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  ― 281 ―

The Tapoa Tafa, or Tapha

This animal is the size of a rat, and has very much the appearance of the martin cat, but hardly so long in the body in proportion to its size.

Colour plate facing page 281 of 'A Tapoa Tafa'



The head is flat forwards, and broad from side to side, especially between the eyes and ears; the nose is peaked, and projecting beyond the teeth, which makes the upper jaw appear to be considerably longer than the lower; the eyes are pretty large; the ears broad, especially at their base, not becoming regularly narrower to a point, nor with a very smooth edge, and having a small process on the concave, or inner surface, near to the base. It has long whiskers from the sides of the cheeks, which begin forwards, near the nose, by small and short hairs, and become longer and stronger as they approach the eyes. It has very much the hair of a rat, to which it is similar in colour; but near to the setting on of the tail, it is of a lighter brown, forming a broad ring round it. The fore feet are shorter than the hind, but much in the same proportion as those of the rat; the hind feet are


  ― 282 ―
more flexible. There are five toes on the fore feet, the middle the largest, falling off on each side nearly equally; but the fore, or inner toe, is rather shortest: they are thin from side to side, the nails are pretty broad, laterally, and thin at their base; not very long but sharp; the animal walks on its whole palm, on which there is no hair. The hind feet are pretty long, and have five toes; that which answers to our great toe is very short, and has no nail; the next is the longest in the whole, falling gradually off to the outer toe; the shape of the hind toes is the same as in the fore feet, as are likewise the nails; it walks nearly on the whole foot. The tail is long and covered with long hair, but not all of the same colour.

The teeth of this creature are different from any other animal yet known. The mouth is full of teeth. The lower jaw narrow in comparison to the upper, more especially backwards, which allows of much broader grinders in this jaw than in the lower, and which occasions the grinders in the upper jaw to project considerably over those in the lower. In the middle the cuspidati oppose one another, the upper piercers, or holders, go behind those of the lower; the second class of incisors in the lower jaw overtop those of


  ― 283 ―
the upper while the two first in the lower go within, or behind those of the upper. In the upper jaw, before the holders, there are four teeth on each side, three of which are pointed, the point standing on the inner surface; and the two in front are longer, stand more obliquely forwards, and appear to be appropriated for a particular use. The holders are a little way behind the last fore teeth, to allow those of the lower jaw to come between. They are pretty long, the cuspidati on each side become longer and larger towards the grinders; they are points or cones placed on a broad base.

There are four grinders on each side, the middle two the largest, the last the least; their base is a triangle of the scalenus kind, or having one angle obtuse and two acute. Their base is composed of two surfaces, an inner and an outer, divided by processes or points: it is the inner that the grinders of the lower jaw oppose, when the mouth is regularly shut. The lower jaw has three fore teeth, or incisors, on each side; the first considerably the largest, projecting obliquely forwards; the other two of the same kind, but smaller, the last the smallest.

The holder in this jaw is not so large as in the upper jaw,


  ― 284 ―
and close to the incisors. There are three cuspidati, the middle one the largest, the last the least; these are cones standing on their base, but not on the middle, rather on the anterior side. There are four grinders, the two middle the largest, and rather quadrangular, each of which has a high point or cone on the outer edge, with a smaller, and three more diminutive on the inner edge. It is impossible to say, critically, what the various forms of these teeth are adapted for from the general principles of teeth. In the front we have what may divide and tear off; behind those, there are holders or destroyers; behind the latter, such as will assist in mashing, as the grinders of the lion, and other carnivorous animals; and, last of all, grinders, to divide parts into smaller portions, as in the graminivorous tribe: the articulation of the jaw in some degree admits of all those motions.

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