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Zoology Publications from Victoria University of Wellington—Nos. 54 to 57

Deletion of the Australian Rays Aptychotrema Banksii and Trygonorhina Fasciata from the New Zealand Elasmobranch Fauna

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Deletion of the Australian Rays Aptychotrema Banksii and Trygonorhina Fasciata from the New Zealand Elasmobranch Fauna

Publication of this paper is assisted by a grant from the Victoria University of Wellington Publications Fund.

Two Australian rays, Aptychotrema banksii (Müller and Henle, 1841) and Trygonorhina fasciata Müller and Henle, 1841, were listed in the New Zealand fish fauna by Richardson (1843a; 1843b). As discussed below, we believe Richardson was in error in this listing, and we can find no firm evidence from subsequent accounts to substantiate the presence of either of these species in New Zealand.

Sherrin (1886, pp. 127, 299), Fowler (1941, pp. 322, 325) and Stead (1963, pp. 138, 142, 143) listed both species from New Zealand, but without comment, and presumably only on the basis of Richardson's list. Hutton (1872, p. 82; 1890, p. 276), Gill (1893, pp. 109, 111) and Richardson and Garrick (1953, p. 27) treated both species as doubtful members of the New Zealand fauna. Günther (1880, p. 285) listed the genus Rhinobatus (= Aptychotrema) and T. fasciata from New Zealand without comment, while Marshall (1964, p. 32) included New Zealand in a list of localities for A. banksii.

Phillipps (1929, p. 102) is the only author who has reported an actual specimen of either species from New Zealand. His description and illustration, as T. fasciata, of a female 735 mm in total length, are undoubtedly of that species. Phillipps's specimen was found in the Wanganui Museum, where it bore the label "Electric Ray, Torpedo fairchildi, Napier, N.Z." We regard this report with scepticism, partly because of the lack of other records, but mainly on the evidence of Mr J. M. Moreland, Ichthyologist at the Dominion Museum, Wellington, who informs us that the Wanganui Museum acquired many Australian fish specimens early this century, and that there may have been transposition of labels between an Australian Trygonorhina fasciata and a New Zealand Torpedo fairchildi.

If Phillipps's record is not accepted, the only information that we are aware of which might substantiate the presence in New Zealand of A. banksii and T. fasciata must lie in Richardson's (1843) listings or in the sources from which he got them.

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Aptychotrema banksii and T. fasciata have a similar nomenclatural history. Both were first described by Müller and Henle (1841, pp. 123, 124), the former under the name Rhinobatus (Rhinobatus) banksii—though in an addendum to the same account (p. 192) this was changed to Rhinobatus (Syrrhina) banksii—and the latter as Trygonorhina fasciata. The accounts of both were based on illustrations in the British Museum (Natural History) of specimens taken on Captain James Cook's first voyage to New Zealand and Australia. Manuscript names for the species, from the same source as the illustrations, were referred to by Müller and Henle as follows: — for R. banksii, "Raja rostrata. Banks MS.45", and for T. fasciata, "Raja fasciata. Banks MS. 47.". The only locality mentioned for each species was "Neuholland", hence Australia.

From the above it is clear that Müller and Henle's accounts in themselves were not the source from which Richardson might have obtained information to list A. banksii and T. fasciata as New Zealand species, unless of course, he misread "Neuholland" for "New Zealand."

Richardson's own accounts (1843a, p. 29; 1843b, p. 227) of the species are mere listings of Müller and Henle's names, but the 1843a account does give, as well, manuscript names as synonyms which indicate the original source of data on the species. For R. banksii "(Raia rostrata, Parkinson, i. t. 45)" is quoted and for T. fasciata "(Raia fasciata, Parkinson, i. t. 47)." These synonymic references are essentially the same as those in Müller and Henle except for the spelling "Raia" and the substitution of the name "Parkinson" (artist on Cook's first voyage) for "Banks" (naturalist). Information from Beaglehole (1962, vol. 2, p. 60, footnote 1) and from Whitehead (1968, pls. 3, 4) confirms that the references pertain to illustrations of the species made by Spöring (secretary to Banks) during Cook's first voyage. Beaglehole also notes that the illustrations of A. banksii and T. fasciata were among those made from specimens taken at Botany Bay, New South Wales, Australia.

Despite the above facts, which establish that the two species were Australian in origin, there is one other clue in Richardson's (1843a) account which might explain how Richardson came to list them from New Zealand. In his introduction (p. 14) he states: "In the following list 'Solander' refers to that naturalist's manuscript 'Pisces Australiae', containing his descriptions of the New Zealand fish obtained on Cook's first voyage. The term 'Australia' as used by him relates solely to New Zealand, which was supposed until Cook circumnavigated it, to be part of a great southern continent. The figures of fish executed in the same voyage are quoted under the name of the artist 'Parkinson'." If Richardson, perhaps by oversight, gave the same interpretation of locality to Parkinson's figures as he gave to Solander's manuscript, then this would explain the referral of R. banksii and T. fasciata to New Zealand.

