Image Crested weedfish

TLF ID R5522

This is a preserved specimen of a crested weedfish ('Cristiceps aurantiacus', but labelled 'Auchenopterus aysoni' in this specimen). It was collected by a Mr Stephenson in 1901 in the Bay of Islands, in the north of the North Island of New Zealand. It is head down in alcohol in a glass jar on which two labels are pasted. One reads 'Type. Auchenopterus aysoni 53' and the other, 'HOLOTYPE'. The specimen measures 14.3 cm in length. (Current scientific classification for crested weedfish - Phylum: Chordata, Class: Actinopterygii, Order: Perciformes, Family: Clinidae.)

Educational details

Educational value
  • This specimen of crested weedfish has special significance because it is the one that was described in 1902 by the naturalist Sir James Hector (1834-1907) - Hector was appointed in 1865 as the first director of the Colonial Museum, the forerunner of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.
  • James Hector used this specimen as a holotype, that is the specimen on which the description and name of a new species is based - however, further studies of specimens in the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris showed that the species had already been described as 'Cristiceps aurantiacus' by Frances de Castelnau in 1879; Hector's name for the species, 'Auchenopterus aysoni', is a synonym, but is not in current usage.
  • A holotype provides a constant and reliable reference specimen on which the species name is based, enabling comparative studies to be carried out on different populations of the same species - holotypes are important working tools for scientists, who must study many specimens to build a full understanding of a species.
  • A specimen such as this one provides a good illustration of the role of holotypes in science - the original description of a species is often not comprehensive, meaning that scientists need to consult the holotype to confirm identity; in particular, with species that were initially described more than a century ago, the careful examination of the holotype is essential to fill in missing information.
  • The crested weedfish has an unusual dorsal fin - the high first part, the 'crest', which has three spines, originates above the eye while the long-based second part has 29 to 30 spines, and 6 to 7 rays; crested weedfish can grow to 18 cm in length and occur primarily in temperate marine waters around New South Wales in Australia and the north of New Zealand.
Year level

2; 3; 4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12

Learning area
  • Science

Other details

  • Author
  • Person: Mr Stephenson
  • Description: Author
  • Contributor
  • Name: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
  • Organization: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
  • Description: Content provider
  • URL:
  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Person: Mr Stephenson
  • Description: Author
  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
  • Organization: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
Access profile
  • Device independence
  • Hearing independence
Learning Resource Type
  • Image
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements