Were we acquainted with no other animals than those that inhabit the land, and breathe the air of our atmosphere, it would appear absurd to be told that any race of beings could exist only in the waters; we should naturally conclude from the effect produced on our own bodies, when plunged into that element, that the powers of life could not there be sustained. But we find from experience that the very depths of the ocean are crowded with inhabitants, that in their construction, modes of life, and general design, are as truly wonderful as those of the land. Their history, however, must always remain very imperfect, since the element in which they live is beyond human access, and of such vast dimensions as to throw by far the greater part of them altogether out of the reach of man.
That they are in every respect, both of exterior and interior conformation, well adapted to their element and modes of life, we are not permitted to doubt. Their shape is not unlike that of the lower part of a vessel. The body is in general slender, flattened on the sides, and always somewhat pointed at the head. This enables them with great ease to III.110 cut through the resisting medium which they inhabit. Some of them are endowed with such extraordinary powers of progressive motion, that they are able not only to overtake the fastest sailing vessels, but, during their swiftest course, to play round them without any apparently extraordinary efforts.
Their bodies are in general covered with a kind of horny scales, to keep them from being injured by the pressure of the water. Several are enveloped with a fat and oily substance, to preserve them from putrefaction, and to guard them from extreme cold.
They breathe by means of those comb-like organs placed on each side of the neck, called gills. In doing this they fill their mouth with water, then drive it backwards with so much force as to lift open the great flap, and force it out behind. And in the passage of this, among the feather-like processes of the gills, all, or at least the greatest part, of the air contained in it, is left behind, and carried into the body to perform its part in the animal economy. In proof of this fact, it has been ascertained that, if the air is by any means extracted from the water into which fish are put, they immediately come to the surface and gasp for air.—Distilled water is to fish what the vacuum formed by an air-pump is to most other animals.—This is the reason why in winter, when a fish-pond is entirely frozen over, it is necessary to break holes in the ice, not that the fish may come to feed, but that they may come to breathe. Without this precaution, if the pond is III.111 small and they are numerous, they will die from the corruption of the water.—If a string be tied round a fish in such manner that the free play of his gills is obstructed, the animal will become immediately convulsed, and will not survive more than a few minutes.
Fishes are nearly of the same specific gravity with water, and swim by means of their fins and tail. The muscular force of the latter is very great. Their direct motion is obtained by moving the tail from one side to the other, with a vibrating motion. When about to move itself, the fish turns the end obliquely to the water, and moves it through it in that position. The water re-acts obliquely against the tail, and moves him partly forward, and partly laterally. The lateral motion is corrected by the next stroke the contrary way, while the progressive motion is continued. Assisted by their tail, they turn sideways: striking strongly with it on that side, and keeping it bent, it acts like the rudder of a ship. The fins of a fish keep it upright, especially the belly fins, which act like two feet: without these he would swim with his belly upwards, as the centre of gravity lies near the back. By contracting or expanding the fins, these also assist him in ascending and descending: by inclining his tail obliquely, and turning it a little from an erect position to one side, it helps him to rise and fall.
In addition to the fins and tail the air-bladder is of material assistance to the fish in swimming, as it is by means of this that they increase or diminish the III.112 specific gravity of their bodies. When by their abdominal muscles they press the air contained in it, the bulk of their body is diminished, their weight, compared with that of the water, is increased, and they consequently sink. If they want to rise, they relax the pressure of the muscles, the air-bladder again acquires its natural size, the body is rendered more bulky, and they ascend towards the surface. This bladder lies in the abdomen, along the course of the back-bone: in some fish it is single, and in others double; but in the latter case the two parts communicate by a small canal. The air appears to be conveyed into it from the blood, by means of vessels appropriated to the purpose, and it can be discharged thence either into the stomach or the mouth.—Those fish that are without air-bladders have much less facility in elevating themselves in the water. The greater part of them remain at the bottom, unless the form of their body enables them to strike the water downwards with great force. This the Rays do with their large pectoral fins, which are sometimes, and not improperly called wings, since the means which these fishes use in elevating themselves are precisely the same as those employed by birds in flying.—When the bladder of a fish is burst it is never afterwards able to rise. From a knowledge of this fact, the fishermen, after taking a quantity of Cod-fish, are able to keep them alive for a considerable time in their well-boats. They perforate the sound or air-bladder with a needle, disengage the enclosed air, and then throw them into the well, where they immediately sink to the bottom. Without III.113 this operation, they would not be able to keep them under water.
The teeth of fishes are usually situated in their jaws: sometimes, however, they are found on the tongue or palate, and even in the throat. They are generally sharp-pointed and immoveable; but in the Carp they are obtuse, and in the Pike so moveable as to appear fixed only to the skin.—The tongue is in general motionless, obtuse and fleshy; and in the Herring, and some other species, this is set with teeth, to enable them the better to retain their food.—Being furnished with nostrils and olfactory nerves, there can be little doubt of fishes possessing the sense of smelling.
The bones are formed of a kind of intermediate substance, between true bones and cartilages. The back-bone extends through the whole length of the body, and consists of vertebræ, strong and thick towards the head, but weaker and more slender as they approach the tail. Each species has a determinate number of vertebræ, which increase in size with the body. The ribs are attached to the processes of the vertebræ, and inclose the breast and abdomen. Several fish, as the Rays, have no ribs; and others, as the Eel and Sturgeon, have very short ones. Between the pointed processes of the vertebræ lie the bones that support the anal and dorsal fins, which are connected with the processes by a ligament. At the breast lie the sternum, the clavicles, and the scapulæ, on which the pectoral fins are placed; the bones that support the ventral fins are called the ossa pelvis. Besides these there are III.114 often other small bones between the muscles to assist their motion.
The sight of fishes is perhaps the most perfect of all their senses. The eye, in the greater part of them, is covered with the same transparent skin that covers the rest of the head. The use of this is, probably, to defend it in the water, since there are no eyelids. The globe is somewhat depressed in front, and it is furnished behind with a muscle, which serves to lengthen or flatten it, according to the animal’s necessities. The chrystalline humour, which in quadrupeds is flattened, is in fishes nearly globular. The eyes are usually thought to be immoveable, but gold fish have been observed apparently to turn their eyes in their sockets, as their occasions require.—These fish take little notice of a lighted candle, though applied close to their heads; but on any sudden stroke against the stand, on which the bowl containing them is placed, they flounce about, and seem much frightened. This is more particularly the case when they have been motionless, and are perhaps asleep; from their eyes being always open it is not, however, easy to discern when they are sleeping and when not.
In fishes the organ of hearing is placed on the sides of the skull, or the cavity that contains the brain; but, differing in this respect from that in quadrupeds and birds, it is entirely distinct and detached from the skull. In some fishes, as those of the Ray kind, the organ of hearing is wholly surrounded by the parts containing the cavity of the skull: in others, as the Salmon and Cod, it is III.115 in part within the skull. In structure it is by no means so complicated as in the quadrupeds and other animals that live in the air. Some genera, as the Rays, have the external orifice very small, and placed on the upper surface of the head; but in others there is no external opening whatever.
The food of these animals is almost universal in their own element. Insects, worms, or the spawn of other fish, sustain the smaller tribes; which, in their turn, are pursued by larger foes. Some feed on mud and aquatic plants, but by far the greater part subsist on animal food alone; and they are so ravenous as often not to spare those of their own kind. Those that have the most capacious mouths pursue nearly every thing that falls in their way, and frequently meet in fierce opposition. The fish with the widest mouth is usually victorious, and he has no sooner conquered than he devours his antagonist. Innumerable shoals of some species pursue those of another through vast tracts of the ocean; from the vicinity of the pole sometimes even to the equator. In these conflicts, and in this scene of universal rapine, many species must have become extinct had not nature accurately proportioned their means of escape, their production, and their numbers, to the extent and variety of the dangers to which they are exposed. The smaller species are consequently not only more numerous and prolific than the larger, but their instinct impels them to seek food and protection near the shore, where, from the shallowness of the water, many of their foes are unable to pursue them.III.116
Fishes are in general oviparous: some few, however, as the Eel, and one of the species of Blenny, produce their young alive. The males have the milt, and the females the roe, but some individuals of the Cod and Sturgeon tribes are said to contain both. The spawn of the greater number is deposited in the sand or gravel: many of the fish, however, which reside in the ocean, attach their ova to sea-weeds. The fecundity of these tribes far surpasses that of any other race of animals. In the spawn of a single Cod upwards of nine millions of eggs have been ascertained, and near a million and a half have been taken from the belly of a Flounder. Many other fish are endowed with a fertility but little inferior. Such an astonishing progeny, were it to arrive at maturity, would soon overstock the waters. But the numbers are so lessened that perhaps not one in a thousand survives the host of foes by which they are beset.
The longevity of fish is far superior to that of other creatures; and there is reason to suppose that they are, in a great measure, exempted from diseases. Instead of suffering from the rigidity of age, which is the cause of natural decay in land animals, their bodies still continue increasing with fresh supplies; and, as the body grows, the conduits of life furnish their stores in greater abundance. How long they continue to live has not yet been ascertained. The age of man seems not equal to the life of the most minute species. In the royal ponds at Marli, in France, there are some fishes that have been preserved tame since III.117 the time, it is said, of Francis the First, and which have been individually known to the persons who have succeeded to the charge of them ever since that period.
The Rev. Mr. White, of Selborne, observed the mode in which fishes die. As soon as a fish sickens, the head sinks lower and lower, and the animal stands, as it were, upon it; till, becoming weaker, and losing all poise, the tail turns over, and at last it swims on the surface of the water with its belly upwards. The reason why fishes, when dead, float in that manner is obvious, because, when the body is no longer balanced by the fins of the belly, the broad muscular back preponderates by its own gravity, and turns the belly uppermost, as lighter, from its being a cavity.
Fish, like the land animals, are either solitary or gregarious. Some, as Trout, Salmon, &c. migrate to deposit their spawn. Of the sea-fish, the Cod, the Herring, and many others, assemble in immense shoals, and migrate in these shoals through vast tracks of the ocean.
In the Gmelinian edition of the Systema Naturæ the fishes are divided into six orders⁕1:
1. Apodal; with bony gills, and no ventral fins.
2. Jugular; with bony gills, and ventral fins before the pectoral ones.
3. Thoracic; with bony gills, and ventral fins placed directly under the thorax.
4. Abdominal; with bony gills, and ventral fins placed behind the thorax.III.118
5. Branchiostegous; with gills destitute of bony rays.
6. , with cartilaginous gills.
⁕1 Apodes, Jugulares, Thoracici, Abdominales, Branchiostegi, and Chondropterygii.
In what should by now be a familiar pattern, the phylym Chordata—loosely, anything with a spinal cord—has a series of Great Divides between a small group and an Everything Else group, which is again divided into a small group and an Everything Else group, which is again divided . . . and so on.
Looking only at the layers that include fish, one version goes like this:
One subphylum for hagfish; another for vertebrates.
One superclass or perhaps infraphylum for lampreys; another for jawed vertebrates.
One division—at this point we have run out of names—for cartilaginous fishes such as rays and sharks; another for bony vertebrates.
One class for ray-finned fishes; another for lobe-finned fishes and terrestrial vertebrates (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians).
Most of what we think of as “fish” is in the Ray-Finned Fishes group, clas Actinopterygii. “Lobe-finned fishes” includes coelacanths and lungfishes.
the air contained in it
[Oxygen was discovered in 1772—by an Englishman, no less—so he’s really got no excuse to keep saying “air”.]
since the time, it is said, of Francis the First
[Bingley must have cribbed this item from a French source who could assume his readers knew that Francis I reigned from 1515 to 1547. An English writer would have said “the time of Henry the Eighth”.]
divided into six orders*
[In the printed book, the footnote marker in this edition came after the word Chondropterigious in the sixth order. I have put it where it makes most sense.]
[Bingley must not have found anything to interest him in this fifth Linnaean order; it has no representatives in this book.]
text has Chondropterigious
[Spelling corrected from 1st and 3rd editions.]
The Apodal fish, of which the Eel forms the first Linnean tribe, in their appearance and manners, approach, in some instances, very nearly to the Serpents. They have a smooth and slippery skin, in general naked, or covered only with small, soft, and distant scales. Their bodies are long and slender, and they are supposed to live entirely on animal substances.
The Eels have a smooth head, and tubular nostrils. Their gill-membrane has ten rays. The body is nearly cylindrical, smooth, and slippery. The tail, and the back and anal fins, are united. The spiracle is behind the head or the pectoral fins.
There are about nine species, most of which are found only in the seas. One of these frequents our fresh waters, and three others occasionally visit our shores.
Eels are order Anguilliformes, made up of some 15 families.
The Common Eel forms evidently a connecting link, in the chain of nature, between the Serpents and the possessing not only, in a great measure, the serpent form, but also many of their habits.
It is frequently known to quit its elements, and to wander, in the evening or night, over meadows in search of snails and other prey, or to other ponds for change of habitation. This will account for eels being found in waters that have not been in the least suspected to contain them. An instance of this rambling spirit of the eels is mentioned in Plott’s Natural History of Staffordshire; and, from the following lines of Oppian, it appears to have been known to the ancients.
Thus the mail’d Tortoise, and the wand’ring Eel,
Oft to the neighbouring beach will silent steal.
Mr. Arderon, in the Philosophical Transactions, says that, in June 1746, while he was viewing the flood-gates belonging to the water-works of Norwich, he observed a great number of eels sliding up them, and up the adjacent posts, to the height of five or six feet above the surface of the water. They ascended with the utmost facility, though many of the posts were perfectly dry, and quite smooth. They first thrust their heads and about III.120 half their bodies out of the water, and held them against the wood-work for some time; Mr. Arderon imagines till they found the viscidity of their bodies sufficiently thick, by exposure to the air, to support their weight. They then began to ascend directly upwards, and with as much apparent ease as if they had been sliding on level ground: this they continued till they had got into the dam above⁕1.
Of the migration of young eels, from one part of a river to another, a single instance is related by Dr. Anderson in his publication called the Bee. “Having occasion (says this gentleman) to be once on a visit at a friend’s house on Dee-side, in Aberdeenshire, I often delighted to walk by the banks of the river. I one day observed something like a black string moving along the edge of the river in shoal water. Upon closer inspection I discovered that this was a shoal of young eels, so closely joined together as to appear, on a superficial view, one continued body moving briskly up against the stream. To avoid the retardment they experienced from the force of the current, they kept close along the water’s edge the whole of the way, following all the bendings and sinuosities of the river. Where they were embayed, and in still water, the shoal dilated in breadth, so as to be sometimes near a foot broad; but when they turned a cape, where the current was strong, they were forced to occupy III.121 less space, and press close to the shore, struggling very hard till they passed it.
“This shoal continued to move on night and day, without interruption, for several weeks. Their progress might be at the rate of about a mile an hour. It was easy to catch the animals, though they were very active and nimble. They were eels perfectly formed in every respect, but not exceeding two inches in length. I conceive that the shoal did not contain, on an average, less than from twelve to twenty in breadth; so that the number that passed on the whole, during their progress, must have been very great. Whence they came, or whither they went, I know not. The place I remarked them at was six miles from the sea, and I am told that the same phenomenon takes place every year about the same season⁕2.”
The usual haunts of eels are in mud, among weeds, under roots or stumps of trees, or in holes in the banks or the bottom of rivers. They are partial to still water, and particularly to such as is muddy at the bottom. Here they often grow to an enormous size, sometimes weighing fifteen or sixteen pounds.—One that was caught near Peterborough, in the year 1667, measured a yard and three quarters in length⁕3.
When kept in ponds they have been known to destroy young ducks. Sir John Hawkins, from a canal near his house at Twickenham, missed many of the young ducks; and, on draining, in order to III.122 clean it, great numbers of large eels were found in the mud. In the stomachs of many of them were found, undigested, the heads and part of the bodies of the victims⁕4.
Eels seldom come out of their hiding-places but in the night, during which time they are taken with lines that have several baited hooks.—In winter they bury themselves deep in the mud, and, like the Serpent tribe, remain in a state of torpor; and they are so impatient of cold as eagerly to take shelter in a whisp of straw flung into a pond in severe weather. This has sometimes been practised as a mode of catching them⁕5.
Eels are —They are so tenacious of life that their parts will continue to move for a considerable time after they are skinned and cut into pieces; and no other fish whatever will live so long out of the water as these. They are best in season from May to July; but may be caught with a line till September. When the water is thick with rains, they may be fished for during the whole day; but the largest and best are caught by night-lines. The baits are wasp-grubs, or dew-worms, minnows, or gudgeons.
⁕ Muræna Anguilla. Linn.
⁕1 Arderon on the Perpendicular Ascent of Eels, in Phil. Tran. vol. xliv. p. 395.
⁕2 Anderson’s Bee, xi. p. 10.
⁕3 Walton, 185.
⁕4 Note to Walton, 181.
⁕5 Penn. Brit. Zool. iii. 143.
Muræna anguilla is now Anguilla anguilla, flagship of the single-genus family Anguillidae, freshwater eels. (Genus Muraena gave its name to another eel family, Muraenidae, moray eels.)
between the Serpents and the Fishes, possessing not only
missing comma supplied from 1st edition
the following lines of Oppian
[Oppian’s Halieutica makes its first appearance in this volume. It will not be its last.]
Eels are viviparous.—They are
[Missing period (full stop) supplied from 3rd edition.]
[Footnote] Note to Walton, 181
[The page reference applies to the 1784 Hawkins edition; the footnote is preserved in later editions, including Ephemera.]
