Old Samoa or Flotsam and Jetsam from the Pacific Ocean
Chapter VIII — Natural History of Samoa
Natural History of Samoa
The natural history of Samoa presents much that is interesting to naturalists, since, although at the first contact with Europeans the mammals were most limited, the birds peculiar to the group were numerous, and of many species, one of them at least being not simply unique but original and isolated, Samoa being its only known habitat, and even there it is fast becoming extinct. This bird, the now celebrated Manu Mea, or red bird of the natives, the (Didunculus Strigirostris) tooth-billed pigeon of science, is the sole known representative of the long extinct dodo, and as such has excited much interest in the scientific world. A small species of Apteryx (O le Puna'e), the springer-up, was also found on Samoa. It is smaller than the New Zealand species, but closely resembles it otherwise. This bird also is nearly extinct.
At the time of first contact with Europeans the only mammals found on Samoa were dogs, cats, pigs, and rats, the three former, if not the latter, having been apparently introduced into the islands by the original settlers, or from later intercourse. Others have since been introduced, and have thriven well, horses, cattle, and goats being now abundant.page 187
The dog, Maile or Uli, from u, to bite, and li, to grin, or show the teeth, was found on all the islands, but the breeds having become so much mixed it is difficult to say what was the original stock. I think it was a small breed, with sharp-pointed ears, traces of which are sometimes seen. Dogs were formerly eaten by the Samoans, as at other islands; of late years, however, the practice has been discontinued. Many dogs had run wild in the forests, and occasionally came down to the settlements-and made a dismal howling as they prowled about and searched for food. I once got a glimpse of one at a distance, in the bush, but it was very shy.
The pig (Pua'a), or root-bolter, from pu, to bolt or swallow whole, and a'a, root, was much esteemed for food, and reared largely. The present breed is much superior to the gaunt-looking animals shown in Capt. Cook's Voyages, as found by him on some of the islands, the breed having been improved from outside contact. Although not generally eaten at their ordinary family meals, pigs were largely consumed by the natives on many occasions, such as festivals of various kinds and large family gatherings. They were also largely sold to shipping, and from being mostly fed with cocoanuts, were delicate eating and much appreciated. Wild pigs were abundant in the forests, and were frequently hunted by the natives for food, although the flesh is stronger than that of the tame pig. In their wild state they are often very fierce, especially the old boars, which, when brought to bay, frequently inflict dangerous wounds, difficult to heal.
The cat, Ngosi, or Ngeli, was also known as pusi, and largely domesticated, being found in most houses. page 188These animals have also become wild in great numbers, and prove most destructive to many kinds of birds, especially those roosting in stumps and low bushes. One or two species of great interest have been almost exterminated by them of late years, especially the Manu Mea and Apteryx, both of scientific value.
The rat, O le Imoa, not much larger than a good-sized field-mouse, is sometimes very troublesome and destructive. A curious circumstance respecting this animal may be mentioned. The bait used in the capture of the fe'e, or cuttlefish, is made of wickerwork in the shape of a rat, in which are placed small stones, so that it forms a sort of child's rattle. The origin of this singular custom, as described in an old tradition, is as follows:—The rat and the cuttlefish fought, and the cuttlefish was defeated; hence long-cherished anger and feud has existed between them. In consequence of this, whenever the rat-shaped bait is rattled before the cuttlefish, its anger is excited at the sight of its old opponent, causing it to spring upon the bait and be captured. This old tradition of the feud between the rat and the cuttlefish is well known to the natives, and often quoted by them in their speeches.
Of bats there are two species—a large one, O le Pe'a (Pteropus ruficolus), or flying fox, and a smaller one, resembling the English species. The pe'a is found in large numbers, and is very destructive to fruit of various kinds, upon which it feeds, especially the banana, and which at times causes them to be great pests. A curious circumstance happened in connexion with these bats in 1839, when, after a serious outbreak of an epidemic had successively attacked both Europeans and page 189natives, as well as animals also, it seized upon the bats, or flying foxes, and devastated them in great numbers; so much that scarcely a bat could be seen about at one time. This was so marked, that the natives, as their custom was, commemorated the circumstance in a song which was generally sung, and which concluded with the words, E leai se pe'a e lele, 'not a bat is flying.' At one time it seemed to be so, the bulk of them having been swept away. After a time, however, their numbers increased, and later on they became as numerous as ever.
