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the livers are saved for the oil which they contain. The liver of a large individual will yield a
gallon of oil, worth about seventy-five cents.*

'Lewis <fc NKWHALL: History of Lynn, p. 395.

JACKSON: Proceedings Host. 800. Nat. Hist., vi, 1857, p. 259.



The Thrasher Shark, known in Europe as the "Fox Shark," and to our fishermen most usually
as the "Swingle Tail," is found in the Northern Atlantic and in the Mediterranean, and also ofl'
California. It is one of the most grotesque of sea animals, the upper lobe of the tail being
exceedingly long, curving upwards and resembling in form the blade of a scythe.

The Thrasher attains the length of fourteen or fifteen feet and the weight of five hundred
pounds. An individual was taken in November, 1864, in the harbor of Marion, Massachusetts,
which was thirteen feet long and weighed four hundred pounds. This species is quite common all
along the coast of New England, and is frequently an annoyance to the mackerel fishermen by
becoming entangled in their nets; otherwise it is quite harmless. It is found also in California.

The tales which are current regarding the ferocious attacks of these Sharks upon whales are
apparently without foundation.

These animals feed upon fish, and it is said by the fishermen that they kill them by blows of
the long, flexible tail. When they become entangled in the nets, or are caught on hooks, they
make a powerful resistance and cause the fishermen much trouble. Their livers are sometimes
used by the oil-makers. There is a belief widely current to the effect that the Thrasher Shark,
singly or in companies, is accustomed to attack whales. This belief is undoubtedly founded upon
errors of observation, as I think I have demonstrated in the chapter relating to the Sword-fish.


This species is found all along the coast from Cape Cod southward, and, indeed, in tropical
and subtropical seas the world over ; it may be easily recognized by the curious form of the head,
which is broad, flattened, and laterally elongated into two arms, which have been compared to
the arms of a balance. It attains the length of seven or eight feet. Dillwyn obtained a female
specimen at Swansea, which contained thirty-nine young ones on the point of birth.

The Hammer-head Shark is not uncommonly taken in summer, but is of no special impor-
tance. In MitchilPs " Fishes of New York," under the head of this species it is stated : " Three
Sharks of the Shovel-nosed species were taken (in September, 1805) in a net by Mr. Joshua Turry,
of Eiverhead. The largest was eleven feet long. On opening him, many detached parts of a man
were found in his belly; these were collected and buried; there was also found a striped cotton
shirt, patched on the sides and sleeves with bright-colored pieces." 1

It seems probable that the Shovel-nosed Shark referred to in the above paragraph was rather
a Garchariat, since these Sharks are often called " Shovel-nosed Sharks " by the coast fishermen.


This species is found in our waters in company with the preceding species, and when both are
known to the fishermen, the names " Hammer-head " and " Shovel-nosed " are used indiscrimi-
nately for both. Its distribution as at present understood is less extensive, since it has been found
only in the warmer parts of the Atlantic and on the coast of China. It is very common on our
South Atlantic and Gulf coast, where it is often distinguished as the "Bonnet-head." The -habits
of the two species are doubtless very similar.



These two species, which are somewhat common in our waters south of Cape Cod and which
can be distinguished apart only by trained observers, attain the length of twelve or fifteen feet,

1 Transactions of Literary and Philosophical Society of New York, i, p. 48.


and are occasionally taken in nets. They are of no sj>ecial value, and cause much annoyance to

tin- fishermen. An individual taken at Wood's Hull, Massachusetts. in .Inly, 18;r>, iiiea^im-.l nine
feet seven inches. and weighed three hundred and eighty pounds, the liver weighing thirty-eight
pounds. It had in its stomach a l>luetish of five pounds' weight These two species feed upon
mollusks as well as upon fish. Individuals examined by the Fish Commission were found to
contain bluefish, flounders. crabs, lobsters, and quantities of a small species of a bivalve shell,


This sjieeies resembles in shape the Hlue Shark, from which it may be distinguished by its
lighter color and the presence of a prominent black spot upon the tip of each flu. The species is
found in the tropical parts of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans and on the Pacific coast of Central
America. It was first discovered on our coast in 1875, when several specimens were taken at
Wood's Hull, Massachusetts.


