Copyright
Richard Lydekker.

The new natural history (Volume 5) online

. (page 49 of 62)
Online LibraryRichard LydekkerThe new natural history (Volume 5) → online text (page 49 of 62)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


to a group characterised by the nearness of the two pairs of nostrils, between which
there is generally a short flap, and by the expansion and reversion of the lower lip
to form a broad flap more or less deeply notched in the middle. In the genus
mentioned, the head is covered with bony plates, and the body encased in two rows
of transversely elongated overlapping shields on each side ; all the species being of
small size. Like certain other South American forms belonging to another sub-
family, of which the members of the genus Doras are perhaps the best known,
these mailed cat-fishes are in the habit of making nocturnal journeys during the
hot season, when the pond they inhabit is about to dry up to another of greater
capacity, and they likewise construct nests for their eggs. In the case of the
genus last mentioned, these journeys may occupy several nights, during which the
fish travel in large companies. As they have no special breathing-sacs, they must
apparently close their gill-openings, and thus keep the gills moist. The nests,
which are made at the beginning of the rainy season, are formed of leaves,
beneath which the eggs are deposited and watched over by both parents ; the whole
structure being sometimes placed in a hole on the margin of the river or pond.



456 TUBE-BLADDERED GROUP.

In the armoured cat-tish, forming the genus Loricaria, the body is remarkable for
its elongated and slender form ; while the head is depressed, with a more or less
produced and spatulate snout, on the under surface of which the mouth is situated
at a considerable distance from the extremity, its margins being surrounded by
large folds, and each corner having a barbel. Both the dorsal and anal fins are
short and elevated, and the entire head and body enveloped in a bony cuirass.

SECTION PLECTISPONDYLI.
THE CARP TRIBE, Family CYPEINID^.

Adopting a modification of Professor Cope's classification, the eels and their
allies may be regarded as forming one sectional group of the suborder, while the
cat-fishes constitute a second by themselves. A third equivalent group will then
be made by the carps, together with the under-mentioned family of the characinoids
and certain allied forms. This third group for which the name Plectispondyli has
been proposed while agreeing with the cat-fishes (forming the group Nematognathi)
in having the first four vertebrae fused together and highly modified, differs in the
presence of a subopercular bone. As in the last family, the margin of the upper
jaw is formed by the premaxilla?, and the whole mouth is toothless, teeth being
developed on the pharyngeal bones alone. While the head is invariably naked, the
body is generally covered with scales, and although it may be scaleless it is never
invested with bony plates. False gills may be developed, and, if so, are glandular.
When an air-bladder is present, it is always of large size ; and it may be divided
into two lateral moieties enclosed in an ossified capsule, or constricted into an
anterior and posterior portion which are not thus protected. The numerous
members of this family are fresh-water fish, confined to the Old World and North
America, being quite unknown in the southern half of the New World, and also in
Australia. Showing much less diversity of form and habits than the cat-fishes,
the carp tribe are for the most part omnivorous, although a few of its members
restrict themselves to a vegetable diet. Although some of them prefer muddy
situations, where their barbels are probably of assistance, the majority of the car] is
differ from the cat-fish in selecting clear waters for their haunts. The Indian
forms seem to be more carnivorous than their European relatives, many of the
larger kinds preying upon their smaller brethren. Geologically, the carps appear
to be a comparatively modern group, the earliest known forms occurring in the
Eocene of Sumatra ; these being identified with existing Oriental genera. Other
fossil carps have been obtained from the North American Eocene, and are assigned
to extinct generic types ; while in the Continental Miocene we find representatives
of a number of the existing European genera, as well as of a few now mainly or
exclusively Asiatic. On account of their more cleanly feeding-habits the flesh of
the carps is superior to that of the cat-fishes. The family is represented by over
a hundred existing genera, arranged under two subfamilies.

The common carp (Cyprinus carpio) claims our attention as the

typical representative of the subfamily Cyprinince, characterised by

the air-bladder (w.-int.ing in one Oriental genus) not being enclosed in bone, and

divided into an anterior and posterior moiety. In the Oriental genus



CARP TRIBE.