A large species of gigantic land-crab, O le ūū (Birgus Lairo) the robber-crab, is found in many parts of the islands. It inhabits caverns and crevices of the rocks, especially on the coast near the sea-shore. It is of strange appearance and singular habits, and feeds upon cocoanuts, which it handles in a peculiar manner. At one time I kept two large ones tethered at the foot of a cocoanut-tree, so that I could study their habits.
In Darwin's Naturalist's Journal he speaks of a species of this crab, as found in Keeling Island, in the Indian Ocean, and from his description I think it is identical with the species found in Samoa. They are of large size, and have powerful claws, the fore-arms being of sufficient length to enable them to clasp and climb a cocoanut-tree of from two to three feet diameter. Under the tail each crab has a bag or sac containing from half a pint or more of clear lightly-coloured oil.
The two I had were captured on a rocky coast on the north-east part of Upolu, where they are found in large numbers. Their natural mode of feeding was stated by the natives to be extraordinary. They were said to peel page 190off the husk of the nut with their powerful claws, and then to climb the tree with it and let it fall, so as to break it, thus gaining access to the nut. Darwin doubts the fact of their being able to climb a cocoanut-tree, but I have frequently seen them do it in my garden, my captives often climbing to a considerable height. As to their climbing the trees and throwing down the nuts, I should imagine they might be able to do this, but I have never seen them do it, their food being always broken up for them. If the necessity arose, I am convinced that they would be perfectly able to break the nut with blows from their powerful claws. The same species of crab, or one allied to it, is said to inhabit a single island to the north of the Society Islands1.
Birds are found in much greater variety in Samoa than in islands to the eastward. They comprise pigeons, doves, ducks, plovers, herons, rails, and swallows, with many others,
The Samoans have a strange custom of giving different names to pigeons caught at four different periods of the moon's age; thus, (1) Lupe-o-atoa, pigeons caught at the full of the moon; (2) Lupe-a-fanoloa, pigeons caught when there is no moon; (3) Lupe-o-maunu, pigeons caught at the wane of the moon; (4) Lupe-o-pupula, pigeons caught at the increase of the moon. These birds are caught with nets, springes, and birdlime, but these will be more fully noticed later on.
There are five species of doves found in Samoa, the most beautiful of which is the Manu mā (Ptilonopus Perousei), the bashful bird of the natives. It is a very shy bird, whence its name; but when trained it soon becomes domesticated like the pigeon. It is of lovely plumage, and is always a great pet with its owners. The top of the head is purple, the wings green, the underpart of the body dirty white, and the breast streaked with red, white, and dark purple, something after the fashion of the anemone. It is said by the late Dr. Bennett of Sydney to accord with the purple-crowned pigeon.
Another species of dove is the Manu tangi (Ptilono-page 192pus fascinatus), or crying bird of the natives. Its head is pale crimson, back green, breast and abdomen dirty yellow and light green. Another dove, called by the natives O le Manulua, is mostly of a green colour; not so gaily coloured as those just described, but still a very pretty bird.
Two other ground-doves may be mentioned, O le Tui and O le-Tu-ai-meo. The latter is described by the late Dr. Gray of the British Museum, in the Proceedings of the Zoological Society, 1856, Part VII. with a coloured representation, under the name of Calænus phlegænas Stairi. I have since ascertained that distinct names are given to the male and female of these birds, the male being called tu-tau-ifa, and the female tu-ai-meo. All of these varieties of doves were kept as pets by the natives, and found in most of their houses.
The water-hen (Porphyrio Samoensis), O le Manu alii, or chief's bird of the natives, was a great favourite with them, being commonly kept in cages, and taken with them on their journeys, as well as petted in their dwellings. In their wild state these birds were often very destructive to the taro-patches, digging up and devouring the roots of the young plants; but when tamed they were greatly prized.
The Samoan nightingale, O le Manu ao, or bird of the morning, has a melodious song, which it commences early in the morning, varying its notes from those of a lively strain to tones mournful and plaintive. It also sings at intervals through the night.