This is a 8|>ecies which is found throughout the Atlantic and Indian Oceans and on the coast
of Japan. It was first noticed in our waters by Captain Atwood, who obtained specimens at
Provineetown, and has since been observed occasionally. It is one of the most active and grace-
ful of Sharks, as well as one of the most ferocious. Its teeth are like razors. In the stomach of
a specimen taken by Captain Atwood at Provineetown, nearly a whole full grown sword-fish was
found ; ten or twelve wounds in the skin of the Shark gave evidence of the contest that must
have occurred. It feeds upon mollusks as well as upon other flshes. A specimen caught at
Wood's IIoll in 1871 contained large univalve shells, Buccinum undatum, and the sea-snail, Lvnatia


The Smooth Dogfish of our waters, Mustelv* canis, is without doubt specifically identical with
one of the common European species, M. vulgaris. The American name has, however, the right
of priority. Hitherto, only a single species has been recognized upon Atlantic coasts. It is quite
abundant on the coast of Southern New England. It feeds upon crabs, lobsters, and other bottom-
loving invertebrates, its smooth pavement-like teeth being adapted for crushing the thick shells
of these animals rather than for seizing and holding active fishes.

In Bermuda this fish is known as the ''Nurse Shark." and is highly esteemed by the negroes
as food, and is also an important bait in the local fisheries. At Folkstone, England, they are
dried, and go by the name of " Folkstone beef."


This species is found in the North Atlantic, occurring on the coast of Europe from the North
Cape to the Mediterranean, and in our own waters south to New York. On the west coast it
ranges south to Santa Harbara. Little attention has been paid to its habits. I cannot do better
than quote fully the observations of Captain Atwood, who writes:

"Thia Shark is the mo.<l common one upon our coast. I have seen it at Gay Head, Martha's
Vineyard, but know nothing further about its southerly limits. Both above and below Caj>e Cod
it is abundant, and is found all along the coast of Massachusetts, Maine. Nova Scotia, and the
Gulf of Saiut Lawrence. I myself have never seen I hem fart IK- r north than the Magdalen
Islands and the east coast of ( 'ape lln-toii Island, but reliable accounts say that it is found on the
southern coast of Newfoundland. As the Dogfish appear at I'mvincetown a little while after the
43 F


mackerel, and disappear shortly before them, I judge that they probably need warmer water than
that fish, and therefore do not probably go quite so far north. When they first appear they are
in great abundance; the females always excel in numbers the males; but in the early part of
the season all are females, and all have young in some stages of development, though not in every
stage, there being seldom any between the young just forming and those nearly grown. The
gravid females may be found with the young in some stages of development during the whole
season. The mature male weighs five or five and a half pounds, rarely as much as six pounds,
while the female attains the weight of eight or eight and a half pounds. In spring they are
poor, and their liver is of a dark color and lean ; but in autumn it is quite fat and large, and the
amount of oil does not increase proportionately with the enlarged size of the liver, but rather
decreases. In the Oadidce, on the contrary, the liver when in poor condition affords no oil. Fat
is also found in the flesh of the Dogfish, which is sometimes used for fuel, burning well when
dried." 1

The same authority also writes: "When I first began to go fishing, in 1810 to 1820, the
Dogfish fishery was considered one of the most valuable fisheries that we had around the shore.
They .appeared here in the spring, and were very plenty, and would last a day or two and then
all would be gone. Then you would not see a Dogfish again all summer ; but about the 10th, or
middle of September they came to us again returning south. They would stay into November,
and during that time the fishermen would get a man aiuTa boy all the way from eight, ten, to
fifteen barrels of oil. Twenty -five years ago we would occasionally see Dogfish in the summer.
The last fifteen years they have been here all summer. During the war they were plenty all
summer and the livers sold for one dollar a bucket, and now they are not worth but twenty and
twenty-five cents. The female Dogfish is a good deal the biggest. I have known of Dogfish to
be with full-grown young in November."

The annoyance which is caused by the presence of Dogfish may be judged from the fact
that a trawl line, upon which were five hundred hooks, set by the Fish Commission party of
Gloucester in 1878, had nearly one hundred and forty hooks bitten off by the Dogfish at one

About Cape Ann the Dogfish do not come near the shore. Capt. S. J. Martin, an experienced
fisherman, assures me that he has never seen one within three miles of land off Gloucester. They
leave Cape Ann, for the most part, before October, and remain on George's Bank until December.
They go upon the shoals of George's about the 20th of May, and stay all summer in the shoal
water, especially, at a dep'.h of thirty-five to forty fathoms, on the western part.

