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ansorial feats is from the pen of one Daldorf, who wrote that in the year 1791
ie had taken one of these fishes from a moist cavity in the stem of a palmy ra-
ni growing near a lake. He first observed it when already five feet from the
ground, struggling to ascend higher, and suspending itself by its gill-covers ; and
ending its tail to the left, it fixed its anal fin in the cavities of the bark, and sought
>y expanding its body to urge its way upwards, and its march was only arrested
>y the hand with which he seized it. Although there is no reason to doubt this
ny detailed narrative, the circumstance that later observers in India have
lever seen the feat repeated would seem to indicate that it is but seldom the fish
akes to actual climbing. Regarding the habit of this fish, in common with the
lerpent-heads, of burying itself in the mud of tanks, Sir J. E. Tennent writes that
: in those portions of Ceylon where the country is flat, and small tanks are
sxtremely numerous, the natives are accustomed, in the hot season, to dig in the
nud for fish. Mr, Whiting informs me that, on two occasions, he was present
incidentally when the villagers were so engaged, once at the tank of Malliativoe,
ithin a few miles of Kottiar, near Trincomali, and again at a tank on the Vergel
iver. The clay was firm but moist, and as the men flung out lumps of it with a
le, it fell to pieces, disclosing fish from 9 to 12 inches long, which were full-
>wn and healthy, and jumped on the bank when exposed to the sunlight."

The Oriental region is the home of another allied genus of fishes
Paradise-Fish. ~ .

(Poly acanthus), represented by several species, and differing from

climbing perch by the absence of teeth on the palate, and the smooth margins
>f the preorbital and opercular bones; the mouth being small and slightly pro-
.ractile. The spinous part of the single dorsal fin is much longer than the soft
)ortion, the anal being similar ; the pelvic fins have one spine and five soft rays,
some of which are usually elongated ; and the caudal is rounded or pointed. The
ateral line, which is never complete, may be wanting. These fishes inhabit fresh
vaters and estuaries along the coast of South-Eastern Asia, but are seldom found
my great distance inland. The pretty and brightly coloured paradise-fish is an
nhabitant of China and Cochin-China, and was long regarded as the representative
>f a distinct genus. It is, however, now known to be merely a domesticated
,'ariety of a species of Polyacanthus, although we are not aware that the
lormal form has hitherto been discovered. From our figure it will be seen that
,t differs from the ordinary members of the genus in the large and forked tail, and
ikewise in the great development of the soft rays of the dorsal and anal fins.
Throughout China this fish is kept in confinement; and is even more suited to



captivity than the gold-fish, as it will breed in vessels of very small capacity
It is even stated to live in water strongly impregnated with acid, and its tenacity
of life is very great. When kept in dark or muddy waters the colour is generally
a dull uniform brown ; and it is only when living in clear water, exposed to
the sunlight, that the golden hue and red transverse bands make their appearance,
these showing at an earlier period in the males than in the females.

On account of the excellent quality and taste of its flesh, mention
must be made here of the gurami (Osphramenus olf<Lr\ as a well-
known representative of a third genus belonging to this family. Agreeing with
the members of the preceding genus in the absence of teeth on the palate, the
smooth border to the preorbital and opercular, and the structure of the pelvic iins,



these fishes differ by the smaller number of spines in the dorsal or anal fins, whk
are either fewer than the soft rays, or but very slightly exceed them. The
is moderately elevated and compressed ; the small and oblique mouth is capable
a considerable degree of protrusion ; and the first ray of the pelvic fins is elongat
into a slender filament, the remainder being generally rudimentary. When
the lateral line is continuous; and there is always an air-bladder. Distribute
over the rivers of South-Eastern Asia, these fishes are represented in India 01
by a small species (0. nobilitf), of some 4 inches in length, inhabiting Xorl
Eastern I5engal and Assam. The gurami, which is a native of the rivers of Chii
and the Malayan Archipelago, has, however, been introduced into several pai
India and has also been naturalised in the Mauritius, Cayenne, and Australia,
is easily recognised by its large si/e, great convexity of the profile of the under
surface, and greenish brown colour, marked in the immature condition by four or


ve dark vertical bands. It attains a weight of fully 20 Ibs., and, when kept
:i clean water, is stated to be the best flavoured fresh-water fish in South-Eastern
sia. As it is extremely tenacious of life, and likewise almost omnivorous in its
iet, it is in every way admirably adapted for transportation and acclimatisation.



