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1 lowers of swimming would admit of their traversing by themselves, they naturally
obtain a much greater supply of food than would otherwise be -possible. The
erection of the plates constituting the sucker produces a series of vacua, by means



STAR-GAZERS AND WEAVERS. 373

'of which the adherence is effected ; and so strong is the adhesion that it is very
difficult to remove one of these fishes except by sliding it along the surface to
which it is attached. Moseley remarks that in shark-fishing the suckers some-
times drop off as the shark is hauled on board, and sometimes remain attached ;
and that when a shark is hooked and struggling in the water, they may often be
seen to shift their position. He adds that as it is the back of the sucking-fish
that is applied to the body by which it is transported, this "being always less
exposed to light is light-coloured, whereas the belly, which is constantly outer-
most and exposed, is of a dark chocolate colour. The familiar distribution of
colour existing in most other fish is thus reversed. No doubt the object of this
arrangement is to render the fish less conspicuous on the brown back of the shark.
\Yere its belly light-coloured, as usual, the adherent fish would be visible for a
great distance against the dark background. The result is that when the fish is
iseen alive, it is difficult to persuade oneself at first that the sucker is not on the
animal's belly, and that the dark exposed surface is not its back. The form of
the fish, which has the back flattened and the belly raised and rounded, strengthens
the illusion. When the fish is preserved in spirits, the colour becomes of a uniform
chocolate, and this curious effect is lost. When one of these fish, a foot in length,
has its wet sucker applied to a table, and is allowed time to lay hold, it adheres
so tightly that it is impossible to pull it off by a fair vertical strain." W T hen they
have lost their shark these fish often attach themselves to a ship, which they
probably mistake for a large individual of that race. It has been stated that
certain races are in the habit of employing sucking-fishes for the capture of
turtles. This curious mode of fishing is practised by the natives of Zanzibar,
Cuba, and Torres Straits.

STAR-GAZERS AND WEAVERS, Family TRACHINIDJE.

According to the arrangement adopted by Dr. Glinther, the eighth family of
the group under consideration is taken to include not only the typical weavers,
but likewise the star-gazers and several other more or less nearly allied types,
these being split up into five subfamilies. On the other hand, Day prefers to
regard some if not all of these subfamilies as the representatives of distinct
families ; but in a work of the present nature it will be more convenient to treat
the whole of them together. In this wider sense the family is characterised by
the more or less elongated and narrow form of the body, which may be either
naked, or have scales. A spinous dorsal, or a spinous portion of the dorsal, is
generally distinct, in which the spines are connected by membrane; there are no
finlets ; the caudal (except in the tile-fish) is not forked ; the pelvic fins include a
-ingle spine and five rays; and the gill-openings are more or less wide. The
number of vertebras in the trunk is generally ten or more, and there are always
more than fourteen in the tail. As a rule, the members of this family agree with
those of the preceding families of the group in the absence of a bony stay connect-
ing the preopercular bone with the orbit, but in the genus Pwudochromis and its
lilies such a connection exists. Carnivorous in their habits, the majority of these
ashes are of small size, with but feeble swimming powers, and living on the



374



SPINY-PINNED FISHES.



bottom of shallow seas. The tile-fish and its allies are, however, large deep-water

forms; and the genus Bathy draco has been taken from depths of over 1200

fathoms. They inhabit all seas except the Arctic, where they are almost unknown.

The star-gazers, as typically represented by the genus Urano*

star-Gazers. ^^ of wn i c } 1 one spec ies (U. scaber) is shown in the upper figure

of the accompanying illustration, form the first subfamily, and take their name

from the upward direction of their small eyes, which are situated on the upper

surface of the head. They are further characterised by the continuous lateral

line, and by the spinous portion of the single or double dorsal fin being lead




STAU-GAZEK AND WEAVER (^ nat. size).

developed than the soft part, which is similar to the anal. The members of the
typical genus are distinguished by the large, broad, and massive head being parth
covered with bony plates ; the vertical cleft of the mouth ; and the minute size
the scales. The first of the two dorsal fins has from three to five spines, and tl
rays of the pectorals are branched. Villiform teeth are present in the jaws ai
on the bones of the palate, but there are no tusks. The gill-cover is arm*
and there is generally a long filament below or in front of the tongue, but th*
is no air-bladder. While the figured species is from the Mediterranean, the otli
range from the Indo-Pacific to the Atlantic. Rarely measuring a foot in length,
these exceedingly unprepossessing fish can raise or depress their small eyes at will,
and are generally found lying sluggishly on the sea-bottom in wait for their prey,
frequently comvalrd among stones. The filament in front of the mouth, which



