The nails are small upon the fore-paws, and very small, but still present, upon the hinder extremities. These last were scarcely, if at all, lobed, and more resembled fish-tails. In colour, the animal was grey above, with black flakes, and a brownish tinge, all over the central part of the upper surface. On the sides, the black spots were replaced by white flakes; while the under part of the body was light grey.
The fore-paws were white, with light grey flakes. The hinder extremities were black, with light grey spots. There was no tail, nor even the rudiment of one. The vertebral column terminated, in a round compressed manner, under the skin, which extended about three inches beyond it, so as to form the curve which united the two hinder extremities. The anal aperture was quite distinct from the urethro sexual canal, as if there were no common cloacal sphincter muscle; this appearance may, however, have been partly owing to the relaxed state of the animal's flesh, it having been dead for some time, and partly to the great pressure of the body upon the lower surface.
The weight of the animal was said, by the capturer and exhibitor, to be about 1,lbs. I had an opportunity of afterwards examining a Sea Leopard Stenorhyncus Weddellii , and comparing it with the above description. But this second individual exactly suited the ordinary account of the animal as I have named it. It possessed a covering of fur on the upper part of the body, and a tail about three inches long, and was decidedly smaller in size. In attempting to define the place of the seal, described above, it may be sufficient to refer to the number and kind of the teeth.
Of the eight genera, into which seals are now distributed, two possess the same number of teeth,—thirty two,—viz. Confining our attention to the two species of the Stenorhyncus , the Leptonyx , or Small-nailed, and the Sea Leopard, we find the character of the former, which notes the presence of the small nails both in the hinder and. But when we take into account the colours of the flakes which spot its whole body, the very slight indentation of the lobes of the hinder extremities, and the entire absence of a tail, it seems as if it had claims to be regarded as an entirely new species.
By James Hector , M. With anatomical observations, by F. Knox , L.
Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute, [electronic resource]
The genus Ophisurus includes a section of the Eel family, which has not been previously recognized as represented by any fish on the New Zealand coast. The only eels mentioned in the lists of New Zealand fishes, are two fresh water species, Anguilla Australis also found in Australia , and Anguilla Dieffenbachii , which Richardson considers as only a variety of the former, and a Conger Eel Congus habenatus , which is found in Cook's Strait, and on other parts of the coast.
The specimen was received, with the following memoranda, from Mr. Atkinson, R. The form and colour of the specimen has been considerably altered by the spirit in which it had been preserved, but it presents the distinctive characteristics of the Ophisurus, or Snake-Eels, having the slender, compressed head, and slightly expanded snout, and the tail prolonged to a naked point, beyond the dorsal and anal fins.
Its colour is dark chesnut-brown, with a silvery lustre beneath. The nasal disk is bordered by six acute subulate teeth, and on the mesial line, two minute teeth, and one stout acute tooth. Behind this, the vomerine teeth form a single row in the mesial line, commencing with two stout teeth, and continued by twelve minute, recurved, subulate teeth. Palatine teeth are uniserial, consisting of thirty-four minute teeth, with recurved tips, extending from the nasal disk to the angle of the mouth.
The mandibular teeth are uniserial, and correspond, in number and form, to those on the nasal disk, and palatines. The eyes are placed in the middle of the gape, about half the diameter of the orbit below the top of the head. The gill openings are large, and placed in front of the pectoral fin, which is small and acute. The dorsal commences over the pectorals, and lies in a groove extending to within half an inch of the tip of the tail; its greatest height being three lines.
The anal extends to within three lines of the tip of the tail, and is four lines wide, immediately behind the anus.
The total-length of the fish is thirty-four inches; tip of nose to anus, thirteen inches; to gill openings, two inches six lines; length of gape, one inch four lines. The nearest species described by Richardson is O. Rostellatus , are large and oval.
The proportions are also slightly different. I therefore propose to distinguish this fish as a new species, and call it Ophisurus Novoe Zelandioe. To accompany paper by F.