457



terus) without an air-bladder the number of barbels is six, but otherwise there are
never more than four of these appendages, which may be reduced to a single pair,
or be wanting,

Belonging to a group in which the anal fin is short and usually furnished with
five or six branched rays, the true carps have the lateral line running along the
middle of the tail, the dorsal fin placed opposite the pelvics, and containing a more




GROUP OF CARP.

1, Carp ; 2, Large-scaled variety of Carp ; 3, Crucian Carp ; 4, Barbel (1 nat. size).

or less strongly serrated bony ray, and more than nine branched rays, while the
pharyngeal teeth are arranged in three series, with those of the outermost one
molar-like. The muzzle is rounded and blunt, with four barbels, and the rather
narrow mouth at its extremity. The true carps form a small genus confined to
the temperate parts of Europe and Asia, the common species being a native of the
latter 'continent, and abundant in a wild state in China, where it has also long been
domesticated. Thence it was introduced into Germany and Sweden, and subse-



458 TUBE-B LADDERED GROUP.

quently into Britain it is said early in the seventeenth century. The ordinary
form is shown in the upper figure of the illustration on p. 457 ; but there are many
domesticated varieties, differing either in the form of the body or the size and
arrangement of the scales. Among the latter, one of the most remarkable is the
so-called spic<jd-karpfen (mirror-carp), shown in the right-hand middle figure of
the illustration. In this variety, which is found only in ponds, the scales are three
or four times the normal size, and instead of covering the whole body are arranged
in from one to three longitudinal rows, with bare skin between them. In Western
Europe the carp has taken kindly to its new habitat, not unfrequently attaining as
much as a yard in length, with a weight of 25 Ibs., while very much larger specimens
are on record. Preferring still waters, with a soft muddy bottom in which it
grovels with its snout for food, the carp feeds on various vegetable substances, as
well as on insects and other small aquatic invertebrates. When the surface of their
haunts is locked in ice, carp lie deeply buried in holes in the mud, frequently
consorting in numbers, and undergoing a partial hibernation, which is not broken
till the returning warmth of spring. Their growth is extremely rapid, and their
fecundity extraordinary, nearly three-quarters of a million eggs having been counted
in the roe of a, medium-sized specimen. They are capable of living a considerable
time out of water, especially if they are moistened from time to time ; and are
known to live to a very great age. Carp will interbreed both with the Crucian
and golden carp.

Crucian and Easily distinguished by the absence of barbels, the Crucian carp

Golden Carp. (Carassius vulgaris), and the golden carp, or gold-fish (C. <i a nit UK)
are the best known representatives of another closely allied genus ; the former
being a native of Central and Northern Europe, but also found in Italy and Siberia,
while the home of the second is China and the warmer parts of Japan. Both are
comparatively small species, and have been long domesticated ; whereas, however,
the Crucian carp always retain the original brownish colour, the domesticated
variety of the golden carp has assumed the well-known golden tinge from which
it takes its name ; an albino form being also known. Among the numerous varieties
of this fish the most curious is the so-called telescope-fish, shown in the right-hand
figure of the illustration on p. 412, taking its name from the prominence of the
highly movable eyes, and likewise characterised by the great development of the
caudal fin. In Europe gold-fish "thrive best in waters heated somewhat above the
ordinary temperature, and they are accordingly frequently kept in engine-pond^
where the water may have a temperature of some 80, and in which they bree<
freely. The Crucian carp, shown on the left of the illustration 011 p. 457, is con-
fined to ponds and lakes, where it seeks the deepest parts.

Represented by some two hundred species from the tropical and
temperate regions of the Old World, the barbels are best known by
the common European species (liti.rbn.x vulgaris), shown in the lower figure of the
illustration on p. 457, and tlie gigantic mahasir (/>'. tor) of India and Ceylon.
Agreeing with the carps in the structure of the anal fin, and the position of the
lateral line and dorsal fin, they belong to a subgroup of genera in which there are
generally Dot more than nine rays in the dorsal fin, the pharyngeal teeth being
arranged in three rows, the greater part of the cheek not covered with bone, the



