Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

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.



page 181

The Collection of Fishes comprises fifty-four species, which are for the most part well known forms. A large number of them are widely distributed, and range from the Red Sea and the east coast of Africa across the Indian and Java Seas to Polynesia. Smaller and possibly more interesting species were not obtained, due to the only possible method of procuring them. The natives brought in the fishes as caught by net or hook, and not conceiving that they were required for other than edible purposes, naturally preserved only the best examples from their point of view. At first they very seduously avoided bringing to land any specimens they regarded as poisonous, and it was some time before they could be made to understand that the fishes were not to be eaten.

Zoologically this notice is little more than a list, which is of value more especially for extending the known range, and by supplying an exact locality for the species enumerated.

Some of the short notes may be of wider interest, and this refers especially to the native names which have an Ethnological value.

All the specimens have been referred to described species, but in a few instances the identification is doubtful, due to insufficient descriptions, the fugitive nature of the characters described, or to the necessary literature not being accessible.


Epinephelus, Bloch.
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.

page 182
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.

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, Bloch.
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.

Chætodon, Cuvier.
Chætodon Auriga,Forsk.

Chætodon auriga, Forsk., Descr. Anim., p. 60; Günther, Fische der Südsee, p. 36, pl. xxvi., fig. b.

Although the island of Funafuti should be a veritable home for Chætodon, Chelmos, Holacanths, etc., many of which were seen swimming in the crevasses, this is the only member of the page 184family obtained. As previously mentioned this is to be accounted for by the fact that only the larger species were, as a rule, collected by the natives. This Chætodon is of the variety setifer, and measures 114 millim. in length.


Mulloides, Bleeker.
9.Mulloides flavolineatus, Lacépède.

Mulloides flavolineatus, Lacépède, sp., Poiss., iii., p. 406; Rüppell, N.W. Fische, p. 101, pl. xxvi., fig. 1.

This species is represented by a single example.

The Funafuti name is "Malili."

Mulloides samoensis, Günther.

Mulloides samoensis, Günther, Fische der Südsee, p. 57, pl. xliii., fig. b.

(Pl. viii., fig. 2a-b.)

I have referred to this species a small specimen which measures only 76 millim. in total length, or less than half the dimensions of the type specimen: "6½ Zoll" (=165 millim.). As the species was founded on a single example, and as it does not appear to have been met with since first described (1873), the following description will assist in verifying or disproving the determination:—

D. vii., 1 8. V. I 5. A. II 6. L lat. 40 L tr 2½, 6.

Length of head 3·4, of caudal fin 5·0, height of body 4·2 in the length of the body (exclusive of the caudal fin). Diameter of eye 3·6, length of snout 2.4 in length of head • interorbital space very lowly arched 4.0 in length of head. Upper jaw the longer. The maxilla reaches two-thirds the distance to below the anterior edge of the orbit.

The barbels extend to slightly beyond the posterior edge of the preopercle. Upper profile from above the eye to the snout markedly convex. Opercle with a weak spine and a slight denticulation, indicative of a second spine above. Teeth in villiform bands in both jaws. First and second dorsal spines of equal length, 1·7 in the length of the head. Second dorsal two-thirds the height of the first. The anal commences slightly behind the second dorsal. The ventrals do not reach the vent by fully a third of their length; caudal deeply forked, the least height of its pedicle equals the intradorsal space.

Scales ctenoid, in five series between the dorsal fins. Tubes of the lateral line not much branched, consisting of two main arms page 185bifurcated anteriorly, but simple from below the second dorsal to the caudal.

Colours.—In formol, silvery white with a greenish tinge on the dorsal surface: the top of the head is yellowish, and the same colour is to be traced on the cheeks—there is a distinct yellow spot immediately above the opercular spine. Fins immaculate, excepting the caudal which, towards the base, is of yellowish hue. The black and pearl-coloured blotches mentioned by Günther are not to be observed in our example. The type specimen was obtained at Apia in the Samoa Islands, one of the archipelagos nearest to the Ellice Group.

Upeneus, Bleeker.
Upeneus trifasciatus,Lacépède.

Upeneus trifasciatus, Lacépède., sp., Poiss., iii., p. 104, pl. 15, fig. 1; Günther, Fische der Südsee, p. 59, pi. xliv., figs, b, c.

This widely distributed form is represented by a solitary example, in which the usual dark markings are almost obsolete, the body band beneath the second dorsal is the most pronounced, whilst the black mark on the basal half of this fin is the darkest feature of the specimen. It measures 173 millim.

The native name is "Teforo."


Lethrinus, Cuvier.
Lethrinus rostratus, Cuv. & Val.