In addition to the oil yielded by these little Sharks, the skin is of considerable value, and will
doubtless in future be more highly prized than it is at present. It is used by the fishermen
to polish their metallic mackerel-jigs, and sometimes in polishing the fancy wood-work on ship-
board. If properly brought into notice, the Dogfish skins would perhaps be used to advantage
in many departments of metal-working.

In Southern New England this fish is called the " Bone-fish." in the Orkneys, the " Hoe."

Couch remarks : " It is the most abundant of the Sharks, and is sometimes found in incalcu-
lable numbers, to the no small annoyance of the fishermen, whose hooks they cut from the lines in
rapid succession. I hare heard of twenty thousand being taken in a seine at one time ; such is the
strength of instinct that little creatures, not exceeding six inches in length, may be found in
company with the larger and stronger, following schools of fish, although at that time it is impos-
sible that they could be able to prey."

'Proc. Bost. Soc. Nat. Hist., x, 1864-'66, pp. 81-82.



Tliis species, also culled liy our fishermen (he Curry" or "Ground" Shark, is a native of
the Arctic Seas, hut on our coa.st ranges south to Cape Cod, and in the Eastern Atlantic at least
to Kngland, while in the Pacific it has been observed from Puget Sound northward. The name
"Gurry Shark" refers to its habit of feeding upon the refuse fish thrown overboard from the

\ e>sels.

This 8|>ecies is occasionally observed in Massachusetts Bay, especially when the carcasses of
whales are floating about. Scoresby writes, in his work on the Arctic Regions: "This Shark is
one of ilie foes of the \vhalc; it bites it and annoys it when alive and feeds on it when dead. It
scoops hemispherical pieces out of its body nearly as big as a person's head, and keeps scooping
and gorging lump after lump until the whole cavity of its belly is full. It is so insensible of pain
that, though it has been run through the body with a scythe knife, yet I have seen it return to its
l>an<|iiet uiion the whale at the very spot where it received its wound. Besides feeding u|ion
whales, these Sharks also eat small lishes and crabs. The sailors imagine that it is blind In-cause
it pays not the least attention to the presence of a man, and is, indeed, so apparently stupid that
it never draws back when a blow is aimed at it with a knife or lance."

Captain Atwood writes : " We don't see them very often about Provincetown, but sometimes
thej" are seen in the bay. They would eat a whale if one were sunk there, and they eat halibut
n IV the trawl. I have hauled up halibut and like enough the back would be all eaten off. Some
of them are quite large. Robert E. Smith, of Barnstable, got one about fifteen feet long, half of
whose liver filled a barrel. I don't know of their having been taken here for a good many years.
The liver furnishes five or six gallons of oil ; in one case a single half lobe filled a flour-barrel
and yielded fifteen gallons of oil." '


The following is a list of the Sharks known from the Pacific coast. Of these, the three very-
large species, Cetorhinm maxima*. Carcharoilon carcharias, and Somniosus microoephalux, are valued
for the oil in their livers, but are captured rather by accident, by whalers and fishermen, than by
design. They are uever made objects of pursuit. The Sharks Squalu* acanthias, Qaleorhinu*
zyopterus, and Heptranchiax maculatm are regular objects of pursuit for their oil, and in the case of
Qaleorhinus zyopterus for their fins also. The young of several other species are dried by the
Chinese, who utilize everything which their brethren on the railroads will eat. Others are used as
craw-fish bait, and for similar purposes.


Squatina angelus Dume'ril. Angel-fish, Angelo or Squat From San Francisco southward. Not

Heptranchias maculatus (Ayres) Grd. Shovel-nosed Shark. Monterey northward.

'A large winter Shark was driven ashore in the storm of the '^Otli instant at Cotuit Tort. It won fifteen fi-i-t in
length, and his liver made fifteen gallons of m\.C\oucetttr Telegraph, February -', 1850.

The schooner "Cosmos," of Swampecot, lauded a formidable Nnraefish at Portsmouth recently. It measured
sixteen feet iu length and weighed a limit twenty-five hundred pounds, and was caught on a common trmwl lino.
Cape Ann Adrertiier, March 11, 1881.