Our conclusions are that we can find no real evidence that Aptychotrema banksii or Trygonorhina fasciata have ever been reliably recorded from New Zealand, and accordingly we delete them from the known fauna. Both are shallow, warm-water species and would presumably occur in the coastal waters of northern New Zealand if they were present, but, as far as we are aware, no rays resembling them have ever been reported by commercial or amateur fishermen. Numerous exploratory trawling surveys have been carried out in north-east New Zealand, but these species have not been taken—though several areas provide an abundance of three other species of ray, the sting-rays Dasyatis thetidis and D. brevicaudatus and the eagle ray Myliobatis tenuicaudatus.

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However, we are reminded by the single occurrence of the Port Jackson shark, Heterodontus portusjacksoni, in Cook Strait (Moreland, 1956) that stray specimens of even the unlikeliest Australian marine fish species may occasionally reach New Zealand, so we will not be surprised if a specimen of A. banksii or T. fasciata does one day appear in our waters.


We thank Mr J. M. Moreland, Dominion Museum, for discussing this problem with us and for his comments on the Wanganui Museum specimen of T. fasciata.

Literature Cited

Beaglehole, J. C. 1962: The Endeavour Journal of Joseph Banks 1768–1771 . Trustees Publ. Libr. N.S.W. in assoc. with Angus & Robertson. 2 vols. xxvii + 476 pp., 10 col. pls., 40 pls.; xvi + 406 pp., 6 col. pls., 40 pls.

Fowler. H. W. 1941: Contributions to the biology of the Philippine Archipelago and adjacent regions. The fishes of the groups Elasmobranchii, Holocephali, Isospondyli and Ostarophysi obtained by the United States Bureau of Fisheries steamer "Albatross" in 1907 to 1910 chiefly in the Philippine Islands and adjacent seas. Bull. U.S. Nat. Mus. 100 (13): × + 879 pp., Vol. 13, 30 figs.

Gill, T. 1893: A comparison of antipodal faunas. Mem. Nat. Acad. Sci. 6: 91–124.

Günther. A. 1880: An introduction to the study of fishes . A. & C. Black, Edinburgh. 720 pp., 1 pl.

Hutton, F. W. 1872: Catalogue with diagnoses of the species. In Hutton. F. W. and Hector, J. Fishes of New Zealand. Colon. Mus. & Geol. Surv. Dept.. Wellington, xv + 93 pp.

Hutton, F. W. 1890: List of the New Zealand fishes Trans. N.Z. Inst. 22: 275–285.

Marshall, T. C. 1964: Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and coastal waters of Queensland . Angus & Robertson, Sydney, London, Melbourne. 566 pp., 72 pls.

Moreland. J. M. 1956: Notes on four fishes new to the New Zealand fauna. Rec. Dom. Mus., Wellington . 3: 9–11.

Müller. J. and Henle, J. 1841: Systematische Beschreibung der Plagiostomen . von Veit, Berlin. xxii + 204 pp., 60 pls.

Phillipps, W. J. 1929: Elasmobranch fishes of New Zealand: No. 3. N.Z. J. Sci. Tech. 11: 98–107.

Richardson, J. 1843a: Report on the present state of the ichthyology of New Zealand. Rept. Brit. Assoc. Adv. Sci. 12: 12–30.

Richardson, J. 1843b: List of fish. In Dieffenbach, E. and others. Travels in New Zealand with the geography, geology, botany and natural history of that country. 2. Fauna of New Zealand , pp. 206–228. J. Murray, London.

Richardson, L. R. and Garrick, J. A. F. 1953: A guide to the lesser chordates and the cartilaginous fishes. Tuatara (J. Biol. Sci. Vict. Univ., Wellington) 5: 22–36.

Sherrin, R. A. A. 1886: Handbook of the fishes of New Zealand . Wilson & Horton, Auckland. 307 pp.

Stead, D. G. 1963: Sharks and rays of Australian seas . Angus & Robertson. London, Sydney. Melbourne, Wellington. 211 pp., figs.

Whitehead, P. J. P. 1968: Forty drawings of fishes made by the artists who accompanied Captain James Cook on his three voyages to the Pacific, 1768–1771, 1772–1775, 1776–80 . Trustees Brit. Mus. (Nat. Hist.) London, xxxi pp., 36 pls.

Department of Zoology,
Victoria University of Wellington,
P.O. Box 196,
WELLINGTON, New Zealand.

Fisheries Research Division,
Marine Department,
P.O. Box 19062, Aro St.,
WELLINGTON, New Zealand.