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The reptilia I found to be numerously represented in New Guinea, and there are few, if any, of the Islands in the Straits, however small, in which there were not some lizards. At Katow, I got, by the assistance of the natives, a number of species of snakes, lizards, and tree frogs; the snakes all, I think, of undescribed species, and, with one exception, venomous. All the rivers swarmed with alligators, but they were not easily killed. I got two, however, while at Katow, the largest only nine feet long; the species I have not yet made out. At Hall Sound I got a huge Liasis, and at Darnley Island a species of Morelia. Some of the lizards are of great beauty, and all quite new to me.
My collection of fish numbers about 800, the largest portion of them, however, from the northern coast of Australia. I found it difficult to get the fish of New Guinea ; it was impossible to haul the seine on the rough coral beaches; the hook was tried, but ineffectually, and the natives of Hall Sound, though always catching fish, would never part with anything edible. I managed, however, to get some very remarkable looking things. I should say that sharks and rays are by far the most numerous tribes of fishes in Torres Straits and the adjacent reefs. I got many species of each. Near the muddy coast of New Guinea, the Siluridæ seem well represented. Everywhere, of course, among the reefs Labridæ of the most beautiful colours were abundant. Of Percoid fishes, those of the division Pristopomatidæ were the most numerous, though the Squamipennes were also rather abundant. I got one very curious acronurous fish, evidently of the genus Naseus, but with the frontal horn of very great size. At Darnley Island the ship was attended for several days by a number of large sucking fish Echineis Remora, who adhered to the ship's side, but let go their hold the instant anything edible was thrown overboard. The only fish I met with, having a claim to recognition as an article of food, is a species of large-scaled mullet—Mugil, which abounds about Cape York, and is really delicious.
Of marine mollusca, a very large collection has been made, so large that I cannot give a guess even at the number and value of the specimens. There are among them many rare and new species; these, as well as many jars full of echinodermata, annelida, polyzoa, &c., in endless variety, were collected on the reefs at low water, or dredged for at various depths, along the north-east coast of Australia, and in Torres Straits, whenever opportunity offered. But nowhere was the yield so good as at Darnley Island. During a few days dredging there we got more fine shells and annelids than at all the other places taken together. The collection of land shells also, chiefly from New Guinea, comprises many new species of Helix, &c. I cannot, I regret to say, give you at present more detailed information in regard to these testacean mollusks. When Mr. Brazier arrives he will be able to furnish the fullest information on the subject to all those curious in such matters.
The collection of - ARTICULATA" I look upon as extremely valuable. The insects were chiefly collected at Cape York, Darnley Island, and New Guinea, and in all these places there was a general resemblance to the Polynesian fauna, and an extraordinary absence of the usual Australian forms. The diurnal lepidoptera were numerous, and in great variety. Ornithoptera pronomus was common at Cape York, and 0. Poseidon at Darnley Island and Hall Sound. The coleoptera were, upon the whole, rare, and difficult to get, though we managed to scrape together several thousand specimens. Longicornia and Curculionidæ were the most abundant. Of Lamellicornia, Phytophaga, Buprestidæ, &c., there were few, and the almost entire absence of the carnivorous ground beetles was most remarkable. There are, however, many new species among the insects of all orders, and some of great size and beauty. Mr. Spalding cut out of one tree at Hall Sound a dozen specimens of Batocera Wallacei—an insect of great rarity. The collection of Arachnida was also good.
Crustacea were got in great numbers and variety on the reefs, in dead coral and in the dredge.
Altogether I have succeeded in getting together a vast and valuable collection--a collection which, considering the short time at my disposal, seems wonderful, and which affords undoubted proof of the industry and zeal of my staff of collectors. For, it must be remembered that, though the full time of my intended
absence from Sydney has expired, the actual time available for the purposes of the voyage was much less than I calculated on. The “Chevert,” though a good, dry, and comfortable ship, was unable to sail against the wind, and it was so constantly against us during a great part of the expedition, that I do not think we had more than sixty days for collecting during the five months' cruise. The laborious task of arranging, naming, and describing this very large collection still remains to be done. I am desirous that the complete zoology of the expedition should be published in this country, and indeed, would be glad if all papers on this subject, particularly those descriptive of new species could make their appearance in the transactions of this society. It may, however, be a long time before some of the classes of marine animals can be entered on. For the present, Mr. Masters, I hope, will undertake the mammals and birds of the Expedition. Mr. Brazier, I have no doubt, will take the testacean mollusks in charge. I may, probably, if I have time, take in hand the reptiles, fishes, and insects ; but, I confess, that I cannot at present think of any one who is likely to do justice to the crustacea, echinodermata, annelida, polyzoa, polypifera, and other still lower forms of animal life.