CARP TRIBE. 459

anal scales not enlarged, and the eye unprovided with a fatty lid; while they are
| specially characterised by the arched mouth which is devoid of internal folds and
by the presence of false gills. The anal fin is frequently tall, the lips are devoid of
any horny covering, and the barbels, if present, may be either two or four in
! number. The scales may be either small or very large, and the body is frequently
of a much more elongated form than in the true carps. While some species are
not more than 2 inches in length, the mahasir, and some other kinds, may grow
to at least 6 feet. Of the Indian forms, Day writes that those with four barbels
(among which is the mahasir), " provided they are soberly coloured, attain a large
si/o ; the brilliantly coloured forms are mostly residents in clear or rapid mountain-
streams, or rivers contiguous to hills, and generally small. A strong dorsal spine
is usually (if not invariably) a sign that the species lives in the vicinity of high
mountains, the streams of which it ascends to breed. An exception has, however,
to be made of those forms with serrated dorsal spines, which are usually resident
in the waters of the plains." The common barbel, which has four of the appendages
from which it derives its name, not uncommonly grows to a length of 2 feet, with
a weight of from 8 to 10 Ibs., but may attain much larger dimensions.

Confining our attention mainly to the European representatives
of the family, we have next to mention the gudgeons (Gobio), which
may be distinguished from the foregoing by the pharyngeal teeth being arranged
in a double or single series ; the body being entirely covered with scales ; and the
muzzle having two small barbels, with the mouth inferior in position, and the
premaxillary bones protractile. The scales are of moderate size, the short dorsal
fin lias no spine, and the intestine is remarkable for its shortness. These small
ihes are represented only by two species, of which G. fluviatilis is British ; and,
ike the barbels, they are purely animal-feeding. The British species is shown in
ie lower figure of the illustration on p. 4G2.

From the whole of the members of the family noticed above the
White-Fish.

so-called " white-fish " belong to a group of genera in which the anal

in is short or of medium length, with from eight to eleven branched rays, and not
ctending forwards beneath the line of the dorsal; the lateral line, when complete,
inning nearly or quite in the middle of the tail. From certain allied forms they
nv distinguished by the short dorsal fin having no bony ray; and the pharyngeal
i form a single or double series, the margin of the lower jaw is not cutting,
id there are no barbels. As distinctive peculiarities of the white-fish may be
mentioned the protractile premaxillary bones, the imbricating scales, and the
smooth outer surface of the pharyngeal teeth. The numerous representatives of the
white-fish are distributed over the rivers of the North temperate zone, the New World
forms somewhat exceeding in numbers those of the Old. Among the European
representatives of the genus, the roach (Leuciscus rutilus), shown in the right-
hand middle figure of our illustration, agrees with several other species in having
a single series of pharyngeal teeth, at least ten rays in the anal fin, and the dorsal
nearly opposite the pelvic fins ; its deep body being silvery, and the lower fins of
the adult generally tinged with red. Its range is confined to Europe north of the
Alps. On the other hand, the chub (L. cepludus), shown in the lower figure of the
illustration, may be selected as an example of a second group in which there are two



460



TUBE-BLADDERED GROUP.



series of pharyngeal teeth. This fish has a somewhat wider distribution than the
last, extending southwards into Italy and eastwards into Asia; it is uniformly
coloured, with greyish margins to the scales. To the same group of the genus
belongs the dace (L. vulgaris), with the same distribution as the roach, to which it
presents a considerable external resemblance, although smaller and longer in form ;




Ide, Rudd, Roach, and Chub (J nat size).

its sides being silvery, but the fins not tinged with red. Roach and dace are
commonly found in company, and have identical habits. The fish shown in the
upper figure of our illustration is confined to the central and northern countries of
the Continent, where it is known as the ide (L. idus), and is a uniformly-coloured
species nearly allied to the last. It is of special interest on account of a golden-
coloured domesticated variety bred in Germany, and known as the orfe. Another



CARP TRIBE.