A fourth genus (Betta), distinguished by the short dorsal h'n
occupying the middle of the back, and without any pungent spine,
long anal, and the production of the outer ray of the five-rayed pelvic fins,
also be mentioned on account of its containing the so-called fighting-fish
lugnax), which is bred by the Siamese for the sake of the sport afforded by
pugnacious propensities. Cantor writes that, " when the fish is in a state of
b, its dull colours present nothing remarkable ; but if two be brought together,
one sees its own image in a looking-glass, the little creature becomes suddenly
led, the raised fin and the whole body shine with metallic colours of dazzling
jibauty, while the projected gill-membrane, waving like a black frill round the
Ikroat, adds something of grotesqueiiess to the general appearance. In this state

makes repeated darts at its real or reflected antagonist. But both, when taken
at of each other's sight, become instantly quiet. This description was drawn up

I 1840 at Singapore, by a gentleman who had been presented with several by the
lying of Siam. They were kept in glasses of water, fed with larva? of mosquitoes,
ad had thus lived for many months. The Siamese are as infatuated with the

wnbats of these fish as the Malays are with their cock-fights, staking on the issue
onsiderable sums, and sometimes their own persons and families. The licence to

inhibit fish-fights is farmed, and brings a considerable annual revenue to the King
<' Siam. The species abounds in the rivulets at the foot of the hills of Penang."



The small fish (Lwcwcephalua jndcher), from the fresh waters of
the Malay Archipelago, shown in the accompanying illustration, is
the sole representative of the second family of the labyrinth-gilled group, which
differs from the first in the absence of spines from both the dorsal and anal fina
The species derives its name from the produced muzzle and general pike-like form
of the head; and has its elongate body covered with moderate-sized scales, and
traversed by a continuous lateral line. The teeth are small, and the gill-openings
wide. The single spineless dorsal fin is very short and placed far back on the
body; the pelvics consist of one spine and five rays, one of the latter being

PIKE-HEAD (nat. size).

elongated ; and the tail-fin is rounded. There is no air-bladder. Nothing is known
with regard to the life-history of this prettily marked fish.


Agreeing in their ribbon-shaped bodies, and also in the extension of the dorsal
fin from the head to the end of the tail, the unicorn and ribbon-fishes are tin
easily distinguished from all the preceding forms, although they differ so much
from one another as to be entitled to form distinct families, each of which i*
regarded by Dr. Giinther as representing a sectional group.

The single representative of the first family (/,<>/>Jt(>frx <TJ><'</;<I n us)
differs from the whole of the members of the subclass hitherto described,
in that the vent is situated at the hinder extremity of the body, close to the tail,
with a small anal fin immediately behind it. The pelvic fins are very minute, and
thoracic in position ; the caudal is also small and rounded ; the mouth is incapable
of protrusion ; teeth are present on the jaws, palatines, and vomers ; and therein
an ait-bladder. The most striking peculiarity about this strange fish is the eleva-
tion of the crown of the head into a high crest, surmounted by an exceedingly long
and recurved spine forming the commencement of the dorsal tin. The bones and
llesli are linn, the general colour is silvery, with lighter spots, but the tins are rosy;
and the total length is at least 5 feet. This fish, which has been taken in the
Atlantic off Madeira, and also in the Sea of Japan, probably dwells at a consider-
able depth, although not so far down as the ribbon-fishes. Its habits are unknown.