STAR-GAZERS AND WEAVERS. 375

is moved by the stream of water continually passing through the latter, doubtless
acts as a lure to entice the small creatures on which these fishes feed. In the
allied Leptoscopus of New Zealand, and Iclithyoscopus, ranging from India to
Japan, there is but a single dorsal fin ; the latter genus agreeing with the true
star-gazers in having bony plates on the head, whereas in the former the whole
head is invested in a smooth skin. The Indian I. inermis attains a length of
2 feet, and is stated to live in the mud.

The common English weaver, or sting-bull (Trackinus draco},
Weavers.

shown in the lower figure of the illustration on p. 374, is the best

known representative of the typical genus of the second subfamily, in which the
eyes are more or less lateral in position, the lateral line continuous, and the hinder-
part of the premaxillary bones devoid of an enlarged tooth ; the dorsal fins being
one or two in number. In this particular genus the cleft of the mouth is very
oblique ; the eyes have an upward inclination ; the cycloid scales are very small ;
and there are villiform teetli both in the jaws and on the bones of the palate.
Of the two dorsal fins, the first is very short and furnished with six or seven
spines; and the lower rays of the pectorals are simple. In the head both the
preorbital and preopercular bones are armed. The weavers have a somewhat
peculiar geographical distribution, being found in the European seas, but unknown
on the Atlantic coasts of America, although reappearing in Chilian waters. In
the British seas they are represented by the greater weaver (T. draco}, frequently
measuring about a foot in length, and the lesser weaver (T. vipera}, which seldom
exceeds 6 inches. Yarrell writes that " the great weaver generally measures
about 12 inches in length, but has been known to attain 17 inches; its food
the fry of other fishes, and its flesh is excellent. It swims very near the
>ttom, is sometimes taken in deep water by the trawl-net, and occasionally with
baited hook attached to deep-sea lines. When caught it should be handled
ith great caution. I have known, says Mr. Couch, three men wounded success-
r ely in the hand by the same fish, and the consequences have been in a few
tinutes felt as high as the shoulder. Smart friction with oil soon restores the
,rt to health, but such is the degree of danger, or apprehension of it rather,
ising from wounds inflicted by the spines of the weavers, that our own fishermen
[most invariably cut ofl' the first dorsal fin and both opercular spines before they
jring them on shore." The poisonous secretion, which is a modification of the
ordinary mucus, is lodged in a deep double groove in the spines of the dorsal fin
and gill-cover. There are numerous other genera of the subfamily, among which
the above-mentioned Bathydraco is noteworthy as being a deep-sea fish.

The third subfamily regarded by many writers as a distinct
family under the name of Latilidce has been long known by the
genera Latilus and Pinguipes from various tropical and subtropical seas, and is
characterised by the body being covered with small scales, the lateral position of
the eyes, the continuous lateral line, and the presence of a large tooth on the
hinder part of the premaxillary bones. Especial interest attaches to the group,
on account of the discovery of a new member ofl' Nomans Land, Massachusetts,
in 1879, which received the name of tile-fish (Lopliolatilus ckamosleonticepd).
An interesting account of this fish is given by Mr. B. Phillips, who, after mention-



376



SPINY-FINNED GROUP.



ing that the first example was taken by the captain of a fishing-smack when
working cod-lines in deep water, goes on to observe that the tile-fish was one of
the most brilliantly-coloured fishes out of the tropics, and remarkable for the
presence of a soft dorsal fin, resembling that of the salmon, which is placed on
the neck in advance of the regular dorsal fin instead of behind it, as in the salmon
family. In the U.S. Fishing Report of 1881, it is stated that "there is every
reason to believe that the tile-fish will rank among the most important food-fishes
of the United States. 1 ' The fish would weigh from 10 Ibs. to 40 Ibs., and its
abundance was remarkable. It took the hook readily, and in an hour or two
a catch of 250 Ibs. of tile-fish was not uncommon. As the lines used were the
same as for cod-fishing, no change of apparatus was necessary. It was then
believed that this new fish would singularly increase the food-supply of the North




Other Groups.



