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The Atoll of Funafuti, Ellice group : its zoology, botany, ethnology and general structure based on collections made by Charles Hedley of the Australian Museum, Sydney, N.S.W.


Amongst the Muscadæ procured four appear to be new to science, and are herewith described and figured. Other specimens obtained at Funafuti were so mangled by the natives who caught them as to be absolutely useless.

Speaking of the flies, Mr. Hedley says:—" They were a great nuisance; they swarmed on the ship's boats as they came ashore, and on their return invaded the vessel, to which they kept for page 96several days after leaving the land. The mosquitoes of several kinds, larger and smaller, were an intolerable nuisance, not only to the whites but also to the natives. On the lee side of Funafuti neither black nor white could snatch an hour's sleep at night without the protection of curtains. Before civilisation mats were used for this purpose on Funafuti. Writing of Stewart's Islands in 1851, Mr. John Webster says *:—'A screen of fine matting was let clown from the ceiling and surrounded my bed to keep out mosquitoes and other noxious insects.' To avoid the mosquitoes the natives often crossed the islet and slept on the windward side. The small islets on the leeward side of the atoll were much freer from these pests, and I have slept there all night in comfort in the open."

Although mosquitoes have been known to the natives of these islands, probably from time immemorial, there is no doubt that some species have been introduced by the agency of traders, for the few brought home by Mr. Hedley show that Culex hispioclosus, Sk., and Megarrhina inornata, Walk.—the former common in Australia and the latter in New Guinea—have each taken up their abode in the Ellice Group. The Rev. Dr. W. Wyatt Gill, writing of the mosquitoes in the Hervey Islands, says:—" There are some islands where this annoying insect was until lately unknown. The old men of Penrhyns, Rakaanga, and Manihiki assure me that no mosquito was ever seen on those atolls until some years after the introduction of Christianity. Although mosquitoes were (accidentally) conveyed to Penrhyns and Ra-kaanga in 1859, and to Manihiki so lately as 1862, in water-casks filled at Raratonga, they are plentiful in all three islands." Again, Mr. Woodford in his paper on " The Gilbert Islands," says:—"Mosquitoes occurred on some islands; on others, as at Kuria, I did not notice them."

Looking over Mr. Hedley's memoranda, I read the following interesting note, describing the ingenious method adopted by the natives at Funafuti for the purpose of capturing insects:—"Mosquitoes and other insects were caught thus by the natives: a forked stick was converted into a hoop by tying together the arms of the fork. This was passed over and over through the snares of the orb-weaving spiders till the hoop was filled by a membrane of glutinous spider-threads. By this any insect would be struck and meshed."

So far as fleas are concerned, Mr. Hedley says that notwithstanding the fact that all conditions suitable for their propagation are present, they are unknown at Funafuti.

page 97

The following are the species obtained:—