Some other birds may be briefly described. O le Tūtū-ma-lili (Merula vanicorensis) is a small bird resembling an English blackbird, but having no song.page 193
O le Senga (Coriphilus fringillaceus), one of the honey-eating parrots, is a pretty little bird, usually seen in great numbers feeding upon the blossom of the cocoanut and other palms. So intently eager are these birds when feeding upon the glucose in the cocoanut-blossoms, that they not only become an easy prey to the fowler, but have led the natives to enshrine this eagerness in the word pafunga (to settle on the blossoms), as the senga does on the bud of the cocoanut. It is also used in reference to a man who having an abundance of food or property delights in it, 'Ua; pafunga mai tāumafa.'
O le Tolai-ula (Myzomela nigriventris) is another honey-eating bird, its plumage being glossy black, with a scarlet head and breast.
O le Ti 'otala (Todirhamphus Pealei), the kingfisher, is a comical bird resembling the English kingfisher in appearance, but different from it in habit and food, being seldom found near the water, and feeding upon worms and grubs. It is not so clumsy-looking as the Australian laughing jackass, but resembles it in size and many of its habits, yet wanting its wild song. A second species of kingfisher is called Todirhamphus recurvirostris.
O le Sengā-Manu is a very beautiful little bird of a brilliant metallic green, and feeds on seeds. The ordinary Senga is sometimes called O le Senga Samoa, to distinguish it from the Senga Ula, or red Senga, the Fijian parroquet (Lorius solitarius), introduced into Samoa, and kept by the natives for the sake of its crimson feathers, which are much valued for ornaments.
Of herons there are three varieties, lead colour, pure white, and speckled. They are called by the natives Matu'u, and classified by Peale as Ardea Àbbineata.page 194
One or two species of swallow (pe'ape'a) build their nests in caverns, the nests at times presenting the appearance of edible birds' nests, from the quantity of glutinous scum with which they are built.
O le Tuli is the general name for plover, of which there are vast numbers; as also sandpipers, &c.
O le Iao is another species of glucose-eating bird of a light olive-brown colour, and of active restless habits, much accustomed to banding together and tormenting a stupid kind of bird called Le Aleva, the Samoan cuckoo (Endynamis Taitensis), which they chase with much eagerness.
One species of owl, O le Lulu (Strix delicatula, of Peale), and many other varieties of birds, including wild ducks, or rather teal, which are plentiful and good eating.
Sea-birds are numerous, and include O le Tava'e, the tropic bird; Le Atafa, the frigate-bird; Le Ngongo, the gull; and the sooty tern, Le Manu uli, the black-bird of the natives. A bird that burrows in the ground, Le Taio, was often taken inland amongst the mountains. Other varieties were also found, but those instanced may suffice.
One species of Apteryx, O le Puna'e, or springer-up (Pareudiastes Pacificus), was found on Samoa. It is smaller than the New Zealand Apteryx, but resembles it in other respects. It burrows in the ground and derives its name Puna'e from its sudden appearance as it comes to the surface, from Puna, to spring, and a'e, upwards. It is a timid bird, and is seldom seen far from its haunts in the interior of the islands. I tried in vain to obtain specimens of this bird, the constant answer page 195being that no trace of them could be found. It was formerly abundant, and much sought after by the natives for food, who hunted it with nets and dogs trained to discover which of their holes were occupied. Of late years they have been destroyed in large numbers by the wild cats, so that they bid fair to become soon extinct.
To residents in Samoa the Manu Mea, or red bird, was well known by repute, but as far as I know, no specimen had ever been obtained by any resident on the islands until the year 1843, when two fine birds, male and female, were brought to me by a native who had captured them on the nest. I was delighted with my prize, and kept them carefully, but could get no information whatever as to what class they belonged. After a time one was unfortunately killed, and not being able to gain any knowledge respecting the bird, I sent the surviving one to Sydney, by a friend, in 1843, hoping it would be recognized and described; but nothing was known of it there, and my friend left it with a bird dealer in Sydney, and returned to report his want of success. It died in Sydney, and the skin was subsequently sent to England with other skins for sale, including the skin of an Apteryx, from Samoa. Later on the skin of the Manu Mea was purchased by Lady Hervey, and subsequently it came into the possession of Sir William Jardine, by whom it was described. Still nothing was known of its habitat,—but this bird which I had originally sent to Sydney from Samoa was the means of bringing it under the notice of the scientific world, and thus in some indirect manner of obtaining the object I had in view.