Atlantic Coast; but just when American fishermen were beginning to apply their
skill to the catching of tile-fish off the New England coast, the Lopholatilui
disappeared.

Two other subfamilies, distinguished by the lateral line being
interrupted or stopping short of the caudal fin, are severally typific
by the genera Pseudochroniis and Notothenia ; the former subfamily having the
dorsal fin continuous, while in the latter it is divided. Pseudochromis and certaii
other genera include tropical fish frequenting coral-reefs or coral-coasts, anc
taking their name from their superficial resemblance to the members of a vei
different family the Chromididce. They differ from all the allied forms in having
a bony stay connecting the preopercular bone with the infraorbital ring.



SOFT-SPINES AND FROG-FISHES, Families MALACANTHID^ and BATRACHlT'.J:.

Of these two unimportant families, the first is represented solely by the s<H-
spines (Malacanthus), and differs from the preceding family by having only ten



SOFT-SPINES AND FROG-FISHES.



377



trunk and fourteen tail-vertebrae. The body is elongated, and covered with very
small scales ; 'the mouth has very thick lips ; and the premaxilla? have a large
tooth behind. The dorsal fin is single, and, like the anal, greatly elongated ;
its anterior portion having a few simple rays. There is one spine to the five-
rayed pelvic fins ; and the gill-membranes are united beneath the throat, the gill-
cover being armed with a spine. Of the three tropical species constituting this
genus, the one here figured (M. hcedti) is distributed through the Indian and
Pacific Oceans, from Mauritius to the Sandwich Islands ; the second has a nearly
similar range ; but the third is found on the Atlantic coast of Tropical America.

Frog-fishes (Batrachus) may be taken as our representatives of
the second of the two families under consideration. The family to
which they belong is characterised by the distinct spinous portion of the dorsal
fin, which includes a few pungent spines ; while the pelvic fins have one spine
land only two soft rays. The head is broad, thick, and frog-like; the body



Frog Fishes.




:



HCEDT'S SOFT-SPINE (3 nat. size).



elongate, and compressed behind ; and the skin either completely naked, or
covered with small scales ; the conical teeth being of small or medium size. The
soft dorsal and anal fins are elongated, and the pectorals simple ; the rather
narrow gill-opening forming a more or less nearly vertical slit in advance of the
latter, and the opercular bones being armed. An air-bladder is invariably present.
All the members of the family are of small size and carnivorous habits, living on
the sea-bottom and often ascending tidal rivers ; but, while the majority are
confined to the tropics, a few range into the warmer parts of the temperate zones.
As a genus, the true frog-fishes are characterised by the spinous portion of the
dorsal fin having three strong spines, and the presence of several spines on
the gill-cover; while in many species the margins of the mouth, as well as other
parts of the head, are provided with shining tentacles. Out of about a dozen
species, one (B. didactylus) occurs in the Mediterranean. Some of the species
have a poison-gland under each pectoral fin ; and at Penang all the tribe are
regarded as highly poisonous, although in Bombay their flesh is eaten by the
poorer classes of natives. The poison-gland attains its highest development



378 SPINY-PINNED GROUP.

in a species from the Pacific coast of Panama, described under the name of
Thalaasophryne, in which it is stated to be as perfect as in the venomous snakes.
In this fish each opercular bone terminates in a long spine similar to those of the
dorsal fin ; these spines being perforated by a canal having an aperture at their
base and summit. This canal communicates with a sac containing the poisonous
secretion, which can be made to flow out through the spine by pressure.

