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form. The ventrals have one spine and five rays, and the pectorals are short. In
place of the seven branchiostegal rays of the perches, the red mullets have but four.
Represented by something like forty species, the red mullets, which range over the


seas of Europe and the tropics, are typically represented by the genus Mullus, of
which there appears to be but a single European species (Mullus barbatus). The
tropical forms have, however, been split up into several genera, such as Mulloidcs,
and Upeneus, mainly distinguished from one another by the characters of their
teeth. Although these mullets are essentially marine, young individuals, and more
rarely adults, are not unfrequently taken in rivers. They are all highly esteemed
for the table, and it is but seldom that they attain a weight of even 2 or 3 Ibs.
The ordinary European red mullet, which does not usually exceed 6 inches in
length, is coloured carmine-red on the upper-parts, the under-parts being silvery
white. On the other hand, the striped mullet, which, although designated a
distinct species under the name of M. surmuletus, is regarded by Dr. Giinther
as probably the female of the former, has three or four yellow longitudinal stripes
on the sides ; and is also stated to differ slightly in the number of the fin-rays.
This kind is common on the Cornish coast, whereas the plain-coloured form is but


seldom met with in the British seas, although abundant in the Mediterranean.
Mullets live chiefly on small crustaceans, frequenting coasts where the bottom is
more or less muddy. Occasionally they visit the British coasts in vast shoals,
u}") wards of five thousand having been taken during a single night, in August
1819, in Weymouth Bay; while in May 1851 no less than ten thousand were
captured at Yarmouth in the course of a week. Whereas by the ancient Romans
these fish were known by the name of mullus, the Greeks termed them ir'xjlc. " A
singular circumstance," writes Badham, " about this latter synonym is, that it not
only obtains in modern Greece (where indeed, if anywhere, we might expect to
find it), but has also entirely supplanted the old Latin word in Italy ; so that no
one now ever hears Mugli! mugli! hawked about the streets of Koine or Naples;
but the constant cry is ' Triyle vive ! trigle ! The inordinate love for these same
trigle, in the city and times of the Caesars, would surpass belief; not only cash, but
time too, was profusely lavished upon this one object; quite betimes, and long
before office-hours, the mullet-millionaire was at the pond ere the stars were
extinguished, feeding or caressing his fish. It took time, skill, and patience to
teach creatures so obtuse to heed the voice that called, or the hand that fondled
and fed them; but to warm such cold-blooded animals as these into a reciprocity
of regard, was a work of yet greater difficulty." After much trouble and pains, the
inhabitants of the pond would, however, at length learn to know and acknowledge
their master; at his whistle flock emulously together, at his sight leap joyously
into the air; and as he plunged his arm into the agitated basin, each individual of
the serried shoal strove who should first present fins, and rub scales against the
well-known fingers ! "


The sixth family of the present section is especially characterised by the
peculiarity of the dentition, the palate being generally devoid of teeth, while either
cutting or conical incisor-like teeth are developed in the front of the jaws, or
crushing molars on their sides; in some cases both these types being coexistent.
In the sea-breams, as these fish are commonly called, the oblong body is markedly
compressed; and the investing scales are either but very slightly serrated, <>i
smooth. The terminal mouth has a distinct lateral cleft; and the eyes, which an
of medium size, are likewise lateral. The single dorsal fin is compose. 1 in about
equal moieties of a spinous and a soft portion; the anal is three-spined ; as a ruli
the lower rays of the pectorals are branched; and the pel vies, which are ventral in
position, are furnished with one spine and five rays. The number of branchio-
stegal rays varies from five to seven. Sea-breams are coast-fishes, distributed <>\ei
all temperate and tropical seas, and sometimes entering brackish, and even fresh
waters; they include a large number of genera., and are of sombre coloration and
medium size; the flesh of the majority being used for food. In a fossil state th
family is first known by the extinct. r<nj<'llnx from the Chalk of the Lebanon
while they are numerous in Tertiary formations, where both the living and extinct
genera are met with, the existing Sargus dating from the Miocene of tht



The black sea-bream (Ca/ntharus lineatus), of the Britisli seas,
may be cited as a well-known example of the typical genus of the
first subfamily, in which the extremities of the jaws are furnished with broad, cutting,
and occasionally lobate incisor-like teeth ; while there are no vomerine or molariform
teeth, and the lower rays of the pectoral fins are branched. Other well-known
genera are Box and Scatharus from the Mediterranean and Eastern Atlantic, and
Orenidens from the Indian seas. The black sea-bream, which not unfrequently

SARGO AND GILT-HEAD (J liat. size).

grows to a length of 15 inches, is common on the British coasts, where it will take
both vegetable and animal baits.

