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Tuatara: Volume 13, Issue 2, July 1965


page 137


Gabe, M., et H. Saint Girons. 1964. Contribution a l'Histologie de Sphenodon punctatus Gray. Edition, du Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris, i-xi and 149 pp.

Many ofTuatara's readers will remember the fascinating paper on the ecology of reptiles in the Sahara given by Dr. H. Saint Girons to the Biology Section, Royal Society of New Zealand, in September 1963. Though given in French this lecture was easy to follow with the help of a series of magnificent slides and the English text of the address supplied by the speaker. The primary object of Dr. Saint Girons' mission to the south west Pacific, however, was to obtain two live tuataras for histological study. This was accomplished, and the handsome and beautifully illustrated volume cited above contains the results of the study by Messieurs M. Gabe and H. Saint Girons, both divisional directors of the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, an institution corresponding to the Australian C.S.I.R.O. or the New Zealand D.S.I.R.

For about forty years after its re-discovery and description by Guenther in 1867, the tuatara was the subject of a large number of special studies, including its histology. Since then, however, with the exception of W. H. Dawbin's preliminary publication in 1962 on its ecology, little if anything original has been published. Certainly no examination of tuatara's histology using modern techniques has been carried out. Moreover, recent work by Gabe, Saint Girons and their associates on the histology of endocrine glands of a wide array of reptiles belonging to other orders made a histological investigation of the tuatara particularly urgent.

The histology of the skin and its dermal products is followed by an examination of the respiratory and digestive tracts, the genital system and cloaca of both sexes. Special chapters are devoted to endocrine glands and the parietal organ. There are thirty-nine plates, of which three are in colour, depicting parts of the digestive tract and excretory system and some of the endocrine glands. An appendix gives references to the histological and histo-chemical techniques used by the authors in the present study.

It is generally agreed that the Rhynchocephalia belong to the subclass Lepidosauria, and are related to the extinct order Eosuchia and to the order Squamata which includes the suborders Lacertilia and Ophidia and contains some of the most successful modern reptiles. Lack of space prevents a detailed examination of the authors’ results, but some are of considerable interest for a better understanding of the systematic position of the Rhynchocephalia.

The skin, liver, small intestine and respiratory tract differ little in structure from those of other reptiles, but the urinary tube, the second sector of the female genital tract, the pituitary, thyroid and islets of Langerhans in the pancreas indicate an affinity with lacertilians. Other features, for example the structure of the stomach and uterine glands, show some resemblance to those of tortoises and turtles. Finally the authors have noted several histological aspects such as the special structure of the pituitary, and particularly the topography of the two types of adrenal cells and the presence of ‘sebaceous’ glands in the uterus and the absence of a phallus, which are unique among reptiles.

The authors recognise the limitations imposed by the small number of animals and, even more, by our inadequate knowledge of the tuatara's physiology and annual cycle. Modestly they conclude that … “nos page 138 résultats font resortir l'intéret que répresenterait la véritable étude dynamique du tuatara, conduite en fonction du cycle vital et au moyen des techniques de l'histologie moderne’ — a challenge for New Zealand zoologists. — K.W.

Kiwi Science Colourbooks:
Whales by Dr B. Stonehouse
Butterflies of N.Z. by Dr J. T. Salmon
Opossums by Mr R. Kean
Gulls and Terns by Dr B. Stonehouse

Published 1964, 1965 by A. H. and A. W. Reed. Wellington, Edited by Dr B. Stonehouse. Priced at 8s. 6d. each.

These Four Books are an attractive addition to publications on New Zealand natural history. Although they are aimed at children in the 9-12 age group, their factual approach should appear to many older readers as well. Each book is of 32 pages, and deals with either a single species in the case of the opossum, or a group of related animals. The text of each is written by an authority, and sets out in a simple and concise manner to tell as fully as possible the story of these animals’ lives. A surprising amount of detail is packed into the relatively small amount of text. The illustrations are, to say the least, lavish — all of them in colour, and at least one on every page. They are all by the same artist, Eric Heath, who has done a very good and imaginative job.

Because these books focus on animals of New Zealand (to a lesser extent, Australia) they fill a void that has long been apparent — in doing this so well they are much to be commended.


An Introduction to the Study of Insects
by D. J. Borror and D. M. DeLong

Revised Edition, published 1964, by Holt, Rinehart and Winston

This is a Considerably Improved Version of the original textbook published by the same authors in 1954.

The book is very well produced, handsomely printed on good quality paper, copiously illustrated with line drawings and half tone blocks. All orders are accompanied by keys for the separation of the various families, but it is a little disappointing to find the classification still rather conservative as compared with present day thinking on the general classification of insects. For example the old concept of the Orthoptera still remains and not even the Phasmidae have been separated off into a distinct order as is now generally accepted. The book contains a useful chapter on the relationship of insects to man and arthropods other than insects, though the latter chapter is very brief and gives very little useful information on the related terrestrial arthropods. The chapter on collecting and preserving of insects is useful for a beginner in giving general directions on insect collecting, but could page 139 have been brought much more up to date in the techniques of relaxing and mounting on microscope slides. A rather novel addition to a textbook on entomology is furnished by the chapter on activities and projects in insect study which sets out useful techniques for keeping insects alive for study of insect morphology and insect function and for classroom methods on teaching and display. The book is primarily written for the North American reader, but nevertheless is an extremely valuable textbook for any student in entomology.