ANGLER-FISH AND THEIR ALLIES, Family LopmiDsK

Passing over one very unimportant family, our next representatives of the
group under consideration are the angler-fish and their allies; a family remarkable,
for their extreme ugliness and strange forms. Possessing the group-characters
already noticed, they are specially distinguished by having the spinous dorsal fin
placed far forwards on the head, and generally modified more or less completely
into tentacles, although it may be represented by isolated spines. The head and
fore-part of the body are of enormous relative size, and the teeth in the capacious
mouth are either villiform or rasp-like. When present, the pelvic fins consist of
four or five soft rays ; and the pectorals are supported by a prolongation of some
of the superior bones. The gill-opening is reduced to a small aperture situated
near the pectoral fin; and the gills themselves are either two and a half or tin vi-
and a half in number, false gills being generally absent. These fish are distributed
over all seas. Dr. Glinther writes that "the habits of all are equally sluggish and
inactive ; they are very bad swimmers ; those found near the coasts lie on the
bottom of the sea, holding on with their arm-like pectoral fins to seaweeds or
stones, between which they are hidden ; those of pelagic habits attach themselves
to floating seaweed or other objects, and are at the mercy of wind and current."
A large proportion of the genera have, therefore, found their way to the greatest
depths of the ocean, retaining all the characteristics of their surface-ancestors,
but assuming the modifications by which they live in abysmal depths.

The small number of species constituting the typical genus
(Lophius) of the family include its ugliest representatives, amnng
these being the British angler-fish (L. j)i8catorius), which also rejoices in the titles
of fishing-frog, frog-fish, or sea-devil. Its leading characters are to be found in
the enormous size of the broad, depressed, and rounded head, near the middle <,f
the upper surface of which are situated the small eyes ; and the great width of the
cleft of the mouth, which looks like a yawning chasm. Both the jaws and palate
are armed with rasp-like teeth of unequal size, capable of being raise. 1 and
depressed at the will of their owner. The body is naked; the first three s] lines
of the dorsal fin form long tentacles on the head, and the next three are con-
nected ; the soft dorsal and anal fins being of small length. Young specimens are
exceedingly unlike their parents, having the head smaller, the tentacles branched,
and most of the rays of the fins produced into long filaments. The whole of the
few known forms are coast-haunting fishes, the common species ranging from
the European and South African seas to those of the western side ol North
America; while a second is found in the Mediterranean, a third in Chinese and
Japanese waters, and a fourth in those of the Admiralty Islands. In the British



ANGLER-FISH.



379




species the general colour of the upper surface is uniform brown, becoming darker
on the tin-membranes ; while the under-parts, as well as the pectoral and pelvic
tins, are white; the tail being dark blackish brown. The colour is, however,
subject to a certain amount of modification, according to the tint of the inanimate
surroundings of the individual. Although commonly not more than a yard in
ength, specimens of this ugly monster have been known to measure more than



BARRACUDA AND ANGLER-FISH ( 1 1 5 - liat. size).



5 feet. In all respects the angler affords us an example of a creature most
admirably modified and adapted for the exigencies of its particular mode of life.
Living on the mud or sand of a shallow sea-bottom, the angler is protected not
only by its power of adapting its own coloration to that of its environment, but
likewise by the fringed appendages surrounding the head presenting the appear-
ance of a mass of seaweed. The structure of the paired fins renders the fish able
to walk on the sea-bottom ; and with these limbs it also stirs up at times the sand
and mud to attract its prey, and at the same time to aid in concealing its own



380 SPINY-PINNED GROUP.

ugly person. Fish and other prey are also attracted by the constant movement of
the first tentacle on the head, the summit of which terminates in an expanded
lappet; and no sooner is the unfortunate victim well within reach, than it is
engulfed with one snap of the capacious mouth ; the erectile and backwardly-
directed teeth preventing any chance of escape from this avernus,