The second group is represented by H<iplod<ictyliiK, from the
temperate South Pacific, in which both /jaws are furnished with flat
and generally tricuspid teeth; vomerine teetli being present, but molars wanting :
while the lower pectoral rays are simple. These fish are vegetable-feeders.

Better known than the last is the third group, containing only
the single genus tiarguti, with some twenty species from the Mediter-





ranean, Atlantic, and Indian seas, among which the common sargo (X. an ,/ nfurix),
represented in the upper figures of our illustration on p. 347, is a familiar fish on
the Continent. The essential features of the group are the single series of cutting-
teeth in the front of the jaws, the presence of several rows of molars on the sides
of the same, the toothless palate, and the simple lower pectoral rays. The figured
species is a uniformly coloured fish; but in the larger "sheep's-head" (& or/*),
from the Atlantic coasts of the United States, which attains a weight of 15 Ibs.
and is highly esteemed for the table, the body and tail a-re marked by a number
of broad vertical bands. The strong molars of these fish indicate that their f < x >< 1
consists of hard-shelled molluscs, crustaceans, or sea-urchins. Known there as <!< n I '<;,
these fishes form part of the bill of fare on the tables of hotels in Southern Italy.

As our example of the fourth subfamily, which contains several
genera, among which Pagrus is the typical one, we select the gi It-



heads (Chrysophrys), so-called on account of the golden spots between the eyes of
the Mediterranean C. aurata, a species which occasionally wanders to the
British coasts, and is shown in the lower figure of our illustration. The group is
characterised by the presence of conical teeth in the front of the jaws, and of molars
on their sides, the palate being toothless; while the genus under consideration is
distinguished by having scales on the cheeks, and at least three rows of upper
molars. The Mediterranean gilt-head, which ranges southward as far as the Cape,
is a handsome fish, with a short and elevated head, the body deepest at the com-
mencement of the dorsal fin, the iris yellow, a semilunar golden spot between tin-
eves, and a violet patch on the gill-cover. The back is silvery grey with a tinge
of blue, and the under surface steely, with longitudinal golden bands on the sides.
In length it seldom exceeds a foot. Fully adult examples show a perfect pavement
of teeth on the jaws; and with these the fish crunches up mussels and other shell-
fish with such vigour that the noise thus made sometimes reveals its presence to
fishermen. In order to obtain food, it is stated to stir up the sand of the sea-
bottom with its tail. The gilt-eye was one of the fishes kept and fattened by the



Romans in their vivaria, where it is said to have become extremely flat. Several
species of the genus inhabit the seas and estuaries of India, one of which (C. berda)
occasionally grows to o() indies in length, and is much esteemed as food in Madras,
where it is known as black-rock cod. Fossil teeth of a gilt-head occur in the Red
( 'rag of Suffolk, and the Miocene strata of Malta and the Canaries.


A single small genus of fishes (Hoplognatkus), from the coasts of Australia,
Japan, and Peru, constitutes a separate family of the present section, characterised
by the jawbones having a sharp cutting-edge ; such teeth as are present being
confined to this region, where they are confluent with the bone, to form a more or
less indistinct serration. The compressed and deep body is covered with very small

SPOTTED FIRM-KIN ( nat. size).

ctenoid scales ; while the sides have a continuous lateral line. The dorsal fin has
its spinous portion rather longer than the soft, with the spines very strong ; the
anal, which has three spines, is similar to the soft dorsal ; and the thoracic pelvics
ire furnished with a single spine and five rays. The species figured on the
opposite page is the Australian one (H. conwayi). Nothing seems to have been
ascertained with regard to the life-history of any member of the family.


