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.
Epinephelus urodelus, Cuv. & Val.
Epinephelus urodelus, Cuv. & Val., sp., Hist. Nat., ii., p. 306; Günther, Fische der Südsee, p. 3, pl. iii., fig. a.
This brilliantly coloured "rock-cod" is called "Matiri" by the natives, and the only example obtained is of the variety with the white convergent lines on the tail.
Epinephelus leopardus, Lacépède.
Epinephelus leopardus Lacepede, sp., Poiss., iii., p. 517, pl. xxx., fig. 1; Günther, Fische der Südsee, p. 4, pl. iii., fig. b.
Although many of the Serranidse are nearly allied, I have no doubt that the only specimen available is correctly assigned to the present species. In addition to its comparative proportions it agrees well with Günther's figure, the black band on the upper lobe of the tail is however alone developed.
Epinephelus tauvina, Forsk
Epinephelus tauvina, Forsk., sp., Descr. Anim., p. 39 Bleeker, Atlas Ichth., pl. cclxxxiii., fig. 1.
Greatly esteemed as food on the island and fished for with hook and line, both within the lagoon and from the outer reefs. In the absence of a good series (having only one example) I cannot be certain of the identification, its characters, however, agree most nearly with the descriptions of this widely distributed Indo-Pacific species. It is evidently a young fish, measuring only 272 millim.
The native name is "Mou."
Epinephelus merra, Bloch., Ausl. Fische, vii., p. 17, pl. cccxxix.; Günther, Fische der Südsee, p. 7, pl. vii.
One example of the typical form, namely no white spots on the body, and the pectorals with round black spots. This species so far as could be ascertained did not frequent the lagoon, at least it was not caught there, but Mr. Hedley hooked some off the outer reef, where they entered the crevasses and took the bait greedily. The natives, it appears, at the time of the Expedition, only fished the lagoon, all species from the reefs being indiscriminately condemned.
Quantities of pumice were recently washed on to the beach, and several of the inhabitants became ill and one died after eating fish caught from the reefs. As this was supposed to be in consequence of the presence of the pumice, the fish were condemned, but will again be utilised when the pumice ceases to be thrown up. This ban did not refer to fishes caught in the lagoon, which was free from pumice.
As pumice is a harmless substance, Mr. Hedley suggests that its occurrence was coincident with the arrival of some marine organism, which might vitiate the food supply of the fish, and thus indirectly have a harmful effect upon the natives.
In this connection Wyatt Gill writes *:—"On the outer edge of our coral reefs exists a sea-centipede (Nereis), in appearance like a black thread slowly moving amongst the rugged submarine growths. The āe attains the length of five or six feet. Good fish become poisonous through feeding on these sea-centipedes.
"Strangely enough, fish that are excellent eating on one island may be poisonous on another. Thus the dainty matakiva of Mangaia is poisonous on the neighbouring island of Mitiaro. A chief of that atoll, hearing that it is much prized in Mangaia, page 183concluded it was a mere fancy of his countrymen that it should be hurtful at Mitiaro. Accordingly, he ate one, and died a few hours afterwards."
The native name of this species is "Natala," and the size of the specimen preserved 198 millim.
Lutianus Bengalensis, Bloch.
Lutianus bengalensis, Bloch., sp., Fisch., pl. ccxlvi., fig. 2, Bl. Schn., p. 316; Temm. & Schleg., Fauna Japon. Poiss., pl. vi., fig. 2.
Attaining a length of ten inches this fish is a valuable source of food supply, and two names were obtained for it, namely "Savani" and "Tumti." After the large depopulation of the island of Funafuti by American slave traders, immigrants arrived from adjacent shores. Mr. Hedley therefore supposes that one of these names was imported from some neighbouring tribe.
A very young example of only 38 millim., and without doubt of this species, is, as is common with young forms, much more spiniferous than the adult. The preopercle is strongly denticulated, and is produced into a strong spine at the angle.
Lutianus gibbus, Forsk.
Lutianus gibbus, Forsk., sp., Descr. Anim., p. 46; Günther, Fische der Südsee, p. 12, pl. xii.
The native name "Teia" is identical with that recorded by Günther "Taea," as in use in the Society Islands. The specimen which has attained its adult colouration measures 270 millim.
Lutianus fulviflamma, Forsk.
Lutianus fulviflamma, Forsk., sp., Descr. Anim., p. 45; Bleeker, Atlas Ichth., pl. ccc, fig. 2,
The only specimen received serves to extend the known range of the species.
* Gill—Life in the Southern Isles, 1876, p. 274.