Lethrinus rostratus, Cuv. & Val., sp., Hist. Nat., vi., p. 296; Playfair, Fishes of Zanzibar, p. 44, pl. vii., fig. 2.

Said to be common and a favorite food-fish. When the more esteemed species are not caught in sufficient numbers, inferior kinds are eaten in consequence of the limited flesh-foods on the island. A small example only was brought to Sydney.

Known to the natives as "Nutta."

Lethrinus ramak, Forsk,

Lathrinus ramak, Forsk., sp., Descr. Anim., p. 52; Günther, Fische der Südsee, p. 64, pl. xlvi., fig. 13.

The two yellow longitudinal bands which Günther remarks are such a striking feature in the living fish, are very conspicuous in two of our three examples. There is also a third fainter and page 186narrower band immediately below the lateral line, this is indicated in Günther's figure but is not referred to in the text. These specimens appear to be rather larger than any previously recorded, measuring 315, 307 and 287 millim. respectively.

The native name is "Gropa."

Sphærodon grandoculis, Forsk.

Splicerodon grandoculis, Forsk., sp., Descr. Anim., p. 53; Bleeker, Atlas Ichth., pl. ccxcix., fig. 1.

Found widely distributed in the South Seas, and extending across the Indian Ocean to the Red Sea, this species is now recorded from the Ellice Group. The example examined totals a length of 312 millim. The figure referred to represents a young individual showing the white transverse body bands.

Cirrhites maculatus, Lacépède.

Cirrhites maculatus, Lacépède, Poiss., sp., v., p. 3; Günther, Fische der Südsee, p. 71, pl. li., fig. a.

Readily distinguishable, in conjunction with other characters, by the smallness of the scales on the cheeks, the species is represented by two individuals, measuring 200 and 164 millim. respectively. This record is interesting, as the species does not appear to have been obtained from many of the Pacific Islands.

Holocentrum, Artedi.
Holocentrum Erythræum, Günther.

Holocentrum erythræum, Günther, sp., Cat. of Fishes, i., p. 32; Fische der Südsee, p. 99, pl. lxiii., fig. b.

The occurrence of this species in the Ellice Group adds one more definite locality to its known distribution. It has a wide range in the Southern Seas, but was not regarded as common in Funafuti, where it is known as "Malou." The single specimen obtained measures 200 millim. in total length.

page 187

Holocentrum diploxiphus, Günther.

Holocentrum diploxiphus, Günther, Proc. Zool. Soc, 1871, p. 660, pl. lx.

This species is also known from several of the Polynesian Islands, and as Günther remarks, apparently remains of small size: the only example brought home measures 144 millim. in length.

It is called "Boutularu" on the island of Funafuti.

Teuthis, Linnceus.
Teuthis rostrata, Cuv & Val.

Teuthis rostrata, Cuv. & Val., Hist. Nat., x., p. 158; Playfair, Fishes of Zanzibar, p. 50, pl. x., fig. 2.

As the descriptions of the various species are for the most part little more than a notice of the colour-pattern, and as this usually fades on contact with spirit, the determination of the species cannot be satisfactory without a good series of the genus. Our two examples I determine as Teuthis rostratus, and a comparison with Playfair's description and figure largely removes any doubt as to their identity. Günther has identified the species from the Society, Pelew, and Gilbert Islands, so that its occurrence in Funafuti is merely an extension of the known range.

Known to the natives as "Mai'ava" or "Meia."

* For paper on the Teuthidoidea, see Gill, Proc. U.S. Nat. Mus., vii., 1885, p. 276.


Acanthurus, Bloch.
Acanthurus triostegus,Linn.

Acanthurus triostegus, Linn., Syst. Nat., i., p. 463; Bennett, Fishes of Ceylon, p. 11., pl. xi.

One would scarcely expect to receive even a very small collection of fishes from the Pacific Islands without this ubiquitous species being included. Of three examples the largest measures 158, the smallest 54 millim.

The native name in Funafuti is "Manini," and its universal application is noteworthy. Günther remarks:—"Throughout the whole of Polynesia it is called 'Manini.'"

page 188
Acanthurus Guttatus, Forsk.

Acanthurus guttatus, Forsk., sp., Descr. Anim., p. 218; Günther, Fische der Südsee, p. 109, pl. lxix., fig. a.

This species has also a wide range in the Pacific. We have two specimens from the atoll, measuring 208 and 190 millim respectively.

The native name is rendered as "Te api" or " Yappi," which is practically identical with "Hapi" in use in the Sandwich Islands, as recorded by Günther.

Acanthurus blochii,Guv.& Val.
Acanthurus blochii, Cuv. & Val., Hist. Nat., x., p, 209 {fide Günther); Günther, Fische der Südsee, p. 109, pi. lxix., fig. 6.