Some of the species of Gymnotus inhabit the fresh waters, and others live in the ocean. They are all, except three, confined to the regions of the New Continent. The head is furnished with lateral opercula; and there are two tentacula on the upper lip. The gill-membrane has five rays. The body is compressed, and has a fin running along the under parts.
Order Gymnnotiformes, knifefishes, is made up of several families including Gymnotidae, whose primary genus is Gymnnotus.
This most singular fish is peculiar to South America, where it is found only in the rocky parts of rivers at a great distance from the sea.
On a transient view it bears a great resemblance both in shape and colour to the Common Eel. It is from three to four feet in length, and in the thickest part of its body ten or twelve inches in circumference. The head is flat, and the mouth wide, and destitute of teeth. A fin about two inches deep extends from the point of its tail to within six inches of the head; and, where it joins the body, this fin is almost an inch thick. Across III.124 the body are several annular divisions, or rather rugæ of the skin, from which the fish should seem to partake of a vermicular nature, and to have the power of contracting or dilating itself at pleasure. It is able to swim backwards as well as forwards.
These fishes possess the singular property of giving a shock, similar in its effects to that produced from a charged jar, to any body, or any number of bodies connected together. In different publications, domestic and foreign, we have numerous accounts of experiments on the Electric Eel: the best of them seem those inserted in the Philosophical Transactions, by Dr. Williamson and Dr. Garden.
The former of these gentlemen says that, on touching an Electrical Eel with one hand, a sensation is experienced similar to that arising from touching the conductor of an electrical machine: with a short iron rod the same was felt, but less powerfully. While another person provoked the fish, Dr. W. put his hand into the water, at the distance of three feet from it, and felt an unpleasant sensation in the joints of his fingers. Some small fish were thrown into the water, and the animal immediately stunned and swallowed them. A larger fish was thrown in, which he stunned likewise, and attempted to swallow; but, from its size, he could not do it. Dr. W. put his hand into the water, and had another fish thrown in at some distance. The Eel swam up to it, and at first turned away without offering it any violence: after a little time he returned, and, looking stedfastly at it a few III.125 seconds, gave it a shock, by which it instantly turned upon its back, and became motionless. Dr. W. at that very instant felt the same sensation in his fingers as when he put his hand into the water before. A fish was afterwards struck, but not quite killed: when the Electric Eel perceived this he returned, and at a second shock, evidently more severe than the former, rendered it motionless. On touching it with one hand so as to provoke it, and holding the other in the water at a little distance, a severe shock was felt through both the arms, and across the breast, similar to that from a charged jar. Eight or ten persons, with their hands joined, experienced the same, on the first touching the head, and the last the tail of the fish. A dog being made a link in this chain, at the instant of contact uttered a loud yell⁕1. When the Eel was touched with silk, glass, or any other non-conductor, no shock whatever was felt. From a long series of experiments, it appeared to Dr. Williamson that these properties partook so nearly of the nature of electricity, that whatever would convey the electrical fluid would also convey the fluid discharged by the Eel; and vice versa. He, however, was never able to observe that any spark was produced on contact, This mode of defence the fish never adopted except it was irritated; and Dr. W. has passed his hand along the back and sides from head to tail, and even lifted part of its body out of the water, without tempting it to injure him⁕2.III.126
Mr. Bryant mentions an instance of the shock being felt through a considerable thickness of wood.—One morning, while he was standing by, as a servant was emptying a tub, in which one of these fish was contained, he had lifted it entirely from the ground, and was pouring off the water to renew it, when he received a shock so violent as occasioned him to let the tub fall. Mr. B. then called another person to his assistance, and caused them together to lift up the tub, each laying hold only on the outside. When they were pouring off the remainder of the water, they each received a shock so smart that they were compelled to desist⁕3.
Persons have been knocked down with the stroke. One of these fish being from a net upon grass, an English sailor, notwithstanding all the persuasions that were used to prevent him, would insist on taking it up; but the moment he grasped it he dropped down in a fit, his eyes were fixed, his face became livid, and it was not without difficulty that his senses were restored. He said that the instant he touched it, “the cold ran swiftly up his arm into his body, and pierced him to the heart⁕4.”
A negro, who attempted to grasp a large fish firmly with his hands, had, in consequence, a confirmed paralysis in both his arms⁕5.
Dr. Garden says that, for a person to receive a shock from the Electrical Eel, it is necessary to take III.127 hold of the fish with both hands at some considerable distance from each other, so as to form a communication betwixt them. He held a large one several times by one hand without receiving a shock, but he never touched any of them with both his hands without feeling a smart shock. The remainder of his experiments, though not so numerous, tend to confirm the truth of those that were made by Dr. Williamson⁕6.
The account of Captain Stedman differs from the above in one material point: he says that it is by no means necessary to grasp the animal with both hands to receive the shock, having himself experienced the contrary effect. For a small wager he attempted several times to seize an Electrical Eel with one hand, and at every trial he had a severe shock, which extended to the top of his shoulder; and after about twenty different attempts, to no purpose, he was compelled to desist⁕7.
This property seems principally of use to the Electrical Eels in securing their food; for, being destitute of teeth, they would otherwise be scarcely able to seize it. The force of the shock has been satisfactorily proved to depend entirely on the will, and to be exerted as circumstances require. Their prey are generally so stunned by the shock as to appear dead; but when these have been taken into another vessel they have been always found to recover.—When the Electrical Eels are hungry they III.128 are tolerably keen after their food; but they are soon satisfied, not being able to contain much at one time. One of them, three feet and upwards in length, could not swallow a small fish above three, or at most three inches and a half long.
The organs that produce this wonderful accumulation of electric matter constitute nearly one half of that part of the flesh in which they are placed, and, perhaps, compose more than one third of the whole animal. There are two pairs of these organs, one on each side. Their structure is very simple and regular, consisting only of flat partitions, with cross divisions between them. The partitions are thin membranes placed nearly parallel to one another, and of different lengths and breadths. Their distances from each other differ with the size of the fish: in one of two feet four inches in length they were found to be 1/29th of an inch asunder. They appear to answer the same purpose with the columns of the Torpedo, making walls or butments for the subdivisions, and are to be considered as forming so many distinct organs; they are very tender, and easily lacerated. These are furnished with many pairs of nerves appropriated to their management⁕8; but how these surprising effects are produced by means of such organs, in a fluid also extremely ill-adapted to the purpose, has not yet been satisfactorily explained.
It has been said that specimens of the Electric III.129 Eel have been seen that were upwards of twenty feet in length, and whose shock would be instant death to any man that unluckily received it. This assertion is however contradicted by Captain Stedman, whose long residence in those parts of South America, where the Gymnotus is principally found, enabled him to make accurate enquiries on the subject.
These Eels are sometimes caught in Guiana when very young, and preserved in large troughs filled with water, for amusement. They are usually fed with small fish, earth-worms, or cock-roaches, the latter of which are the most agreeable of all food to them: when one of these is thrown into the trough, the fish opens his mouth and sucks it in with great avidity and apparent pleasure.—From the skin is excreted a slimy substance, which renders it necessary to have the water often changed.—When the water is out of the trough they will lie motionless for several hours; but, if touched in this condition, they never fail to communicate a violent shock⁕9.
⁕ Synonyms.—Gymnotus electricus. Linn.—Cold Eel. Smith.—Cramp-fish, Numbing Eel, by the English.—Beave Aal, by the Dutch.—Electric Eel. Phil. Trans.
⁕1 Le Vaillant’s New Travels, i. 80.
⁕2 Phil. Tran. vol. lxv. p. 94.
⁕3 Bryant in Amer. Phil. Tran. ii. 167.
⁕4 Smith’s Nevis, 100, where this animal is called Cold Eel.
⁕5 Mr. Flagg in Amer. Phil. Tran. ii. 170.
⁕6 Phil. Tran. vol. lxv. p. 102.
⁕7 Stedman’s Account of Surinam.
⁕8 Hunter in Phil. Trans. vol. lxv. p. 395.
⁕9 Bancroft, 200.
Gymnotus electricus, the electric eel, now has a genus all to itself, making it Electrophorus electricus, the only member of the Gymnnotidae family that is not in genus Gymnotus. Props to Linnaeus for recognizing that, in spite of its shape, it isn’t an eel.
One of these fish being shaken from a net
text has shacken
[Corrected from 3rd edition.]
they were found to be 1/29th of an inch asunder
[I can only hope this means the researcher counted 29 in an inch—or better yet, 58 in two inches—as it would otherwise imply a very strangely calibrated ruler.]
The head of the Sword-fish is furnished with a long, hard, sword-shaped upper jaw. The mouth III.130 has no teeth. The gill membrane is eight-rayed; and the body is rounded, and has no apparent scales.
These are very large and powerful animals, often growing to the length of twenty feet and upwards. Their voracity is unbounded, for they attack and destroy almost every thing living that comes in their way. The larger fish they penetrate with their long snout, few of which, when within sight of them, can either withstand or avoid its shock. There are only two species, one of which only is found in the European seas.
Swordfish as such are genus Xiphias in the single-genus family Xiphiidae within the enormous order Perciformes (“perch-type things”). Sailfish, along with marlins and spearfishes, are family Istiophoridae (“sail-bearing”) in the same order.
This species of Sword-fish inhabits the Brasilian and East Indian Seas, and also the Northern Ocean. The body is of a silvery bluish white, except the upper parts of the back, and the head and tail, which are of a deep brown. The skin is smooth, and without any appearance of scales. From the long sharp-pointed process in front of the head, it would seem, on a cursory view, to be allied to the European species; but it differs from this in having an extremely broad back-fin, and two long sharp-pointed appendages proceeding from the thorax. It frequently grows to the length of twenty feet and upwards, and is a very powerful fish.III.131
When his majesty’s ship Leopard, after her return from the coast of Guinea and the West Indies, was ordered, in 1725, to be cleaned and refitted for the Channel service, in stripping off her sheathing the ship-wrights found in her bottom, pointing in a direction from the stern towards the head, part of the sword or snout of one of these fishes. On the outside this was rough, not unlike seal-skin, and the end, where it was broken off, appeared like a coarse kind of ivory. The fish from the direction in which the sword lay, is supposed to have followed the ship when under sail. It had penetrated through the sheathing, which was an inch thick, passed through three inches of plank, and beyond that four inches and a half into the timber. The force requisite to effect this (since the vessel sailed in a direction from the fish) must have been excessively great, especially as no shock was felt by the persons on board. The workmen on the spot declared it impossible, with a hammer of a quarter of a hundred weight, to drive an iron pin of the same form and size into that wood, and to the same depth, in less than eight or nine strokes, whilst this had been effected by only one⁕1.
And about sixteen years ago a letter was written to Sir Banks, as president of the Royal Society, from the captain of an East-Indiaman, accompanied with an account of another instance of the amazing strength which this fish occasionally exerts—the III.132 bottom of his ship being pierced through in such a manner that the sword was completely embedded, or driven through its whole length, and the fish killed by the violence of the effort. A part of the bottom of the vessel, with the sword embedded in it, is now lodged in the British Museum⁕2.
The Sword-fish and the Whale are said never to meet without coming to battle; and the former has the repute of being always the aggressor. Sometimes two of them join against one Whale, in which case the combat is by no means equal. The whale uses his tail only in his defence: he dives down into the water, head foremost, and makes such a blow with this, that, if it takes effect, finishes the Swordfish at a stroke: but the other, who in general is sufficiently adroit to avoid it, immediately falls upon the Whale, and buries his weapon in his sides. When the Whale discovers the Sword-fish darting upon him, he dives to the bottom, but is closely pursued by his antagonist, who compels him again to rise to the surface. The battle then begins afresh, and lasts till the Sword-fish loses sight of the Whale, who is at length compelled to swim off, which his superior agility allows him to do. In the Swordfish piercing the Whale’s body with the tremendous weapon at his snout, he seldom does any great damage to the animal, from not being able to penetrate much beyond the blubber.
⁕ Synonyms.—Xiphias platypterus. Shaw.—Indian Sword-fish, Sword-fish. Var.—Broad-finned Sword-fish.—Shaw’s Nat. Mis.
⁕1 Mortimer in Phil. Tran. vol. xli. p. 862.
⁕2 Shaw’s Nat. Mis. iii. t. 88.
Xiphias platypterus is now Istiophorus platypterus, the Atlantic sailfish.
Sir Joseph Banks, as president of the Royal Society
text has Josoph
[Footnote] Shaw’s Nat. Mis. iii. t. 88.
[This really should have been included in the Synonyms footnote.]
This is a numerous tribe, inhabiting only the depths of the ocean, and seldom visiting the fresh waters. They are in general gregarious, and feed on the smaller fish and other marine animals. The flesh of most of them is white, firm, and good eating.
The head in the Cod-fish is smooth; and the gill-membrane has seven rays. The body is oblong, and covered with deciduous scales. The fins are all covered with the common skin. The rays of the fins are unarmed; and the ventral fins are slender, and terminate in a point.
⁕1 This tribe commences the second of the Linnæan orders of fishes, the Jugular fish.
Cod are at the head of their own order, Gadiformes, including but not limited to family Gadidae. Fun fact: Where an American might call a foolish or silly person a turkey, a Norwegian calls them a codfish, tosk or torsk.
These fish are found only in the seas of the northern parts of the world; and the great rendezvous for them are the sand-banks of Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and New England. These shallows are their favourite situations; for here they are able to obtain great quantities of worms, a food that is peculiarly grateful to them. Another cause of their attachment III.134 to these places is their vicinity to the polar seas, where they return to spawn. There they deposit their roes in full security, and afterwards repair, as soon as the first more southern seas are open, to the banks for subsistence.—Few are taken north of Iceland, and the shoals never reach so far south as the straits of Gibraltar.
Prior to the discovery of Newfoundland, the principal fisheries for Cod were in the seas off Iceland, and off the western islands of Scotland. To the former of these the English resorted near four hundred years ago. In the reign of James the first, we had no fewer than 150 vessels employed in the Iceland fishery.
The chief fisheries now are in the Bay of Canada; on the great bank of Newfoundland, and off the isle of St. Peter, and the isle of Sable. The vessels frequenting these fisheries are of from a hundred to two hundred tons burthen, and will catch 30,000 Cod or upwards each. The hook and line are the only implements used to take the fish; and this in a depth of water of from sixteen to sixty fathoms.—The great bank of Newfoundland is represented to be like a vast mountain, above five hundred miles long, and near three hundred broad; and the number of British seamen employed upon it is supposed to be about fifteen thousand.
The best season for fishing is from the beginning of February to the end of April: and though each fisherman takes no more than one fish at a time, an expert hand will sometimes catch four hundred in a day. The employment is excessively fatiguing, from III.135 the weight of the fish, and the great coldness of the climate.
As soon as the Cod are caught, the heads are cut off; they are opened, gutted and salted: they are then stowed in the hold of the vessel, in beds five or six yards square, head to tail, with a layer of salt to each layer of fish. When they have lain here three or four days to drain off the water, they are shifted into a different part of the vessel, and again salted. Here they remain till the vessel is loaded. Sometimes they are cut into thick pieces, and packed in barrels, for the greater convenience of carriage.
Cod are taken by the natives of Norway, off their own coast, in strong pack-thread nets. These have meshes four inches square, and are about a fathom or fifteen meshes deep, and twenty fathom long. They use, according to the weather, from eighteen to twenty-four of these nets joined, so that they have sometimes upwards of four hundred fathom of net out at a time. They fish in from fifty to seventy fathom water, and mark the places of the nets by means of buoys. The afternoon is the time when the nets are generally set; and, on taking them in on the following morning, it is no uncommon thing to obtain three or four hundred fine Cod⁕1.
In the Newfoundland fishery, the sounds or air-bladders are taken out previously to incipient putrefaction, washed from their slime, and salted for exportation. The tongues are also cured, and brought in barrels containing four or five hundred pounds III.136 weight each. From the livers a great quantity of oil is extracted.
In Lapland and some of the districts of Norway, the Cod and Torsk⁕2, which are taken in the winter, are carefully piled up, as they are caught, in buildings constructed for the purpose, having their sides open, and exposed to the air. Here they remain frozen until the following spring, when the weather becoming more mild, they are removed to another building of a like construction, in which they are prepared for drying. The heads are cut off, and the entrails taken out, and the remainder of the body is hung up in the air. Fish caught in the spring are immediately conveyed to the second house, and dried in the above manner. Those that are caught during the summer season, on account of the heat of the weather, can only be preserved by the common methods of curing with salt⁕3.
These fish feed principally on the smaller species of the scaly tribes, on worms, shell-fish and crabs: and their digestion is sufficiently powerful to dissolve the greatest part even of the shells which they swallow. They are very voracious, and catch at any small body they observe moved by the water, even stones and pebbles, which are often found in their stomachs.
They are so extremely prolific that Leeuwenhoek counted above nine millions of eggs in the roe of a middling-sized Cod-fish. The production of so great III.137 a number will surely baffle all the efforts of man, or the voracity of the inhabitants of the ocean, to diminish the species so greatly as to prevent its affording an inexhaustible supply of grateful provision in all ages.
In the European seas the Cod begin to spawn in January, and they deposit their eggs in rough ground among rocks. Some continue in roe till the beginning of April. They recover very quickly after spawning, and good fish are to be taken all the summer. When they are out of season, they are thin-tailed and lousy. Cod-fish are chosen for the table, by their plumpness and roundness near the tail; by the depth of the hollow behind the head, and by the regular undulated appearance of the sides, as if they were ribbed. The glutinous parts about the head lose their delicate flavour after the fish has been twenty-four hours out of the water.
The Cod frequently grow to a very great size. The largest that is known to have been taken in this kingdom was at Scarborough, in the year 1775: it measured five feet eight inches in length, and five feet in circumference, and weighed seventy-eight pounds. The usual weight of these fish is from fourteen to forty pounds⁕4.
