Prototroctes oxyrhynchus Günther, 1870:152

New Zealand grayling, upokororo (Māori name), White spotted greyling (archaic)



Taxonomy & Nomenclature

Synonym/s: Prototroctes oxyrhyncus Günther, 1870:152 (orth. error used by (Hiroa, 1926)); Prototroctes oxyrhinchus Günther, 1870:152 [orth. error used by (Dulvy et al., 2009:146)]; Retropinna upokororo Hector, 1871:134; Prototroctes saleii [MS name?; used by Clarke in his 1889 illustration (see Media below); Schallenberg & Sorrell, 2009]


Conservation Status


Last record: March 1923

IUCN RedList status: Extinct


A formerly very abundant species of smelt, apparently even used as a fertiliser pre-1900, the reason for its extinction is not clear. However, habitat alteration, overfishing and introduced fish are the likely culprits.

The last authenticated New Zealand grayling's, 30 to 40 of them, were caught by Sir Peter Buck at an artificial weir in March 1923 according to (Day, 1981). A photo of apparently the same event clearly shows three men using a hīnaki (i.e. trap) (see here). However, as with most putatively extinct species, unconfirmed records continue long after the last confirmed individual has died. There are even rumours that it persists in isolated tributaries to this day. And these must be taken with some seriousness as it cannot be guaranteed that all possible bodies of water have been surveyed extensively enough.



New Zealand


Biology & Ecology




A specimen handed in to the British Museum in the 1930's was an unknown number of years old, thus it is uncertain whether this lone specimen was caught after March 1923 or before (World Conservation Monitoring Centre, 1996).



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


Lost Animals of the 20th Century (TV Show)



Original scientific description:

Günther, Albert C. L. G. 1870. Notes on Prototroctes, a fish from fresh waters of the Australian region. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, B 1870(1): 150-152.


Other references:

Allen, K. R. (1949). The New Zealand grayling: a vanishing species. Tuatara, 2(1), 22-27.

Allen, K. R. (1961). Relations between Salmonidae and the native freshwater fauna in New Zealand. Proc. N. Z. Ecol. Soc. 8: 66-70.

ARTHUR, W.—Trans. & Proc. N.Z. Institute, 1884, p. 160. “Notes on New Zealand fishes.”

Best, Elsdon. (1929a). Fishing methods and devices of the Maori. Dominion Museum Bulletin 12: 1-230.

Best E. 1929b. Fishing Methods and Devices of the Maori. In: E.C. Keating (ed.), The Published Works of Eldon Best, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington.

Best, Elsdon. (1977). Fishing Methods and Devices of the Maori. Wellington: E. C. Keating. 264 pp. [originally published in 1929, this is a reprint with new foreword; a newer 2005 edition has also been published]

Bloxham, M., J. Woolly, N. Dunn, A. Chaffe, C. Tutt, S. Melzer. (2023). Conservation status of freshwater fishes in Tāmaki Makaurau / Auckland. Auckland Council technical report, TR2023/13.

Chitty, C. (1914). ["contribute[s] some interesting notes on the grayling"]. Lyttelton Times.

Clarke, F. E. (1899). Notes on New Zealand Galaxidae, more especially those of the western slopes: with descriptions of new species. Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute 31: 78-91.

Day, David. (1981). The Doomsday Book of Animals. London: Ebury Press.

Day, David. (1981). The Doomsday Book of Animals: A Natural History of Vanished Species. New York, N.Y.: The Viking Press.

del Monte-Luna, P, Lluch-Belda, D, Serviere-Zaragoza, E, Carmona, R, Reyes-Bonilla, H, Aurioles-Gamboa, D, Castro-Aguirre, JL, del Próo SA, G, Trujillo-Millán, O and Brook, BW (2007) Marine extinctions revisited. Fish and Fisheries 8(2), 107–122.

del Monte-Luna, Pablo et al. (2023). A review of recent and future marine extinctions. Cambridge Prisms: Extinction 1: e13.

