, 1843. Anguilla aucklandii Richardson, Voy. Ereb. and Terr., Zoology, p. 113, pl. 45, figs. 7–13, 1848. Anguilla latirostris Risso, Guenther, Cat. Fish. B.M., vol. 8, p. 32, 1870. Anguilla aucklandii Guenther, Cat. Fish. B.M., vol. 8, p. 33, 1870. Hutton, Cat. Fish. New Zealand, p. 64, pl. xi, fig. 102; Hector, ibid, p. 131, 1872. Anguilla latirostris Hutton,
Cat. Fish. New Zealand, p. 65; Trans. N.Z. Inst., vol. 5, p. 271, 1872. Anguilla aucklandii Sherrin, Fish. New Zealand, p. 131, 1886; Hutton, Trans. N.Z. Inst., vol. 28, p. 318, 1898; Phillipps, N.Z. Journ. Sci. and Tech., vol. 8, p. 29, fig. 3, 1926. Anguilla waitei Phillipps, ibid, pp. 28–29, fig. 1; Anguilla aucklandii Schmidt, Trans. N.Z. Inst., vol. 58, pp. 379–388, 1928. Anguilla dieffenbachii Schmidt, ibid, p. 384; Phillipps, N.Z. Journ. Sci. and Tech., vol. 13, p. 228, 1932.
Gray's type specimen was taken in the Thames River, New Zealand, by Dr. Dieffenbach, and his description was repeated by Richardson in Dieffenbach's Travels in New Zealand. Schmidt, however (1928, p. 384), from an examination of the teeth of the type specimen, identified A. dieffenbachii with A. aucklandii, and Phillipps (1932, p. 228) showed also that the fin measurements of the type recorded by Gray placed it within the proportions of A. aucklandii as defined by Schmidt. Schmidt (1928) further showed that Phillipps' A. waitei is synonymous with A. aucklandii. In Anguilla dieffenbachii the origin of the dorsal fin is much further forward than in A. aucklandii, the mouth and head are larger, and the body is higher and much more compressed laterally; the angle of the jaw extends well behind the eye, and the vomerine band of teeth is sub-equal with the maxillary bands.
The type locality is the River Thames, New Zealand, and it has also been recorded from the Auckland Islands (Richardson: type of A. aucklandii), and from the Chatham Islands (Hutton, 1896, p. 318). Occasionally very large specimens are obtained from Lake Takapuna and the Western Springs and Zoological Park lakes, Auckland, but they are by no means plentiful compared with the vast numbers of the short-finned species obtained in these places; their great size suggests that they are of considerable age.
Anguilla australis schmidtii Phillipps. (Short-finned eel; Tuna Heke.) (Plate 5, fig. 2, and text-fig. 2.)
Anguilla australis Richardson (in part), Voy. Ereb. and Terr., Zoology, p. 112, pl. 45, figs. 1–5, 1848. Anguilla australis Richardson (in part); Guenther, Cat. Fish. B.M., 8, p. 36, 1870. Anguilla australis Richardson (in part); Hutton, Cat. Fish. New Zealand, p. 65, pl. xi, fig. 104, 1872. Anguilla australis, G. M. Thomson, Hist. Portobello Fish Hatchery, p. 70, 1921. Anguilla schmidtii Phillipps, N.Z. Journ Sci. and Tech., vol. 8, pp. 28–29, fig. 4, 1925. Anguilla australis Richardson = forma orientalis Schmidt, Trans. N.Z. Inst., vol. 58, pp. 379–388, 1928; Schmidt, Rec. Aust. Museum, vol. 16, no. 4, pp. 198–210, 1928.
Dorsal fin with its origin slightly in advance of the vertical from the vent, of moderate height, but highest posteriorly. Total number of vertebrae 110–111; praehaemal vertebrae 45. The angle of the mouth reaches to hinder margin of the eye, but in some specimens only reaches as far as the hinder margin of the pupil of eye. A few only of very minute pores present on upper jaw not very distinguishable, with 3–4 plainer ones on the mandible. Teeth (Text-fig. 2) in broad bands, the mandibular and vomerine bands being broader than the maxillary bands. Vomerine band broadest posteriorly reaching backward as far as the middle, or sometimes a little beyond the middle, of length of the maxillary bands.
In specimens from 200–700 mm. long, I find little variation in the position of the dorsal in relation to the anal, but the eye in the snout varies from 2–2 ½ times according to the age of the fish. The vomerine band of teeth differs in its length backwards, but only slightly so, while the angle of the jaw is also subject to slight variation, in some cases ending below the hinder margin of the pupil of the eye and in others extending backward to the posterior border of the eye or a shade beyond.