⁕ Synonyms.—Gadus morhua. Linn.—Cod-fish or Keeling. Ray.
⁕1 Pontoppidan, part ii. p. 158.
⁕2 Another species, Gadus Callarias of Linnæus.
⁕3 Acerbi ii. 340.
⁕4 Penn. Brit. Zool. iii. 172.
Gadus morhua still has that binomial.
[Footnote] Gadus callarias of Linnæus
[Gadus morhua again. It isn’t clear whether Linnaeus really thought the Swedish cod was a different fish, or if his translators got confused. Today the (English) name “Torsk” is applied to a completely different member of order Gadiformes, Brosme brosme, in family Lotidae alongside hakes and burbots.]
an inexhaustible supply of grateful provision in all ages
[File under: Famous Last Words.]
The Haddock, a fish that every one is acquainted with, migrates in immense shoals, that arrive on the III.138 Yorkshire coasts about the middle of winter. These are sometimes known to extend from the shore, near three miles in breadth, and in length from Flamborough head to Tinmouth castle, near fifty miles, and perhaps even much farther northwards. An idea of their numbers may be had from the following circumstance: Three fishermen, within a mile of the harbour of Scarborough, frequently loaded their boat with them twice a day, taking each time about a ton of fish. The large ones quit the coast as soon as they are out of season, and leave behind them great plenty of small ones: the former are supposed to visit the coasts of Hamburgh and Jutland during the summer.
The larger ones begin to be in roe in November, and continue so for somewhat more than two months: from this time till May they are reckoned out of season, and are not good. They then begin to recover. The small ones are extremely good from May till February; and those that are not old enough to breed, for even two months afterwards.
Haddocks seldom grow to any great size; they very rarely become so large as to weigh twelve or fourteen pounds; and they are esteemed more delicate eating when they do not exceed three pounds in weight.
During stormy weather, these fish are said to take shelter in the sand or mud, or among the sea-weeds. They feed on various small marine animals, and frequently become fat on herrings. The females deposit their spawn on the sea-weeds near the shore.
On each side of the body, just beyond the gills, III.139 there is a dark spot. Superstition asserts that when St. Peter took the tribute money out of the mouth of a fish of this species, he left the impression of his finger and thumb, which has ever since been continued to the whole race of Haddocks⁕1.
Gadus aeglefinus is now Melanogrammus aeglefinus, another genus in the Gadidae family.
[Footnote] Gadus Æglefinus. Linn.
text has Æglesinus
[You might conjecture that Bingley’s first edition had Ægleſinus (with long s) by mistake for Æglefinus; it was an extremely common typo, just like n-for-u. But in fact the first edition already used round esses—and this footnote had a different misspelling, “Oglesinus”, suggesting that the author simply couldn’t read his own handwriting. Not until the third edition does he get the spelling right.]
The Sucking-fishes have a naked, flat, and oily head, surrounded by a narrow margin, and marked with several transverse streaks or grooves. They have also ten rays in their gill-membrane; and their body is destitute of scales.
There are only three known species: these are occasionally seen in the Mediterranean Sea, and the Pacific Ocean.
⁕1 The third of the Linnæan orders of fishes, the Thoracic Fish commence with this tribe.
Remoras (“sucking fish”) are family Echeneidae in the same Perciformes order as swordfish and sailfish.
This singular animal is usually about a foot in length, and has sixteen or more furrows on the top of the head. The back is convex and black, and the belly white. The tail is forked.
It inhabits most parts of the ocean, and is often III.140 found so strongly adhering to the sides of sharks and other fish, by means of the structure of its head, as not to be got off without great difficulty. Five of them have been taken from the body of a single shark⁕1. St. Pierre says he has put some of them on an even surface of glass, from which he could not afterwards remove them⁕2.
The ancients believed that the Sucking-fish, small as it is, had the power of arresting the progress of a ship in its fastest sailing, by adhering to its bottom.
The sucking-fish beneath, with secret chains,
Clung to the keel, the swiftest ship detains.
The seamen run confused, no labour spar’d,
Let fly the sheets, and hoist the top-mast yard.
The master bids them give her all the sails,
To court the winds, and catch the coming gales.
But, though the canvas bellies with the blast,
And boisterous winds bend down the cracking mast,
The bark stands firmly rooted in the sea,
And will, unmov’d, nor winds nor waves obey;
Still, as when calms have flatted all the plain,
And infant waves scarce wrinkle on the main.
No ship in harbour moor’d so careless rides,
When ruffling waters tell the flowing tides.
Appall’d, the sailors stare, through strange surprise,
Believe they dream, and rub their waking eyes.
As when, unerring from the huntsman’s bow,
The feather’d death arrests the flying doe,
Struck through, the dying beast falls sudden down,
The parts grow stiff, and all the motion’s gone;
Such sudden force the floating captive binds,
Though beat by waves, and urged by driving winds⁕3.
Turning its powers in a very different way, the ancients also fancied that, in what manner soever it was administered, it was fatal in affairs of love, deadening the warmest affections of both sexes⁕4.
The Indians of Jamaica and Cuba formerly used the Sucking-fish in the catching of others, somewhat in the same manner as hawks are employed by a falconer in seizing birds. They kept them for the purpose, and had them regularly fed. The owner, on a calm morning, would carry one of them out to sea, secured to his canoe by a small but strong line, many fathoms in length; and the moment the creature saw a fish in the water, though at a great distance, it would dart away with the swiftness of an arrow, and soon fasten upon it. The Indian, in the mean time, loosened and let go the line, which was provided with a buoy that kept on the surface of the sea, and marked the course the Sucking-fish had taken; and he pursued it in his canoe, until he perceived his game to be nearly exhausted and run down.—He then, taking up the buoy, gradually drew the line towards the shore; the Sucking-fish still adhering with so inflexible a tenacity to his prey as not easily to be removed. Oviedo says he has known turtle taken by this mode of a bulk and weight that no single man could support.
These fish are often eaten, and in taste they are said very greatly to resemble fried artichokes⁕5.
⁕ Echeneis remora. Linn.
⁕1 Catesby, ii. 26.
⁕2 Voyage to the Isle of France, 30.
⁕3 Jones’s translation of Oppian.
⁕4 Pliny, lib. ix. c. 25.
⁕5 St. Pierre’s Isle of France, 30.
Echeneis remora has been promoted to its own genus, and is now Remora remora, the brown sucker, common sucker, shark sucker and a variety of other names.
The present tribe comprehends those fish that are usually denominated Flat-fish; as the Plaise, Flounder, Sole, &c. These are generally confined to the muddy or sandy banks of the sea, where they have the power of burying themselves, as far as the head, to escape the devastations of the more rapacious tribes. They seldom rise far from the bottom, since, from the want of an air-bladder to buoy them up, which most of the other fishes possess, they are compelled to use their pectoral fins for this purpose, in somewhat the same manner as birds use their wings to rise in the air; and this is not done without considerable exertion: here, therefore, they generally swim with their bodies in an oblique position, and feed on such aquatic worms, &c. as come in their way.
Many of them, as the Holibut, Turbot, and some others, grow to a great size. The eyes of the whole tribe are situated on one side of the head. It is a curious circumstance that, while the under parts of their body are of a brilliant white, the upper parts are so coloured and speckled as, when they are half immersed in the sand or mud, to render them imperceptible. Of this resemblance they are so conscious that, whenever they find themselves in danger, they sink into the mud, and continue perfectly motionless. This is a circumstance so well known to fishermen, that within their palings on the strand III.143 they are often under the necessity of tracing furrows with a kind of iron sickle, to detect by the touch what they are not otherwise able to distinguish. Not being rapacious, or furnished with any weapons of defence, these fishes owe their security to this stratagem; while the Thornback and Rays, that are carnivorous and armed with strong spines, although flat-fish of a different class, are marbled with lighter colours, that they may be perceived and avoided by less powerful fish.
Flatfish-in-general are order Pleuronectiformes, named for family Pleuronectidae, righteye flounders. (There is a separate family, Bothidae, for lefteye flounders.)
The northern parts of the English coast, and some places off the coast of Holland, afford Turbots in greater abundance and in greater excellence than any other parts of the world. Lying here, however, in deep waters, they are seldom to be caught but by lines.
In fishing for Turbot off the Yorkshire coast, three men go out in each of the boats, each man provided with three lines; every one of which is furnished with two hundred and eighty hooks, placed exactly six feet two inches asunder. These are coiled on an oblong piece of wicker-work, with the hooks baited and placed very regularly in the centre of the coil. When they are used, the nine are generally fastened together so as to form one line with above two thousand hooks, and extending III.144 near three miles in length. This is always laid across the current. An anchor and buoy are fixed at the end of each man’s line. The tides run here so rapidly that the fishermen can only shoot and haul their lines in the still water at the turn of the tide; and therefore, as it is flood and ebb about every alternate six hours, this is the longest time the lines can remain on the ground. When the lines are laid, two of the men usually wrap themselves in the sail and sleep, whilst the third is on watch to prevent their being run down by ships, and to observe the weather; for sometimes storms come on so suddenly that they find it difficult to gain the shore even without their lines.
The boats used in this work are each about a ton burthen; somewhat more than twenty feet in length, and about five in width. They are well constructed for encountering a boisterous sea, and have three pairs of oars, and a sail, to be used as occasion requires. Sometimes larger boats than these are used, which carry six men and a boy. When the latter come to the fishing-ground, they put out two of the smaller boats that they have on board, which fish in the same manner as the three manned boats do, save that each man is provided with a double quantity of lines; and instead of waiting in these the return of the tide, they return to the large boat and bait their other lines: thus hauling one set and shooting another at every turn of the tide. The fishermen commonly run into harbour twice a week to deliver their fish.
The bait that the Turbots take most readily is III.145 fresh herring cut into proper-sized pieces: they are also partial to the smaller lampreys, pieces of haddock, sand-worms, muscles, and limpets; and when none of these are to be had, the fishermen use bullock’s liver. The hooks are two inches and a half long in the shank, and near an inch wide betwixt the shank and the point. They are fastened to the lines upon sneads of twisted horse-hair, twenty-seven inches in length. The line is made of small cording, and is always tanned before it is used⁕1.—The Turbots are so extremely delicate in their choice of baits as not to touch a piece of herring or haddock that has been twelve hours out of the sea.
The greatest weight of these fish is about thirty pounds.
In many parts of this country Turbot and Holibut are sold indiscriminately for each other. They are, however, perfectly distinct, the upper parts of the former being marked with large, unequal, and obtuse tubercles: while those of the other are quite smooth, and covered with oblong soft scales that adhere firmly to the body⁕2.
⁕ Pleuronectes maximus. Linn.
⁕1 For the tanning of nets and lines see the ensuing account of the Herring.
⁕2 Penn. Brit. Zool. iii. 233.
Pleuronectes maximus is now Scophthalmus maximus, the breet, in family Scophthalmidae, turbots.
In the economy of the Soles we have one circumstance that is very remarkable: among various other III.146 marine productions, they have been known to feed on shell-fish, although they are furnished with no apparatus whatever in their mouth for reducing them to a state calculated for digestion. Some that were purchased by Mr. Collinson had their bellies hard and prominent, appearing to be filled with rows of some hard substance, which, on being opened, were found to be shell-fish. These, from the bulging of the shells and the intervening interstices, gave the intestines somewhat the appearance of strings of beads. On further examination, some of them were found nearly dissolved, others partly so, but many of them whole⁕1. The most usual food of the Soles is the spawn and young of other fish.
Soles are found on all the British coasts: but those of the western shores are much superior in size to what are taken in the north, since they are sometimes found of the weight of six or seven pounds. The principal fishery for them is in Torbay.
Pleuronectes solea, the sole, has been upgraded to its own genus and is now Solea solea in family Soleidae.
In this tribe, although the species are very numerous, there is only one of which I have met with any account in the least degree interesting.
The head and mouth of the Chætodons are small, III.147 and they have the power of pushing out and retracting the lips so as to make a tubular orifice. The teeth are mostly bristle-shaped, flexile, moveable, closely set, and very numerous. The gill-membrane has from three to six rays. The body is scaly, broad, and compressed; and the dorsal and anal fins are generally terminated with prickles.
Genus Chaetodon is the flagship of family Chaetodontidae, butterflyfishes, in order Perciformes—an order that is beginning to look like the fish world’s answer to Passeriformes in birds.
The Beaked Chætodon or Shooting-fish frequents the shores and mouths of rivers in India, and about the Indian islands. It is somewhat more than six inches in length, and is of a whitish or very pale brown colour, with commonly four or five blackish bands running across the body, which is ovate and compressed. The snout is lengthened and cylindrical. The dorsal and anal fins are very large, and on the former is a large eye-like spot.
This fish feeds principally on flies and other small winged insects that hover about the waters it inhabits; and the mode of taking its prey is very remarkable. When it sees a fly at a distance alighted on any of the plants in the shallow water, it approaches very slowly, and with the utmost caution, coming as much as possible perpendicularly III.148 under the object. Then putting its body in an oblique direction, with the mouth and eyes near the surface, it remains a moment immoveable. Having fixed its eyes directly on the insect, it shoots at it a drop of water from its tubular snout, but without showing its mouth above the surface, from whence only the drop seems to rise. This is done with so much dexterity that, though at the distance of four, five, or six feet, it very seldom fails to bring the fly into the water. With the closest attention the mouth could never be discovered above the surface, although the fish has been seen to eject several drops, one after another, without leaving the place, or in the smallest apparent degree moving its body.
This very singular action was reported to M. Hommel, the governor of the hospital at Batavia, near which place the species is sometimes found; and so far raised his curiosity that he was determined, if possible, to convince himself of its truth by ocular demonstration.
For this purpose he ordered a large wide tub to be filled with sea-water; he then had some of these fish caught and put into it, and the water was changed every other day. After a while they seemed reconciled to their confinement; and he then tried the experiment. A slender stick, with a fly fastened at the end, was placed in such a manner on the side of the vessel, as to enable the fish to strike it: and it was not without expressible delight that he daily saw them exercising their skill in III.149 shooting at it, with amazing force, and seldom missing their mark⁕1.
The flesh of this species is white and well tasted.
⁕ Synonyms.—Chætodon rostratus. Linn.—Chætodon enceladus. Shaw.—Jaculator or Shooting-fish. Phil. Tran.—Beaked Chætodon. Shaw.
⁕1 Phil. Tran. vol. liii. p. 89, and vol. lvi. p. 186.
Chætodon rostratus or C. enceladus is now Chelmon rostratus, the beaked longsnout butterflyfish, in family Chaetodontidae. Sometimes it is called an angelfish; it looks just like one apart from being a reef fish instead of a freshwater fish.
In the Sticklebacks the head is somewhat oblong and smooth, having the jaws armed with minute teeth. The gill-membrane has either three, six, or seven rays. The body is keel-shaped towards the tail, and covered with bony plates. On the back, betwixt the dorsal fin and the head, are several sharp spines.
The species, which are not very numerous, are dispersed over various parts of the world, some inhabiting the fresh waters, and others being confined to the ocean. The manners of the former may in a great measure be collected from those of the following species:
Sticklebacks are family Gasterosteidae in order Gasterosteiformes.
These little fish, which seldom exceed two inches in length, are very common in many of our rivers. They have three sharp spines on their back, which III.150 are their instruments both of offence and defence, and are always erected on the least appearance of danger, or whenever they are about to attack other fish. The body near the tail is somewhat square, and the sides are covered with transverse bony plates. Their usual colours are olive green above, and white on the under parts; but in some individuals the lower jaw and the belly are of a bright crimson.
By feeding with great voracity on the fry and spawn of other fish, they are, notwithstanding the smallness of their size, greatly detrimental to the increase of almost all the species among which they inhabit. One that Mr. Arderon of Norwich had in a glass devoured in five hours no fewer than seventy-four young dace, each about an inch and a half long, and of the thickness of a horse-hair, and would have done the same every day, had they been given to it.
The fish was put by Mr. Arderon into a glass jar of water, with some sand at the bottom for the purpose of trying some experiments on it, as well as for the purpose of ascertaining its manners, as far as possible in a confined state. For a few days it refused to eat; but by frequently giving it fresh water, and by coming often to it, it began to eat the small worms that were now and then thrown into the jar; soon afterwards it became so familiar as to take them from the hand; and at last it even became so bold, as, when it was satiated, or did not like what was offered to it, to set up its prickles and strike with its utmost strength at the fingers, if put III.151 into the water to it. It would suffer no other fish to live in the same jar, attacking whatever were put in, though ten times its own size. One day, by way of diversion, a small fish was put to it. The Prickleback immediately assaulted and put it to flight, tearing off part of its tail in the conflict; and had they not been then separated, he would undoubtedly have killed it⁕1.
Small as these animals are, they are sometimes so numerous as to be obliged to colonize, and leave their native places in search of new habitations. Once in every seven or eight years they appear in the river Welland, near Spalding in Lincolnshire, in such amazing shoals, as, during their progress up the stream, to appear in a vast body occupying the whole width of the river. These are supposed to be the overplus of multitudes collected in some or the fens. When this happens they are taken as manure for the land; and an idea may be formed of their numbers, from the circumstance that a man, employed by a farmer to catch them, got, for some time, four shillings a day by selling them at a halfpenny a bushel⁕2.
The great exertions they use, in getting from one place to another, where obstacles intervene, are very extraordinary; for, though the largest among them is seldom known to be more than two inches in length, they have been seen to spring a foot and a III.152 half (nine times their own length) in perpendicular height from the surface of the water, and in an oblique direction much farther.