From the unicorn-fish the members of this family may be
Ribbon-Fishes. ,.,..,,, ,,

distinguished by the absence or an anal fin, and by the caudal

[which, as in our figure, is rarely preserved in the adult state) being either
rudimental, or small and bent up above the axis of the body in a fan-like manner.
The band-like body, which may measure as much as 15 or 20 feet in length, with
i depth of a foot and a breadth of not more than an inch, terminates in a short
UK! deep head, furnished with large lateral eyes, and a small mouth; the teeth
t 'ing feebly developed. The high dorsal fin is composed of a very numerous
series of rays, which are neither articulated nor branched, and has a detached


rtion on the crown of the head elevated into tall fi laments, 1 and the thoracically-
daced pelvic fins may consist either of several rays, or be reduced to a single long
lament. Scales are wanting; and the numerous vertebrae as well as the other

lies, are remarkable for their softness and loose structure ; the flesh being like-

ise of a flabby consistence. The young, which arc not uiifrequently found at
he surface of the ocean, are very unlike the adults, having the body more like
hat of an ordinary fish, but remarkable for the enormous development of the

ys of the front part of the dorsal and pelvic fins, and in a minor degree those of
ho caudal likewise. The dorsal rays are, indeed, several times the length of the

hole fish, and are furnished at intervals with barb-like dilatations. Most ribbon- are silvery in colour, with rosy fins. They are divided into three genera, of

1 In our figure this part is represented as connected with the rest of the fin.



which Trachypterus has well-developed pectoral fins, while Stylophorus lias tli
tail produced into an exceedingly long filament; Rcydlecus being distinguished b-
the reduction of the pelvic fins to a pair of long filaments with dilated extremitir-
and the small size or rudimentary condition of the caudal. Our figured cxampl
(R. banksi) belongs to the third genus, and has the body of considerable relativ
depth, but in a much smaller Indian form (R. russelli) the body is so slender a
to have a rod-like appearance. Banks's ribbon-fish appears to be only known i'run
specimens cast ashore on the British coast; the first of these having been strain! - .
at Whitby in January 1759, since which date only fifteen other examples wer

BANKS'S UIBBON-FISH ( r 1 j nat. size).

recorded up to 1878. All these fishes are, indeed, known almost entirely i'l
examples found in a dead or dying condition on the surface of the ocean, or
ashore by the waves. In this state the whole of their tissues are so disintegr.-i
and broken that the body can scarcely be lifted whole from the water, and i
thus evident that ribbon-fishes are inhabitants of the lower strata of the occ
although at what precise level they live has not yet been ascertained. They ar
found in all seas, but are mostly of very rare occurrence on the surface, the singl
representative of the genus Stylophorun being only known by one exarnpl
captured in the early part of this century near Cuba ; while the same is the <
with regard to Russell's ribbon-fish from Madras. That the young are also deep


:sea fishes is, as Dr. Giinther remarks, perfectly evident from their filamentous fins,
which would be irretrievably damaged if their owners did not live at depths
where the water is perfectly undisturbed. From the expansion of the extremities
of the pelvic fins, Banks's ribbon-fish has been named the oar-fish ; while from a
supposed idea that it accompanied the shoals of those fish, it has likewise been
designated the king of the herrings. It has been suggested that large ribbon-fish
floating on the surface have given rise to many of the reports regarding the sea-
serpent ; but, as Dr. Giinther pertinently points out, such dead or dying creatures
do not by any means accord with the active movements generally attributed to
that mythical monster. Still, however, we believe that a stranded ribbon-fish has
been mistaken for a dead sea-serpent.


The last family of the great division of spiny-finned fishes we have been
considering in the foregoing paragraphs includes only the deep-sea fishes

RISSO'S THORNBACK (\ uat. size).

mown as thornbacks, all of which are referred to the single genus Notacanthus.
These fishes are very abnormal forms, agreeing only with the more typical
members of the suborder to which they are referred in the presence of spines in
the median fins. Possessing an elongate and somewhat compressed body, covered
with minute scales, they are specially characterised by having the dorsal fin
composed of a series of low isolated spines, without any soft portion ; while the
inal is elongated, with a great number of spines ; the pelvic fins being abdominal
.11 position, and comprising more than five soft rays, in addition to several un-
uiiculated ones. In the head the muzzle is prolonged in advance of the mouth ;
:he moderate-sized eyes are lateral in position ; and the teeth are small and weak.
The six known species range from the Arctic Ocean to the Mediterranean, Atlantic,
ind South Pacific. All are deep-sea fishes, probably dwelling at depths of from
i hundred to five hundred fathoms ; although one specimen taken to the south of
Yokohama during the voyage of the Challenger is stated to have come from a
lepth of nearly nineteen hundred fathoms.