Günther remarks that it is extremely doubtful whether A. matoides, Klunz., from the Red Sea, is identical with the species he had hitherto so named. He therefore adopts the name A. blochii, which species is to be distinguished by the dorsal fin being lower in proportion to the height of the body. Our specimens quite agree in this respect, for the spines are 3⅓, whereas in Klunzinger's species they are much longer, namely 2¾ in the height of the body.

Acanthurus Achilles, Shaw.

Acanthurus achilles, Shaw, Zool., iv., p. 383; Günther, Fische der Südsee, p. 115, pl. lxxi., fig. b.

Several examples of this unmistakable and handsome species were brought from Funafuti, where they are known to the inhabitants as "Matto."

Naseus, Commer.
Naseus lituratus,Forsk.

Naseus lituratus, Forsk., sp., Descr. Anim., p. 218; Günther, Fische der Südsee, p. 124, pl. lxxxii.

The natives appear to have associated this genus with the Acronuridæ, for while A. triostegus is designated as "Manini," the present species is distinguished by a prefix, the rendering being "Rakomanini."

page 189


Caranx Lacépède.
Caranx muroadsi,
Temm. & Schleg.

Caranx muroadsi, Temm. & Schleg., Fauna Japon. Poiss., p. 108, pl. lviii., fig. 1.

While I cannot be absolutely certain of the correct determination of the species, the aggregate characters lead me to name the only specimen procured as above. Caranx muroadsi has not, so far as I am aware, been previously recorded from other than the seas of Japan, with. Ternate doubtful. (Günther.) Length of specimen 295 millim.

Caranx crumenopthalmus, Bloch.

Caranx crumenopthalmus, Bloch., sp., Fisch., pl. cccxliii.; Jenyns, Yoy. of "Beagle," Fish, p. 69, pl. xv.

This widely distributed form is represented by two small specimens of equal size (210 millim.). Together with other small material they were preserved in a 5% solution of formol, which has several advantages over spirits. No appreciable shrinkage takes place, and the flesh remains quite firm, while delicate forms such as Leptocephalus, and minute membranous structures, as for example the adipose fin of small scopelids, are perfectly preserved. As a colour preservative it is incomparable with spirit, which, as is only too well known, renders nearly all specimens of the same uniform yellowish-brown. The action of formol is beneficial in yet another way. Fishes killed in this fluid die with their members extended, so that the fin formulæ of the smallest forms (Gobius, Salarias) can be counted with delightful ease and without disturbing a single ray. Lastly, spirit cannot be diluted to more than half its bulk, while formol may be carried at one-twentieth the bulk at which it can be used, a matter of no small consideration to a heavily equipped collector.

Chorinemus, Cuv.& Val.
Chorinemus sancti-petri, Cuv.& Val.

Chorinemus sancti-petri, Cuv. & VaL, Hist. Nat., viii., p. 379, pl. ccxxxvi.

In Day's "Fishes of India," (p. 230) there is a misprint, by which the second dorsal is made to commence "midway between the snout and the front nostril." In the "Fauna of British India," (p. 174) the passage is simply omitted. It was probably intended to read: "midway between the snout and the front (base) of the caudal."

page 190

Another palpable error occurs in the measurement of the pectoral, and as this is copied into the "Fauna,"(loc. cit.) it may be further mentioned. The length of this fin is stated to be "4½ in the total length." In the Funafuti example (525 millim. to middle caudal rays) it is contained 7′8 times, or 9 times in the extreme length, which was probably the measurement taken by Day.

Trachynotus, Cuv. & Val.
Trachynotus baillonii, Lacépède.

Trachynotus baillonii, Lacépède, sp., Poiss., iii., p. 93, pl. iii., fig. 1.

Represented only by a very young example measuring 85 millim. in length.

Echeneis, Artedi.
Echeneis naucrates, Linn.

Echeneis naucrates, Linn., Syst. Nat., i., p. 446; Temm. &Schleg., Fauna Japon. Poiss., p. 270, pl. cxx., fig. 1.

578 millim. is the length of the only "sucker-fish" collected.

Gobius, Artedi.
Gobius Biocellatus, Cuv. & Val.

Gobius biocellatus, Cuv. & Val., Hist. Nat., xii., p. 73; Day, Fishes of India, pl. lxiii., fig. 8.

To this species I have doubtfully referred a small specimen of 38 millim., but it is too young for certain determination.

Salarias, Cuv.
Salarias marmoatus, Bennett.

Salarias marmoratus, Bennett, sp., Zool. Journ., iv., p. 35; Günther, Fische der Südsee, p. 204, pl. cxvi., fig. b.

