Grayling / Upokororo

The upokororo, Prototroctes oxyrhynchus, or grayling has the unfortunate title of New Zealand’s only extinct species of fish. A shoaling species, the grayling was New Zealand’s only herbivorous native freshwater fish and likely resided in lowland rivers and streams. The species was abundant during the early 1800s but seen to be in decline by the 1860s and the last known specimen was caught in the late 1920s to early 1930s. The cause of their extinction is unknown but deforestation and competition from introduced trout are likely contributors to their demise.

The upokororo should serve as a reminder of the challenges we face in ensuring our actions do not extinguish the existence or prevent the prosperity of New Zealand's wildlife. The plight of the grayling was a consequence of human ignorance and human actions—both on land and in water—yet could inspire a learned approach to addressing persistent marine issues.

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“This is the last known record of fishing for the now-extinct grayling, on the Waiapu River on the East Coast in March 1923. The men are using a hīnaki (trap), which is weighed down with a rock. A net leads from stakes to the hīnaki, and rocks and mānuka brush form the walls that guide the grayling into the trap. On this occasion they took 30–40 fish. Māori knew grayling by many names, the most common being upokororo.”

Bob McDowall, 'Freshwater fish - Shy species, seldom seen', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/photograph/11099/the-last-grayling

"This watercolour, painted in 1889 by Frank Edward Clarke, is one of the few clues we have to the colouring of this fish. There are 12 specimens of the grayling found in museums around the world, but the formalin or alcohol they’re preserved in means they have lost their colour."

Prototroctes oxyrhynchus (White spotted greyling), 1889, New Zealand, by Frank Edward Clarke. Purchased 1921. Te Papa (1992-0035-2278/1)

Source: Science Learning Hub – Pokapū Akoranga Pūtaiao, University of Waikato, www.sciencelearn.org.nz

Hamish Howard

howardhami@myvuw.ac.nz

+64 21 802 470

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Centre for Science in Society

Victoria University of Wellington

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