They spawn in April and June on the aquatic plants; and are very short-lived, scarcely ever attaining the third year. They are too small, and perhaps too boney, to be of any essential service as food to mankind; but in some parts of the Continent they are of considerable use in fattening ducks and pigs.
⁕ Synonyms.—Gasterosteus aculeatus. Linn.—Stickle-back, Bansticle, Sharpling. Willughby’s Ich.—Prickle-back, Prickle-bag; Phil. Tran.——Penn. Brit. Zool. vol. 3. tab. 50.
⁕1 Phil. Tran. vol. xliv. p. 124.
⁕2 Pen. Brit. Zool. iii. 261.
Gasterosteus aculeatus still has that binomial.
This tribe have a smooth body, and seven rays in their gill-membrane. Between the dorsal fin and the tail there are several small or spurious fins.
Who’d have guessed that tuna and mackerel belong to the same family? The two of them—together with bonito, ahi and assorted other good things—are family Scombridae in the ever-popular order Perciformes.
The Mackrel, when alive, from the elegance of its shape, and the extreme brilliancy of its colours, is by far the most beautiful fish that frequents our coasts. Death in some measure impairs the colours, but it by no means obliterates them.
It visits our shores in vast shoals; but, from being very tender and unfit for long carriage, is found less useful than other gregarious fish. In III.153 some places it is taken by lines from boats, as during a fresh gale of wind it readily seizes a bait. It is necessary that the boat should be in motion in order to drag the bait along (a bit of red cloth, or a piece of the tail of a Mackrel) near the surface of the water. The great fishery for Mackrel is on some parts of the west coast of England. This is of such an extent as to employ in the whole a capital of near 200,000l.. The fishermen go out to the distance of several leagues from the shore, and stretch their nets, which are sometimes several miles in extent, across the tide, during the night. The meshes of these nets just large enough to admit the heads of tolerably large fish, and catch them by the gills. A single boat has been known to bring in after one night’s fishing, a cargo that has sold for near seventy pounds.—Besides these, there is another mode of fishing for Mackrel in the west of England, with a ground seine. A roll of rope of about two hundred fathoms in length, with the net fastened to the end, is tied at the other to a post or rock, on the shore. The boat is then rowed to the extremity of this coil, when a pole fixed there, leaded heavily at the bottom, is thrown overboard. The rowers from hence make as nearly as possible a semicircle, two men now continually and regularly putting the net into the water. When they come to the other end of the net, where there is another leaded pole, they throw that overboard. Another coil of rope, similar to the first, is by degrees thrown into the water, as the boatmen make for the shore. The boat’s crew now land, and with III.154 the assistance of persons stationed there, haul in each end of the net till they come to the two poles. The boat is then again pushed off towards the centre of the net, in order to prevent the more vigorous fish from leaping over the corks. By these means, three or four hundred fish are often caught at one haul⁕1.
Mackrel are said to be fond of human flesh. Pontoppidan informs us that a sailor, belonging to a ship lying in one of the harbours on the coast of Norway, went into the water to wash himself; when he was suddenly missed by his companions. In the course of a few minutes, however, he was seen on the surface with vast numbers of these fish fastened on him. The people went in a boat to his assistance: and though, when they got him up, they forced with some difficulty the fishes from him, they found it was too late; for the poor fellow, very shortly afterwards, expired⁕2.
The roes of the Mackrel are used in the Mediterranean for . The blood and slime are first washed off with vinegar, and the sinews and skinny parts taken away. They are then spread out for a short time to dry, and afterwards salted and hung up in a net, to drain some of the remaining moisture from them. When this is finished they are laid in a kind of sieve till thoroughly dry and fit for use. In Cornwall, and on several parts of the Continent, III.155 the Mackrel are preserved by means of pickling and salting.
Their greatest weight seldom exceeds two pounds, though some have been seen that weighed more than five. Their voracity has scarcely any bounds; and when they get among a shoal of herrings they make such havoc as frequently to drive it away. They are very prolific, and deposit their spawn among the rocks near the shore, about the month of June. They die almost immediately after they are taken out of the water, and for a short time exhibit a phosphoric light.
In spring their eyes are covered with a white film, that grows in the winter, and is regularly cast at the beginning of summer. During this time they are said to be nearly blind.
The celebrated Garum of the Romans was a pickle prepared from this fish.
⁕ Synonyms.—Scomber scomber. Linn.—Mackrell or Mackarel. Will. Ich.——Penn. Brit. Zool. vol. 3. tab. 51.
⁕1 For this communication I am indebted to the kind attentions of John Stackhouse, Esq. F. L. S. of in Cornwall.
⁕2 Pontoppidan, part ii. 135.
Scomber scomber, the Atlantic mackerel, is now Scomber scombrus, which looks more like a grammatical than a zoological change.
The meshes of these nets are just large enough
text has is just
[Corrected from 3rd edition because this passage doesn’t occur in the 1st edition.]
The roes of the Mackrel are used in the Mediterranean for Caviar.
text has Cavier
[The 1st and 3rd editions both spell it “Caviar”.]
The celebrated Garum of the Romans was a pickle prepared from this fish.
[Well . . . maybe, maybe not. As with the soma of classical India, if you’ve read one description of garum, you know how it is made; if you’ve read two, you can no longer be sure.]
[Footnote] John Stackhouse, Esq. F. L. S. of Pendarvis in Cornwall
text has Hendarvis
The Thunny was a fish so well known to the ancients as to form one of the great articles of their commerce. It is found in most seas, and is from two to ten feet long. The body is round and thick, and tapers nearly to a point both at the head and tail. The skin of the back is very thick and black, and that of the sides and belly silvery, tinged with III.156 light blue and pale purple. The tail is crescent-shaped, with the tips far asunder; and the spurious fins between the dorsal fin and the tail (which mark the species) are from eight to eleven in number.
On the coasts of Sicily, as well as in several other parts of the Mediterranean, there are now very considerable Thunny fisheries. The nets are spread over a large space of sea by means of cables fastened to anchors, and are divided into several compartments. A man, placed upon the summit of a rock high above the water, gives the signal of the fish being arrived; for he can discern from that elevation what passes under the water much better than any person nearer the surface. As soon as notice is given that a shoal of fish has penetrated as far as the inner compartment of the net, the passage is drawn close, and the slaughter begins.
The Thunny enters the Mediterranean about the vernal equinox, travelling in a triangular phalanx, so as to cut the waters with its point, and to present an extensive base for the tides and currents to act against, and impel forwards.
They repair to the warm seas of Greece to spawn, steering their course thither along the European shores; but as they return they approach the African coast: the young fry is placed in the van of the squadron as they travel. They come back from the east in May, and abound about that time on the coasts of Sicily and Calabria. In autumn they steer northward, and frequent the neighbourhood of Amalphi and Naples. They are not uncommon III.157 on the western coasts of Scotland, where they come in pursuit of the herrings, and often during the night strike into the nets and do considerable damage. When the fishermen draw these up in the morning, the Thunny rises at the same time towards the surface, ready to catch the fish that drop out. On its being observed, a line is thrown into the water having a strong hook baited with a herring, which it seldom fails to seize. As soon as the fish finds itself ensnared it seems to lose all its active powers, and, after very little resistance, submits to its fate.
The quantity of these fish that is annually consumed in the two Sicilies almost exceeds the bounds of calculation. When taken in May they are full of spawn, and are then esteemed unwholesome, as being apt to occasion headachs and vapours: to prevent in some measure these bad effects, the natives fry them in oil, and afterwards salt them. The pieces, when fresh, appear exactly like raw beef: but when boiled they turn pale, and have somewhat the flavour of salmon. The most delicate parts are those about the muzzle. What the inhabitants are not able to use immediately are cut into slices, salted, and preserved in large tubs, either for sale or winter provisions.
The Romans held them in great estimation.
⁕ Synonyms.—Scomber thynnus. Linn.—Albicore. Var.—Mackrel-sture, or Great Mackrel, in Scotland.—Tunny Fish, or Spanish Mackrel. Will. Ich.——Penn. Brit. Zool. vol. 3. tab. 52.
Tuna is mostly genus Thunnus, in the same Scombridae family as mackerel. Scomber thynnus is now Thunnus thynnus, Atlantic bluefin tuna, also known as horse mackerel.
All the species of Perch have jaws that are unequal in length, armed with sharp-pointed and incurved teeth. The gill-membrane has seven rays; and its cover consists of three plates, the uppermost of which is serrated. The scales that cover the body are hard and rough. The first dorsal fin is spinous, and the second (except in a single species) is soft.
Perches, family Percidae, gave their name to the whole Perciformes order.
These Perch are gregarious; and, contrary to the nature of nearly all fresh water fish that swim in shoals, they are so voracious as to attack and devour even their own species.—They grow slowly, and are seldom caught of extraordinary size. The largest that was ever heard of in this country was caught some years ago in the Serpentine River in Hyde Park: it weighed nine pounds. The usual weight is not, however, more than from half a pound to two pounds.
They are found in clear swift rivers with pebbly or gravelly bottoms, and in those of a sandy or clayey soil. They seem to prefer moderately deep III.159 water, and holes by the sides of or near to gentle streams, where there is an eddy; the hollows under banks, among weeds, and roots of trees; the piles of bridges, or ditches and back streams that have a communication with some river. They will also thrive fast in ponds that are fed by a brook or rivulet.
Perch are very tenacious of life. They have been known to survive a journey of near sixty miles, although packed in dry straw.
It is generally believed that the Pike will not attack a full-grown Perch, on account of the spiny fins on its back, which this fish always erects on the approach of an enemy. The smaller Perch, however, are frequently used as bait for the Pike.
The season of angling for Perch is from April to January: and the time from sunrise till ten o’clock, and from two o’clock till sunset; except in cloudy weather, with a ruffling south wind, when they will bite all day. The baits are various kinds of worms, a minnow, or grasshopper.—So voracious are these fish that, it is said, if an expert angler finds a shoal of them, he is sure of taking every one. If, however, a single fish escapes that has felt the hook, all is over; this fish becomes so restless as soon to occasion the whole shoal to leave the place.
In winter the Perch is exceedingly abstemious, and during that season scarcely ever bites, except in the middle of a warm sun-shiny day.—In clear weather in the spring, sometimes a dozen or more of these fish may be observed in a deep hole, sheltered by trees and bushes. The angler may then observe III.160 them striving which shall first seize his bait, till the whole shoal are caught.
The females deposit their spawn, sometimes to the amount of 280,000 ova, betwixt the months of February and May. This is usually done during the act of rubbing themselves against some sharp body.
Perch are much admired as firm and delicate fish. They were in high esteem among the Romans.
In one of the pools of Merionethshire there is a singular variety of the Perch, the back of which is hunched, and the lower part of the back-bone next the tail is strangely distorted. The common kind are as numerous in this pool as the deformed fish. Some of the crooked Perch have likewise been found in the small Alpine lakes of Sweden⁕1.
⁕ Synonyms.—Perca fluviatilis. Linn.—Perch. Will.——Penn. Brit. Zool. vol. 3. tab. 48.
⁕1 Daniel ii. 246. Penn. Brit. Zool. iii. 254.
Perca fluviatilis, the Eurasian perch, still has that binomial.
Rapid and stony rivers, where the water is free from mud, are the favourite places of most of the Salmon tribe. Some of them do indeed inhabit the sea, but they come up the rivers for the purpose of depositing their spawn in the beds of gravel; and in this instinctive pursuit they will surmount wonderful obstacles that oppose their course. After spawning, they return to the sea lean and emaciated. The whole tribe is supposed to afford wholesome food for mankind.
They are distinguished from other fishes by having two dorsal fins, of which the hindermost is fleshy and without rays. They have teeth both in the jaws and on the tongue; and the body is covered with round and minutely striated scales.
⁕1 This tribe commences the fourth of the Linnæan orders of fishes, the Abdominal fish.
Trout and salmon are family Salmonidae, especially genus Salmo, in the single-family order Salmoniformes.
[Illustration] Shaw vol. V plate 102
[The bottom caption was cut off, so I don’t know if it is meant for a female salmon (the upper one is clearly labeled Male) or some entirely different fish.]
This fish seems confined in a great measure to the northern seas, being unknown in the Mediterranean, and in the waters of other warm climates. It lives in fresh as well as in salt waters, forcing itself in autumn up the rivers, sometimes for hundreds of miles, for the purpose of depositing its spawn. In III.162 these peregrinations it is that salmon are caught in the great numbers that supply our markets and tables. Intent only on the object of their journey, they spring up cataracts and over other obstacles of a very great height. This extraordinary power seems to be owing to a sudden jerk that the fish gives to its body from a bent into a straight position, When they are unexpectedly obstructed in their progress, it is said they swim a few paces back, survey the object for some minutes motionless, retreat, and return again to the charge; then, collecting all their force, with one astonishing spring overleap every obstacle. Where the water is low, or sand-banks intervene, they throw themselves on one side, and in that position soon work themselves over into the deep water beyond. On the river Liffey in Ireland there is a cataract about nineteen feet high: here, in the salmon season, many of the inhabitants amuse themselves in observing the fish leap up the torrent. They frequently fall back many times before they surmount it, and baskets made of twigs are placed near the edge of the stream to catch them in their fall.—At the falls of Kilmorack in Scotland, where the salmon are very numerous, it is a common practice with the country people to lay branches of trees on the edges of the rocks, and by this means they often take such of the fish as miss their leap, which the foaming of the torrent not unfrequently causes them to do. And the late Lord Lovat, who often visited these falls, taking the hint from this circumstance, formed a determination to try a whimsical experiment on III.163 the same principle. Alongside one of the falls he ordered a kettle full of water to be placed over a fire, and many minutes had not elapsed before a large Salmon made a false leap, and fell into it. This may seem incredible to those who never saw one of these rude salmon-leaps; but surely there is as great a chance of a Salmon falling into a kettle as on any given part of the adjacent rock, and it is a thing that would take place many times in the course of the season, were but the experiment tried.
When the Salmon have arrived at a proper place for spawning in, the male and female unite in forming in the sand or gravel a proper receptacle for their ova, about eighteen inches deep, which they are also supposed afterwards to cover up. In this hole the ova lie till the ensuing spring, (if not displaced by the floods,) before they are hatched. The parents, however, immediately after their spawning, hasten to the salt water, now extremely emaciated. Toward the end of March the young fry begin to appear; and, gradually increasing in size, become in the beginning of May five or six inches in length, when they are called Salmon-smelts. They now swarm in the rivers in myriads; but the first flood sweeps them down into the sea, scarcely leaving any behind. About the middle of June the largest of these begin to return into the rivers: they are now become of the length of twelve or sixteen inches. Toward the end of July they are called Gilse, and weigh from six to nine pounds each.
When the Salmon enter the fresh water, they are III.164 always more or less infested with a kind of insect, called the salmon-louse⁕1; when these are numerous the fish are esteemed in high season. Very soon after the Salmon have left the sea the insects die and drop off.
After the fish have become lean at the spawning time, on their return to the sea they acquire their proper bulk in a very little while; having been known to be considerably more than double their weight in about six weeks.—Their food consists of the smaller fishes, insects, and worms; for all these are used with success as baits, by the anglers for Salmon.
The principal fisheries in Europe are in the rivers; or on the sea-coasts adjoining to the large rivers of England, Scotland, and Ireland. The chief English rivers for them are the Tyne, the Trent, the Severn, and the Thames. They are sometimes taken in nets; and sometimes by means of locks or weirs with iron or wooden grates, so placed in an angle that, being impelled by any force in a direction contrary to that of the stream, they open, let the fish (or whatever else pushes against them) through, and again by the force of the water or their own weight close and prevent their return. Salmon are also killed in still water, by means of a spear with several prongs, which the fishermen use with surprising dexterity. When this is used in the night, a candle and lantern, or a wisp of straw set on fire, is carried along, to the light of which the fish collect.III.165
In the river Tweed, about the month of July, the capture of Salmon is astonishing: often a boat-load, and sometimes near two, may be taken at a tide; and in one instance above seven hundred fish were caught at a single haul of the net. From fifty to a hundred at a haul is very common. Most of those that are taken from before the setting-in of the warm weather are sent fresh to London, if the weather will permit. The others are salted, pickled, or dried, and are sent off in barrels, in quantities sufficient, not only to stock the London markets, but, also some of the markets of the continent; for the former are by no means able to take all the fish that are caught here.
The season for fishing commences in the Tweed on the thirtieth of November, and ends about old Michaelmas day. On this river there are above forty considerable fisheries, which extend upwards about fourteen miles from the mouth; besides many others of less consequence. These, several years ago, were rented at above the annual sum of ten thousand pounds; and to defray this expence it has been calculated that more than 200,000 Salmon must be caught there one year with another.
The Scotch fisheries are very productive; as are also several of those in Ireland, particularly that at Cranna on the river Ban, about a mile and a half from Coleraine. At this place, in the year 1760, as many as three hundred and twenty tons were taken.
A person of the name of Graham, who farms the sea-coast fishery at Whitehaven, has adopted a successful III.166 mode of taking Salmon, which he has appropriately denominated Salmon-hunting. When the tide is out, and the fish are left in shallow waters, intercepted by sand banks, near the mouth of the river, or when they are found in any inlets up the shore, where the water is not more than from one foot to four feet in any depth, the place where they lie is to be discovered by their agitation of the pool. This man, armed with a three-pointed barbed spear, with a shaft of fifteen feet in length, mounts his horse, and plunges, at a swift trot, or moderate gallop, belly deep, into the water. He makes ready his spear with both hands; when he overtakes the Salmon, he lets go one hand, and with the other strikes the spear, with almost unerring aim, into the fish. This done, by a turn of the hand, he raises the Salmon to the surface of the water, turns his horse’s head to the shore, and runs the Salmon on dry land without dismounting. This man says that, by the present mode, he can kill from forty to fifty in a day: ten are however no despicable day’s work for a man and horse. His father was probably the first man that ever adopted this method of killing Salmon on horseback.