In February, 1928 (Trans. N.Z. Inst., vol. 58, p. 388), Schmidt proposed the division of Anguilla australis into Australian (occidentalis) and New Zealand (orientalis) sub-species, and in March, 1928 (Rec. Aust. Mus., vol. 16, pp. 196–198), he stated the characters on which he made this division, i.e., that the dorsal fin consistently extends slightly further forward in the New Zealand form, which also has on the average less than 112 vertebrae. As Schmidt's results were based on statistics obtained by examining 190 Australian and 165 New Zealand specimens, they may be accepted with confidence. The names which he gave to these forms must, however, be altered, as the following will show. In 1925 Phillipps (N.Z. Journ. Sci. and Tech., vol. 8, p. 30) divided the New Zealand fresh-water eels into four species, viz., A. aucklandii Richardson, A. waitei n. sp., A. schmidtii n. sp., and A. australis Richardson, of which the two former have been shown above (p. 13) to be referable to A. dieffenbachii. With regard to A. schmidtii, it would appear from the relative proportions of the fins as they are shown in Phillipps' illustration (p. 29, fig. 4) that this species stands nearer to A. dieffenbachii than to A. australis; but Schmidt, who has examined the type, states (Trans. N.Z. Inst., Vol. 58, 1928, p. 384) that it is A. australis, and supports his identification by his illustration (fig. 5e) of the teeth-bands of the upper jaw. Returning to Schmidt's “forma occidentalis” and “forma orientalis,” we observe that, according to the rules of nomenclature, the first named sub-species must repeat the specific name, and as A. australis was originally founded on a Tasmanian specimen (i.e., that first mentioned and figured in Richardson's description) “forma occidentalis” becomes A. australis australis Richardson. Furthermore, Phillipps' name A. schmidtii is the first separate name for the New Zealand sub-species, and thus “forma orientalis” becomes A. australis schmidtii Phillipps.
In addition to occurring in Australia, A. australis australis occurs in Lord Howe Island, while A. australis schmidtii occurs in Chatham Islands, New Caledonia, and Fiji (probably also Norfolk
Island) as well as in New Zealand. Schmidt suggests (1928, p. 210) that the submarine ridge between New Caledonia and New Zealand may be the boundary between the breeding areas of the two sub-species.
Within New Zealand, A. australis schmidtii is extremely plentiful in all lakes and rivers of the Auckland Province, and appears to be equally plentiful over the whole of the North Island, but is less common in the South Island. I have observed it in countless numbers in the Piako River, and there are large numbers of them in the lakes at the Western Springs and Zoological Park. None, however, that have come under my notice attained the great size of A. dieffenbachii, the largest I have seen being 715 mm. long; but they are known to exceed this.
Key to New Zealand Genera.
Teeth of Jaws juxtaposed to form a cutting edge
1. Leptocephalus Scopoli.
Jaw-teeth in bands, not forming a cutting edge
2. Poutawa n. gen.
Genus Leptocephalus Scopoli 1777.
|Leptocaphalus Scopoli, Int. Hist. Nat., p. 453 (not Leptocephalus Basilewsky 1855, another genus of fishes).|
|Conger Jordan, Gen. Fishes, i, 1917, pp. 22, 37, and 101; and ii, 1919, p. 167.|
Key to New Zealand Species.
Origin of dorsal in line with posterior margin of pectoral; body between head and vent increasing considerably in depth
1. L. verreauxi (Kaup).
Origin of dorsal more than half the length of the pectoral behind that fin; body increasing only slightly in depth between head and vent
2. L. labiatus (Castelnau).
Leptocephalus verreauxi (Kaup). (Plate 6, figs. 1, 1a.)
Conger verreauxi Kaup, in Arch. Naturg. xxii, p. 72, 1856. Conger vulgaris Hutton (not of Cuvier 1816) Cat. Fish. N.Z., pp. 66 and 132, 1872; G. M. Thomson, Trnas. N.Z. Inst., 24, p. 214, 1892. Leptocephalus conger Waite (not of Linnaeus 1735), Rec. Cant. Mus., 1, p. 164, 1911; Phillipps, N.Z. Journ. Sci. and Tech., 4, pp. 119 and 125, 1921; Phillipps, N.Z. Journ. Sci. and Tech., 5, p. 94, 1922. Leptocephalus labiatus Phillipps (not of Castelnau), N.Z. Journ. Sci. and Tech., vol. 23, p. 229, 1932.
Whitley brings to my notice that the common Conger of New Zealand and Australia was named Conger verreauxi by Kaup as long ago as 1856, and suggests that now is the proper time to re-establish the name. He also points out that the type probably came from Tasmania, where Verreaux collected.