This small family, which, for want of a better English name, we designate as
above, comprises several genera from the Indo-Pacific and Australasian seas, some
members of which are of the first importance as food-fishes in the British colonies.
Closely allied to the next family, they differ therefrom (and thereby resemble the
preceding groups) in the absence of a bony connection between the preopercular
bone and the infraorbital ring of. the skull ; while they are specially distinguished



by the thickened and undivided lower rays of the pectoral fin, which in some cases
are elongated so as to aid in the movements, while in others they may perhaps
serve as additional organs of touch. In form, the body is oblong and compressed,
with its investing scales of the cycloidal type ; the mouth is terminal, with a
lateral cleft; and the eyes are situated on the sides of the head. As a rule, the
branchiostegal rays are six in number, although they may be reduced to five or
three. The teeth are villiform or pointed, and in some cases there are tusks
among the smaller ones. In the single dorsal fin the spinous and soft portions are
of nearly equal extent ; the anal fin, which is generally smaller than the soft dorsal,
carries three spines; and the pelvics, which, although thoracic in position, are
situated at a considerable distance from the root of the pectorals, have one spine
and five rays. These fishes are inhabitants of all tropical seas and the temperate
zone of the South Pacific. They may be divided into two groups, according to the


\LIAN LONG-FIN (^ nat. size).

presence or absence of teeth on the vomers; the first group including the small
prettily coloured fishes known as Cirrhites, Chorinemus, etc., of which the former
are characteristic of the Indian and Pacific oceans, while the latter is confined to
the Australasian seas.

Of the group with teeth on the vomers, we illustrate on p. .'!4!)
a species (Cirrkitichthys marmoratun) of a genus differing from the
typical one by the presence of teeth on the palatine bones, and by the spiny
opercular bone; the preopercular being serrated in both. These fish have six
branchiostegal rays, tusks in the jaws, and ten spines in the dorsal fin. Five to
seven of the lower pectoral rays are unbranched, the scales are of moderate si/e,
and there is no air-bladder. The spotted firm-fin, which ranges from the Red S'a,
through the Indian and Malayan seas to the Sandwich Islands, is one of those in
which there is no elongation of a ray of the pectoral fins; while it is specially
characterised by the spotted coloration, the body and median fins showing brown
spots, and a row of darker spots occupying the base of the dorsal.


In the group with toothless vomers, one of the most notable
' Chilodactylus. . e

genera is that of the long-fins (Chilodactylus), so named on account
of the elongation of one of the rays of the pectoral fins, which projects to a greater
01- less degree beyond the rest. A considerable number of species have been
described, most of which are inhabitants of the temperate region of the South
Pacific, although some are found round the coasts of Japan and China. The
species here figured (C. macropterus) is an Australian one; and both in Australia
and at the Cape these fishes form a valuable food-supply, since they attain a weight
of from 5 to 25 Ibs., and are easily captured. An allied genus (Latris), dis-
tinguished by the absence of any elongation of the pectoral rays and the deeply

: notched dorsal, is well known in Tasmania and New Zealand in the person of the
trumpeter-fish (L. necatia), which claims the first place among the fish-products
of those colonies, ranging in weight from 30 to 60 Ibs., and being at the same time

| most excellently flavoured.


With this family we come to a group easily distinguished from all the
preceding representatives of this section by the articulation of the preopercular
bone with the orbit by means of a projecting process from the infraorbital
ring. Some of the other bones of the head are also armed, and the dentition
is but feebly developed. These fishes, which are represented by a large number
of genera, are found in most seas, and are all carnivorous in their habits. Dr.
Giinther writes that "some resemble the sea-perches in their form and habits, as
lxistes, Scorpama, etc., whilst others live at the bottom of the sea, and possess
in various degrees of development those skinny appendages resembling the fronds
of sea-weeds, by which they either attract other fishes, or by which they are
jenabled more effectually to hide themselves. Species provided with these
jappendages have generally a coloration resembling that of their surroundings, and
varying with the change of locality. Some of the genera live at a considerable
depth, but apparently not beyond three hundred fathoms. Nearly all are
distinguished by a powerful armature, either of the head, or fin-spines, or both ;
and in some the spines have been developed into poison-organs." The group is
scarcely known in a fossil state, although remains of a species of the typical genus
occur in the Eocene of Algeria.