DOWNES, T. W.—Trans. & Proc. N.Z. Institute, 1917, p. 296. “Notes on Eels and Eel-weirs (Tuna and Pa-tuna).”

Dulvy, Nicholas K., Pinnegar, John K. and Reynolds, John D. (2009). Holocene extinctions in the sea, pp. 129-150. In: Turvey, Samuel T. (ed.). Holocene Extinctions. Oxford, UK & New York, USA: Oxford University Press. xii + 352 pp.

Dulvy, NK, Sadovy, Y and Reynolds, JD (2003) Extinction vulnerability in marine populations. Fish and Fisheries 4(1), 25–64.

Dunn, N.R.; Allibone, R.M.; Closs, G.P.; Crow, S.K.; David, B.O.; Goodman, J.M.; Griffiths, M.; Jack, D.C.; Ling, N.; Waters, J.M.; Rolfe, J.R. (2018). Conservation status of New Zealand freshwater fishes, 2017. New Zealand Threat Classification Series 24. Department of Conservation, Wellington. 11 pp.

Goodman, J.M.; Dunn, N.R.; Ravenscroft, P.J.; Allibone, R.M.; Boubee, J.A.T.; David, B.O.; Griffiths, M.; Ling, N.; Hitchmough, R.A.; Rolfe, J.R. (2014). New Zealand Threat Classification Series 7. Conservation status of New Zealand freshwater fish, 2013. Department of Conservation, Wellington. 12 pp.

'GRAYLING', from An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock, originally published in 1966. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 22-Apr-09 URL:

Groombridge, B. (ed.). 1994. 1994 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

Günther, A. C. L. G. (1880). An introduction to the study of fishes. Today & Tomorrow's Book Agency, New Delhi. 720 pp.

Hector, James. (1871). On the Salmonidae of New Zealand. Trans. N. Z. Inst. 3: [133-134].

Hector, James. (1872). Notes on the edible fishes, pp. 97-133 [p. 123-125]. In: Hutton, Frederick Wollaston and Hector, James (eds.). Fishes of New Zealand: catalogue with diagnoses of the species. Wellington: J. Hughes.

Hiroa, Te Rangi (P. H. Buck). (1926). The Maori Craft of Netting. Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New Zealand 56: 597-646. [p. 636-638]

Hutton, Frederick Wollaston and Hector, James. (1872). The Fishes of New Zealand. Catalogue, with diagnoses of the species, by Frederick Wollaston Hutton [...] Notes on the edible fishes, by James Hector [...]. Wellington, New Zealand: J. Hughes.

IUCN. 1990. IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre. 1986. 1986 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre. 1988. IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

Lee, Finnbar and Perry, George L. W. (2019). Assessing the role of off‐take and source–sink dynamics in the extinction of the amphidromous New Zealand grayling (Prototroctes oxyrhynchus). Freshwater Biology. doi: [Abstract]

McDowall, Bob. 'Freshwater fish', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 1-Mar-09  URL:

McDowall, Robert M. (1968). lnteractions of the native and alien faunas of New Zealand and the problem of fish introductions. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 97: 1-11.

McDowall, Robert M. (1969). Relationships of galaxioid fishes, with a further discussion of salmoniform classification. Copeia 1969: 796-824.

McDowall, Robert M. (1974). Specialization in the dentition of the southern graylings – genus Prototroctes (Galaxioidei: Prototroctidae). J Fish Biol 6: 209-213. [Abstract]

McDowall, Robert M. (1976). Fishes of the family Prototroctidae (Salmoniformes). Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 27(4): 641-659. [Abstract]

McDowall, Robert M. (1978). Family Proctotroctidae. In: New Zealand Freshwater Fishes: a guide and natural history. Heinemann Educational Books Ltd, Auckland, New Zealand.

McDowall, R. M. (1979). Guide to freshwater fishes. Part VI. Family Protoroctidae. The grayling [New Zealand]. Freshwater Catch: Quarterly Supplement to Catch '79.

McDowall, Robert M. (1988). Diadromy in fishes: migrations between freshwater and marine environments. London: Croom Helm.