Kaup's description, translated, is as follows:—“Tip of the narrow pectoral fin not reaching origin of dorsal. Colour black, with brown lateral line. Total length 305 mm., length of tail 190 mm., to gills 40 mm., pectoral 12 mm.”
The type appears by the measurements to be quite a small specimen, and doubtless the characters given would alter considerably with age. The common Conger is very abundant in New Zealand seas, particularly so in the South Island, where large numbers are caught on the east and west coasts and in Cook Strait. At certain times it is common around Auckland and in the Bay of Plenty, but it is much less plentiful in the extreme north.
Leptocephalus labiatus (Castelnau). (Plate 6, figs. 2, 2a, 2b.)
Conger labiatus Castelnau, Pro. Linn. Soc. N.S. Wales, vol. 3, p. 396, 1879.
Leptocephalus mongianus, Phillipps, N.Z. Journ. Sci. and Tech., vol. 13, no. 4, p. 230, 1932.
I have carefully compared a good specimen of L. labiatus, 500 mm. long, from Moreton Bay, Queensland, with Phillipps' type of L. mongianus 904 mm. long, and find that except for differences due to the larger size of the latter they are identical. I have therefore included L. mongianus as a synonym of the Australian L. labiatus. L. labiatus is apparently a rare species in New Zealand, the specimen obtained by Phillipps at Mangonui, North Auckland District, appearing to be the only record of its occurrence in our seas.
Genus Poutawa n. gen.
Poutawa habenata Richardson. (Little conger eel.) (Plate 7, fig. 2, text-figs. 3 and 4.)
Congrus habenatus Richardson, Voy. Ereb. and Terr., Fish, p. 109, pl. 50, figs. 1–5, 1848. Congermuraena habenata Richardson, Hutton, Cat. Fish. New Zealand, p. 66, 1872; McCulloch, Check-list Fish. N.S. Wales, p. 23, 1922. Gnathophis habenata Phillipps, N.Z. Marine Dept. Bull., no. 1, p. 17, 1927.
In dealing with this species a new generic name has been provided on the advice of Mr Whitley, who informs me that Congermuraena Kaup (Archiv. Naturg., xxii, 1, 1856, p. 71) has no standing because Bleeker selected Muraena balearica De la Roche as the genotype. This action (notwithstanding the objections of Ogilby, Jordan, and others) makes Congermuraena a synonym of Arisoma Swainson (Nat. Hist. Fish, i, Oct., 1838, p. 220) which in Vol. 2 Swainson
called Ophisoma by mistake. The type of this is also the Mediterranean Muraena balearica, which is quite distinct from habenata or longicauda.
This species never seems to grow to a large size, the longest I have noted being Richardson's specimen from Cook Strait which was 12.7 inches in length. Richardson's plate (50) in the Voy. Ereb. and Terror is an exact representation of this eel, which differs from other members of the family in the form and arrangement of the teeth (text-figs. 3 and 4), the greater forward position of the dorsal fin, the position of the angle of the jaw, which does not extend past the centre of the eye, and the strongly marked chevroned body-musclature, which is very characteristic. Vertebrae 44+78. Colour: Head and body honey coloured, only a little paler on the ventral surface. Fins same as body colour margined with greyish-black, the margin being almost black towards and round the tip of the tail. The relative length of the tail is subject to considerable variation, but it is always longer than the trunk. The following scale will serve to illustrate this variation in four specimens, three of which came from the Manukau Harbour, Auckland, and one from Sydney, N.S. Wales.
The New Zealand Little Conger Eel is very similar to the Australian longicauda, the type of which is in the Australian Museum under the name of Congromuraena longicauda Ramsay and Ogilby (Proc. Linn. Soc. N.S. Wales (2), ii, 4, Mar. 21, 1888, p. 1022. The tail in this species is subject to considerable variation in length, but in every other respect it so much agrees with habenata that I have questioned whether it should not be regarded as synonymous with the latter. However, it will be necessary to examine a long series of both the New Zealand and Australian forms before this matter can be settled, and therefore I propose, in the meantime, to leave the Australian species separate.
Localities: Cook Strait (type); “Nora Niven” Stations (Waite) No. 7 (off coast of S.E. Otago) and 89 (off Cape Runaway), specimens obtained from stomachs of Ling and Dory; Auckland and Manukau Harbours.
Key to New Zealand Genera.
|Vertical fins, well-developed, with rays visible throughout greater part of their length||Gymnothorax.|
|Vertical fins for the most part reduced to low fatty folds, the rays visible only at the posterior end||Uropterygius.|
Genus Gymnothorax Bloch.
|Gymnothorax Bloch, Nat. Aus. Fische, ix, p. 83, 1795 (fide Sherborn). Logotype, Gymnothorax reticularis Bloch.|
Key to New Zealand Species.