The family is divided into two sections, according as to whether there are
distinct scales on the body, or whether these are rudimentary or wanting. In the
former are included Sebastes and the typical Scorpcena. Most curious of all are
the members of the Tropical Iiido-Pacific genus Pterois, in whicli the spines of the
dorsal and the rays of the pectoral fins are more or less produced, so much so,
indeed, that in the case of one species, at least, P. volitans, it was formerly thought
that they indicated the possession of flying powers in their owner. The fins and
body of this extraordinary-looking fish are most beautifully marked with alter-
nating light and dark transverse bands. Among the genera with small or
vudi mental scales we have only space to mention the Oriental Pelor and Chori-
dactylus, each represented only by a single species of 4 or 5 inches in length ; and



both of which are remarkable for the extraordinary development of the append a ges
mentioned above, some of those occurring on the fins, and others on the head and lower
lip. The representative! of the second germs is very common at Madras. It may be
a. Med that this family includes the smallest members of the suborder, which belong to
the geims M'-r<>pus a name probably belonging to the swifts. These fish scarcer^
exceed an inch and a half in length, and frequent the coral-reefs of the Pacific.

Of the three remaining and comparatively unimportant families,
included in the perch-like section of the spiny-finned fishes, it is
only possible to make very brief mention. The first of these, the Nand <</<>',
differs from all the foregoing by the incompleteness or absence of the lateral
line; the dentition, although feebly developed, being more or less complete, and
the preopercular bone having no connection with the orbit. The oblong and oval
body is scaled ; the number of spines in the dorsal fin is nearly equal to that of

Allied Families.

BLEEKER'S FLESH >rs (J, nat. size).

the rays ; the three-spined anal has its soft portion similar to the soft dorsal ; and
the thoracic pelvic fins have one spine and four or five rays. The small Oriental
fresh-water fishes known as Nandus, Badis, etc., constitute a group of the family
characterised by the presence of five rays in the pelvic fins, and the absence of
false gills. They are common in all parts of India, some preferring ditches and
inundated rice-fields, while others frequent clear streams. All are carnivorous, and
the largest does not exceed 7 inches in length. The second group, as represented
by Plesiops from the Indo-Pacific coral-reefs, and Trachinops from the Australian
seas, although also including only small forms, are, on the other hand, marine; and
are characterised by having only four rays to the pelvic fins, and by the presence
of false gills. In Plesiops the lower rays of the pelvic fins are elongated and split
at the ends ; the soft dorsal and anal fins being likewise of considerable length.
The figured spei ies (/'. l>l<','keri\ which attains a length of 10 inches, is from the
coral-islands of the South-West Pacific ; it has the lateral line broken.

The second family (Polycentridce) is represented only by the
genera Polycentrus and Monocirrliti*, from the rivers on the Atlantic'



.side of Tropical America ; our illustration showing a member of the former genus

(P. schomburgki). These fishes are characterised by the absence of a lateral line,

and the great number of

spines in both the dorsal

and anal fins. The thoracic

pelvic fins have one spine

and five rays, and the teeth

arr feeble. These fishes are

all of very small size, and

arc stated to feed ex-

clusively upon insects.

The single

generic repre-
sentative of the Teuthididce,
of which a species (Teuthis


is shown in the illustration on p. 354, is characterised by the tooth-
less palate, and the presence of a series of narrow serrated incisor teeth in the
front of each jaw. The scales on the oblong and compressed body are very
small, and there is a continuous lateral line. In the single dorsal fin the spinous
considerably exceeds the soft portion in length ; the anal has seven spines ; and
the thoracically-placed pelvic fins have an outer and inner spine, between which
are three rays. These fishes have a large air-bladder, forked at both extremities ;
and they also display several peculiarities in the structure of the skeleton ; the
abdomen being surrounded by a complete ring of bones, owing to the backward
prolongation of certain elements of the pectoral arch, and the unusual develop-
ment of the pelvis. A considerable number of species have been described from
the Indo-Pacific, where their eastward range stops about the longitude of the
Sandwich Islands. The largest of them is not more than 15 inclies in length, and
are vegetable-feeders. In the figured species, which is from the New Hebrides,
general colour is brownish red, marked with narrow vermiculated blue lines ;
e spines of the fins also bearing white spots.