A nice series of this beautiful species was obtained (largest specimen 72millim.). Günther's figure gives an excellent representation of the fish; it may be remarked that the markings at the base of the second dorsal are in reality oblique lines directed page 191backwards and not isolated spots as shown. The white spots on the head-parts, present only in some examples, are raised tubercles. Each supra-orbital tentacle consists of a median tapering stem, whence arises a number of lateral filaments, which are larger and more numerous on the inner side. The nasal tentacles each comprise a short stalk and a palm-like portion terminating in 7-9 digitations. The occipital tentacles are simple. The short streak behind the eye, which Günther remarks is characteristic of the species is, in formol-preserved examples, of a deep blue colour.

Salarias quadricornis, Cuv.& Vol.

Salarias quadricomis, Cuv. & Val., Hist. Nat., xi., p. 329, pl. cccxxix.; Günther, Fische der Südsee, p. 209, pl. cxvii., fig. b.

The collection contains several examples, all small, however, as the largest one measures only 77millim. This species was exceedingly common, swarming in every rock pool, as indeed one might imagine by the fact of the natives having designated("Monaco") a fish not edible nor otherwise useful. When removed from the pools it skipped over the rocks in such a manner as to induce the belief that it was a Periopthahnus.

Myxus, Günther.
Myxus leuciscus, Günther.

Myxus leuciscus, Günther, Proc. Zool. Soc., 1871, p. 666, pl. lxv., fig. a; Fische der Südsee, p. 220, pi. cxxi., fig. c.

The only grey mullet collected is assigned to this species. In the "Fische der Südsee" the length of the head is misprinted as ⅝ of the total length. It should read ¼, as in the original description.

The native name is "Foua."


Tetradrachmum, Cantor.
Tetradrachmum aruanum, Bloch.

Tetradrachmum aruanum, Bloch., sp., Fisch., iii., p. 62, pl. cxcviii., fig. 2; Bennett, Fishes of Ceylon, p. 17, pl. xvii.

Represented by one small specimen of only 32 millim. in length. Common throughout the South Seas.

page 192
Glyphidodon, Cuvier.
Glyphidodon brownriggii, Bennett.

Glyphidodon brownriggii, Bennett, Fishes of Ceylon, p. 8, pl. viii.; Günther, Fische der Südsee, p, 232, pl. cxxvii. (varieties).

A number of specimens was collected representing five varieties, some of which have been specifically named, they are as follows:—-

(1)The original form figured by Bennett. (Fishes of Ceylon, pl. viii.)
(2)Coloration uniform. (G. modestus, Bleeker, Atlas Ichth., pl. cccciii., fig. 9.)
(3)An oblique white band on the body, a dark spot on the spinous dorsal, and a smaller one at the posterior base of the soft dorsal.
(4)Same as No. 3 but without the white body-band.
(5)An oblique white band on the body, a dark one across the base of the caudal. A dark spot on the spinous dorsal, and the whole base of the soft dorsal dark. Anal wholly dark coloured.
Glyphidodon sordidus, Forsk.

Glyphidodon sordidus, Forsk., Descr. Anim., p. 62; Bleeker, Atlas Ichth., pl. ccccx., fig. 5.

Three very young examples are credited to this species. In addition to the large black spot on the upper surface of the caudal pedicle, there is a small one at the base of the pectoral, and a large black mark on the dorsal extending from the second to the sixth spine; as the transverse bands become fainter, so this mark apparently disappears in adult examples: it is noticeably more pronounced in our smallest specimen (18 millim.), which is little more than a third the length of the largest (48 millim.).

Glyphidodon septem-fasciatus, Cuv.& Val.

Glyphidodon septem-fasciatus, Cuv. & Val., Hist. Nat., v., p. 463; Bleeker, Atlas Ichth., pl. ccccix., fig. 5.

One specimen, half-grown. Attaining larger dimensions than some other members of the genus, this species has received a native name, being known to the inhabitants as "Moutou moutou."


Chilinus, Cuvier.
Chilinus trilobatus, Lacépède.

Chilinus trilobatus, Lacépède, Poiss., iii., pp. 529, 537, pl. xxxi., fig. 3; Bleeker, Atlas Ichth., p. 66, pl. xxvii., fig. 2.

One example, a widely distributed species in the South Seas, attains a length of two feet.

page 193
Chilinus fasciatus, Block.

Chilinus fasciatus, Bloch., Fisch, v., p. 18, pl. cclvii.; Günther, Fische der Südsee, p. 246, pl. cxxxiv.

A smaller species, but equally well known. Two specimens were collected under the native name, "Moree."