Hexanchus corinus 3. & G. Monterey northward.

Heterodontutt Francisci (Grd.) Dum. Leopard Shark. Point Conception southward.

Scylliorhinus ventriosm Garinan. Ground Shark. From Monterey southward.

Alopias vulpes (Gmel.) Bonap. Thrasher. Monterey Bay.

Isurus sp. Ban Pedro.

Lamna cornubica (L.). Monterey Bay.

Carcharodon carcharias (L.) J. & G. Man-eater Shark. Monterey Bay and southward.

Oetorhinus maximus (L.) Blainv. Ground Shark. Monterey Bay northward.

Sphyrna zygcsna (L.) Eaf. Hammer-head Shark. San Pedro.

Carcharias glaucus (L.) J. & G. Blue Shark. San Francisco and northward.

Carcluirias lamella J. & G. Bay Shark. San Diego.

Galeocerdo tigrinus Miiller & Henle. San Diego.

Galeorhinu* zygopterus J. & G. Oil Shark. San Francisco and southward.

Triads semifasdatus Grd. Cat Shark. San Francisco and southward.

Triads Henlei (Gill.) Putn. Monterey and northward.

Mmtelus californicus Gill. Dog Shark. San Francisco and southward.

Squalm acanthias L. Dog-fish ; Spinarola. Santa Barbara to Alaska.

Somniomis microcephalus (Bloch) Gill. Puget Sound northward.


This species is usually known as the "Shovel-nosed Shark." It reaches a length of three to
five feet. It ranges from Monterey Bay northward, being most abundant in Northern California.
About Eureka, on Humboldt Bay, it is pursued for its oil, which has some value. For a discus
sion of this, see the account of Humboldt County, California.


This species, which is closely allied to the common Tope of Europe, is known in California as
the "Oil Shark" or "White Shark." It reaches a length of five to six feet and a weight of thirty
to forty pounds, the average being about twenty. It ranges from Tomales to San Diego, being
especially abundant in spring about Monterey and Los Angeles, especially at Soquel, Monterey,
Westminster, and Newport. It feeds on other fishes, herring being the best bait. It brings forth
its young alive from April to August, entering small bays and lagoons for this purpose. At these
times it is chiefly taken. It is valued for the oil in its liver and for its fins. A liver makes from
one-half to one gallon of oil. The fins are sold to the Chinese, who dry them, and removing the
skin and flesh extract from the rays a fine, clear- white gelatine, which is highly valued by them for
making soups. This is the only American species the fins of which they consider valuable.


This species is everywhere called the "Dogfish." The Italian fishermen also call it " Spina-
rola." It reaches a length of about three feet. It ranges from Alaska southward as far as Santa
Barbara, but its abundance is from Puget Sound northward among the islands. It lives
especially in deep or quiet bays and channels, coming into shallower waters in pursuit of schools
of herring, smelt, or salmon. It feeds on anything, even its own young, but the herring make the
chief part of its diet. The young are brought forth in June in Puget Sound. It is valued for its
liver, from which dogfish oil is extracted.



In the fresh and brackish waters of the United States occur several species of the Lamprey

NAMES. Tin- habits of these fishes are not well understood, and in the present discussion wo
shall be obliged to rely to a considerable degree on the observations of European zoologists. In
tin- I'nitcd States the fishes, of whatever species, are generally known as "Lampreys" and "Lamper
Kris," these names being also in use in England, where one of the smaller species, /'. branchialin,
is als< known as the Pride," Prid," or " Sandpiper." The name "Nine-eye" is also common in
Kn-luml, a name which reappears on the continent in the "Neuuauge" and "Neunaugel" of Ger-
many and Austria, and the "Nejon ogon" of Scandinavia. This curious name had its origin in the
eye like appearance of the circular branchial openings, of which a considerable number appear on
either side !' the head. In the common " Nine-eye" of England, however, there are only seven,
and even if the eye be counted only eight, eye-like circles upon each side. In Germany the
name most conunohly in use is "Pricke" or "Bricke," while in France "Lamproie" is their usual
appellation, and in Italy " Lampreta."