With the slime-heads we come to a family distinguished from the whole of
the preceding, and forming a group by itself characterised by the presence on
the head of large mucous-bearing cavities, covered with a thin skin, and by the
thoracically-situated pelvic fins having one spine and five rays (save in Monocentris,
where the latter are reduced to two). The compressed body may be either oblong
or deep in form, but is always short ; and the scales, which are rarely wanting,
are of the ctenoid type, Lateral in position, the eyes are almost always large in
size ; the lateral cleft of the mouth slopes obliquely upwards ; the teeth in the
jaws are villiform ; teeth are in most cases developed on the palatines ; the bones
of the gill-cover are more or less fully armed ; and there are nearly always eight
branchiostegal rays, although these are sometimes reduced to four. There are no
scales on the head, and false gills are present. The slime-heads, which comprise

VOI,. V. 2'



a considerable number of both living and extinct genera, are all marine fishes,
with a practically cosmopolitan distribution ; many of them living at great depths,
and coming under the denomination of deep-sea fishes. They are also a geologically
ancient group, represented by a large number of generic types, both existing and
extinct in the Chalk and other Cretaceous deposits. The only existing forms that
frequent the higher strata of the ocean belong to the genera Holocentrum and
Myripristis] but even some species of the latter may descend as deep as one
hundred and fifty fathoms. The typical genus Beryx has been taken from between
three and four hundred fathoms ; and from the small size of the eye the forms


Teuthis (upper figure) ; Penipheris (on the right) ; and Polynemus (on the left). (\ nat. size.)

known as MelampJicees must, in Dr. Glinther's opinion, inhabit still lower levels.
Another sign of their deep-water habits is afforded by the high development of the
slime-secreting apparatus of these fishes.

Of the genera that space permits of our noticing, the most peculiar is
Monocentris, represented by a single small and rare species from the seas of Japan
and Mauritius, and distinguished by the absence of armatures on the gill-cover, the
large size of the scales, which are articulated together so as to form a solid
armour, and the reduction of the ventral fins to a single long spine, and a few*
rudimental rays. The fish figured in our illustration (Traehichthys trailli)
represents a genus, with a few species from New Zealand and Madeira, characterised
by the short and blunt muzzle, the prominent chin, the strong spine at the angle



of the preopercular, the rather small scales, and the serration of the lower border
of the body, The palatines and vomers carry villiform teeth ; the single dorsal fin
has from three to six spines, the anal six rays, and the tail is strongly forked.
The allied Anoplogaster, of the Tropical Atlantic, is devoid of scales. In both
genera the eye is very large. The typical genus Beryx, which has likewise but
a single dorsal, may be distinguished by the smooth abdomen, and the lack of a
spine on the preopercular. At the present day this genus is known from the
Tropical Atlantic, Madeira, and the seas of Australia and Japan ; while in a fossil
state it is abundant in the Chalk. Two barbels at the throat serve to distinguish


Polymixia ; while in several of the other genera, such as Holocentrum, the dorsal
tin is double. Spread over all tropical seas, the latter genus is likewise one of
those dating from the Cretaceous epoch.



Each of these two unimportant families represents a group of equal rank
with the perch-like division of the suborder; the first being characterised by
1 laving the single dorsal fin much shorter than the long and many-rayed anal. The
compressed body (as shown in the figure of Pemp/ieris mangula,, on the right side
iof the illustration on p. 354) is oblong in form, deep in front, and sharply n arrow -
ing towards the tail, If developed at all, the spines of the short dorsal are few in

Online LibraryRichard LydekkerThe new natural history (Volume 5) → online text (page 37 of 62)