Julis, Cuv. & Vol,
Julis lunaris, Linn.

Julis hunaris, Linn., Syst. Nat., i., p. 474; Bleeker, Atlas Ichth., p. 90, pl. xxxiii., fig. 5.

One of the commonest fishes of the Indo-Pacific. Name given by the Funafuti islanders, "Lapi."

Pseudoscarus, Bleeker.

Four species of Pseudoscarus are included in the Collection, and these have been determined as follows:—It is, however, necessary to mention that the identification is by no means satisfactory, as there are such a large number of species (valid or otherwise) named rather than described. "The Pseudoscarus are beautifully coloured, but the colours change with age, and vary in an extraordinary degree in the same species. They fade rapidly after death, so that it is almost impossible to recognise in preserved specimens the species described from living individuals."*

Unfortunately none of these fishes were placed in formol, or judging by results obtained in the case of other Labroids caught near Sydney, and so preserved, much of the colour might have been retained.

These individuals, so much alike in our hands, must when alive exhibit great variety of colour and pattern as delineated by Bleeker, for the Funafuti natives recognise and name the several species.

Pseudoscarus pulchellus, Rüppell.

Paeudoscarus pulchellus, Rüppell, sp., N.W. Fische, p. 25, pl. viii., fig. 3; Bleeker, Atlas Ichth., pl. x., fig. 3.

Previously recorded from the Red Sea, Mauritius, Java, Celebes, China.?

Funafuti native name, "Oulafi" or "Ourafi."

page 194
Pseudoscarus bataviensis, Bleeker.

Pseudoscarus bataviensis, Bleeker, sp., Java, iv., p. 342; Atlas, Ichth, pl. xii., fig. 3.

Previously recorded from Batavia.

Funafuti native name, "Samaria."

Pseudoscarus singapurensis, Bleeker.

Pseudoscarus singapurensis, Bleeker, sp., Singapore, p. 69; Atlas, Ichth., pl. xiii., fig. 1.

Previously recorded from Singapore and Java.

Funafuti native name, "Ruggea."

Pseudoscarus troschelli,Bleeker.

Pseudoscarus troschelli, Bleeker, sp., Batavia, p. 498 j Atlas, Ichth., pl. vii., fig. 2.

Previously recorded from Java.

Funafuti native name, " Soumoulaia."

* Gunther—Study of Fishes, p. 532

Fierasfer, Cuvier.
Fierasfer homii, Richardson.

Fierasfer homii, Richardson, sp., Voy. Ereb. and Terr. Fishes, p. 74, pl. xxxxiv., figs. 7-18.

Mr. Hedley obtained a large Holothurian (H, argus, Semper,) two feet in length. After it had been in a bucket for half-an-hour, the Fierasfer swam out and was bottled in formol. These parasitic Ophidiidæ, as is well known, inhabit the breathing cavities of various invertebrates; they are said to be quite harmless, though possibly inconvenient to their host.

The specimen does not differ from that described by Richardson, and measures 104 millim. in length.


Belone, Cuvier.
Belone platura, Bennett.

Belone platura, Bennett, Proc. Zool. Soc, 1830, p. 168; Rüppell, N.W, Fische, p. 73, pl. xx., fig. 1.

Although I have named the single Belone obtained, as above, I cannot be certain of the determination. Its characters, however, on the whole ally it with this species.

Native name, "Kashufi."

page 195
Hemirhamphus, Cuvier.
Hemirhamphus balinensis, Bleeker.

Hemirhamphus balinensis, Bleeker, Nat. Tydschr. Ned. Ind., xvii., p. 170.

I was at first inclined to regard this "half-beak" as H. intermedius. It agrees more nearly with Bleeker's species, and as Cantor has decided that they are specifically distinct, I have no alternative but to name our single example as above. It is not in good condition, and therefore not suitable for purposes of re-description. In company with Flying Fish, the Hemirhamphi were attracted to the canoes at night by means of flaming palm brands, and were secured in hoop nets within the lagoon.


Ophichthys, Ahl.
Ophichthys colubrinus, Boddaert.
(Pl. viii., fig. 3.)

Ophichthys colubrinus, Boddaert, Neue Nord. Beytr. (Pallas's), ii., 1781, p. 56, pl. ii., fig. 3; Quoy & Gaim., Voy. Uran., I., p. 243, pl. xlv., fig. 2.

The three examples obtained agree in having the transverse bands widely interrupted beneath, so that in reality they are only half-bands adorning the dorsal surface. In some examples the bands are nearly as wide as the interspaces, in ours they are very narrow, being but one-sixth the width of the interspaces. There is no dark spot between the bands as found in some specimens, and figured by Quoy and Gaimard.