I have confined this paper to a brief notice of the zoological part of my collection alone, but I have not neglected ethnology and geology. As regards the botany of the Expedition, I am in hopes that Sir W. Macarthur may communicate something to the Society on that subject.
Mr. MASTERS exhibited a number of fine specimens of the gigantic Batocera Wallacei, taken in the vicinity of Hall Sound, New Guinea
DONATION. A very fine and perfect skull of a species of Xiphius was presented to the Society by Dr. CHARLES M'Kay.
MONDAY, 29TH NOVEMBER, 1875.
WILLIAM MACLEAY, Esq., PRESIDENT, in the Chair.
MEMBERS ELECTED. Hugh Kennedy, Esq., University; A. Dodds, Esq; Francis Lark, Esq., Sydney.
Mr. E. P. RAMSAY read the following papers :
Characters of a new genus and species of Passerine bird, from the
Fiji Islands, proposed to be called VITIA. This is an interesting passerine form, which appears to be allied to Synallaxis on the one hand, and Troglodytes on the other. I have not yet determined to which family of the Passeres it most properly belongs, but for the present I place it among the Troglodytes (Troglodytidæ, Sclater.) I can find no genus in any of the works at my disposal, Grey's Genera of Birds included, into which I can place it with any degree of certainty, and although much averse to forming new genera, I do not see how I can possibly avoid it, unless by leaving it for some one else to do. I therefore propose to form, for the reception of the present species, the genus Vitia which may be thus characterised.
Bill as long, or about the same length as the head, straight, comparatively strong, as wide as high at the base, compressed laterally past the nostrils, culmen very slightly curved to the tip, which is entire
Nostrils, lateral, basal, placed in a longitudinal groove ; the opening oblong, partially covered with membrane; distance between the anterior margin of nostril and tip of the bill nearly equal to the distance between the nostrils and angle of the mouth.
Wings, short, Ist quill about one-half the length of 2nd ; 2nd one-fourth shorter than 3rd, which is about equal to the 9th ; the 4th, 5th, and 6th about equal and longest ; the 7th and 8th very little less; the remainder gradually decreasing to the innermost secondary.
Tail, of ten feathers, long, graduated, somewhat rounded—the lateral feathers only slightly (one-fifth) shorter than the central.
Tarsus, long, about one-third shorter than the tibia, slender, scales obsolete ; hind toe, long, strong; the claw equal to the length of the toe; lateral toes uneven, the inner shorter than the outer, with its claw about equal to the length of the middle withoʻzt its claw ; outer toe joined to centre toe from about the middle of first joint.
In the formation of the wings and legs this genus resembles that of Malurus and Sericornis.
VITIA RUFICAPILLA, Nov. Sp. Adult Male.— The whole of the head rufous, paler rufous on the sides of the face; the throat, chest and centre of the abdomen ashy white; the sides of the neck and of the body, light ashy brown, becoming browner at the flanks and under tail-coverts ; tail underneath brown crossed by numerous indistinct narrow wavy bars of darker tint, seen only in certain lights, above dark brown, with a slight tinge of reddish brown or inner margins of the quills; wings below brown, the quills margined with whitish along the inner webs towards the base ; under wing-coverts white, wings above dark brown, slightly tinged with reddish brown on the outer margins of the quills and upper wing-coverts ; lower hind neck, back and remainder of the upper surface brown, with a slight reddish brown tinge on the wings and upper tail-coverts. Bill dark horn-brown, lower mandible whitish, legs and feet light brown, iris brown; total length, 4:8 inches ; wing, 2.4 ; tail, 2.5 ; tarsus, 0.97; bill from forehead, 0.7 ; from angle of the mouth, 0.72 ; from nostril, •4; height at nostril, 0-2 ; width, 0.2.
Adult Female.—In size and plumage same as the male.
This species was found at Kandavau, in the Fiji group. It was discovered in pairs traversing the more open parts on the sides of the ranges, fitting from bush to bush, and emitting a weak monosyllabic note. When separated they use a rather loud call note.