Dorsal equal to or higher than half the height of the body.
Dorsal lower, less than half the height of the body.
Gymnothorax prasinus (Richardson). (Yellow eel; Puharakehe.) (Plate 6, fig. 3.)
Muraena prasina Richardson, Voy. Ereb. and Terror, p. 93, 1847. Muraena krullii Hector, Trans. N.Z. Inst., 9, 468, pl. viii, fig. 107a, 1877; Phillipps, N.Z. Journ. Sci. and Tech., 4, p. 119, 1921. Gymnothorax prasinus McCulloch, Check-list Fish. N.S. Wales, p. 24, 1922; Griffin, Trans. N.Z. Inst., 56, p. 539, 1926; Phillipps, Marine Dept. Bull., No. 1, p. 18, 1927; McCulloch, Check-list Fish., Memoir V, pt. 1, p. 71, 1929. Verdithorax prasinus Whitley, Aust. Zoologist, vol. vi, pt. iv, p. 311, 1931.
Maxillary teeth 12 or more on each side, with one or two very small ones between. Intermaxillary series of about 9 stoutly subulate compressed teeth. Mesial row with 2 tall fangs followed by 7 or 8 small teeth of unequal height. Some of the intermaxillary teeth are depressable. Dorsal fin very low and adipose with a narrow membranous margin, more pronounced near the extremity of the tail.
This is the common green or yellow eel of New Zealand, and may be readily recognised from its uniform green or yellow colour when first caught. It appears to be equally common in New South Wales, but Hector regarded the New Zealand fish as a different species and named it Muraena krullii. With the view to clearing away any doubts regarding Hector's nomenclature, I forwarded a fine specimen of this eel to the late A. R. McCulloch for comparison with the one found in New South Wales, and he later informed me that our species krulli was synonymous with their Gymnothorax prasinus. He added, “that the dentition of the species is very variable, and that he had seen none in which it quite agrees with
Richardson's description, but there is no room for doubt as to the identity of the New South Wales species, and that the New Zealand specimen agreed in all details with Australian specimen of similar size.”
Localities: Very common in all rocky situations, particularly in the northern part of New Zealand.
Gymnothorax prionodon Ogilby.
Gymnothorax prionodon Ogilby, Proc. Linn. Soc. N.S. Wales (2), ix, 4, p. 720, 1895; McCulloch, Check-list Fish. N.S. Wales, p. 24, 1922; Griffin, Trans. N.Z. Inst., 56, p. 538, p. 93, 1926; Phillipps, Marine Dept. Bull. No. 1, p. 18, 1927; McCulloch, Check-list, Memoir V, pt. 1, p. 74.
Teeth in both jaws almost uniform, fixed, acute, slightly recurved. I count 14 above and 16 below. Intermaxillary teeth 3, subulate (missing in older specimens). Palatine teeth 7. The dorsal has its origin at the back of the head well in advance of the gill opening, and is of moderate height, very fleshy at the base. Whole of the body and fins covered with gristle-like spots, more or less rounded and detached in small specimens, but arranged in confluent groups of two or three in large specimens. Spots on head and tail smaller. One specimen is dark greenish-brown, the others are a deep purple-brown, the colour not changing much after long immersion in formalin. The spots are of a pale dirty cream colour, and render this eel a very conspicuous object.
This species was first recognised in New Zealand in 1926, when two specimens taken in the Auckland Provincial waters were forwarded to the Auckland Museum. These two were sent to the late Allan McCulloch for a comparison with the type, and in writing later he made the following observations:—“The type of the species is a young specimen and has no vomerine teeth, and its maxillary ones are not so uniform as in your largest specimen, but these differ in your two, the vomerine teeth being proportionately smaller in the younger of your specimens. In very young examples I believe you will find the vomerine teeth undeveloped.” It is obvious from McCulloch's observations that the teeth in this species are subject to considerable variation and no certain reliance can be placed on them. This I think applies to most members of the family. In a large specimen before me, the intermaxillary teeth are missing altogether, while the palatine teeth appear to be reduced to one large one followed by two smaller only.
The type is believed to have been taken in Port Jackson Harbour and is preserved in the Australian Museum, Sydney.
Localities: Great Barrier, Mokohinau and Alderman Islands. Sister Rocks, Bay of Islands.
Gymnothorax meleagris (Shaw).