Salmon are cured by being split, rubbed with salt, and put in pickle in tubs provided for the purpose, where they are kept about six weeks: they are then taken out, pressed, and packed in casks, with layers of salt⁕2.III.167
Different species of Salmon come in so great abundance up the rivers of Kamtschatka as to force the water before them, and even to dam up the streams in such a manner as sometimes to make them overflow their banks. In this case, when the water finds a passage, such multitudes are left on the dry ground as would, were it not for the violent winds so prevalent in that country, assisted by the bears and dogs, soon produce a stench sufficiently great to cause a pestilence⁕3.
Salmon are said to have an aversion to any thing red, so that the fishermen are generally careful not to wear jackets or caps of that colour. Pontoppidan says also that they have so great a dislike to carrion that, if any happens to be thrown into the places where they are, they immediately forsake them: the Norwegian remedy for this, and it is looked upon by the inhabitants as an effectual one, is to throw into the water a lighted torch⁕4.
⁕ Salmo Salar. Linn.
⁕1 Lernæa Salmonea of Linnæus.
⁕2 Penn. Brit. Zool. iii. 284.
⁕3 Penn. Introd. to Arct. Zool. p. cxxiii.
⁕4 Pontoppidan, part ii. 133.
Salmo salar, the Atlantic salmon, still has that binomial.
[Footnote] Lernæa Salmonea of Linnæus
[Now Salmincola salmoneus, the salmon gill-maggot. It is an arthropod, but not quite an insect.]
The season for fishing commences . . . on the thirtieth of November, and ends about old Michaelmas day
[That would seem to be pushing the definition of “season” to the very breaking point. “Old Michaelmas day” in the 19th century was October 11 (i.e. the original date, 29 September, plus twelve days), yielding a season of some eleven and a half months. In the 20th and 21st century, old Michaelmas day is October 12, giving you one more day to go fishing.]
The Trout, although a very delicate, and at present well known fish, was in no esteem among the ancients. It abounded in most of the lakes of the Roman empire, yet is only mentioned by writers on account of its beautiful colours.
In some rivers Trouts begin to spawn in October; III.168 but November is the chief month of spawning. About the end of September they quit the deep water, to which they had retired during the hot weather, and make great efforts to gain the course of the currents, seeking out a proper place for spawning. This is always on a gravelly bottom, or where gravel and sand are mixed among stones, towards the end and sides of streams. At this period they turn black about the head and body, and become soft and unwholesome. They are never good when they are big with roe, which is contrary to the nature of most other fish. After spawning they become feeble, their bodies are wasted, and these beautiful spots, which before adorned them, are imperceptible. Their heads appear swelled, and their eves are dull. In this state they seek still waters, and continue there sick, as it is supposed, all the winter. There are in all Trout rivers some barren female fish, which continue good through the winter.
In March, or sometimes earlier, if the weather be mild, the Trouts begin to leave their winter quarters, and approach the shallows and tails of streams, where they cleanse and restore themselves. As they require strength they advance still higher up the rivers, till they fix on their summer residence, for which they generally chuse an eddy behind a stone, a log, or bank, that projects into the water, and against which the current drives. They also frequently get into the holes under roots of trees, or into deeps that are shaded by boughs and bushes.III.169
These fish are said to be in season from March to September. They are, however, fatter from the middle to the end of August than at any other time.
Trouts in a good pond will grow faster than in some rivers. And a gentleman who kept them in ponds, to ascertain the progress and duration of their lives, asserts that at four or five years old they were at their full growth. For three years subsequent to this they continued with little alteration in size; two years after, the head seemed to be enlarged, and the body wasted, and in the following winter they died. According to this computation, nine or ten years seem to be the term of their existence.
In several of the northern rivers, Trouts are taken as red and as well tasted as Charr; and their bones, when potted, like those of Charr, have dissolved. These are often very large: one of them was caught some time ago that measured twenty-eight inches in length.—A Trout was taken in the river Stour, in December 1797, which weighed twenty-six pounds, and another, some years ago, in Lough Neagh, in Ireland, that weighed thirty pounds.
This fish is not easily caught with a line, being at all times circumspect. The baits used are worms artificial flies. The season for fishing is from March till Michaelmas. The angler prefers cloudy weather, but he is not particular as to the time of day.
In two or three of the pools of North Wales, III.170 there is found a variety of the Trout which are naturally deformed, having a singular crookedness near the tail. Some of the Perch in the same country have a similar deformity.—In two or three of the lakes of Ireland there is another variety called the Gillaroo Trout. The stomachs of these Trouts are so excessively thick and muscular as to bear some resemblance to the organs in birds called gizzards. These stomachs are sometimes served up to table as Trouts gizzards. In the Common Trout the stomach is uncommonly strong and muscular; for, as well as small fish and aquatic insects, the animals live on the shell-fish of the fresh waters; and even take into their stomachs gravel or small stones, to assist in comminuting the testaceous part of their food.
⁕ Synonyms.—Salmo fario. Linn.—Salar of the ancient writers.
Salmo fario, the brown trout, has been renamed Salmo trutta. (Or, possibly, two binomials were merged after it was established that both are the same species.)
at all times exceedingly circumspect
text has excedingly
The baits used are worms or artificial flies.
text has worms of
another variety called the Gillaroo Trout
[Humphry Davy, in his Salmonia, had much to say about the gillaroo trout, Salmo stomachicus.]
In the whole of the Pike tribe the head is somewhat flat, and the upper jaw shorter than the other. The gill-membrane has from seven to twelve rays. The body is long, slender, compressed at the sides, and covered with hard scales. The dorsal fin is situated near the tail, and generally opposite to the anal fin.
Pikes and pickerels are family Esocidae, consisting of the single genus Esox; they share the order Esociformes with family Umbridae, mudminnows.
These fish are found in considerable plenty in most of the lakes in Europe, Lapland, and the northern parts of Persia, where they sometimes measure upwards of eight feet in length.
There is scarcely any fish of its size in the world that in voracity can equal the Pike. One of them has been known to choak itself in attempting to swallow another of its own species that proved too large a morsel: and it has been well authenticated that, in Lord Gower’s canal at Trentham, a Pike seized the head of a swan as she was feeding under water, and gorged so much of it as killed them both⁕1.
“I have been assured (says Walton) by my friend Mr. Seagrave, who keeps tame otters, that he has known a Pike, in extreme hunger, fight with one of his Otters for a Carp that the otter had caught, and was then bringing out of the water.”
Boulker, in his Art of Angling, says that his father caught a Pike that was an ell long, and weighed thirty-five pounds, which he presented to Lord Cholmondeley. His lordship directed it to be put into a canal in his garden, which at that time contained a great quantity of fish. Twelve months afterwards the water was drawn off, and it III.172 was discovered that the Pike had devoured all the fish except a single large carp, that weighed between nine and ten pounds; and even this had been bitten in several places. The Pike was again put in, and an entire fresh stock of fish for him to feed on; all these he devoured in less than a year. Several times he was observed by workmen, who were standing near, to draw ducks and other waterfowl under water. Crows were shot and thrown in, which he took in the presence of the men. From this time the slaughtermen had orders to feed him with the garbage of the slaughter-house; but being afterwards neglected he died, as it is supposed, from want of food.
In December, 1765, a Pike was caught in the river Ouse that weighed upwards of twenty-eight pounds, and was sold for a guinea. When it was opened, a watch, with a black ribband and two seals were found in its body. These, it was afterwards discovered, had belonged to a gentleman’s servant, who had been drowned in the river about a month before⁕2.
Gesner relates that a famished Pike in the Rhone seized on the lips of a mule, and was, in consequence, dragged out of the water; and that people, while washing their legs, had often been bitten by these voracious creatures.
The smaller fish exhibit the same fear of this tyrant as some of the feathered tribe do of the III.173 rapacious birds, sometimes swimming round him, while lying dormant near the surface, in vast numbers, and with great anxiety⁕3.
The largest Pike that is supposed to have been ever seen in this country, was one caught on the draining of a pool at Lillishall lime-works, near Newport, that had not been fished in the memory of man: it weighed above 170 pounds⁕4.
If the accounts of different writers on the subject are to be credited, the longevity of the Pike is very remarkable. Gesner goes so far as to mention a Pike whose age was ascertained to be 267 years.
Pikes spawn in March or April. When they are in high season, their colours are very fine, being green, spotted with bright yellow, and having the gills of a most vivid red. When out of season, the green changes to grey, and the yellow spots become pale. The teeth are very sharp, and are disposed in the upper jaw, on both sides of the lower, on the roof of the mouth, and often on the tongue. They are altogether solitary fish, never congregating like some of the other tribes.
Though somewhat bony fish, they are in general esteem as food; and on the Continent, where they are caught in great abundance, they are dried, and exported to other countries for sale.
They are often taken while lying asleep near the, surface of the water, by means of a snare, at the III.174 end of a pole, gently passed over their head; which, by a sudden jerk, draws close, and brings them to land.
⁕ Synonyms.—Esox lucius. Linn.—Pike or Pickerell. Will. Ich.——Penn. Brit. Zool. vol. 3. tab. 63.
⁕1 Penn. Brit. Zool. vol. iii. p. 321.
⁕2 Walton, note, p. 135, from a London paper of the second of January, 1765.
⁕3 Penn. Brit. Zool. vol. iii. 322.
⁕4 Walton, note, p. 136, from a London paper of the 25th of January, 1765.
Esox lucius, the common pike or American pike, still has that binomial. The lucius part reflects the pike’s other name, luce. Although they can get much larger than their ordinary 50 cm (20 in) length, eight feet is a wild exaggeration.
All “Walton” references are from Part I, Chapter VIII.
The head is covered with scales, and the mouth is destitute of teeth. The belly is angular, and the pectoral fins are almost as long as the body.
Flying fish are family Exocoetidae in order Beloniformes. The order seems to consist entirely of fish with unexpected names: ricefishes, needlefishes, halfbeaks and so on.
The Flying-fish, if we except its head and flat back, has, in the form of its body, a great resemblance to the Herring. The scales are large and silvery. The pectoral fins are very long; and the dorsal fin is small, and placed near the tail, which is forked.—It inhabits the European, the American, and the Red seas; but is chiefly found between the Tropics.
The wings, with which these fish have the power of raising themselves into the air, are nothing more than large pectoral fins, composed of seven or eight ribs or rays, connected by a flexible, transparent, and glutinous membrane. They have their origin near the gills, and are capable of considerable motion III.175 backwards and forwards. These fins are used also to aid the motion of the fish in the water; and if we are to judge from the great length and surface of the oars, comparatively with the size of the body, the fish should be able to cut their way through the water with great velocity.
The Flying-fish has numerous enemies in its own element; the Dorado, Thunny, and many others pursue and devour it. To aid its escape, it is furnished with these long pectoral fins, by which it is able to raise itself into the air, where it is often seized by the Albatross or Tropic birds. Its flight is short, seldom more than sixty or seventy yards at one stretch; but, by touching the surface at intervals to moisten its fins, it is able to double or treble this distance. The whole flight, however, is of so short a duration that, even in the hottest weather, its fins do not become dry. By touching the water it not only wets its fins, but seems to take fresh force and vigour in another spring into an element, where it is not long able to support its weight by the clumsy motion, of its fins. If the Flying-fishes were solitary animals they would not be worth the pursuit of some of their larger enemies: they are very seldom seen to rise singly from the water, but they generally appear in large shoals.
It has been inconsiderately remarked that “all animated nature seems combined against this little fish, which possesses the double powers of swimming and flying only to subject it to greater dangers. If it escape its enemies of the deep, it is only to be devoured by the sea-fowl, which are waiting III.176 its appearance in the air.” Its destiny is, however, by no means peculiarly severe: we should consider that, as a fish, it often escapes the attack of birds; and, in its winged character, the individuals frequently throw themselves out of the power of fishes.
The eyes of these fish are so prominent at to admit of their seeing danger from whatever quarter it may come; but, on emergency, they are able, in addition, to push them somewhat beyond the sockets, so as considerably to enlarge their sphere of vision⁕1.
They are frequently either unable to direct their flight out of a straight line, or else they become exhausted on a sudden; for sometimes whole shoals of them fall on board the ships that navigate the seas of warm climates.
In the water they have somewhat the manner of the swallow in the air, except that they always swim in straight lines; and the blackness of their backs, the whiteness of their bellies, and their forked and expanded tails, give them much the same appearance.
They were known to the ancients; for Pliny mentions them under the name of Hirundo, and relates their faculty of flying.
⁕ Synonyms.—Exocœtus volitans. Linn.—Hirundo, of the ancients.——Penn. Brit. Zool. vol. 3. tab. 67.
⁕1 Brown in Phil. Tran. vol. lxviii. p. 791.
Exocoetus volitans, formally the blue or sharp-finned flying fish, still has that binomial.
In the water they have somewhat the manner of the swallow in the air
[Hence their Latin name.]
The body of the Herring is compressed, and covered with scales; and the belly is extremely sharp, sometimes forming a serrated ridge. In the gill-membrane there are eight rays. The jaws are unequal, and the upper one is furnished with serrated mystaces or connecting bones. The tail is forked.
Herrings, shads, sardines, pilchards and menhadens are family Clupeidae in order Clupeiformes. (If you have ever seen “fish meal” or similar fishoid ingredient listed on a sack of pet food, it is most likely menhaden.)
[Illustration] Pennant British Zoology Vol. III plate 68
[Pennant doesn’t say what the scale represents, but it’s probably inches.]
Herrings are found in the greatest abundance in the highest northern latitudes. In those inaccessible seas that are covered with ice for a great part of the year, they find a quiet and sure retreat from all their numerous enemies. The quantity of insects which those seas supply is immensely great. Thus remotely situated, and defended by the icy rigour of the climate, they live at ease, and multiply beyond expression, coming out from thence in such shoals that, were all the men in the world to be loaded with herrings, they could not carry off the thousandth part of them. Their enemies are, however, extremely numerous: all the monsters of the deep find them an easy prey; and, in addition to III.178 these, the immense flocks of sea-fowl that inhabit the polar regions watch their outset, and spread devastation on all sides.
In their , this immense swarm of living creatures is divided into distinct columns of five or six miles in length, and three or four in breadth, and in their progress they make even the water ripple before them.
They are found about Shetland in June, from whence they proceed down to the Orkneys, and then, dividing, surround the islands of Great Britain and Ireland, and unite again off the Land’s-end in the British Channel in September; from whence the great united body steers south-west, and is not found any more on that side, or in the Atlantic, until the same time in the ensuing year, but next appear on the American coasts. They arrive in Georgia and Carolina about the latter end of January, and in Virginia in February. From hence they coast eastward to New England. They then divide, and go into all the bays, rivers, creeks, and even small streams of water, in amazing quantities, and continue spawning in the fresh water till the latter end of April, when the old fish return into the sea, where they change their latitudes by a northward direction, and arrive at Newfoundland in May. After this they are no more seen in America till the following spring. Their passing sooner or later up the American rivers depends on the warmth of the season; and even if a few warm days invite them up, and cool weather succeeds, their passage is immediately checked till the heat becomes more powerful. Thus III.179 they are found in the British Channel in September, but leave it when the sun is at too great a distance from them, and push for a more agreeable climate. And when the weather in America becomes too warm in May, (after having deposited their eggs,) they steer the course which leads to the cooler northern seas, and, by this careful change of place, perpetually enjoy the temperature of the climate best suited to their nature.
The young do not follow the old ones in their first migrations; for they are to be seen in great shoals in all the American bays till the autumn, when they disappear. Since it appears that the Herrings have a natural propensity to keep at a certain distance from the sun, we may conclude that, at this season of the year, the young are led in a direction contrary to that of the old ones, which they meet about latitude 23° north, and 70° west longitude. Here they are supposed to tack about, and follow the others. These, being larger and stronger, come first into the American harbours; their numbers, however, are then considerably diminished by the devastations committed among them during their absence⁕1.
The fecundity of the Herring is astonishing: it has been calculated that, if the offspring of a single Herring could be suffered to multiply unmolested and undiminished for twenty years, they would exhibit a bulk of ten times the size of the earth. But happily Providence has so exactly III.180 contrived the balance of nature, by giving them innumerable enemies, as always to keep them within proper bounds.
In the year 1773, the Herrings were in such immense shoals on the Scotch coasts for two months, that it appears from tolerably accurate computations, no less than 1650 boat-loads were taken in Loch Terridon every night. These would amount to nearly 20,000 barrels.
They once swarmed so greatly, on the west side of the isle of Skye, that the numbers caught were more than could possibly be carried away. After the boats were all loaded, and the country round was served, the neighbouring farmers made them up into composts, and manured their ground with them in the ensuing season. This shoal continued to frequent the coast for many years, but not always in numbers equal to these⁕2.
Somewhat more than thirty years ago, the Herrings came into Loch Urn in such amazing quantities that, from the narrows to the very head, about two miles, it was quite full. So many of them were pushed on shore that the beach for four miles round the head was covered with them, from six to eighteen inches deep: and the ground under water, as far as could be seen when the tide was out, was equally so. So thick and so forcible was the shoal as to carry before it every other kind of fish; even ground-fish, skate, flounder, &c. were driven on the III.181 shore with the first of the Herrings, and perished there.