In appearance the bird may be described as about the size of a large wood-pigeon, with similar legs and feet, but the form of its body more nearly resembles that of the partridge. The remarkable feature of the bird is, that whilst its legs are those of a pigeon, the beak is that of the parrot family, the upper mandible being hooked like the parrot's, the under one being deeply serrated; hence the name, tooth-billed pigeon. This peculiar formation of the beak very materially assists the bird in feeding on the potato-like root, or rather fruit, of the soi, or wild yam, of which it is fond. The bird holds the tuber firmly with its feet, and then rasps it upwards with its parrot-like beak, the lower mandible of which is deeply grooved. It is a very shy bird, being seldom found except in the retired parts of the forest, away from the coast settlements. It has great power of wing, and when flying makes a noise which, as heard in the distance, closely resembles distant thunder, for which I have on several occasions mistaken it. It both roosts and feeds on the ground, as also on stumps or low page 199bushes, and hence becomes an easy prey to the wild cats of the forest. These birds also build their nests on low bushes or stumps, and are thus easily captured. During the breeding season the male and female relieve each other with great regularity, and guard their nests so carefully that they fall an easy prey to the fowler; as in the case of one bird being taken its companion is sure to be found there shortly after. They were also captured with birdlime, or shot with arrows, the fowler concealing himself near an open space, on which some soi, their favourite food, had been scattered.
The plumage of the bird may be thus described. The head, neck, breast, and upper part of the back is of greenish black. The back, wings, tail, and under tail coverts of a chocolate red. The legs and feet are of bright scarlet; the mandibles, orange red, shaded off near the tips with bright yellow.
The seas around Samoa swarm with an abundance of fine fish, many of them most delicious eating; so that on all sides they afford an inexhaustible supply of valuable food. I have the names of 145 varieties of salt-water fish, and eight of fresh-water; whilst there are many others whose names I failed to obtain. Thirty-seven varieties of crustacea and mollusca were in common use as food by the natives, many of them being considered great dainties even by Europeans.
The modes of fishing as practised by the Samoans, not merely for food, but also for amusement, were very numerous. I was surprised to find the great variety of modes of fishing adopted by them, each having a distinct name, and often exhibiting much ingenuity. Including the modes adopted by females in their search for shell-fish, I obtained the names of one hundred different methods of fishing used by the Samoans; thirty-four of which were with nets, seven with spears, sixteen various, seventeen for shell-fish, and twelve with baskets and pots. Some kinds were restricted to particular places, and were unknown or unpractised in other parts of the islands; others again were common throughout the group. Several required the united efforts of numbers, whilst not a few were attended with danger. Men, women, and children employed themselves in some one or other of these different methods of fishing, respecting the more interesting of which a few notices may be acceptable.
Sharks were caught in several ways, the most daring of which was O le Lepangā Malie. In this mode of fishing the fishermen proceeded out to sea in their canoe provided with baits attached to a line of good stout rope, formed into a running noose. On getting outside the reef, the fishermen threw over the bait, the rope that held it being left to hang loosely alongside, whilst the end of the rope was fastened to one of the thwarts of the canoe, which remained seldom more than a few inches out of the water, in midships, or aft.
Upon a shark approaching the bait, the line to which the bait was attached was slowly drawn towards the canoe, the shark following; and when drawn opposite page 202the person who had the charge of the line, the noose was dexterously thrown over the head of the shark, and drawn tightly in. The shark plunged furiously, and sometimes wounded its captors, but was speedily killed by heavy blows on the head from a stout club carried in the canoe for the purpose. Sharks were also captured both within the reef and out at sea.
O le Alele was a difficult but very exciting mode of chasing large voracious fish, in which several canoes, manned with picked crews, were generally employed. Upon the taumua, or prow of each of the larger canoes, stood an expert and fearless spearman, armed with an iron-headed spear, whose duty it was to watch the object of the chase and spear it if possible before it reached deep water. Very large sharks were often caught in this manner, as were also turtle. This mode of fishing, O le Alele, is only practicable within the reef, where the shallowness of the water, in places, makes it difficult for a large fish to escape detection. A still, bright moonlight night is most favoured for the sport.