Wyatt Gill* describes how eels live in holes in the coral and attain formidable dimensions; he also gives a very recognisable illustration of a typical example of this species.

The native name is " Boureriva."

Muræna, Artedi.
Muræna Formosa, Bleeker.

Muræna formosa, Bleeker, Ned. Tydschr. Dierk., ii., p. 51; Atlas Ichth., p. 94, pl. clxxiv., fig. 1.

In its general form and proportions, the single specimen secured, approaches most nearly to this species, but of its absolute identity I cannot be certain. The colouration and general pattern agree well with Bleeker's figure of the adult, and our example exhibits the black spot at the angle of the mouth, and the dark blotch on page 196the gill-opening, which are stated to be of value in determining the species. Two examples in the British Museum are from Ceram and Amboyna respectively.

At Funafuti this eel is called "Foussi" or "Poussi."

Muræna buroensis, Bleeker.

Murcena buroensis, Bleeker, Nat. Tydschr. Ned. Ind., xiii, p. 79; Atlas Ichth., p. 105, pl. clxxv., fig. 2.

A smaller eel is with some hesitancy assigned to this species; while its general characteristics agree with the description, the colour is slightly different. As, however, the colouration in the Mursenidæ varies much according to age or other conditions, it is not of such specific value as has unfortunately been relied upon to determine the many described species. Our example, preserved in spirits, is of a greenish-brown colour, the dorsal surface including the fin and the sides from head to tail closely punctated with black, none of the dots being as large as a pin's head.

The ventral surface especially anteriorly is immaculate, posteriorly the spots descend, and the last inch or so of the tail, including the surrounding fin, is dotted like the upper surface.

It would appear that the Funafuti native name for an eel is "Poussi" ("Foussi"), this species being distinguished as "Poussi-kenna." Eels were so exceedingly numerous among the reefs round the island, that the native boys used to secure them by beating them with a palm leaf stem as they swam in the water. The three species were obtained in this manner. Eels were also caught in the rock pools by means of hoop nets,

* Gill—Life in the Southern Isles, 1876, p. 279.


Balistes, Artedi.
Balistes fuscus, Bloch.

Batistes fuscus, Bloch, Schn., p. 471; Bleeker, Atlas Ichth., p. Ill, pl. ccxxv., fig. 3.

Two adult examples, wherein the caudal lobes are greatly produced and the anterior portions of the dorsal and anal fins much elevated, even more than in Bleeker's figure. The amount of development, which both these fins and the caudal undergoes as the fish attains maturity, will be well seen by comparing this figure with that of Day's,* which represents a young example of the natural size. Rüppell *has illustrated the species of intermediate age.

Funafuti native name, "Oom."

* Day—Fishes of India, pl. clxxviii., fig. 4.

* Rüppell—Atlas, pl. vii., fig. 2.

page 197
Balistes flavomarginatus, Rüpp.

Batistes flavomarginatus, Rüpp., Atlas Fische, p. 33; Bleeker, Atlas Ichth., pl. ccxxiv., fig. 3.

One specimen secured. It agrees exactly with the figure cited, both as to size and proportions, but the representation is spoilt by the delineation of the scales on the snout, which as Günther remarks are not correctly drawn.

Balistes aculeatus, Linn.

Balistes aculeatus, Linn., Syst. Nat., i., p. 406; Bleeker, Atlas Ichth., pl. ccxvi,, fig. 3.

Under the name of " Soumou," one example of this beautiful and very widely distributed species is in the Funafuti Collection, and is apparently as common in the Ellice Group as in other islands of the Pacific.


Tetrodon, Linnæus.
Tetrodon nigropunctatus, Bloch.

Tetrodon nigropunctatus, Bloch, Schn., p. 507; Bleeker, Atlas Ichth., pl. ccvi., fig. 4.

The Collection includes two adult examples, both of which when alive exhibited a beautiful lemon colour on the entire ventral surface, thus approaching the. variety citronella. One of the two specimens is very spiny, and the other is in part almost naked. Although it is known that some Diodons are able to erect their spines independently of the inflation of the body, personally I had no idea that Tetrodons could accomplish a similar result to such an extent as is exhibited by our specimens. Examining the two side by side one was seen to be exceedingly spiny, while the other as indicated appeared to be devoid of such armaments; it was not until the last named example was turned over that I realised they were of the same species. The right side of this specimen has the spines fully protruded, while on the left side they are deeply imbedded, but can be readily found and protruded by means of a knife or other instrument. A Tetrodon killed with its spines erected may present a very different appearance to one of the same species killed while the spines were imbedded beneath the skin. As the spiniferous character is used in describing or determining the various species, it has been thought advisable to indicate that it may not be so constant as has been imagined.