The principal of the British Herring fisheries are off the Scotch and Norfolk coasts; and in our seas the fishing is always carried on by nets stretched in the water, one side of which is kept from sinking, by means of buoys fixed to them at proper distances; and, as the weight of the net makes the side sink to which no buoys are fixed, it is suffered to hang in a perpendicular position like a screen; and the fish, when they endeavour to pass through it, are entangled in its meshes, from which they cannot disengage themselves. There they remain till the net is hauled in, and they are shaken or picked out.
The nets are never stretched to catch Herrings but during the night, for in the dark they are to be taken in much the greatest abundance. When the night is dark, and the surface of the water considerably ruffled by the wind, the fishermen always assure themselves of the greatest success. Nets stretched in the day-time are supposed to frighten the fish away.
In order to strengthen the nets, and render the threads more compact, they are all tanned. For this purpose a quantity of oak-bark is boiled: the liquor is then strained off and further boiled, till it has attained such a consistence that, when a little is dropped on the thumb-nail, it will become thick as it cools. The nets are then put into a large vessel, and this liquor is poured, while hot, upon them. They are suffered to lie four-and-twenty hours, when they are taken out and dried. The same process III.182 is repeated three times. Nets that have undergone this operation are supposed to last thrice they would do without it.
Herrings die almost the moment after they are taken out of the water; whence originated the adage, in common use, as dead as a Herring. They also become very soon tainted after they are killed. In summer, they are sensibly worse for being out of the water only a few hours: and, if exposed but a few minutes to the rays of the sun, they are perfectly useless, and will not take the salt.
When the fishermen on the Scotch coast have plenty of salt, Herrings sell for about six shillings a barrel. As their salt is expended, the price falls to five, four, three, two, and one shilling per barrel, sometimes even to six-pence or eight-pence; below which prices the men will seldom shoot their nets, as a less price is not sufficient to indemnify them for the trouble of catching them. But it sometimes happens that a barrel of fine fresh Herrings may be purchased for a single chew of tobacco. A barrel contains from six hundred to sixteen hundred fish, according to their size⁕3.
After the nets are hauled, the fish are thrown upon the deck of the vessel, and each of the crew has a certain task assigned to him. One part is employed in opening and gutting them; another in salting, and a third in packing them in the barrels in layers of salt. The red Herrings lie twenty-four III.183 hours in the brine; they are then taken out, strung by the head on little wooden spits, and hung in a chimney formed to receive them; after which a fire of brush-wood, which yields much smoke, but no flame, is kindled under them, and they remain there till sufficiently smoked and dried; when they are put into barrels for carriage.
The Herrings are supposed to feed on a crustaceous sea insect, called by Linnæus marinus. They may be even caught with an artificial fly: an indication of their also sometimes seizing the winged insects.
⁕ Clupea harengus. Linn.——Penn. Brit. Zool. tab. 68.
⁕1 Gilpin on Herrings, in Amer. Phil. Tran. ii. 236.
⁕2 Anderson’s Hebrides, 175.
Clupea harengus, the melker or Atlantic herring, still has that binomial.
In their outset, this immense swarm of living creatures
text has ouset
[Checked against 1st and 3rd editions to make sure he didn’t mean to say “onset”, an equally plausible typo.]
when the sun is at too great a distance from them . . . . a natural propensity to keep at a certain distance from the sun
[Bingley, do you think you could possibly express this in terms of the sun’s angle instead?]
latitude 23° north, and 70° west longitude
[Loosely, the Sargasso Sea or Bermuda Triangle.]
thrice as long as they would do without it
text has as as long they
a crustaceous sea insect, called by Linnæus Oniscus marinus
text has Oniseus
[The critter still has this binomial, even if everything else about its classification has changed. (As we will see in the next section, Linnaeus treated crustaceans as a subcategory of insects. We don’t.)]
[Synonyms] Penn. Brit. Zool. tab. 68.
[Printed as shown. If you need to see for yourself, it’s Volume III.]
About the middle of July, the Pilchards, which are a smaller species of Herring, appear in vast shoals off the coasts of Cornwall. These shoals remain till the latter end of October, when it is probable they retire to some undisturbed deep, at a little distance, for the winter. It has been supposed, but improperly, that, like the Herring, they migrated into the Arctic regions. If Pilchards performed any migration northwards, we should certainly have heard of their being occasionally seen and caught on their passage; but of this we have no one authenticated instance. The utmost range of the Pilchards seems to be the Isle of Wight in the British, and Ilfracomb in the Bristol Channel. Forty years III.184 back, Christmas was the time of their departure; this alteration in time is a very singular fact⁕1.
We have the following account of the fishery from Dr. Borlase:—“It employs (he says) a great number of men on the sea, training them thereby to naval affairs; employs men, women, and children, at land, in salting, pressing, washing, and cleaning; in making boats, nets, ropes, casks; and in all the trades depending on their construction and sale. The poor are fed with the offals of the captures, the land with the refuse of the fish and salt, the merchant finds the gains of commission and honest commerce, the fisherman the gains of the fish. Ships are often freighted hither with salt, and into foreign countries with the fish, carrying off, at the same time, part of our tin. The usual of the number of hogsheads exported each year, for ten years, from 1747 to 1756 inclusive, from the four ports of Tawy, Falmouth, Penzance, and St. Ives, it appears that Tawy has exported yearly 1732 hogsheads; Falmouth, 14,631 hogsheads and two thirds; Penzance and Mounts-bay, 12,149 hogsheads and one-third; St. Ives, 1282 hogsheads: in all amounting to 29,795 hogsheads. Every hogshead, for ten years last past, together with the bounty allowed for each hogshead exported, and the oil made out of each hogshead, has amounted, one year with another, at an average, to the price of one pound thirteen shillings and three-pence; so that the cash paid III.185 for Pilchards exported has, at a medium, annually amounted to the sum of 49,532l. 10s.⁕2”
When Dr. Maton made the tour of the western counties, he and a friend hired a boat to go out and see the pilchard-fishing at Fowy, near Looe, in Cornwall. He says that the fishing-boats, which are pretty numerous, are usually stationed in ten fathoms water, and clear of all breakers. Light sail-boats keep out at a little distance before them, to give notice to the fishermen of the approach of a shoal. Persons are also frequently stationed on the neighbouring rocks to watch the course of the fish: these are called huers, from the circumstance of their setting up a hue to the fishermen.
The nets, which are seines, are sometimes two hundred fathoms or more in circumference, and about eighteen deep. Some of them are said to hold upwards of two hundred hogsheads of fish, each containing about three thousand. About thirty thousand hogsheads are here looked upon as a tolerably good produce for one season. But it happens now and then that the fishery almost entirely fails. About ten years before Dr. Maton was at this place, the fishermen and their families had been compelled to live for some time solely on limpets and other shellfish, which they cannot in any other circumstances be prevailed on to eat⁕3.
The Dog-fish⁕4 are great enemies to the Pilchards, often devouring them in amazing numbers.III.186
The chief difference between the Pilchard and the Herring is that the body of the former is more round and thick; the nose shorter in proportion, turning up; and the under jaw shorter. The back is more elevated, and the belly not so sharp. The scales adhere very closely, whilst those of the Herring easily drop off. It is also in general of a considerably smaller size. But perhaps the situation of the dorsal fin is as good a criterion as any. This in the Pilchard is so backward that the fish, when held up by it, dips from an horizontal line forward: when the Herring is held by its dorsal fin it remains, in equilibrio.
⁕ Clupea pilcardus. Turton’s Linn.——Penn. Brit. Zool. vol. 3. tab. 68.
⁕1 Maton’s Observations on the Western Counties, vol. i. p. 140.
⁕2 Borlase, 272.
⁕3 Maton, i. 140.
⁕4 Squalus catulus of Linnæus.
Clupea pilcardus—variously spelled—is now Sardina pilcardus, another genus in the same family as herring. In English it is either the European pilchard or the “true sardine”, depending on where you live.
The keen-eyed reader will notice that Shaw’s picture and Pennant’s picture—both here and in the foregoing Herring section—are suspiciously similar; they could easily be the left and right sides of the same fish. In each book, the Herring and Pilchard are the top and bottom of a single Plate.
Half a century later, pilchard fishing gets a chapter to itself in Wilkie Collins’s Rambles beyond Railways.
[Illustration] Pennant British Zoology Vol. III plate 68
[Since the Herring and Pilchard share a plate, I’ve assumed the scale was meant for both fish.]
The usual produce of the number of hogsheads exported each year
[The 1st edition said the same thing; the 3rd edition has “From a statement of the number of hogsheads . . .”. As it turns out, the quoted source (Borlase’s Natural History of Cornwall) started out saying:
The usual produce of this beneficial article in money, is as follows: By an exact computation of the number . . .
You can see where someone inadvertently jumped from one “of th—” to the next. The editor who finally discovered the blunder then had to squeeze in something that would make sense while not taking up any more space on the printed line.]
[Footnote] Squalus catulus of Linnæus
[Now Scyliorhinus canicula. Just to confuse everyone, the dogfish is in the middle of the “cat shark” family and genus. As such, it is not technically a fish at all.]
Most of the Carp tribe inhabit the fresh waters, where they feed on worms, insects, aquatic plants, fish, and clay or mould. Some of them are migratory. They have very small mouths and no teeth, and the gill-membrane has three rays. The body is smooth, and generally whitish. On the back there is only one fin.
Carps—including goldfish—and minnows are family Cyprinidae in order Cypriniformes. It is an enormous family, with several hundred genera including the flagship Cyprinus. Most fish in this “tribe” have been upgraded to separate genera, but all are in the Cyprinidae family.
Almost every fish in this section has a chapter in Walton’s Compleat Angler. Bingley’s page references are to the 1784 John Hawkins edition.
These fish are found in the slow rivers and stagnant waters of Europe and Persia; and here principally III.187 in deep holes, under the roots of trees, hollow banks, or great beds of flags, &c. They do not often exceed four feet in length, and twenty pounds in weight; but Jovius mentions some, caught in the Lago di Como in Italy, that weighed two hundred pounds each; and others have been taken in the five feet in length.
Their form is somewhat thick, and their colour blue-green above, greenish-yellow mixed with black on the upper part of their sides, whitish beneath, and the tail yellow or violet. The scales are large. On each side of the mouth there is a single beard, and above this another shorter. The dorsal fin is long, extending far towards the tail, which is forked.
Carp, from their quick growth and vast increase, (for the roe when taken out has frequently been found to weigh more than the fish,) are the most valuable of all fish for the stocking of ponds; and if the breeding and feeding of them were better understood, and more practised, the advantages resulting from them would be very great. A pond stocked with these fish would become as valuable to its owner as a garden. In many parts of Prussia Carp are bred in great quantities, and are thus made to form a considerable part of the revenue of the principal personages of the country, being sent from thence, in well-boats, into Sweden and Russia, where they are very scarce⁕1.
By being constantly fed they may be rendered so III.188 familiar as always to come to the side of the pond where they are kept for food. Dr. Smith, speaking of the Prince of Condé’s seat at Chantilly, says, “The most pleasing things about it were the immense shoals of very large Carp, silvered over with age, like silver fish, and perfectly tame, so that, when any passengers approached their watery habitation, they used to come to the shore in such numbers as to heave each other out of the water, begging for bread, of which a quantity was always kept at hand on purpose to feed them. They would even allow themselves to be handled⁕2.”—Sir John Hawkins was assured by a clergyman, a friend of his, that at the abbey of St. Bernard, near Antwerp, he saw a Carp come to the edge of its pond at the whistling of the person who fed it.
Carp are very long-lived: the pond in the garden of Emanuel College, Cambridge, contained a Carp that had been an inhabitant more than seventy years; and Gesner has mentioned an instance of one that was a hundred years old. They are also extremely tenacious of life, and will live for a great length of time out of water. An experiment has been made by placing a Carp in a net, well wrapped up in wet moss, (the mouth only remaining out,) and then hanging it up in a cellar or some cool place.—The fish in this situation is to be frequently fed with white bread and milk, and is besides to be often plunged in water. Carp thus managed have been known, not only to live above a fortnight, III.189 but, to have grown exceedingly fat, and become far superior in taste to those immediately taken from the pond⁕3.
In their general manners, Carp exhibit so great a degree of cunning as to be sometimes called by the country people River Fox. When attempted to be taken by a net, they will often leap over it; or immerse themselves so deep in the mud as to suffer the net to pass over without touching them. They are also very shy of taking a bait; but, during spawning-time, so intent are they on the business of depositing their spawn, that they will suffer themselves to be handled by any one who attempts it. They breed three or four times in the year, but their first spawning is in the beginning of May⁕4.
These fish were first introduced into this country about three hundred years ago. Of their sound or air-bladder a kind of fish glue is made; and a green paint of their gall.
⁕ Cyprinus carpio. Linn.——Penn. Brit. Zool. vol. 3. tab. 70.
⁕1 Albin on Esculent Fish, 7.
⁕2 Sketch of a Tour to the Continent.
⁕3 Penn. Brit. Zool. iii. 355.
⁕4 Walton, 160.—Penn. Brit. Zool. iii. 356.
Cyprinus carpio still has that binomial.
others have been taken in the Dneister
Sir John Hawkins was assured
[Footnote to The Compleat Angler, Part I, Chapter V, beginning “That fish hear”.]
The Tench is one of those fish that prefer foul and weedy waters; and its haunts in rivers are chiefly among weeds, and in places well shaded with rushes. These fish thrive best in standing waters, where they lie under weeds near sluices and pond heads. They are much more numerous in III.190 pools and pits than in rivers; but those taken in the latter are far preferable for the table.—They begin to spawn in June, and may be found spawning in some waters till September. The best season is from that time till the end of May.
They do not often exceed four or five pounds in weight. Mr. Pennant, however, mentions one that weighed ten pounds.—The Tench is in great repute with us as a delicious and wholesome food; but in Guernsey it is considered bad fish, and in contempt is called Schoemaker.
It is singular enough that the slime of the Tench is supposed to possess such healing properties among the fish that, it is said, the Pike, on this account, never attempts to devour it, though he seizes without exception on all the other species that he is able to overcome.
The Pike, fell tyrant of the liquid plain,
With ravenous waste devours his fellow train:
Yet, howsoe’er with raging famine pin’d,
The Tench he spares, a medicinal kind;
For when by wounds distrest, or sore disease,
He courts the salutary fish for ease;
Close to his scales the kind physician glides,
And sweats a healing balsam from his sides.
This self-denial of the Pike may, however, be attributed to a more natural cause: the Tench are so fond of mud as to be constantly at the bottom of the water, where probably they are secure from the voracious attacks of their neighbour.
Tench are sometimes found in waters where the III.191 mud is excessively fetid, and the weeds so thick that a hand-net can scarcely be thrust down. In these situations they grow to a large size, and their exterior becomes completely tinged by the mud. Their flavour from this, if cooked immediately on being taken out, is often very unpleasant; but, if they are transferred into clear water, they soon recover from the obnoxious taint.
In Nov. 1801, a Tench was taken at Thornville Royal, in Yorkshire, of such an enormous size, and so singular in its shape, as to be accounted rather a lusus naturæ than a regular product. A piece of water which had been ordered to be filled up, and into which wood and rubbish had been thrown for some years, was directed to be cleared out. So little water remained, and in such quantity were the weeds and mud, that it was expected no fish would be found except perhaps a few eels; but, greatly to the surprise of the persons employed, nearly two hundred brace of Tench, and as many of Perch were discovered. After the pond was supposed to be quite cleared, an animal was observed to be under some roots, which was conjectured to be an Otter. The place was surrounded, and, on making an opening, a Tench was found of most singular form, having literally taken the shape of the hole in which he had of course been many years confined. His length was two feet nine inches, his circumference two feet three inches, and his weight near twelve pounds. The colour was also singular, his belly being tinged with vermillion. This extraordinary fish, after having been examined by many gentlemen, III.192 was carefully put into a pond. At first it merely floated, and after a while it swam gently, but with difficulty, away. It is probably yet alive.
Among the various satyrical witticisms which appeared respecting this fish was a song, of which the following is the conclusion:
The scullion wench
Did catch a Tench,
Fatter than Berkshire hogs, Sir,
Which, pretty soul,
Had made his hole,
Snug shelter’d by some logs, Sir!
Sans water he
Had liv’d d’ye see,
Beneath those roots of wood, Sir!
And there, alack,
Flat on his back,
Had lain since Noah’s flood, Sir!
Now he’s in stew
For public goût,
And fed with lettuce-coss, Sir,
In hopes the town
Will gulp him down,
With good humbugging sauce, Sir!
Tench are foolish fish, and are usually caught with aline without difficulty. The baits generally adopted are the small red worms taken out of rotten tan, wasp maggots, or marsh worms. The season for angling is from September to June. The fish will bite during the greater part of the day, but the expert III.193 angler generally attends as early and late as possible⁕1.
Cyprinus tinca has been promoted to its own genus and is now Tinca tinca.
The Pike, fell tyrant of the liquid plain
[Not Oppian but Moses Browne (1704–1787), Piscatory Eclogues, 1729. The quoted passage is from Eclogue III: The River Enemies, spoken by “Aquadune”. Browne, incidentally, was the first to republish The Compleat Angler after the author’s death. That was in 1750, ten years before John Hawkins.]
The scullion wench
[“The Tench of Thornville House: A True Story!!!” (with exclamation marks), probably first published in the Morning Herald at some time in 1803. Bingley prints the last three of six verses; the first three are:
Oh, the marvellous,
At Thornville House,
We read of feats in plenty;
Where, with long bow,
They hit, I trow,
Full nineteen shots in twenty.
Their fame to fix,
’Midst other tricks,
In which they so delight, sir,
These blades, pray know,
The hatchet throw,
Till it is out of sight, sir.