Muraena meleagris Shaw, Nat. Misc., pl. 220. Gen. Zool., iv, 1, p. 32, 1803; Richardson, Voy. Ereb. and Terr., Fish, p. 93, 1847. Muraena chlorostigma Bleeker, Nat. Tyds, Ned. Ind., XV, p. 160, 1853; Atl. Ichth., p. 97, pl. 34, 1864. Thyrsoidea meleagris Kaup, Apod., p. 91 (copied from Richardson) and Thyrsoidea Kaup, Apod., p. 89, 1870. Gymnothorax meleagris Shaw, Griffin, Trans. N.Z. Inst., vol. 58, p. 138, pl. 10, 1927.
Head 4 in trunk or 7 ¾ in the total length, height of body 12 ¾ in the length and 6 ½ in trunk. Eye 12 ½ in head and 2 ½ in snout. Gill-opening rather more than twice the diameter of the eye. Anterior nasal tube ½ the diameter of the eye. Mouth 2 in head. Colour rich chestnut brown, minutely and uniformly speckled with cream-coloured granulations of various forms. Eye black with a red and gold outer ring. Total length 1020 mm. from tip of snout to tail. Snout to gill-opening 118 mm. snout to vent 525 mm. greatest height of body at gill-opening 102 mm.
Locality: Captured in deep water off White Island, an active volcano in the Bay of Plenty; the only New Zealand record, though several others are said to have been captured at the same time, but not saved.
The species was first recorded by Shaw in 1803, and his type (preserved in the British Museum) was described by Richardson in 1847. It was said to have been taken in the Southern Ocean. Guenther, in the B.M. Cat. Fish., vol. viii, p. 100, records it from the Seychelle and Fiji Islands, Java, Mauritius, and Zanzibar. It thus appears to have a wide geographical distribution
Gymnothorax nubila (Richardson).
Muraena nubila Richardson, Voy. Ereb. and Terror, Fish, p. 81, pl. xlvi, figs. 6–10, 1847; Regan, Voy. Terra Nova, Zool., no. 1, p. 14 (name only), 1914; Phillipps, N.Z. Marine Dept. Bull., no. 1, p. 17, 1927. Gymnothorax nubilus Griffin, Trans. N.Z. Inst., vol. 59, p. 374, pl. 56, 1928.
Head in trunk 2, in total length 6.737. Depth of body 11.429 in the total length. Eye in head 9.5, and nearly 2 in the snout. Anterior nasal tube ¾ the eye. Mouth rather more than 2 in the head. Teeth in jaws broadly compressed, 12 in the upper, with three short ones in front, and thirteen on each side of the lower jaw, with two short ones in front. Vomerine teeth 1, palatines 10.
Colour: Uniform ochraceous tawny of Ridgway's Colour Standards, plate 15, the ventral surface being mineral-grey of the same work, pl. 47.* A series of sixteen rather large nebulous blotches equidistant along the mesial line of the body. These commence just in front of the gill-opening and end on the tail, where they are somewhat indistinct. These blotches and the pure white margin of the whole of the anal fin, and the last quarter of the dorsal fin, render this eel a very conspicuous object and provide an easy means of identification.
Measurements: Total length 640 mm., trunk 190 mm., head 95 mm., greatest depth 56 mm., eye 10 mm.
Locality and Distribution: A fine specimen taken at the Sister Rocks near Cape Brett, Bay of Islands, March, 1928. Richardson records this species from the seas of Australia and Mauritius, but I cannot find any record of its occurrence in Australian seas. The Cape Brett specimen is the only record for New Zealand.
[Footnote] * Colour Standard and Nomenclature, Ridgway, Washington, D.C., 1912.
Gymnothorax ramosus Griffin.
Gymnothorax ramosus Griffin, Trans. N. Z. Inst., vol. 56, p. 539, pl. 94, 1926.
Length of head 8 ½ in total or 7 ½ in the trunk. Height of body ½ the length of the head, or rather more than 5 in trunk or 8 in the tail. Eye 10 in head or 2 in snout; gill-opening subequal with the eye; anterior nasal tube equal to the width of the eye. Snout 5 ¼ in the head; mouth 2 ½ in same. Teeth in jaws 14 above and below; palatine teeth 10, vomerine (when present) 2. The jawteeth are uniserial, subtriangular and acute, their tips directed slightly backward, getting gradually smaller towards the angle. Vomerine teeth (when present) subulate and depressable. None of the teeth are serrated. Colour golden brown covered with broad well-defined dark brown reticulations, beneath which is a conspicuous network of very small reticulations of the same colour as the larger ones. The network extends over the whole body and as far as the outer margin of the dorsal fin, but the anterior part of the head is free of the broader bands. Dorsal fin narrowly margined with white between the reticulations; anal wholly margined with white.