VOL. V. 27




4 i8

In almost all the families of spiny-firmed fishes hitherto described the lower
pharyngeal bones are completely separated from one another, whereas in the
four families remaining for consideration these are united with one another. It
has been considered .that this difference was of sufficient importance to justit'v
the reference of the families with united pharyngeals to a subordinal group ot'
equal rank with one containing those in which these bones remain distinct ; but AVG
prefer to follow Day in regarding the group now to be considered merely as a section
of the suborder which includes all the other spiny -finned fishes. That this is the
correct view is proved by the circumstance that in one aberrant genus of perches


(Gerres) some of the species have the lower pharyngeal bones separate, while
others they are united. In the three families constituting the present groi
there is a single dorsal fin, in which the number of spines and soft rays
nearly equal; while the anal is usually similar in character to the soft dorsal
and the pelvic fins are thoracic in position, and include one spine and fiv(
soft rays.

The first of the families of the present sectional group takes its
name from the genus Pomacentrus, which, together with the allied
genera, includes tropical fishes mainly frequenting the neighbourhood of coral- 'i
reefs and islands, and thus closely resembling the scaly-finned fishes (p. 343)
in their mode of life ; a few species of the family range, however, into the sea||
of the temperate zones. As an example of the typical genus, we figure P. scolopsiM
from the Malayan seas and Polynesia. As a family, these fishes are specially
characterised by the presence of false gills and ctenoid scales. In form, the body I



is more or less short and compressed ; there are weak teeth in the jaws but none
on the palate, and there is an air-bladder, The family is represented by eight
genera and considerably over a hundred species ; and the genera maybe divided
into groups, according as to whether all or some of the opercular bones are serrated
at the edges or are all simple ; Pomace ntrus belonging to the intermediate group,
in which the preopercular is serrated, while the edges of the other bones of the
gill-cover are entire, In a fossil state the family is represented by an extinct
genus from the middle Eocene deposits of Monte Bolca. Pomacentrus is the
largest genus of the family, its representatives ranging over the tropical seas
of both hemispheres. Curiously enough, not only do these fishes resemble the
scaly-finned fishes in their mode of life, but they are very similarly coloured,
so much so, indeed, that in some instances actually the same pattern of coloration
is common to members of the two families. This, as remarked by Dr. Gtinther,
is one of many instances showing that the coloration of animals depends to a
great extent on their mode of life and natural surroundings. All these fishes
jire carnivorous, subsisting on various small marine animals; those furnished
with compressed teeth probably browsing on the coral-polyps.

Distinguished from the preceding family by their cycloid scales,
the wrasses form an extensive group (Labridcv), many of the members
of which may be easily recognised by their greatly thickened lips, sometimes
provided with an internal fold ; and from this character they derive their German
title of lip-fishes. False gills are present, and the true gills, three and a half in
number on each side. The body is oblong or elongate, and while teeth are present
in the jaws they are absent on the palate. In the single dorsal fin the number
of spines is usually equal to that of the rays ; the anal is similar to the soft dorsal,
and an air-bladder is present. Littoral in their habits, the great majority of the
wrasses are found in tropical and temperate seas, none occurring within the limits
of the polar seas. Rocks and coral-reefs are their favourite haunts, most of them
feeding chiefly on molluscs and crustaceans, for crushing the shells of which their
teeth are specially adapted. In many kinds there is an additional pointed curved
>th at each angle of the upper jaw, used for holding a shell against the front
,nd side teeth, by which it is crushed. The majority of the wrasses are beautifully
coloured fishes, decorated not only with transient iridescent hues on the scales,
but likewise with permanent colours formed by the deposition of pigment in the
tissues. Some of the species grow to a large size, specimens weighing upwards
[of 50 Ibs. ; and it is these larger species which are most esteemed as food-fishes,
the flesh of the smaller kinds being of inferior quality. In a fossil state wrasses
[date from the middle Eocene of Monte Bolca, where remains referable to the
existing genus Labrus occur; while an extinct Eocene genus from North America
appears to be the ancestral form of the existing black fish (Tautoga). An allied
extinct family is represented by Phyllodus, from the Cretaceous and lower Eocene
[of Europe distinguished by the flattened leaf-like pharyngeal teeth as well as
jby several other more or less nearly related Tertiary types.