Of beast and bird
Enough we’ve heard,
By cracks as loud as thunders;
So now they dish
A monster fish,
For those who bite at wonders. ]
The Chub is altogether a handsome fish; but not in esteem for the table, being very coarse, and, when out of season, full of small hairy bones.—Its name is derived from the shape of its head, and the French and Italians know it by a name synonymous with ours.
Its haunts are rivers whose bottoms are of sand or clay, or which are bounded by clayey banks; in deep holes, under hollow banks, shaded by trees or weeds. These fish often float on the surface, and are sometimes found in deep waters, where the currents are strong. In ponds fed by a rivulet they grow to a great size. They seldom, however, exceed the weight of four or five pounds.
They deposit their spawn in April; and are in greatest perfection during the months of December and January.
When the Chub seizes a bait, he bites so eagerly that his jaws are often heard to chop like those of a dog. He, however, seldom breaks his hold, and when once he is struck, is soon tired.—The time of angling is from August to March, but best in the winter months. In mild cloudy weather the III.194 Chub will bite all day: in hot weather from sunrise till nine o’clock; and from three in the afternoon till sunset. In cold weather the best time is the middle of the day. The baits are various kinds of worms and flies⁕1.
⁕ Synonyms.—Cyprinus cephalus. Linn.—Chub or Chevin. Will.—Nob or Botling. Daniel.—Penn. Brit. Zool. vol. 3. tab. 73.
⁕1 Daniel ii. 215. Penn. Brit. Zool. iii. 368. Walton 54.
Cyprinus cephalus, the chub, is now Squalius cephalus.
the French and Italians know it by a name synonymous with ours
[The names are chevesne—also written chevaine—and cavedano, respectively. If “synonymous” means that they have a similar etymology (“fathead”, essentially), he knows more than the rest of us; the OED says the word chub is “of unknown origin”.]
The Dace is a gregarious and very lively fish; and during summer is fond of playing near the surface of the water. It is generally found where the water is deep, and the stream gentle, near the piles of bridges. It also frequents deep holes that are shaded by the leaves of the water-lily; and under the on the shallows of streams.
These fish seldom weigh more than a pound and a half; but they are exceedingly prolific. They spawn in March; and are in season about three weeks afterwards. They improve, and are good about Michaelmas, but are best in February. In this month, if, when just taken out of the water, they are scotched and broiled, they are said to be even more palatable than a Herring. Their flesh, however, is generally insipid and full of bones.
Dace afford great amusement to the angler. The baits are various kinds of worms, and the common flesh-flies. The season of angling is from April to February, but best in the winter. In hot weather, III.195 the time is early and late in the day: in cold weather, during the middle; and in mild cloudy weather, the whole of the day⁕1.
⁕ Synonyms.—Cyprinus leuciscus. Linn.—Dace or Dare. Will.
⁕1 Daniel ii. 237. Penn. Brit. Zool. iii. 366.
Cyprinus leuciscus, the Eurasian dace, has been promoted to its own genus, and is now Leuciscus leuciscus.
and under the foam on the shallows of streams
text has foœm
[This is a peculiar typo. The letters œ and a look nothing alike, and their position in typesetters’ cases is nowhere near each other.]
This fish is found chiefly in deep still rivers, where it is often seen in large shoals. In summer, it frequents shallows near the tails of fords; or lies under banks among weeds, and shaded by trees or herbage, especially where the water is thick. As the winter approaches, these haunts are changed for deep and still waters.
The Roach is so silly a fish that it has acquired the name of the Water-sheep, in contradistinction to Carp, which, from its subtlety is termed the River-fox.—Sound as a Roach is a proverb that appears but indifferently founded. It is, however, used by the French as well as by us.
This is a handsome fish, either in the water, or when immediately taken out of it. The flesh, although reckoned very wholesome, is in little esteem, from the great quantity of bones. When Roach are in season, which is from Michaelmas to March, their scales are very smooth; but, when they are out of season, these feel like the rough side of an oyster-shell. Their fins also are generally red when the animals are in perfection. They spawn towards III.196 the latter end of May, and for three weeks after are unwholesome. They begin to recover in July, but it is Michaelmas before they are eatable. They are said to be best in February or March.—The roe is green, but boils red, and is peculiarly good.—These fish differ greatly in goodness, according to the rivers in which they are caught. None are good that are kept in ponds.
Roach feed on aquatic plants and vermes. Their usual weight is from half a pound to two pounds. Some, however, have been known to weigh as much as five pounds.
The baits used in catching Roach are various kinds of worms, flies, and pastes. The time for angling is, in mild cloudy weather, all the day: in hot weather only in the mornings and evenings; and in cold weather, during the middle of the day⁕1.
⁕ Synonyms.—Cyprinus rutilus. Linn.—Roche. Will.——Penn. Brit. Zool. Frontis. vol. 3.
⁕1 Daniel. ii. 240.—Penn. Brit. Zool. iii. 365.
Cyprinus rutilus has been promoted to its own genus, and is now Rutilus rutilus.
[Synonyms] Penn. Brit. Zool. Frontis. vol. 3.
[Not actually the frontispiece but a title-page vignette. That’s why it isn’t bigger.]
These extremely elegant fish are natives of China; and the most beautiful kinds are caught in a small lake in the province of Che-kyang, at the foot of a mountain called Isyen-king. They were first introduced into England about the year 1691, but were not generally known till near thirty years afterwards.
In China they are kept in ponds, or large porcelain vessels, by almost every person of distinction. III.197 In these they are very lively and active, sporting about the surface of the water with great vivacity; but they are so very delicate that, if great guns are fired, or any substances giving out a powerful smell, as pitch or tar, are burned near them, numbers of them will be killed.—In each of the ponds or basins where they are kept, there is an earthen pan, with holes in it, turned upside down. Under this they retire when, at any time, they find the rays of the sun too powerful. The water is changed three or four times a week. Whilst this is done, it is necessary to remove the fish into another vessel; but they are always taken out by means of a net, for the least handling would destroy them.
When Gold-fish are kept in ponds, they are often taught to rise to the surface of the water at the sound of a bell, to be fed. At Pekin, for three or four months of the winter, or whilst the cold weather lasts, the fish in the ponds are not fed at all. They are able, during that time, to get the small quantity of food they require in the water. In order to prevent their being frozen, they are often taken into the houses, and kept in china vessels, till the warm weather of spring allows their being returned to their ponds with safety.
In hot countries, Gold-fish multiply very fast, if care be taken to remove the spawn, which swims on the surface of the water, into other ponds, for otherwise the animals would devour the greater part of it. The young fry, when first produced, are perfectly black; but they afterwards change to III.198 white, and then to gold colour. The latter colours appear first about the tail, and extend upwards.
The smallest fish are preferred, not only from their being more beautiful than the larger ones, but because a greater number of them can be kept. These are of a fine orange red, appearing as if sprinkled over with gold dust. Some, however, are white, like silver, and others white, spotted with red. When dead they lose all their lustre. The females are known from the males by several white spots that they have near the gills, and the pectoral fins: the males have these parts very bright and shining⁕1.
In China the Gold-fish are fed with balls of paste, and the yolks of eggs boiled very hard. In England many persons are of opinion that they need no aliment. It is true that they will subsist for a long while without any other food than what they can collect from water frequently changed; yet they must draw some support from animalcules and other nourishment supplied by the water. That they are best pleased with such slender diet may easily be confuted, since they will readily, if not greedily, seize crumbs that are thrown to them. Bread ought, however, to be given sparingly, lest, turning sour, it corrupt the water. They will also feed on the water-plant called duck’s-meat, and on small fry⁕2.III.199
Gold fish do not often multiply in very close confinement. If it is desired to have them bred, they must be put into a tolerably large reservoir, through which a stream of water runs, and in which there are some deep places⁕3.
⁕ Synonyms.—Cyprinus auratus. Linn.—Kin-yu, in China.—Gold Fish. Penn.
⁕1 Le Comte.
⁕2 White’s Selborne.
⁕3 Du Halde, i. 27. Le Comte.
Cyprinus auratus, the goldfish, is now Carassius auratus.
The fish of this tribe are all inhabitants of the sea, though some of them occasionally go up the wider rivers. All the species are large, seldom measuring, when full grown, less than three or four feet in length. The flesh of the whole is reckoned extremely delicious; and to the inhabitants on the banks of the Caspian Sea, and indeed of many other parts both of Europe and America, these fish are very useful as an article of commerce. Their usual food is worms and other fish.
The head is obtuse; and the mouth, which is placed quite under the head, is tubular, and without teeth. Between the end of the snout and the mouth are four cirri, or tendrils; and on each side there is a narrow aperture of the gills. The body is long in proportion to its thickness, and usually angular, from several rows of large bony plates.
⁕1 This tribe commences the sixth Linnæan order, the Chondropterygious Fish.
Sturgeons are family Acipenseridae, sharing order Acipenseriformes with paddlefishes.
The body of this fish, which is often found from six to sixteen feet in length, is pentagonal, being III.201 armed from head to tail with five rows of large bony tubercles, each of which ends in a strong recurved tip: one of these is on the back, one on each side, and two on the margin of the belly. The snout is long, and obtuse at the end, and has the tendrils near the tip. The mouth, which is beneath the head, is somewhat like the opening of a purse, and is so formed as to be pushed suddenly out, or retracted. The upper part of the body is of a dirty olive colour; the lower part silvery; and the tubercles are white in the middle. Sturgeons are found both in the European and American seas.
The tendrils on the snout, which are some inches in length, have so great a resemblance in form to earth-worms that, at first sight, they might be mistaken for them. This clumsy toothless fish is supposed, by this contrivance, to keep himself in good condition, the solidity of his flesh evidently showing him to be a fish of prey. He is said to hide his large body among the weeds near the sea-coast, or at the mouths of large rivers, only exposing his tendrils, which small fish or sea-insects, mistaking for real worms, approach for plunder, and are sucked into the jaws of their enemy. He has been supposed by some to root into the soil at the bottom of the sea or rivers; but the tendrils above mentioned, which hang from his snout over his mouth, must themselves be very inconvenient for this purpose; and, as he has no jaws, he evidently lives by suction, and, during his residence in the sea, marine insects are generally found in his stomach⁕1.III.202
At the approach of spring, Sturgeons leave the deep recesses of the sea, and enter the rivers to spawn; and from May to July the American rivers abound with them. Here they are often observed to leap to the height of several yards out of the water, which they do in an erect position, falling back again on their sides with such noise as to be heard in the still evenings to a great distance. They have often been known, at these times, to fall into the small boats or canoes of the Indians, and sink them. On this account it is often dangerous to pass the places that are much frequented by them; many instances have occurred of people losing their lives by this means. Some of the Indians take advantage of this propensity to leaping to catch them, by stationing themselves in tolerably large boats in the places where they are seen, and receiving them as they fall⁕2.
In some rivers of Virginia, the Sturgeons are found in such numbers that six hundred have been taken in two days, with no more trouble than putting down a pole, with a hook at the end, to the bottom, and drawing it up again, on feeling it rub against a fish⁕3. They are, however, chiefly killed in the night with harpoons, attracted by the light of torches made of the wood of the black pine. On the shores are frequently seen the bodies of Sturgeons that have been wounded with the spears, and have afterwards died.III.203
The Indians often fish for them in the lakes in the day-time. For this purpose there are usually two men to a canoe, one at the stern to work it forward, and the other at the head, with a pointed spear about fourteen feet long, tied to a long cord that is fastened to one of the cross timbers of the canoe. The moment a Sturgeon is seen within reach, the man at the head darts his spear into the tenderest part of the body that he can reach; and, if it penetrate, the fish swims off with astonishing velocity, dragging the canoe along the water after it. If, however, the blow has been pretty well aimed, the fish does not go more than two or three hundred yards before he dies; when the men draw up the line and take him⁕4. Sometimes, when Sturgeons are seen to lie at the bottom of the still water near the cataracts, they are struck with a spear without a rope, their place being marked, on their rising, by the appearance of the shaft above the water⁕5.
The Sturgeon annually ascends our rivers, in the summer, particularly those of the Eden and Esk, but in no great numbers. It is so a fish that, when caught by accident, as it sometimes is, in the Salmon nets, it scarcely makes any resistance, but is drawn out of the water apparently lifeless. One of the largest ever caught in our rivers was taken in the Esk, about twenty-six years ago; it weighed four hundred and sixty pounds⁕6.III.204
The flesh of the Sturgeon is well known to be extremely delicious; and it was so much valued, in the time of the Emperor Severus, that it was brought to table by servants with coronets on their heads, and preceded by music. This might give rise to its being, in our country, presented by the Lord Mayor to the King. At present, the Sturgeons are caught in the Danube, the Volga, the Don, and other large rivers, for various purposes. The skin makes a good covering for carriages; caviar is prepared from the spawn; and the flesh is pickled, or salted, and sent all over Europe⁕7.
To make the caviar, the spawn is freed from the little fibres by which it is connected, washed in white wine or vinegar, and afterwards spread out to dry. It is then put into a vessel and salted (crushing it down with the hands) and afterwards inclosed in a canvas bag to drain off the moisture. It is, last of all, put into a tub with a hole in the bottom, that any remaining moisture may run off, pressed down, and closed for use.
It has been said that of the skin of the Sturgeon isinglass is made: but this is a mistake; for the Sturgeon is altogether of so cartilaginous a nature that no part of it will produce isinglass, except the inner coat of the air-bladder. The isinglass most common in our shops is made from a species of Dolphin, called the Beluga⁕8.
The bones are reported to be so hard as to III.205 serve the American Indians for rasps and nutmeg-graters⁕9.
The fecundity of these fish is exceedingly great. Catesby says that the females frequently contain a bushel of spawn each; and Leeuwenhoek found in the roe of one of them no fewer than 150,000,000,000 eggs.
⁕ Synonyms.—Accipenser . Linn.—Accipenser? Pliny.——Penn. Brit. Zool. vol. 3. tab. 19.
⁕1 Note to Darwin’s Botanic Garden.
⁕2 Catesby, vol. ii. p. xxxiii.
⁕3 Burnaby, 15.
⁕4 Charlevoix, i. 236.
⁕6 Penn. Brit. Zool. iii. 126.
⁕7 Note to Darwin’s Botanic Garden.
⁕8 Delphinus leucas of Linnæus.
⁕9 Brickell, 237.
Accipenser with two c’s may be a variant spelling, but strurio (in all three editions) seems to be an error on Bingley’s part. Shaw and Pennant both call it Acipenser sturio, which remains its binomial.
It is so spiritless a fish
text has spritless
[Synonyms] Accipenser? Pliny.
[Bingley’s question mark means that Pliny used the word—or at least acipenser with one c—but we can’t be certain he meant the sturgeon.]
[Footnote] Delphinus leucas of Linnæus
[Today Delphinapterus leucas. The beluga isn’t really a dolphin; the nearest it gets is the toothed-whale suborder.]
The animals that compose this dreadfully rapacious tribe are entirely marine, and more frequent in the hot than the temperate climates. They are in general solitary, and often wander to vast distances, devouring almost every thing that comes in their way, that they are able to swallow. Some of them will follow vessels several hundred leagues, for the carcasses and filth that are thrown overboard. The size to which they grow is enormous, as they often weigh from one to four thousand pounds each. Some few species are gregarious, and live on the molluscæ and other marine worms. They are all viviparous; their young, when first protruded, being inclosed (alive) in a square pellucid horny case, terminated at the four corners by very long slender filaments, which are generally found twisted round corallines, sea-weed, and other fixed substances.III.206
Their flesh is altogether so tough, coarse, and of such a disagreeable smell, that even the young are scarcely eatable. Their bodies emit a phosphoric light in the dark. The skin is rough, and is in general use for polishing ivory, wood, and other substances; thongs and carriage traces are also occasionally made of it. The liver is generally found to yield a considerable quantity of oil. There are upwards of thirty species, of which eleven are found in the British seas.
The body is compressed, long in proportion to the thickness, and tapers towards the tail. The head is obtuse, and on the side of the neck there are from four to seven breathing apertures. The mouth, which is situated in the under part of the head, is armed with several rows of serrated sharp-pointed teeth of different forms, some of which are fixed, and others moveable. The skin is covered with very slender prickles; and the upper part of the tail is generally longer than the lower.
If you want to be hair-splittingly technical, sharks are not fish (class Actinopterygii) at all. You have to go all the way back to Jawed Vertebrates before you meet the two branches: Chondrichthyes (rays and sharks) and everything else. Fish and all terrestrial vertebrates are on the “everything else” side. In other words, the fish we have met so far are more closely related to you and me than they are to sharks.
Sharks, as such, are several orders in subclass—or, if you prefer, superorder—Elasmobranchii. The Linnaean genus Squalus is now used for dogfish sharks.
This Shark has six rows of teeth, hard, sharply-pointed, and of a wedge-like figure. These he has the power of erecting and depressing at pleasure. When at rest, they are quite flat in his mouth; but, when his prey is to be seized, they are instantly erected by a set of muscles that join them to the III.207 jaw. Thus, with open jaws, goggling eyes, and large and bristly fins, agitated like the mane of a lion, his whole aspect is an emphatical picture of the fiercest, deepest, and most savage malignity.
It is a fortunate circumstance, for those who would avoid its attacks, that its mouth is so situated, under the head, that it has to throw itself on one side in order to seize its prey; for its velocity in the water is so great that nothing, which it was once in pursuit of, would otherwise be able to escape its voracity.
These creatures are the dread of sailors in all the hot climates, where they constantly attend the ships, in expectation of what may drop overboard; and if, in this case, any of the men have that misfortune, they must inevitably perish.
