Page images

arrested in her compulsory course, deposits her eggs in little crevices of the bark, or, as some authors bare said, in the axils of the leaves, and these eggs remain unhatched until ihe following spring or summer; they then produce a race entirely different from the parent, a race without wings, of different structure, different colour, eating a different food, and bearing a different name. Thus Aphis Humuli of the autumn may have wings, a well-developed mesothorax, a distinguishing colour, an oriparous mode of reproduction, and may feed exclusively on the juices of the hop; while its descendant, Aphis Pruni of the spring, will have no wings, no developed thorax, a different colour, a viviparous mode of reproduction, and will feed exclusively on the sloe. The account reads marvellously like a fable, but it is not so: Mr. Walker, who has thoroughly investigated the subject, knows that these things are so; and this not by chance or by accident, but by a fixed law from which there is no appeal.

I feel that the subject is rather indicated than exhausted in these cursory remarks, but I refrain from amplification: what I have adduced is incontrovertible, and must suffice; and I am sure you will see its important bearing on our systematized lists of species, which must be decimated wlien life-histories yet unknown are carefully worked out.

You will perhaps ask, are these laws of atavism and avism universal or exceptional ? The query is germane to the matter under consideration, and must be mel, but I will give a very modified and rather indefinite reply. May I illustrate my meaning by an example? I believe it a law that the four extremities of all endosteate animals shall terminate in five divisions, as in Man; but I know that in very many instances the exceptions are so numerous and so decided as to eclipse or conceal the rule; as, for instance, in our horses and cattle. So in atavism or arism I cannot doubt the universal prevalence of the law, although I am fully aware how generally it is obscured by exceptions which appear to be conflicting. Believe me, dear Mr. Wollaston,

Most truly yours,



PS. I have to acknowledge, with thanks, the receipt of a communication from Mr. Wallace, in reference to Letter I., but to say I must decline to publish any comments on this series of Letters until my readers are enabled to judge of them as a whole. I bave also to apologize for a typographical error at p. 725; in the second and third lines the word “ Euchelia” occurs: the first is correct, the secoud should be “ Chelovia."-E. N.

Notes on the Genus Deinacrida in New Zealand,

By Walter BULLER, Esq., F.L.S.

Of the curious genus Deinacrida two New Zealand species are already recorded, Deinacrida heteracantha and D. thoracica. The following notes respecting these species and another which has not hitherto been described may prove interesting to readers of the "Zoologist.'

1. Deinacrida heleracantha ("Weta-punga" of the natives). This fine species has a very limited geographical range. I have never heard of its occurrence south of the Waikato district in the North Island. Formerly it was abundant in the forests north of Auckland; of late years it has become extremely rare. The natives attribute its extermination to the introduced Norway rat, which now infests every part of the country, and devours almost anything. One of these insects, in the collection of the late Mr. Sinclair, measured, with its hind legs and antennæ stretched out, fourteen inches; its head and body, exclusive of appendages, being two inches and a half. A specimen which I obtained in a pine forest near the Kaipara River, more than ten years ago, and which is now deposited in the Auckland Museum, is even larger. The sexes differ considerably in size. The weta-punga appears to subsist chiefly on the green leaves of trees and shrubs: it climbs with agility, and is sometimes found on the topmost branches of the Kahikatea and other lofty trees. When disturbed it produces a clicking noise, accompanied by a slow movement of its hind legs. When taken it kicks or strikes backwards with its long hind legs, which are armed with double rows of sharp spurs; and unless dexterously seized will not fail to punish the offender's hand, the prick of its spurs causing an unpleasant stinging sensation. Му. friend Mr. William Mair, of Deveron, obtained some exceedingly fine examples of this insect in the Whangarei district. He found the killing of them, so as not to injure the specimens, a matter of some difficulty; and in one instance attempted to drown the insect in cold water, but found it, after four days' immersion, as lively and active as ever. In another case, a large weta-punga, which he had immersed in almost boiling water and laid aside in his insect-box as killed, revived in the course of a few hours, and appeared to be quite unharmed ! A pair which I caught in a low belt of wood near the Wairoa, and secured in a pocket-handkerchief, ate their way out, and

2 T


escaped before my return to the spot where I had left them suspended.

2. Deinacrida thoracica.-This species is very common in the North Island. It infests decayed wood, and particularly the dead stems of the tutu (Coriaria sarmentosa), into which it bores. The male may be readily distinguished from the female by its large head and long powerful jaws. The ovipositor (in the female) is about half an inch long, and is slightly recurved. This insect is preyed on by the long-tailed cuckoo (Eudynamis tailensis), the whistling parrot (Nestor meridionalis), and several other birds. In connection with this species of Deinacrida I have to record a remarkable circumstance which lately came under my own observation. Dr. Boor, of Wellington, who was collecting New Zealand insects, obtained several examples of the small weta, and dropped them alive into a bottle containing spirits of wine. One of them, after struggling for a few seconds, shot forth from the orifice of the alimentary canal two long processes, which came out from the body spirally and with a wonderfully rapid motion. The insect expired with these appendages disposed in coils. On examination I found that they measured, respectively, nine inches and eight inches and three-quarters, that they were of a rich brown colour, perfectly round, tapering to a point, elastic and resembling, in general appearance, a gutta-percha tube. This abnormal specimen is now in the Colonial Museum at Wellington.