The Museum has received two specimens of this striking eel, both from the same locality. It cannot be regarded as common, as no others have been recorded since the first description was published in 1926. The type is the smaller of the two, the full-grown one having been skinned (excepting the head) prior to being sent to the Museum. A close examination disclosed no differences except the presence of vomerine teeth in the larger specimen, which were apparently undeveloped in the type.
Locality: Type and paratype from Whangaroa and near Bay of Islands, North Auckland.
In writing regarding this eel, McCulloch stated that it closely resembled a species from Lord Howe Island which he had previously identified as Gymnothorax berndti Snyder (Bull. U.S. Fish. Comms., vol. 22, pl. 4, and vol. 23, pl. 15), the striking colour-marking of the two being very similar; but the teeth are different, those in the Lord Howe specimens being long and subulate, with a long row of vomerine teeth; while the eye is much smaller and there is a broader space separating the eye from the mouth.
Uropterygius Ruppell, New Wirbelth Abyssin., Fische, p. 38, 1838. Haplotype, Uropterygius concolor Ruppell.
Key to the New Zealand Species.
Skin pale chocolate profusely covered with small cream spots not margined with a deeper colour 1. U. tuhua (Griffin). Skin yellowish-brown covered less profusely with larger bluish-white spots each margined with purplish-brown 2. U. shirleyi (Griffin).
Uropterygius tuhua (Griffin).
Muraena tuhua Griffin, Trans. N.Z. Inst., vol. 63, p. 171, pl. 24, fig. 2, 1933.
Head 4.261 in trunk, 4.722 in the tail or 8.983 in the total length. Depth 12.438 in total length. Eye 16.364 in the head and 3.364 in the snout. Anterior nasal tube rather longer than depth of the eye. Gill-opening subequal with the eye. Teeth in jaws 24 above, 21 below. Palatine teeth 11, vomerine 4. Teeth, an outer series in both jaws, compressed, subulate and acute, their bases well covered with grisly membrane. A few longer subulate depressable ones in the upper jaw only, forming an inner series. Four long fangs on the mesial line, the first fixed, the three following depressable. Palatine teeth small, acute. In this large species no lateral line is found, and the branchiostegal sac shows no outward indications of the internal structure. The dorsal origin is the vertical from the gill-opening; anteriorly it is extremely low, gradually reaching its highest point above the vent; it has the appearance of thickened skin and shows no trace of rays. The anal is similar to the dorsal.
Colour: Whole of body light chocolate colour profusely covered with a confused pattern of pale yellow or cream-coloured markings of a great variety of shapes and sizes and not margined with a deeper colour. The markings are smaller and rather more crowded on the head, abdominal region and tail.
Length from the tip of snout to tail 1617 mm. Head 180 mm., snout 37 mm., mouth to angle 73 mm., eye 11 mm., tip of snout to middle of vent 767 mm., middle of vent to tip of tail 850 mm., greatest height of body 130 mm.
After reading my paper describing this eel, Whitley suggested it might possibly be the New South Wales Uropterygius obesus and very kindly forwarded a small specimen of the latter for comparison. The following observed differences, however, justify their separation: In U. obesus the lower jaw is longer, 17 teeth in each jaw, all depressable; no teeth on the vomer or palate. Lateral line strongly marked. Posterior nostrils with scarcely an elevated rim. In U. tuhua the jaws are equal; the teeth are more numerous, outer series fixed in both jaws, a few subulate depressable ones in the upper jaw only as an inner series. Teeth present on the vomer followed by four long fangs, the first fixed, three following depressable, eleven teeth on the palate. Posterior nostrils in a short, stout tube surmounted with a thickened rim. No lateral line.
Locality: Taken in August, 1928, in 80 fathoms 15 miles south-east of Mayor Island (Tuhua), in the Bay of Plenty. It is probably a rare species frequenting deep water.
Uropterygius shirleyi (Griffin).
Muraena shirleyi Griffin, Trans. N.Z. Inst., vol. 63, p. 172, pl. 24, fig. 1, 1933.
Head 7.36, height of body 10.3 in the total length. Eye 14, gape 2.15 in the head. Gill-opening equal to diameter of the eye. Anterior nasal tube three-quarters the diameter of the eye. Teeth in jaws 20 above, 24 below. Palatine teeth four, vomerine two. Teeth in the jaws fixed, uniserial, compressed, subtriangular and acute,
directed slightly backwards, becoming smaller towards the angle. Vomerine teeth smaller than those in the jaws, followed by two depressable subulate fangs (left out by mistake in the original text-figure) with a considerable gap between the latter and the three very small palatine teeth.