Increasing still the terrors of the storms,
His jaws horrific arm’d with threefold fate,
Here dwells the direful Shark. Lured by the scent
Of streaming crowds, of rank disease, and death,
Behold! he rushing cuts the briny flood,
Swift as the gale can bear the ship along;
And, from the partners of that cruel trade
Which spoils unhappy Guinea of her sons,
Demands his share of prey, demands themselves.
The stormy fates descend, one death involves
Tyrants and slaves; when straight, their mangled limbs
Crashing at once, he dyes the purple seas
With gore, and riots in the vengeful meal.
The master of a Guinea ship informed Mr. Pennant that a rage for suicide prevailed among his slaves, from an opinion entertained by the unfortunate wretches that, after death, they should be restored to III.208 their families, friends, and country. To convince them that their bodies could never be re-animated, he ordered the of one that was just dead to be tied by the heels to a rope, and lowered into the sea. It was drawn up again as quickly as the united force of the crew could do it; yet, in that very short time, the Sharks had devoured every part but the feet, which were secured by the end of the cord⁕1.
Persons, while swimming, have often been seized and devoured by the Sharks. A gentleman now living, and well known, in this country, was some years ago swimming at a little distance from a ship, when he saw a Shark making towards him. Struck with terror at its approach, he immediately cried out for assistance, A rope was instantly thrown; and even while the men were in the act of drawing him up the ship’s side, the monster darted after him, and, at a single snap, tore off his leg.
In the pearl-fisheries of South America, every negro, to defend himself against these animals, carries with him into the a sharp knife, which, if the fish offers to assault him, he endeavours to strike into its belly; on which it generally swims off. The officers who are in the vessels keep a watchful eye on these voracious creatures; and, when they observe them approach, shake the ropes fastened to the negroes to put them on their guard. Many, when the divers have been in danger, have thrown III.209 themselves into the water, with knives in their hands, and hastened to their defence: but too often all their dexterity and precaution have been of no avail.
We are told that, in the reign of queen Anne, a merchant ship arrived at Barbadoes from England, some of the men of which were one day bathing in the sea, when a large Shark appeared, and sprung forwards directly at them. A person from the ship called out to warn them of their danger; on which they all immediately swam to the vessel, and arrived in perfect safety, except one poor fellow who was cut in two by the Shark almost within reach of the oars. A comrade and most intimate friend of the unfortunate victim, when he observed the severed trunk of his companion, was seized with a degree of horror that words cannot describe. The insatiable Shark was seen traversing the bloody surface in search of the remainder of his prey, when the brave youth plunged into the water, determining either to make the Shark disgorge, or to be buried himself in the same grave. He held in his hand a long and sharp-pointed knife, and the rapacious animal pushed furiously towards him: he had turned on his side, and opened his enormous jaws, in order to seize him, when the youth, diving dexterously under, seized him with his left hand somewhere below the upper fins, and stabbed him several times in the belly. The Shark, enraged with pain and streaming with blood, plunged in all directions in order to disengage himself from his enemy. The crews of the surrounding vessels saw that the combat was decided; but they were ignorant which III.210 was slain, till the Shark, weakened at length by loss of blood, made towards the shore, and along with him his conqueror; who, flushed with victory, pushed his foe with redoubled ardour, and, with the aid of an ebbing tide, dragged him on shore. Here he ripped up the bowels of the animal, obtained the severed remainder of his friend’s body, and buried it with the trunk in the same grave.—This story, however incredible it may appear, is related in the history of Barbadoes, on the most satisfactory authority⁕2.
The West Indian negroes often venture to contend with the Shark in close combat. They know his power to be limited by the position of his mouth underneath; and, as soon as they discover him, they dive beneath, and, in rising, stab him before he has an opportunity of putting himself into a state of defence. Thus do boldness and address unite in triumph over strength and ferocity⁕3.
The South Sea islanders are not in the least afraid of the Sharks, but will swim among them without exhibiting the least signs of fear. “I have seen,” says captain Portlock, “five or six large Sharks swimming about the ship, when there have been upwards of a hundred Indians in the water, both men and women: they seemed quite indifferent about them, and the Sharks never offered to make an attack on any of them, and yet at the same time would seize our bait greedily; whence it is manifest III.211 that they derive their confidence of safety from their experience, that they are able to repel the attacks of those devouring monsters⁕4.”
An Indian, on the coast of California, on plunging into the sea, was seized by a Shark; but, by a most extraordinary feat of activity, cleared himself, and, though considerably wounded, threw blood and water at the animal to show his bravery and contempt. But the voracious monster seized him with horrid violence a second time, and in a moment dragged him to the bottom. His companions, though not far from him, and much affected by the loss, were not able to render him any assistance whatever⁕5.
We are told that, notwithstanding the voracity of these creatures, they will not devour any feathered animal that is thrown overboard; but that they will readily take a bait of a piece of flesh fastened on an iron crook. They are so tenacious of life as to move about long after their head is cut off⁕6.
Their flesh is sometimes eaten by sailors on long voyages; and, though exceedingly coarse and rank, it is generally thought better than that of any others of the tribe. The skin is rough, hard, and prickly; and, when properly manufactured, is used in covering instrument cases, under the name of shagreen.
⁕ Synonyms.—Squalus carcharias. Linn.—Lamia? of the ancients.
⁕1 Penn. Brit. Zool. iii. 106.
⁕2 Hughes’s Natural History of Barbadoes.
⁕3 Marchand, i. 93.
⁕4 Portlock’s Voyage, 300.
⁕5 Venegas, ii. 115.
⁕6 St. Pierre’s Voyage to the Isle of France, 28.
Squalus carcharias is now Carcharodon carcharias (“jagged-toothed jaggedy”), the great white shark, in family Lamnidae, order Lamniformes. (There is a genus Lamna; the great white just happens not to be in it.)
[Illustration] Shaw Zoology Vol. V plate 148
[The dots are really in the picture; they’re not just an artifact of image preparation. Then again, they may be an artifact of Shaw’s engraver’s image preparation.]
Increasing still the terrors of the storms
[Thomson’s Seasons: Summer 1013-25.]
the corpse of one that was just dead
text has corspe
carries with him into the water, a sharp knife
text has ; for ,
[Corrected from 1st edition. (The 3rd has no punctuation at all, which would also have worked.)]
This species has derived its name from its propensity to lie on the surface of the water, as if to bask itself in the sun. It possesses, (though a very large fish,) none of the voracity and ferociousness that mark the generality of the Shark tribe. It will frequently lie motionless on the surface of the water, generally on its belly, but sometimes on its back; and it seems so little afraid of mankind as often to suffer itself to be patted and stroked.
Its body is slender, and from three to twelve yards in length, of a deep lead colour above, and white below. The upper jaw is blunt at the end, and much longer than the lower. The mouth is placed beneath, and furnished with small teeth; those before much bent, and the remote ones conical and sharp-pointed. On each side of the neck are five breathing apertures. There are two dorsal, two pectoral, two ventral fins, and one small anal fin. Within the mouth, near the throat, is a short kind of whalebone.
The Basking Sharks frequent our seas during the warm summer months, and are not uncommon on the Welsh and Scottish coasts, coming in shoals usually after intervals of a certain number of years. In the intervening summers, those that are seen on the Welsh coast are generally single fish, that have III.213 probably strayed from the rest. They appear in the Firth of Clyde, and among the Hebrides about midsummer, in small droves of seven or eight, or more commonly in pairs. Here they continue till the latter end of July, when they disappear.
Their food seems to consist entirely of marine plants and some of the species of Medusæ. They swim very deliberately, and generally with their upper fins above water. Sometimes they may be seen sporting about among the waves, and leaping several feet above the surface.
The liver is of such immense size as frequently to weigh near a thousand pounds. From this a great quantity of good oil is extracted; which renders this Shark an animal of considerable importance to the Scotch fishermen: for, according to Anderson, the oil of a single fish will sometimes sell for twenty or thirty pounds sterling.
The natives of our northern coasts are very alert in the pursuit, and very dexterous in the killing, of these fish. When pursued, they do not accelerate their motion till the boat comes almost in contact with them, when the harpooner strikes his weapon into the body as near the gills as he can. They seem not very susceptible of pain; for they often remain in the same place till the united strength of two men is exerted to force the harpoon deeper. As soon as they perceive themselves wounded they plunge headlong to the bottom; and frequently coil the rope round their bodies in agony, attempting to disengage themselves from the fatal instrument by rolling on the ground. Discovering that these efforts III.214 are in vain, they swim off with such amazing rapidity, that one instance has occurred of a Basking Shark towing to some distance a vessel of seventy tons burthen against a fresh gale. They sometimes run off with two hundred fathoms of line, and two harpoons in them; and will employ the men from twelve to twenty-four hours before they are subdued.
As soon as they are killed, the fishermen haul them on shore; or, if at a distance from land, to the vessel’s side, to cut them up and take out the liver, which is the only useful part of their bodies. This is melted into oil in kettles provided for the purpose; and, if the fish is a large one, it will yield eight barrels or upwards.
⁕ Synonyms.—Squalus maximus. Linn.—Sun-fish. Smith’s Hist. Cork.——Penn. Brit. Zool. vol. 3. tab. 13.
Squalus maximus, the basking shark, is now Cetorhinus maximus. It is in the same Lamniformes order as the white shark, but a different family, Cetorhinidae.
[Illustration] Shaw Zoology Vol. V plates 149, 150
[Shaw’s Zoology doesn’t name the original artists, only the engraver (in this volume, mostly Heath). Crystal ball says that the “male” and “female” sharks were drawn by different people in different centuries on different continents—I had almost said, on different planets.]
The Rays are entirely confined to the sea; and, from being destitute of an air-bladder to buoy them, they live altogether at the bottom, chiefly in deep water, covering themselves in winter in sand or mud. They live on shell-fish, or any animal substances whatever that come in their way. Some of them become of a size so large as to weigh two hundred pounds and upwards; in which case they are sometimes dangerous enemies to man, whom they are said to destroy by getting him down, lying upon, and devouring him. They seldom produce more III.215 than one young at a time, which, as in the Sharks, is enclosed in a four-cornered bag or shell, ending in slender points; but not (as in those) extending into long filaments.
In their fresh state most of the species have a fetid and unpleasant smell, but nearly the whole are eatable. There are about twenty species. Those with which we are best acquainted are the Skate, the Thornback, and the Torpedo or Electric Ray.
Their bodies are broad, thin, and flat. The mouth is situated beneath, and the eyes above the body. The breathing apertures are five on each side, a little below the mouth. The head is in general small and pointed, and not distinct from the body.
The liver is large, and often produces a great quantity of oil.
Rays, like sharks, are elasmobranchs. Most, but not all, are order Rajiformes.
I have selected the Torpedo or Electric Ray from the rest of the tribe, since no accounts of the other species have been preserved that are worth much attention.—The present species, however, is altogether so remarkable as to merit very particular notice. It is found in many of the European seas, and the fishermen often discover it in Torbay; and sometimes of such a size as to weigh near eighty pounds.III.216
The head and body are indistinct from each other, and nearly of a circular form, two or three inches thick in the middle, attenuating to extreme thinness on the edges. The skin is smooth, of a dusky brown colour above, and white underneath. The ventral fins form on each side, at the end of the body, nearly a quarter of a circle. The tail is short, and the two dorsal fins are placed near its origin. The mouth is small, and, as in the other species, there are on each side below it five breathing apertures.
The Electric Rays are partial to sandy bottoms, in about forty fathoms of water, where they often bury themselves by flinging the sand over them, by a quick napping of all the extremities. In Torbay they are generally taken, like other flat-fish, with the trawl-net; and instances have occurred of their seizing a bait.
This fish possesses the same property of benumbing its prey as that which I have before described in the Electric Eel; and, when it is in health and vigour, the shock that it communicates is often very severe: but its powers always decline as the animal declines in strength, and when it expires they entirely cease. In winter these are also much less formidable than during warm weather.
Dr. Ingenhouz had a Torpedo for some time in a tub of sea-water, which, from its being during winter, seemed to be feeble. On taking it into his hands, and pressing it on each side of the head, a sudden tremor, which lasted for two or three seconds, passed into his fingers, but extended no further. III.217 After a few seconds the same trembling was felt again; and again several times, after different intervals. The sensation was, he says, the same that he should have felt by the discharge of several very small electrical bottles, one after another, into his hand. The shocks sometimes followed each other very quickly, and increased in strength towards the last. Probably, from the weakness of the fish, the shock could not be communicated through a brass chain, though the usual contortion was evidently made. A coated vial was applied to it, but could not be charged⁕1.
From some experiments that were made by Mr. Walsh on a very stout and healthy fish, it appears that, although it seemed to possess many electric properties, yet, no spark whatever could be discovered to proceed from it, nor were pith-balls ever found to be affected by it. When it was insulated, it gave a shock to persons likewise insulated, and even to several that took hold of each hands: this it did forty or fifty times successively, and with very little diminution of force. If touched only with one finger, the shock was so great as to be felt in both hands. Each effort was accompanied by a depression of the eyes, which plainly indicated the attempts that were made upon non-conductors. Although the animal was in full vigour, it was not able to force the torpedinal fluid across the minutest tract of air, not even from one link of a small chain freely III.218 suspended to another, nor through an almost invisible separation made by a penknife in a slip of tinfoil pasted on sealing-wax⁕2.
The properties of this fish have been described by Oppian; but, with that liberty which poets always think themselves entitled to, he has endowed it with the power of benumbing the fisherman through the whole length of his line and rod.
The hook’d Torpedo ne’er forgets his art,
But soon as struck begins to play its part;
And to the line applies his magic sides:
Without delay the subtile power glides
Along the pliant rod and slender hairs,
Then to the fisher’s hand as swift repairs:
Amaz’d he stands, his arms of sense bereft,
Down drops the idle rod, his prey is left:
Not less benumbed than had he felt the whole
Of frost’s severest rage beneath the Arctic pole⁕3.
In the general structure of its body, the Torpedo has not been found to differ materially from the rest of the Rays. The electric organs are placed one on each side of the cranium and gills, reaching from thence to the semicircular cartilages of each great fin, and extending longitudinally from the anterior extremity of the animal to the transverse cartilage which divides the thorax from the abdomen: and within these limits they occupy the whole space between the skin of the upper and under surfaces. Each organ is attached to the surrounding parts by III.219 a close cellular membrane, and also by short and strong tendinous fibres, which pass directly across from its outer edge to the semicircular cartilages. They are covered above and below with the common skin of the animal, under which are longitudinal fibres spread entirely over them. Each organ is about five inches in length, and at the anterior end about three in breadth. They are composed of perpendicular columns, reaching from the upper to the under surface, varying in length according to the thickness of the parts of the body, from an inch and a half to half an inch; and their diameters are from a fourth to a fifth of an inch.
The coats of the columns are very thin, and almost transparent. The number of columns in each organ varies considerably in different animals. That of one that Mr. Hunter presented to the Royal Society was about 470; but in a very large Torpedo the number of columns in one organ was 1182. These columns were composed of films parallel to the base of each, and the distance between each of the columns was 150th part of an inch. If we suppose these films to be charged with electricity, and to be the 300th part of an inch thick, and a middling-sized Torpedo to contain in both organs, on the whole, 1000 columns each an inch long, and 0.03 square inches area at the base, then 1000 × 150 × = 4500 square inches. Now it has been clearly proved that the capacity of stout glass is thirty-six times less than that of these organs; therefore both the organs of a middling-sized Torpedo will be equivalent to 4500 × 36 = 162,000 III.220 square inches, or 1125 square feet of glass.—The nerves inserted into each organ arise by three very large trunks from the lateral and posterior part of the brain. These, having entered the organs, ramify in every direction between the columns. The number and magnitude are extremely great; and it is supposed that they are subservient to the formation, collection, and management of the torpedinal fluid⁕4.
The Torpedo brings forth its young in the autumn.
⁕ Synonyms.—Raia Torpedo. Linn.—Torpedo, Cramp-fish. Will. Ich.—Electrical Ray. Penn.——Penn. Brit. Zool. vol. 3. tab. 10.
⁕1 Phil. Tran. vol. lxv. p. 1.
⁕2 Walsh in Phil. Tran. vol. lxiii. p. 461.
⁕3 Jones’s translation of Oppian.
⁕4 Hunter in Phil. Tran. vol. lxvii. p. 481.—Nicholson’s Philosophical Journal.
Most rays are genus Raja, family Rajidae, order Rajiformes. But Raia torpedo has become the flagship of its own order: Torpedo torpedo in family Torpedinidae, order Torpediniformes.
Pennant must have thought the Electric Ray was important, since his illustration is an oversized foldout.
several that took hold of each others hands
[I would have preferred “other’s”, but neither the 1st nor the 3rd edition has the expected apostrophe.]
that liberty which poets always think themselves entitled to
[Fun fact: The phrase “poetic license” first showed up in the late 18th century, and has generally held steady since the mid-19th.]
Of frost’s severest rage beneath the Arctic pole
[If I had a copy of Jones’s Oppian before me, I might be able to say why this final line has an extra foot. Maybe it was supposed to be “’neath th’ Arctic pole”.]
1000 × 150 × 0.03 = 4500 square inches
text has 0.3
[Fortunately he said “0.03” in the previous line, so it was not hard to figure out which decimal point went astray. Unlike most errors introduced in the 2nd edition, this one was not corrected in the 3rd.]
Those marked with an * are varieties of some other species; and those printed in Italics are Synonyms.
|—— Tumble-dung beetle||215|
|—— three spined||149|
Crampfish 123, 215
[Not two separate articles, but two different animals (electric eel, electric ray) with the same synonym.]
text has Hadock
[Gadus Genus] eglesinus
text unchanged: error for æglefinus
The original of this text is in the public domain—at least in the U.S.
My notes are copyright, as are all under-the-hood elements.
If in doubt, ask.