Sometimes a shark attacked this way has been known to turn upon the pursuers when hard pressed. I once saw a vaa alo (three-barred fishing-canoe), at Manono, which had been seized by a tanifa a short time before my visit. The sides of the canoe were at least 2 feet in depth, in midships where the shark had seized it. The monster had grasped the canoe in its frightful mouth, placing the upper jaw upon the gunwale, and its lower jaw under the keel, leaving the marks of its teeth deeply indented on its side. The crew, whom I knew, two men and a boy, were fishing, and coming in contact with this monster thoughtlessly gave chase, although only armed page 203with common fish spears, and so harassed it that it turned savagely upon them, and dashed full speed towards the canoe. The lad was sitting on the centre seat, and seeing the savage fish making directly towards him, he sprang out of his seat on to the outrigger just in time to escape the jaws of the monster, the upper part of which remained resting for some little time on the gunwale of the canoe just where the boy had sat a few seconds before. The boy and his companions were dreadfully frightened, but were unable to attack the shark for want of better weapons; indeed, their whole attention was needed to prevent the canoe from being upset, in which case one or more of them would certainly have lost their lives. After gazing savagely at the crew for a time the shark loosed its hold and made off, the crew gladly hastening homewards.
Bonito (atu) were caught by the mode O le alongā-atu, which was a favourite mode of fishing. For this, a va'a alo, or three-barred fishing-canoe, was preferred, with a crew of two or three, or at most four persons. These were provided with a single rod, made of a moderately stout bamboo; a strong line, and hook of mother-of-pearl shell, ingeniously made to represent a small flying-fish, which were the things considered necessary; yet accompanied, as we shall see, with much skill and tact. Only one of the party angled, and he always sat in the stern of the canoe and acted as steersman. The rod, whith was bent at the top, was allowed to hang astern, and as the canoe was paddled forward, the shell hook which answered for a bait, being furnished with feathers on either side to increase the deception, dipped in and out of the water, so as to closely resemble a small flying-page 204fish in flight. The illusion was perfect, so that the bait was readily taken by the bonito.
Within the reefs sand-mullet (anae) were caught in large quantities. The net or nets were usually the property of a whole village, or individual proprietors. On the day of using they are taken out to the lagoon, and dropped so as to form a circle, around which the fishing-party assemble, either in the water or in canoes, to watch the progress of the sport, or to try and catch the fish as they leap over the net in their efforts to escape. When the circle is complete and the net made secure, many of the fishermen enter the circle with their hand-nets to secure the fish. Many fish leap over the net, some of which are caught by those outside the circle, whilst others escape altogether.
The most laborious of all the different kinds of fishing is the O le Lauloa, or long Lau, practised by the Samoans, but it is also the most exciting and productive. On a Lauloa being determined upon, a meeting of the whole district is summoned, at which all the preliminaries are settled, such as the number of fathoms of lau to be provided by each village, and the day on which the work is to be commenced, &c. The young men of each village are sent into the woods to collect a quantity of the bark of the fau, a species of hibiscus, from which to make the needful ropes. Others again cut down large quantities of cocoanut-leaves, from which they strip the narrow leaflets to be fastened along the ropes, so as to form a kind of chevaux de frise. The inhabitants of one village, instead of furnishing lau, engage to provide a large funnel-shaped bag or sack, made of stout mats, strongly sewn together.page 205
The Samoans generally wait until the tide is full at daybreak before they dip the lau, which is always taken out towards the reef with a full tide, so that it may be arranged and got into position by the time the tide is ebbing. On the morning of the fishing the beach and different parts of the lagoon present a busy and animated appearance, as canoe after canoe pushes off, until everything that can be patched up sufficiently to float for a few hours is called into requisition; whilst numbers may be seen wading leisurely out towards the reef to the appointed rendezvous, the men armed with fishspears and the women carrying their olo, or fishing-baskets.
On reaching the appointed spot, the canoes carrying the lau, or twisted cocoanut-leaves, take up their appointed stations, where each portion is to be run out into the lagoon and fastened together, arranged somewhat in the shape of a funnel, the mouth of which is often several hundred yards wide, so as to enclose as many fish as possible whilst on their way back to the open sea with the receding tide.
Looking towards the reef, the ends of this leafy barrier are brought together and fastened to the bag or sack destined to receive the fish, the mouth of which is widely distended, the upper part being kept on the surface by floats of a buoyant kind of wood, and the lower side pressed down upon the sandy bottom by large blocks of coral. This being arranged and secured, and the tide having run well out, preparations are made for contracting the enclosure, by gradually shortening the two sides of the leafy screen, which is done by cutting the lau, about midway of its length, on cither side, and page 206carefully drawing it towards the receiving-bag, thus forming a double barrier, until both ends are joined, and the enclosure completed. Usually a large quantity of fish are taken, since slight as the barrier is, the fish are too terrified to force their way through and escape.