Anterior nasal tube short and stout; posterior nasal tube very short and stout, placed above the first quarter of the eye. Branchiostegal sac only moderately developed, but the lines showing the branchi beneath are very pronounced. Origin of the dorsal is on the nape, while that of the anal is adjoining the vent. Both fins surround the tail. In the drawing of this eel, the dorsal fin appears too high, but this is accounted for by the fact that the fin had been pulled up in order to disclose the spots and rays which were only just observable. Actually the fin is extremely low and flabby, but is capable of being elevated as stated above. The anal is extremely low, fitting close to the body, and cannot be examined without being pulled out.
Colour: Yellowish-brown lightly shaded with purple-brown on the ventral surface. Margins of the dorsal and anal dark brown. The opalescent bluish-white spots with purplish-brown margins on the body and fins render this eel a very bright and conspicuous object.
Length 1,030 mm. from tip of snout to tip of tail. Head 140 mm., snout 30 mm., mouth 65 mm., eye 10 mm., trunk 495 mm., tail 535 mm. greatest height of body 100 mm.
Locality: Taken on the line in deep water off the Mokohinau Islands, Auckland. It is the only specimen I have seen. It is probably a rare species frequenting rocky places in deep water well off the coast.
Genus Muraenichthys Bleeker.
Muraenichthys Bleeker, Nat. Tijdschr. Dierk., ii, p. 117; Orthoty e M. gymnopterus Bleeker, 1865. Scolecenchelys Ogilby, Pro. Linn. Soc. N.S, Wales, xxii (2), p. 246; Orthotype Muraenichthys australis Macleay, 1897.
Key to New Zealand Species.
|1. Origin of dorsal behind vent.||1. M. australis Macleay.|
|2. Origin of dorsal far in front of vent, nearer head than vent||2. M. brevieeps Guenther.|
Muraenichthys australis Maeleay.
Muraenichthys gymnotus ? Guenther, Chall. Rep. Zool., i, p. 30, (nec Bleeker), 1880. Muraenichthys australis Macleay, Pro. Linn. Soc. N.S. Wales, vi. p. 272, 1881; McCulloch, Endeav. Res., i, pt. 1, p. 20, fig. 6, 1911; Griffin, Trans. N.Z, Inst., 54, p. 247, pl. 20, fig. 1, 1923; Phillipps, N.Z. Marine Dept. Bull, No. 1, p. 18, 1927; McCulloch, Check-list Fish. Australia, memoir v. pt. 1, p. 67, 1929.
Head in trunk 5.35, depth of body in same 21.4. Eye in head 13.333. Eye in snout 3.333. Body cylindrical, worm-like, with a very small eye and obtusely pointed snout. Cleft of mouth extending well behind the eye. A longitudinal fold below the end of the mouth. Anterior nostril is a short tube projected downwards, and provided with a minute exterior lobe. A membranous flap overhanging the lip covers the posterior nostril, which is found to be a small slit under the lip, just below and before the eye. Cardiform teeth in a single row in both jaws and a median row on the palate. Gill-opening about as wide as the eye. Branchiostegal sac not greatly developed. Lateral line strongly arched above the branchial sac, then passes straight to the caudal following a line rather nearer the dorsal than the ventral surface. Dorsal fin extremely low, its origin fully the length of the mouth behind the origin of the anal, and at a great distance from the head. This is characteristic of the species and separates it from the allied species in New Zealand (M. breviceps), which has the dorsal origin greatly in advance of the anal.
Colour: When alive, dorsal surface as far as or beyond the lateral line pale golden-brown with clusters of minute darker-brown dots. Sides somewhat lighter. Ventral surface pale bluish-silver. Branchiostegal sac bright bluish silver with the radii slightly deeper blue. Tip of tail and posterior dorsal and anal rays lemon yellow.
Length 247 mm. Taken in Whangarei Harbour, where it was found at a depth of 9 inches below the surface of a sandy mud-flat at low tide mark among the common marine grass.
Muraenichthys breviceps Guenther.
Muraenichthys macyopterus Klunzinger, Arch. Nat., xxviii, 1, p. 43 (nec Bleeker), 1872 (?). Muraenichthys breviceps Guenther, Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. (4), xvii, p. 401, 1876; McCulloch. Endeav. Res., i, pt. 1, p. 21, fig. 7, 1911; Griffin, Trans. N.Z. Inst., 53, p. 351, pl. liv, fig. 1, 1921; Phillipps, Marine Dept. Bull., no. 1, p. 18, 1927; McCulloch, Check-list Fish., memoir v, pt. 1. p. 67.