Knox on Ophisurus. Knox having undertaken the dissection, and minute anatomical description of the specimen, has furnished the following valuable notes; together with the preparations they refer to, which are deposited in the Colonial Museum. The external characters of this fish having been given by Dr. Hector, I shall only make a few remarks on the skin. The specimen having been preserved in strong alcoholic mixture, necessarily altered, not only the colouring, but also the integumentary tissue itself; not a vestige of scales could be observed, and considerable difficulty was found in removing the skin, more especially at the connection of the dorsal and anal fins.
Little or no oil appeared to be present, and when dried, the absence of oil became more striking. I found it, viewed as a transparent object, entirely dotted over with minute black spots; and immediately below the lateral line, a regular series of spots of larger size, and placed at about two lines from each other. These latter I consider glandular orifices; they are also very distinct on the lip or margin of the upper and lower jaws.
The head of the Ophisurus is at once remarkable for its smallness, and for its high degree of development. The organs of sense, and the dentition, are fully represented. The Ophisurus stands, in this respect, in strong contrast to fishes, in which the head is almost universally, enormously disproportionally developed. The smallness, added to the non-development of the osseous centres of ossification, render any attempt to describe the separate bones of the skull, impossible.
The view of the skull from above Fig.
The upper jaw Fig. The rami of the lower jaw Fig.
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The opercula are well developed. The lower jaw Fig. The dentition of the Ophisurus differs so entirely from that of the eel, as to remove it from the same class or order of fishes, but it would be a great stretch of classification to place him with the serpent, on account of his peculiar dentition. The teeth are all conical, but vary in size, evidently suited for seizing, killing, and retaining the prey. I conclude that the food will consist of crustaceous insects of considerable size, which will be swallowed entire, to be acted upon by the juices from the inner surface of the capacious stomach.
On the alveolar dentary margin of the upper jaw, and on the expanded extremity Fig.
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On the mesial line of the jaw, a peculiar arrangement occurs, in a line with the azygos tooth, one a little larger follows, then two minute teeth, then a tooth still larger than the first, followed by an empty space, then a tooth still larger than its predecessors, and then an empty space, then a tooth less than its predecessor, which is followed at a little distance by a smaller one, and a series of minute teeth follow, becoming gradually microscopic. The entire mesial series, above described, are embedded in a groove, occupying the entire length of the base of the skull, and approaching closely to the first vertebra of the spine.
The transcendental anatomist would call these teeth vomerine, but I shall continue to look for the vomer, in connection with, and performing its usual function, as dividing the nostrils. The alveolar dentary edge then supports a series of minute teeth of beautiful regularity, resembling a fine saw, or comb. The tongue is edentulous, but the pharyngeal bones are covered with minute teeth; a series of a slightly increased size, bordering the external margins of these bones.
The arrangement, no doubt, when brought together by the action of the pharyngeal muscles, in performing the act of swallowing, subjecting the shrimp to a severe scrutiny, not only touching its quality, but its vitality. In order to facilitate description, and avoid repetition of terms, I propose to describe the Ophisurus as presenting a dorsal and abdominal margin, and right and left lateral surface, as being equally applicable to the skeleton, as to the external surface of the body. The osseous tissue approaches that familiar to the anatomist as the semicartilaginous, although each individual vertebra is well defined by a perfectly formed articulation; and the canal for the spinal marrow is composed of a texture more resembling the shell, in hardness, than bone.
In viewing a separate vertebra Fig. On the abdominal line Fig. The abdominal plate or process will be observed to support the ribs, as previously remarked; and it is necessary, particularly, to refer to this fact, as, in describing the caudal division of the spine, it will be again alluded to. About the eightieth vertebra, the canal for the blood-vessels begins to be formed, and here an additional system of processes is found.
The abdominal processes close upon each other, still continuing to support delicate, hair-like, ribs, while a series of cartilaginous processes gradually appear on the lateral surfaces of the bodies of the vertebreae, and continue to the extremity of the spine. The treatise, it would appear, gave offence to no one, and, yet, it was a very bold proceeding to trace analogy between the boasted hand of man, the club shaped pectoral extremity of the elephant, the bat's flying arm, and the fin of a fish. I have remarked, are exceedingly delicate, and more resemble numerous, hair-like, semi-ossified, prolongations, giving attachment to the intercostal muscles.
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