I find that Günther has drawn attention to the fact that this species varies in its spiny character, but was apparently unaware page 198that an individual might exhibit each variation as circumstances altered. He writes as follows *:—

" This species varies in a remarkable manner in the extent of the spines over the body: sometimes they project much out of the skin, and cover nearly the entire body like bristles: some-times they are much less numerous, and nearly entirely hidden in the skin, the greater part of which appears to be smooth."

Tetrodon nigropunctatus is included in a division characterised by the presence on each side of the snout of "two solid nasal tentacles without opening." Of this species I would rather say that there is a single tentacle on each side of the snout, each tentacle consisting of a stalk separated at about half its height into two lobes. On examining these lobes with a lens they were seen to be distinctly porous at the apex, and suspecting the presence of a canal one of the tentacles was removed, when two depressions were observable in the pedicle, each depression corresponding with one of the lobes. On cutting sections, the microscope revealed the presence of two black spots which may have been the pigmental and juxtaposed walls of two canals. The tentacles had however been so shrivelled, that nothing more satisfactory could be made out.

The native name of the species, which is very common around the Atoll, is "Soui."

Tetrodon immaculatus, Bloch.

Tetrodon immaculatus, Bloch., Schn., p. 507; Bleeker, Atlas Ichth., p. 75, pl. ccxi., fig. 1

One half-grown example is included in the Collection. The stomachs of all these Tetrodons were crowded with coral, which grated together when the body was touched. In T. nigro-punctatus the coral consisted of the finer branchlets of a Pocillopora, found growing in the shallower water where the Tetrodons were obtained. Some of the pieces swallowed, measured nearly 3/4| inch in length, and were much branched.

The food of T. immaculatus, as exhibited by our specimen, was composed of pieces of the stock of a coral unbranched, and not exceeding a pea in size. With these were associated some Fora-minifera, which my colleague, Mr. Thomas Whitelegge, has identified as Orbitolites complanata and Tinoporus baculatus.

Darwin has noticed two species of Scarus as browsing upon corals.*

* Günther—Cat. of Fishes, viii., p. 293.

* Darwin—Coral Reefs, 1874, p. 19.

page 199

The fifty-four species here enumerated are those brought to Sydney, but this number does not exhaust even the common fishes of the Atoll, many different kinds not obtained were observed swimming about the coral growth, or in the deep water beyond. Other species were obtained, but for various reasons were not preserved. We are told (page 65) how a giant ray (probably Ceratoptera) was harpooned in shoal water in the Lagoon, and the large fins cut off to make a meal for the families of its captors. It is also mentioned that the "Bonito" (Thynnus), is attracted and caught with pearl-shell hooks trailed unbaited over the surface, their gleaming nacre being a sufficient temptation. The Barracouta or Barracuda (Sphyrœna) is also mentioned, and the flying-fish (Exocœtus), attracted in the lagoon by torches, and caught in nets, formed a valuable source of food. A shark was caught and can be readily identified as the "Thresher" (Alopias vulpes) from a drawing made by Mr. Hedley. This shark is known as "Mungo" to the natives. There is evidence of another shark, for the swords figured by Edge-Partington,* as possibly from the Ellice Group, are armed with teeth, evidently those of Galeocerdo rayneri.

Mr. Hedley described to me a fish which there was small difficulty in recognising, and on showing him illustrations of Epibulus insidiator, he at once identified them as portraying the fish he described. A species extremely variable in colour, the example seen was wholly yellow.

A Diodon (or rather portion of the skin) was brought home; it was found on the beach, and as it consists of nothing more than spines held together with skin, the species cannot be determined.

Mr. Hedley brought us some account of a large fish found off the Coral Atolls, known to the natives as " Palu," and to the traders as "Oil fish." It is only caught in the deepest water, and is described as having an immense head, enormous jaws, and large scales. I would hazard the suggestion that it is one of the Macruridŝ, and as little, if any, information has been published about the "Palu," have pleasure in transcribing the following account, for which we are indebted to Mr. W. S. Crummer, of the Department of Lands, Sydney, who received it from the well known traveller and author, Mr. Louis Becke:—

"This peculiar fish is, as far as I know, only found in the Tokelau (or Union Group), the Ellice Group, the Kingsmill Group, and at the isolated islands of Pukapuka (Danger Island), Suwarrow Island, and Manahiki. I do not know for certain, but have been told by many intelligent natives, that the 'Palu' is never to be found among the high islands, such as the Fijis,

* J. Edge-Partington—Ethnological Album (1), i., pl. xxxvii., figs. 6-11.

page 200Samoa, New Hebrides, etc.; that it affects only the low-lying coral atolls, such as the above-named. With the exception of an old trader named Jack O'Brien, now living in Funafuti, in the Ellice Group, I do not think there is among the white traders of to-day another man besides myself who has caught 'Palu.' In the first place, a man must have much experience of deep-sea fishing; in the next, the native inhabitants would strongly resent a strange white man attempting to catch one, for reasons I will explain hereafter—that is, the people of the Line Islands would so resent it.