As it would be quite impossible in our limited space to describe
i True Wrasses.

even a tew or the numerous genera or wrasses, we must content

(ourselves with saying that these are arranged in groups according to the structure



of the anterior teeth, and devote our remaining observations mainly to the typical
wrasses constituting the genus Labrus. In this genus, of which the figured striped
or red wrasse (L. mixtus) may be taken as a well-known British example, the
body is compressed and oblong in form, with the moderate-sized, scales arranged in
more than forty transverse rows; the muzzle is more or less sharply pointed; the
cheeks and opercular bones are covered with imbricating scales, which are, however,
wanting or but few in number on the interopercular ; and the conical teeth are
arranged in a single row in the jaws. The spines of the dorsal fin are numerous,
varying from thirteen to twenty-one, and are all of approximately equal height ;
there are three spines in the anal fin ; and the lateral line is continuous. In the
young, the edge of the preopercular bone is serrated. These wrasses are chiefly

characteristic of the Mediterranean area, gradually diminishing in the more
northern seas of Europe, and being quite unknown in those of India. The stripe* 1
wrasse exhibits a remarkable sexual variation of colour ; the males usually having
the body marked with blue streaks or a blackish band, while in the females the
back of the tail shows two or three blackish blotches. The other British specus
is the Ballan wrasse (L. muculatus), in which the general colour is bluish green,
the scales being margined with reddish orange, and the fin-rays also of the latter
tint. Couch writes that the Ballan wrasse " frequents deep gullies among rocks,
where it shelters itself among the larger kinds of seaweeds, and feeds on crabs and
other crustaceous animals. It takes a bait freely, and fishermen remark that when
they first fish in the place they take but few, and those of large size; but on
trying the same spot a few days after, they catch a great number, and those



smaller, from which they conclude that the large fish assume the dominion of a
district, and keep the younger at a distance." The gold sinny (Crenilabrus
inelops) is a British example of a second genus, distinguished by the serrated edge
of the preopercular. Another well-known member of the family is the black-fish
(Tautoga onitis), of the Atlantic coast of North America, so named on account of
its blackish brown colour, and the sole representative of a genus characterised by
the naked opercular, the rudimental scales on the cheek, and the double row of
teeth in the jaws.

Since their Mediterranean representative (Scarus cretensis) was
Parrot-wrasses. . .

a iish held in high estimation among the ancients, brief mention must
be made of the parrot-wrasses, of which the other species are inhabitants of the
tropical parts of the Atlantic. These fishes are easily recognised by their sharp


beak, caused by the coalescence of the teeth; and also by the lower jaw projecting
in front of the upper. Of the splendidly coloured Mediterranean species Dr.
Giinther writes that "it was most plentiful and of the best quality in the
Carpathian Sea, between Crete and Asia Minor, but was not unknown, even in
early times, on the Italian coasts, though Columella says it seldom passed beyond
Sicily in his day, But in the reign of Claudius, according to Pliny, Optalus
Elipentius brought it from the Troad, and introduced it into the sea between
Ostium and Campania. For -five years all that were caught in the nets were
thrown into the sea again, and from that time it was an abundant fish in that

D '

locality, In the time of Pliny it was considered to be the first of fishes ; and the
expense incurred by Elipentius was justified, in the opinion of the Roman
gourmands, by the extreme delicacy of the flesh." This fish feeds on seaweed ;
and the mastication required to reduce this to a pulp probably gave rise to the old
idt-a that it was a ruminant.

Viviparous For the want of a better one, the members of the small family

Wrasses. Ditrematidw may be termed, on acccount of their peculiar repro-



ductive arrangements, viviparous wrasses. Agreeing with the wrasses in the
presence of false gills and the cycloid scales, they differ in having four gills, and

Online LibraryRichard LydekkerThe new natural history (Volume 5) → online text (page 44 of 62)