3. Deinacrida megacephala.- I propose this name for a new species, of which I have received several examples (of both sexes) from the woods in the neighbourhood of Wellington. It is characterized by a head and mandibles so large as to appear out of all proportion to the size of the body. This exaggerated feature is wanting in the female, which, however, is distinguishable from Deinacrida thoracica by sufficiently obvious specific characters. The tibiæ are considerably thicker and more strongly armed with lateral spurs, although not longer, than in the other species; the thorax, which is ochreous-yellow, marked with black, iu D. thoracica is of uniform dark umber, narrowly margined with brown; and the body of this species, instead of being pale brown, is deep reddish brown with transverse bands of black. The femora are marked on each side with three series of minute black spots, which are more conspicuous in the male. The following are measurements of the male :-Head and mandibles one inch; from anterior edge of thorax to the end of the abdomen one inch and threesixteenths, the plate of the thorax measuring a quarter of an inch. The antennæ are four inches long. Femur three-quarters of an inch; tibiæ one inch and three-sixteenths; tarsus and claws three-eighths of an inch. The vertex is much rounder or elerated and perfectly smooth.

WALTER BULLER. Wanganui, New Zealand, May 2, 1867.

Extracts from a Journal of a Nesting Tour in Sutherland in 1867.

By John A. HARVIE BROWN, Esq. Wednesday, May 8.-Mr. Jesse and myself left Larbert for the North to-day, and arrived at Bonar at six o'clock in the evening. Long chat with our landlord there; he says he is certain that the jack snipe breeds in Sutherland, and he has himself seen the nest and eggs near the source of the Carron River, in Ross-shire. We offered a handsome reward to anyone who would bring or send a nest of eggs along with the old bird. Our landlord employed three different keepers, each of whom affirmed that he knew the bird to breed in his district. We afterwards received four common snipes' eggs and the old bird. Though we were thus disappointed, nevertheless I am still inclined to think that the bird does breed in the county, as I know several keepers there who know the bird as well as I do myself, and who would not confound it with either the dunlin or the common snipe. The late Mr. John Wolley's correspondent in Sutherland is among the number, and he knows all the birds of the county most perfectly (Ootheca Wolleyana,' Part 1, page 39, and elsewhere, mentioned).

Thursday, May 9.-From Bonar to Altuacealgach Inn. Saw the following birds:-herring gull, lesser blackbacked gull (the commonest gull in the west of the county), great blackbacked gull, blackheaded gull, curlews, two magpies (the magpie is common about Rosehall and in the east of the county, but is almost unknown in the west), one hen harrier (male), one redstart, willow warblers, cuckoos, kestrels, chaffinches, wheatears, hooded crows (the common crow of the county), spotted flycatchers, robins, one raven, one missel thrush, one song thrush, rooks (do not in breeding season go further north than Cama Loch in the west). At Altuacealgach we received from our correspondent there five teal ducks' eggs and ten wild ducks' eggs, taken for us that day, also heron's eggs, &c.

Friday, May 10.- Visited a loch in the neighbourhood : saw graylag geese, redshanks, teal, wild duck, dunlins, sandpipers and one tern (?);

but got no eggs, it being too early, and the winter and spring being severe.

Saturday, May 11.-Fished Cama Loch, where we took a few rooks' eggs (they have only come there during the last year or so), and saw common gulls and one dipper, which must bave had young near, and one blackheaded bunting.

Monday, May 13.-Got curlew's nest with four eggs. I hare found many curlews' nests in Stirlingshire, but never found more than three eggs in each nest before. We were informed, however, that four is the usual number in each nest here; and we afterwards found another nest also with four. Saw one whimbrel; they are scarce, but do breed in the county. Saw blackthroated divers on one loch, but po traces of the nest yet.

Wednesday, May 15.-Saw one buzzard, which few over our beads when we were fishing Loch Bhallan (pronounced “ Vallan"). A curlew chased it for a long distance and then returned to the neighbourhood of its nest. Took an egg or two from a grouse's nest, which was found by Mr. Jesse's retriever “Sailor.”

Thursday, May 16.-After some trouble launched a raft, or double pontoon, and went out to an island on Loch to take blackthroated diver's eggs. After all our trouble found that it was too early, but we shall get the eggs in a few days. Both birds were swimming on the loch.

Friday, May 17.-Even the lower bills were covered with snow this morning, and rain fell in the lower ground. Started for Loch Ailsh, in our boat on springs, called “ Camaloch;” launched her there, and paid a visit to the heronry on the island. The nests were placed in alder and birch-trees, often not six feet from the ground, and were composed of thick heather-roots and pieces of alder-wood outside, lined with heather-tops and moss, and in several I saw green blades of the wild leek (Luzula ?), which did not improve the effluvia from the nests. We took and blew several eggs, but most of them were far gone in incubation. We had had a good many eggs taken for us before by the keeper there and others. Also took kestrel's eggs from a low cliff on a burn near Loch Ailsh. Saw one blackthroated diver, some redbacked mergansers (not yet breeding), ring ouzels, &c.

Saturday, May 18.—Went to Loch Urigil. First shot a graylag goose from her nest, containing three eggs, which proved perfectly fresh; they lay from three to five eggs. Took also redshank's, dunlin's, sandpiper's and a lot of lesser blackbacked gull's eggs from the islands.

« PreviousContinue »