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The Kirk Collection of Sponges (Porifera) in the Zoology Museum, Victoria University College


When the late Professor H. B. Kirk retired in 1945 he left in the Zoology Department of Victoria University College a collection of microscopic and macroscopic preparations of sponges, including a large proportion of New Zealand specimens. Although it was suspected that some of these were his original types, the point could not be verified as most of the slides carried only serial numbers. Kirk's sudden death in 1948 had seemed to remove any hope of determining the matter until recently when, by a fortunate discovery, the key to the serial numbers was pieced together. Nearly all his type specimens have now been recognized, as well as other interesting material, so that it is possible formally to record the types as such. Prior to his death, Professor Kirk, as a personal memento, had given me a package of his early pencil sketches of anatomical features of calcareous sponges; that they had any further significance was not at the time clear. Since then, by a devious line of inquiry which it is not necessary to detail here, it has proved possible to demonstrate beyond all doubt that most of the sketches are the original rough diagrams he made directly from his microscopic preparations of the type material, while others are revised versions submitted to the lithographer G. N. Sturtevant (whose initials appear on the illustrative plates in the published accounts). The importance of the rough sketches has proved to be the fact that they happen to carry the serial numbers corresponding to the numbers on the slides, together with other useful data. In this manner all but one of the types have been located for the species Kirk described between 1893 and 1897. In regard to his later species, the types of all the specimens collected by Dr. W. R. B. Oliver in the Kermadec Islands in 1908. and described by Kirk in 1911, have also been recovered; only one other, a Campbell Island species, still remains unaccounted for.

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Explanation of Plate:

Explanation of Plate:

Fig. 1, Chalina fistulosa Kirk, holotype specimen, magnification X 3.

Fig. 2, Clathria intermedia Kirk, holotype specimen, magnification X 3.

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The collection, however, also contains exotic material, including Challenger Expedition specimens. The fact that some of this is also of type status, can be demonstrated by the following citations, taken in conjunction with information given on the slides themselves. We know that Kirk worked in conjunction with Dendy. Kirk (1894) has recorded the help he received from Dendy, and mentions that "... this help took the concrete form of a number of European and Australian types of sponges, including a large number of the blocks from which Dr. Dendy had cut his own sections." Elsewhere in the same paper Kirk specifically refers to "... a specimen of L. lucasi that Dr. Dendy has kindly sent me from St. Vincent's Gully." A sketch by Kirk exists so labelled, agreeing even to the lapsus calami of "Gully" for "Gulf." Now Dendy in turn has stated (1893) "I have also a number of fragments of type specimens generously forwarded to me by the authorities of the British Museum" . . . (for which) . . . "my warmest thanks are due to . . . Dr. Guenther." Thus we have the explanation for the presence of Challenger material in the collection, as well as an indication that this material is of type (merotype) status. Certain other specimens, of Australian sponges, are similarly accounted for, having come directly from Dendy. as Kirk records.

In the following catalogue, the terminology employed for the types is that recommended by Frizzell (1933). For convenience, the sense of the terms may be noted here. Holotype is used for the single original type specimen on which a species is based. It can thus be applied to Kirk's material only where we know he had no more than one specimen. Any of the original material, where more than one specimen exists, is termed a syntype. Where none of the syntypes is designated a holotype by the original author (as is the case with Kirk's material), no holotype can exist, but it is replaced by lectotype, nominated in this paper. The term merotype is applicable to a portion of a type in the case of Porifera, Bryozoa and similar animals, and hence is the term applicable to the Challenger specimens in this instance.

The Kirk Collection, though small, is unparalleled in any other institution, and for this reason it has been felt advisable to publish the catalogue as now determined; students of the group may thus be informed for the first time of the existence of these primary types. It is surely a tribute to the systematic sense of Kirk that his nomenclature has suffered only the minimum of name-changes since his diagnoses first appeared towards the close of the last century. My intention in preparing the catalogue has not been to pretend to any knowledge of the group which able students have already explored, but rather to carry out what must have been Kirk's intentions before he died.