"A full-grown 'Palu' would weigh up to 1501bs., and be 6ft. long; it being by no means a thick fish; as far as shape goes it is much like the Australian Jew fish. In place of scales it possesses a tough black skin, thickly covered with bright silvery and small horny excresences growing in the same manner as the feathers of a French fowl—that is, these scales, or whatever you can call them, curl upwards, and feel loose to the touch. The most peculiar features of the 'Palu' are the enormous eyes; the jaws are toothless; the fins resemble those of a Jew fish. The average size is about 3 or 4ft., and weight 40 to 601bs.

"The ingeniously constructed wooden 'Palu' hook you are already familiar with, so I need not here say anything about it. The line most in favour for 'Palu' fishing is made from the very best cocoanut fibre, 4 or 6 plait. This is of great strength, and above all very light, for it is not unusual to fish in 150 to 200 fathoms, and at such a depth as that the lines, made from 'fetau' (Hibiscus), would be too heavy to pull in. A stone sinker, 3 to 51bs., is attached to the line.

"A calm smooth night is chosen, and after catching flying fish for ' Palu' bait, the canoes pull out into the open—always on the lee side. It is customary to observe the strictest silence, the natives having many superstitions in regard to 'Palu' catching, which is always conducted in a quiet, noiseless manner, different from 'Bonito' fishing, where everyone yells and howls, and works himself into a frenzy.

"The bite of the 'Palu' is hardly perceptible, but on the Island of Nanomaga, in the Ellice Group, where I was left twelve months, I do not remember an instance where we did not touch bottom at 120 fathoms, and almost immediately pull up with a 'Palu' hooked. The hauling up is done very slowly till the fish is within 30 or 40 fathoms, and then as fast as possible to avoid the big Tanifa sharks that would seize the fish. Sometimes in 'Palu' fishing we have hooked immense brown eels which, unless our united strength was put on the line, would tie themselves round the coral and cut the line. In one of these eels we found a 'Palu' weighing 201bs., just dead, showing that these brutes page 201prey on the 'Palu.' When each canoe has caught two 'Palu' they paddle ashore.

"The fish are apportioned out to the community with the greatest exactitude—every portion of it is edible; the head, bones, and fins, when cooked, turning into a rich mass of jelly. The flesh of the 'Palu,' if left uncooked, never putrefies; it simply dissolves into a colourless and odourless oil—I believe chemists would like to get hold of 'Palu' oil. When cooked, it is not easy to detect any great difference from the flesh of other fish, except that it looks very rich and is dully transparent. Its almost immediate effect on the bowels I have described to you before.

"It is prized above all other fish in the Line and Ellice Groups. In the Line Islands it is called 'Te icka ne peka'—hardly translatable in polite English; but not to be too coarse we will say it means' the fish that makes you obey the call of nature in double quick time.'

"When I was living on Savage Island, the people then told me that in the older times 'Palu' were caught there, but of late years very rarely, and that the strong currents racing round the island made them (the natives) afraid to venture out at night; but I surprised them when, with two old warrior fishermen, I caught five 'Palu' in one night, in 80 fathoms only, and with a steel fish-hook. I set the fashion, and the extinct art was revived during my stay there, and I sold any amount of fishing lines and 8-in. hooks, as the Nuie people hate to make anything they." can buy or steal."

Three types of Funafuti native instruments, in which portions of fishes have been made use of, have been submitted to me.

One, called a rasp, is simply a dried portion of the tail of Urogymnus asperrimus. The skin of this ray, as is well known, is in common use for covering sword and spear handles, etc.

A second, described as a thatching needle, is formed of about nine inches of the beak of a Sword Fish (Histiophorus). Another needle used for a similar purpose is the caudal spine of one of the larger Sting Rays (Trygonidŝ), the serrations having been ground down to render the tool sufficiently smooth. The native name of the ray is "Feimanu."

A number of lancets form a third type. They are very neatly made of a piece of stick cleft at the end, into which is lashed a shark's tooth. The teeth are possibly from Carcharias lamia; those from the lower jaw would make admirable lancets, but personally I should not care to be operated upon by the serrated teeth of the upper jaw—both types of teeth having been similarly utilised.

page 202page 203page 204