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.
Apart from the Maori rat, the only technical notice appears to be that by Peale,18* who named (and figured) rats obtained from widely separated islands as Mus exulans, In this con-nection it may be mentioned that the Editor of the second edition of the work cited, remarks that he is not without suspicion that the animal is either Mus pencillatus, Gould,† or Mus jacobice, Waterh.‡ There is, however, small likelihood of the Pacific rat being identical with either of these species, and indeed Thomas,22 by adopting Peale's name, has. practically decided that it is distinct. His interesting note reads as follows:—
"The Rats from Sunday Island, Kermadec group, apparently belong to a species widely spread over the Pacific, the earliest name of which seems to be Mus exulans, Peale, based on Fijian examples. It is possible that examples from the different groups of islands may hereafter show certain differences from each other, but, so far as we can see at present, all should be united under one heading. Indeed the fine Maori Eat of New Zealand (Mus maorium, Hutton) seems to be very doubtfully separable from the same form, which has probably travelled from island to island in native canoes, or on floating logs &c., long before European ships began to bring over the ubiquitous Grey and Black Rats, which now threaten to exterminate the native species throughout the world."
It will be remarked that Fiji is not included in the localities enumerated by Peale at which Mus exulans was obtained: for rats from this group that writer proposed another name—Mus vitiensis; there can be little doubt, however, that notwith-standing the slight differences mentioned, the two forms are not specifically distinct.
* A List of Works referred to will be found on p. 177.
† Gould—Proc. Zool. Soc., 1842, p. 12.
‡ Waterhouse—Voy. "Beagle", Mam., 1840, p. 34.
All circumstances being taken into account, it appears probable that the Maori rat is also identical with this widely distributed Pacific species, and in one of his papers Hutton13 has pointedly remarked:—"It will be interesting to compare these skulls with specimens of the black rat* from Polynesia, for they will probably be found to be identical." And again, writing on Mus novce-zealandice, Buller, he adds14 "There can, I think, be no doubt that these rats belong to the Polynesian variety." More recently Thomas has also expressed doubts as to the specific identity of the Maori rat, in the note previously quoted, and as mentioned by Buller,5 who further remarks that there are specimens of this form in the British Museum from the Fiji Islands, Norfolk Island, and New Caledonia. This view is supported by Maori tradition as related by Hochstetter,12 to the effect that:—"the Kumara, or sweet potato (Convolvulus batata), the taro (Arum esculentum), the calabash-plant Hue (Lagenaria vulgaris), the Karaki tree (Gorynoearpus Icevigata), the rat Kiore, the Pukeko (Porphyrio), and the green parrot Kakariki, are said to have been imported from Hawaiki." This traditional ancestral home is considered by modern Ethnologists to be Savaii, one of the Samoan Islands.
The New Zealand rat has a literature to itself, which will be found mainly in Trans. and Proc. N.Z. Institute. This literature I have not attempted to epitomise, and have referred to it only for odd records of habits. There is apparently still room for research among the New Zealand rats. The Kiore rat is said to be extinct, the Mus maorium to swarm, fide Meeson,17 Rutland,19 etc.
* Our examples and also all other accounts agree in describing the colour of the Pacific rat as being similar to that of Mus decumanus, and not black as above indicated.