DISTRIBUTION. The Lampreys are almost the least specialized of fishes. Although in form
resembling the eels, they belong to a very different group, which by Gill and others of our best
authorities has been considered a distinct class, and are not even entitled to be called fishes. So
slight has been the progress in the scientific study of the Lampreys, that but little can be definitely
stated about their geographical distribution, excepting that they occur in the fresh waters and
along the coasts of the temperate regions of both hemispheres. The largest and best known
species, and the only one which has at present any commercial value, is Petromyzon americaniu,
by most authorities believed to be identical with the P. marinus of Europe,' which occurs in the
streams and estuaries of our eastern coast from Nova Scotia as far south at least as Cape Hatteras.

HABITS. The key to the habits of the Lampreys is found in the peculiar arrangement of their
mouth. In P. marinus, according to' Emile Blanchard, this is completely circular and forms a
great sucker enormously capacious, surrounded by a fleshy lip studded with tentacles and sup-
ported within by a cartilagiuous framework. This mouth is covered over its entire interior
surface with strong teeth arranged in conceutric circles, some single, others double, the larger
occupying the central portion, and the smaller forming the exterior rows. A large double tooth,
situated above the aperture of the mouth, indicates the situation of the upper Jaw; a large carti-
lage, supporting seven or eight great teeth, represents the lower jaw. The tongue also carries
three large teeth, deeply serrated upon their edges.

The structure of the intestine, which, as in the Sharks, is provided with an extensive spiral
valve, indicates that these animals are chiefly carnivorous in diet. They are said to feed upon
worms, insects, and decaying animal matter. Dr. Benecke, of Konigsberg, and others have found
their stomachs full of the eggs of fish. The structure of the mouth, however, would teach us,
even in default of observations upon their customary mode of feeding, that they are semi-parasitic
in their habits, attaching themselves to large fish by suctorial action, and, while attached, tearing
the flesh of the fish with their marvelous mincing machine, which is composed of the teeth within
the circular mouth, while they suck the blood of their victim. They are often found attached to
the larger fishes, such as shad, sturgeons, and Sharks.

Captain Atwood states that small Lampreys of a bluish color are found attached to various

'GtNTHKR: Catalogue of Finbee of the British Muwiun, viii, p. 501.


species of fish in Massachusetts Bay, such as cod, haddock, aud mackerel. They cling to the side
of the fish beneath the pectoral, and suck its blood until the flesh becomes as white as paper.

There can be but little doubt that to the Lampreys may be credited an immense destruction
of the various food-fishes which enter estuaries and rivers. It is by no means uncommon for
fishermen to find them attached to halibut and other large species caught at sea. Lampreys are
found far inland, ascending most of the creeks and rivers of Central Europe and of temperate
North America far toward their sources. In fact the distances from the sea at which the so-called
"sea Lamprey "of Europe is constantly found are so great, when their feeble powers of loco-
motion are considered, that Dr. Giiuther in his essay on the fishes of the Neckar was induced to
advance the theory that they are carried from the sea to the river sources by the shad, salmon,
and other fish to which the Lampreys attach themselves. This view is combated by Blan-
chard, who claims that no one has ever seen Lampreys attached to salmon. If I am correctly
iuformed, salmon are largely annoyed by Lampreys in the United States, but it seems hardly
necessary at present to accept Giinther's theory in the fullest extent, since the Lamprey is appar-
ently not much inferior to the eel in powers of locomotion, and the eel, it is well known, accom-
plishes long migrations without apparent inconvenience.

It has been customary among writers upon fishes to class the Lampreys among the migratory
fishes, and to describe the migrations of the sea Lamprey as beginning in the spring, when they
are supposed to ascend the rivers for the purpose of spawning in their headwaters. This theory
seems at present hardly tenable ; so little, however, is known of their habits that the theory cannot
be pronounced absolutely incorrect. There are, however, certain species of Lampreys in Europe
which are believed to live entirely in fresh water. A similar statement can most positively be
made regarding our species inhabiting the Great Lakes aud other inland waters of North America.
On the other hand, many of the sea Lampreys remain in salt and brackish water throughout (he
year. There appears, however, to be excellent evidence that some of the Lampreys move from
brackish water into fresh for purposes of spawning.

Online LibraryG. Brown (George Brown) GoodeThe fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) → online text (page 113 of 146)