The more dangerous of the captives are usually speared first—a necessary precaution, since many are armed with formidable weapons; one especially, a species of ray, having a weapon at the end of its tail closely resembling a veterinary surgeon's fleam, by means of which fearful wounds are sometimes inflicted upon the unwary fisherman.
When the fish have been driven into the sack and secured, the mat bag is carefully towed towards the shore, and landed on the sands, when the fishermen, sitting down, watch or else assist the tautai, or leading fisherman for the day, to assort and divide the spoil, every family having a share allotted to it.
A scene of this description, as afforded by the fishermen seated on the beach—assorting and dividing their catch of fish—afforded a striking illustration of the 'net cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away' (Matt. xiii. 47, 48).
Both land and sea snakes were found on Samoa and the neighbouring seas; the former being harmless, but I think the latter are venomous; yet though I have often seen them and watched them, I never knew of any accident occurring from their bite. On crossing the straits between Upolu and Savaii, I have at times had them lifted into the boat to examine them. They page 207appeared vicious, and bit furiously at whatever was put near them. The land snakes I have seen were of a greenish colour and of sluggish habit, but perfectly harmless. They were formerly used by the Samoan females as neck ornaments at their dances. The girls who affected this strange kind of adornment went into the forest, and having secured two or three specimens of live snakes, returned to the settlements to wear their singular necklaces at the night dances. I believe there are some two or three varieties, two of which are called Ngata-ula and Ngatauli.
As far as I know snakes are not found on any of the islands to the eastward of Samoa, but are found, I think, in New Caledonia and the Loyalty Islands. Sea-snakes are, I think, found in nearly all the groups.
Another singular and remarkable feature of Samoan natural history is found in what may be called the day and night chorus of cicadae, or, as the natives call them, O le Lingolingo and O le Ālisi, the former keeping up their unceasing chorus throughout the day, and the latter from a little before sunset throughout the night. Apparently, as if from some unseen or Unheard but well-understood signal, the day locusts or cicadae, which have kept up an unceasing cry throughout the day, suddenly stop, so that for a short time not a sound is heard; and then all at once the Ālisi, or night cicadae, commence their cry simultaneously, and continue it throughout the night. So marked is this wonderful circumstance as heard throughout the year, that the time of change has been recognized as an established hour of the day and well-known mark of time, and when travellers meet on a journey, or describe their doings on their return, page 208instead of asking, 'Where were you at sundown?' they ask, 'Where were you tangisia ?' or 'Where were you cried?'
Leeches are found in the swamps and streams, but the most singular kind is a very small species, a little over half an inch in length, that is found upon the leaves of certain forest trees. These diminutive tormentors often attach themselves in a very unpleasant manner to any animal or man that may be passing by, usually selecting the corner of the eyelid on which to fasten, thus causing much discomfort and annoyance, especially in moist weather. Hence this pest, as also the stinging-tree, or nettle-tree, of the Samoan forests, are to be avoided. The natives, however, suffer more inconvenience from this cause than Europeans.
One other curious example of Samoan natural history remains to be noticed in a remarkable sea-worm, Palolo, of the natives. It is most singular in its habits and history, and is much prized by the natives as an article of food. This remarkable worm, Palolo (literally luscious crab, for I imagine the pa to be simply a contraction of pa'a, the name for crab), rises from the reefs at certain places of the islands in the early part of two days only—in the months of October and November in each year, and is never seen at any other time. They appear with great regularity during the early mornings of two successive days in each of the two months mentioned, viz. the day before and the day of the moon's being in her last quarter, showing, however, much greater numbers on the second day than oh the first. After sporting on the surface of the sea for a few hours on each day, they disappear as mysteriously as page 209they came, and none are ever seen until the return of the next season, when they repeat their visit under the same mysterious conditions.
In size they may be compared to small straws, and are of various colours and lengths, green, brown, white, and spotted, whilst in appearance and mode of swimming they may be said to resemble small snakes. They are brittle, and if broken each piece swims off as though it were an entire worm.
From specimens which I left at the British Museum in 1847, the late Dr. J. E. Gray described this curious worm in No. clxix, p. 17, of the Proceedings of the Zoological Society, London, under the name Palolo, Gray.