Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.


The elephant fish (Callorhynchus milii) belongs to the same group as the sharks and rays and, like them, the skeleton is composed of cartilage, not bone. Elephant fish are confined to the Antarctic Basin and the South Pacific. The New Zealand species grows up to 2 ft in length and is common along the whole of the east coast of the South Island and occurs at times as far north as the Bay of Plenty. The egg cases resemble oblong flat pieces of seaweed about 8 in. in length, and the spent egg cases are common objects on South Island beaches.

The curious trunk-like proboscis of the elephant fish is probably an organ of touch, useful in locating buried shellfish, which form part of its food.

The flesh of the elephant fish is of good edible quality and closely resembles that of hapuku. It requires, however, prior soaking in fresh water to eliminate a slight ammonia taste.

by Arthur William Baden Powell, Assistant Director, Auckland Institute and Museum.

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