Body worm-like, its depth being rather more than 3 in the head. Head 3 ½ in the trunk or 10 in the total length of the fish. Eye very small, 3 in the snout. Snout short and broad, 4 ½ in the head.
Muscles on the occiput swollen, rendering the upper profile concave. Anterior nostril in a small tube near end of snout, projected downwards, the orifice divided by a thin membrane forming two openings. A flap overhanging the lips covers the posterior nostril, which is situated just before and below the eye. Cleft of mouth extending far behind the eye. Teeth granular, obtusely pointed, arranged in a triple series on the palate, and a single series in the jaws. Dorsal and anal fins exceedingly low, placed within a shallow groove; they extend round the end of the tail.
Total length 620 mm., vent to tip of snout 250 mm., tip of snout to origin of dorsal 96 mm., middle of eye to tip of snout 11 mm. depth of body 18 mm.
Colour: Uniformly light brown densely crowded with minute dark brown dots which are scarcely visible to the naked eye. Below the lateral line it is much paler, and shows the muscular structure through the skin.
Localities: Tasman Bay, near Nelson, N.Z., South Island. Manukau Harbour, Auckland, also from St. Francis Island, South Australia.
Genus Ophisurus Lacepede 1800.
Ophisurus Lacepede, Hist. Nat. Poiss., ii, p. 195; Logotype, O. serpens Lacepede = Muraena serpens Linnaeus, 1800. Oxystomus Rafinesque, Ind. Ittiol. Siciliana, pp. 49 and 62; Type O. hyalinus Rafinesque (fide Jordan, Gen. Fish.), 1810. Ophisurus Risso, Hist. Nat. Europ. Merid., iii, pp. 103 and 206; Haplotype, O. serpens (Linn.), 1826.
Ophisurus serpens (Linnaeus). (Plate 7, fig. 1; text-fig. 6.)
Muraena serpens Linnaeus, Syst. Nat., ed. 10, 1758, p. 244; ed. 12, 1766, p. 425; based on Artedi, gen. syn. 41 [Southern European seas]. Leptorhynchus capensis Smith, Illustr. Zool. S. Africa, Pisces, pl. 6 [Table Bay], 1840. Ophisurus macrorhynchos Bleeker, Verh. Bat. Gen., xxv, Muraen., pp. 9 and 28 [Kaminoeski, Japan] (?), 1853. Ophisurus novae-zelandiae Hector, Trans. N.Z. Inst., vol. 2, p. 34, pl. iii, 1870. Ophichthys serpens Linn., Hutton, Cat. Fish. N.Z., p. 66 (not of Linn.), 1872. Ophisurus serpens = Muraena serpens Linn., McCulloch, Checklist, Fish. N.S. Wales, p. 25, 1922. Ophisurus novae-zealandiae, Phillipps, N.Z. Marine Dept. Bull., no. 1, p. 18. Ophisurus serpens McCulloch, Check-list, Fish. Australia, memoir v, p. 68.
Head in trunk 5.208, in tail 7.134. Depth in trunk 12.5, eye in head 18. Teeth in the jaws uniserial, fixed. In the upper jaw there are two pairs of acute subulate teeth standing on either side at the apex. These are followed by four stout subulate ones on the mesial line. There is then a considerable interspace, when eight smaller acute teeth slightly bent backwards are found, terminating the mesial line. About 28 sharp, triangular, slightly hooked teeth on the sides of the jaws, with an inner series of about 13–14 very small acute ones extending well back towards the angle. The mandibular series are similar to the teeth on the sides in the upper jaw. The teeth in this species appear to be very variable in position
and number. This is doubtless due to injury done during the life of the fish. Specimens in the Auckland Museum show many with their teeth broken, or entirely missing.
Angle of mouth extends far behind the eye. Rather large pores are present round the eye, on the lower jaw, and from the angle of the mouth, throughout the entire length of the lateral line. Dorsal fin commences a little behind the pectoral; it is low and many rayed and of uniform height throughout. The anal fin with its origin slightly posterior to the vent is of a similar character. Both fins end about equally, leaving the tip of tail free.
Colour: Golden brown above and on sides, showing the muscular structure, greyish-silver below. The fins are transparent pale brown finely margined in black. Eye greenish-silver and blue-black.
Distribution: This is a very widely distributed species. It is quite common in New Zealand seas, where it attains a large size. It is also common in New South Wales, Western Australia, Tasmania, Japan, the Mediterranean, and South Africa.
Length 2,666 mm. The head is 216 mm., trunk 1,125 mm., tail 1,541 mm., depth of body 90 mm., eye 12 mm.
Locality: Great Barrier Island, 17/8/33. Others from Bay of Islands, Manukau Harbour, Auckland Harbour, and the Bay of Plenty.