McDowall, Robert M. (1990a). New Zealand freshwater fishes: a natural history and guide. Hinemann Reed Auckland. 553 pp.

McDowall, Robert M. (1990b). Freshwater fishes and fisheries of New Zealand -The angler's Eldorado. Aquatic Science 2(2): 281-341.

McDowell, Robert M. (1996). Threatened fishes of the world: Prototoctes oxyrhynchus Gunther, 1870 (Prototrocidae). Environmental Biology of Fishes 46, 60.

McDowall, Robert M. (1997). The evolution of diadromy in fishes (revisited) and its place in phylogenetic analysis. Rev. Fish Biol. Fish. 7(4): 443-462.

McDowall R.M. 2010. New Zealand Freshwater Fishes: an Historical and Ecological Biogeography. Fish and Fisheries Series. 32.

McDowall, Robert M., Kennedy, E. M. and Alloway, Brent V. (2006). A fossil grayling genus Prototroctes, from the Pleistocene of northeastern New Zealand (Teleostei: Retropinnidae). Royal Society of New Zealand, 36(1): 27-36.

McDowall, Robert M. and Stewart, A. L. (2015). Family Prototroctidae; Southern Hemisphere graylings, pp. 381-382. In: Roberts, C. D., Stewart, A. L. and Struthers, C. D. (eds.). The Fishes of New Zealand. Vol. 2. Wellington: Te Papa Press. 576 pp.

Miskelly, Colin M. (2016). Legal protection of New Zealand’s indigenous aquatic fauna an historical review. Tuhinga 27: 81-115.

Pascoe, J. (1957) (ed.). Mr. Explorer Douglas. Wellington: Reed.

Paulin, C., Stewart, A., Roberts, C. and McMillan, P. (1989). New Zealand fish: a complete guide. National Museum of New Zealand Miscellaneous Series No. 19. 279 pp.

PHILLIPPS, W. J.—N.Z. Journ. Sci. & Tech., 1921, p. 114. “Notes on the edible fishes of New Zealand.”

Phillipps, W. J. (1923). The life history of the New Zealand grayling, Prototroctes oxyrhynchus. New Zealand Journal of Science and Technology 6: 115-117.

Phillipps, W. J. (1940). The fishes of New Zealand, vol. 1. New Plymouth, Avery.

Radway Allen, K. 1949. The New Zealand Grayling - A Vanishing Species. Tuatara 2(1): 22-27.

Rutland, J. (1878). On the habits of the New Zealand grayling. In Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute (Vol. 10, pp. 250-252).

Scarsbrook, Lachie et al. (2022a). Ancient DNA from the extinct New Zealand grayling (Prototroctes oxyrhynchus) reveals evidence for Miocene marine dispersal. bioRxiv preprint.

Scarsbrook, Lachie et al. (2022b). Ancient DNA from the extinct New Zealand grayling (Prototroctes oxyrhynchus) reveals evidence for Miocene marine dispersal. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.

Schallenberg, Marc and Sorrell, Brian. (2009). Regime shifts between clear and turbid water in New Zealand lakes: Environmental correlates and implications for management and restoration. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research, 43:3, 701-712, DOI:10.1080/00288330909510035 

TE RANGI HIROA (P. J. BUCK).—Trans. & Proc. N.Z. Institute, 1926, p. 597.)“The Maori craft of netting.”

Walrond, Carl. (2005). Out of the frying pan: Into oblivion: Native Grayling were once abundant in our waterways but are now extinct. New Zealand Geographic 75(Sept-Oct): pagination?

West, D, David, B. & Ling, N. 2014. Prototroctes oxyrhynchus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2014: e.T18384A20887241. Accessed on 19 June 2022.

Wilkinson, Michelle. (2020). Circling the drain – contemporary jewellery and the tale of the New Zealand Grayling. Junctures 21: 99-103.

World Conservation Monitoring Centre. (1996). Prototroctes oxyrhynchus. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.1. ( Downloaded on 14 July 2012.


<< Back to the Neopterygii (New-Finned Fishes) database