As an example of a pelagic genus of the family we select the
Tentacle-Fish. . \

tentacle-fish (Antennanas), so remarkable for their nest- building

habits. In these fishes the large head is elevated and compressed; the cleft of
the mouth being quite or nearly vertical, and of only moderate width. There are
rasp-like teeth on the palate and jaws ; the eyes are small and lateral ; the body
may be either naked, or covered with granules or spines, which may be modified
into tentacles ; and the head is furnished with three tentacles very similar to those
of the true anglers. The soft dorsal is of moderate length, and the anal short ;
pelvic fins being present. Although chiefly tropical, these fishes are often carried
far into the temperate seas ; and many of them have a most extensive range, being
found alike in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Feeble swimmers, these fishes are
not unfrequently to be found near the coast, where they conceal themselves beneath
corals, stones, or seaweed, to which they hold fast by their arm-like pectoral fins.
They have also been observed to hop over moist ground or slimy seaweed, and
at times conceal themselves in the mud, after the manner of the true anglers,
attracting their prey by the movements of the first tentacle on the head, the
extremity of which, when in motion, much resembles a worm. When at sea, they
have the power of inflating their bodies in the same way as the globe-fishes. It
has been observed that one of these fishes placed in a basin containing a small
quantity of water produced so strong a current by the passage of water through
its jaws, and its subsequent expulsion through the gill-orifice, that a rapid rotatory
motion resulted. "'The gulf-weed,' J writes Day, "assists the migration of these
fishes ; during the winter months the prevailing winds bring to the islands of the
Bermudas large fields as well as isolated patches of weed, on which many fishes
find a home, and among them Antennarias, Here it makes its wonderful nest,
suspended by means of silk-like fibres, which prove strong enough to support the
huge bunches of eggs that hang like grape-clusters within its orbicular case ;
and M. Vaillant has shown that each nest is made of one seaweed, the different
twigs being brought together and made fast to each other by the fish by means
of a pasty sort of substance provided by the animal itself,"

THE BULL-HEADS AND GURNARDS, Family COTTID^E.

The thirteenth family of the present section differs from all the foregoing,
with the exception of the genus Pseudochromis and its allies, in the presence of
a bony process arising from the infraorbital ring of the skull to connect it with
the spine at the angle of the preopcrcular bone. In shape the body is more or
less elongate and subcylindrical ; the cleft of the mouth is transverse, and the
weak teeth are generally arranged in villiform bands. As a rule, there are two
dorsal tins, of which the spinous is less developed than the soft; both the latter
and the anal being elongated ; the pectorals may be provided with filamentous



BULL-HEADS AND GURNARDS.



381



appendages, and the pelvic pair have not more than five rays. The body may be
either naked, scaled, or protected by a single row of plate-like scales. The
members of this family, which are arranged under a good many generic heads,
are distributed over almost all seas, while a few inhabit fresh waters. Of com-
paratively small or medium size, these fishes have but poorly developed swimming
powers, and spend their time swimming or crawling at the bottom of the sea in
shallow water at no great distance from the coast. A Japanese bull-head is stated,
however, to have been dredged in five hundred fathoms of water. In a fossil state
gurnards referable to the existing genus occur in many of the European Tertiary
rocks ; while remains of bull-heads are met with in the upper Miocene of Basle,




Bull-Heads.



COMMON BULL-HEADS (liat. size.)

and those of the allied extinct genus (Lepidocottus), distinguished by its ctenoid
scales, in the upper Eocene of Switzerland.

The familiar bull-head or miller's thumb (Coitus gobio), of the
streams of Britain and many other parts of Europe, belongs to a
genus containing some forty species, mostly distributed over the fresh waters and
coasts of the temperate zone of the Northern Hemisphere. All are of small size,
and characterised by the broad, depressed, and rounded head ; the subcylindrical
body, somewhat compressed posteriorly ; the absence of scales ; the distinct lateral
line ; and the rounded pectoral fins, in which some or all of the rays are simple.
Villiform teeth are present on the jaws and vomer, although there are none on
the palatine bones. In the majority of the fresh-water species the spine on the



382 SPINY-PINNED GROUP.

preopercular bone is simple, but becomes branched in many of the marine forma
The common fresh-water species, which ranges over Central and Northern Europe
to Northern Asia, seldom exceeds 4 or 5 inches in length, and is more generally
found in small streams than in large rivers. It has a well-known habit of con-
cealing its broad and flat head beneath loose stones on the river-bottom, and in
this position will lie motionless for hours, but when disturbed swims swiftly aw;iv.
Its food consists of the larvae of water-insects and crustaceans, as well as the eggs
and fry of other small fish. The other British representatives of the genus are
all marine, and include the sea-scorpion (C. scorpiutt) and father-lasher (C. buba.!!*),
both of which are also found on the opposite side of the Atlantic, as well as two
other less common species. The males of the common marine species are stated
to build a nest of stones and seaweed for the reception of the spawn ; and to guard
and defend the young fry when hatched

On the Indian and Australian coasts the bull-heads are represented by the I
so-called flat-heads, or crocodile-fishes (Platycephalus), in which the much



Online LibraryRichard LydekkerThe new natural history (Volume 5) → online text (page 40 of 62)