461



member of the same group is the rudd or red-eye (L. erythopthalmus), of which a
specimen is represented in the left-hand middle figure of the illustration ; this
species, which ranges all over Europe and Asia, may be distinguished by its scarlet
lower fins, the general hue of the scales being coppery. The familiar and diminu-
tive minnow (L. phoxinus) differs from all the foregoing members of this group by
the incomplete lateral line ; its range being limited to Europe, although it is repre-
sented by an allied species in North America. The habits of all these familiar fish
are too well known to need notice ; but it may be mentioned that several of them
will interbreed, as they will with species belonging to other genera of the family.

Representing a genus by itself, the European tench (Tinea
vulgaris) differs from the white-fish by the presence of a small pair
barbels to the mouth ; the pharyngeal teeth forming a single series. The small



Tench.




TENCH (fa iiat. size).

cales are deeply embedded in the thick skin ; there is a complete lateral line ; both
he dorsal and anal fins are short ; and the caudal, instead of having the markedly
orked form characteristic of the roach and its allies, is but slightly emarginate.
"he terminally-situated mouth has its lips moderately developed. Whereas white-
fish prefer clear running streams, the tench frequents ponds, lakes, and other more
or less stagnant water ; its colour, which is sometimes bronzy golden, and in other
cases olive-green, with a more or less blackish tinge, is stated to vary with the
purity or otherwise of the water in which it lives. Tench always keep near or in
the mud, beneath which they entirely bury themselves during the colder months,
after the fashion of so many members of the family. A good tench will weigh
4 Ibs., but examples of 5 Ibs., and even over, are not very uncommon. It is probably
owing to the abundant supply of mucus secreted by the skin that the tench was
considered to be endowed with healing powers. Tench are exceedingly prolific,
and as they bear transport easily, are admirably adapted for stocking ponds.



462



TUBE-BLADDERED GROUP.



Beaked Carp.



By this name may be distinguished a small genus, containing
seven species, from Continental Europe and Western Asia, and
differing from the two foregoing by the margin of the lower jaw forming a cutting
edge, overlain with a brown horny layer; one of the species (Chondrostcrma ^< /*</*)
being represented in the lower figure of the illustration on p. 465, These fishes
are further characterised by the medium or small size of the scales, the termination
of the lateral line in the middle of the deepest part of the tail, by the dorsal fin
having not more than nine branched rays, and being situated opposite the root




BITTERLINO, BLEAK, AND GUDGEON (nat. si/.e).

of the pelvics, and also by the rather elongate anal bearing ten or more rays.
The mouth is inferior in position, and transverse; and there are no barbels.
Commonly known in France as le nez, the figured species does not usually exceed
18 inches in length, with a weight of about 3 Ibs. It is generally found in deep
water, where it feeds on various vegetable substances, but more especially on the
green confervoid growth covering submerged stones, which is neatl} T mown oil'
by a scythe-like action of the horny margin of the transverse lower lip.

The small roach-like lisli known as the bitterling (lilintlrnn
amaru*), of which two examples are shown on the left side of Ihe
accompanying illustration, is the European representative of four genera of small



Bitterling.



CARP TRIBE. 463

carps mainly characteristic of Eastern Asia arid Japan, and having the following
distinctive features. The anal h'n is of moderate length, and extends forwards to
below the line of the dorsal ; the lateral line, when fully developed, runs on or
near the middle of the tail : and there is but a single series of pharyngeal teeth.
The bitterling, which belongs to a genus characterised by the incomplete lateral
line, and the small size of the scales, is locally distributed in Central Europe,
where it is not unfrequently found in hot springs. It is one of the smallest of
European fishes, the females being generally about 1| inches in length, while the
males do not exceed twice this size. The name is derived from the bitter taste of
the flesh ; and it is only perch and eels that will take this fish when used as a bait.
In common with its allies, the bitterling is remarkable for the circumstance that
in the breeding-season the oviduct of the female is produced into an elongated tube,
projecting a considerable distance beyond the surface of the body. This organ,
which may be compared to the ovipositor of an insect, is introduced within the
shells of fresh-water mussels, and the eggs are thus deposited in a situation where
they will be protected from the attacks of enemies.

The common European bream (Abramis brama), shown in the
lower figure of the illustration on the next page, is the type of a large
group of genera, characterised by the elongation of the anal fin, and by a portion
of the whole of the abdomen being compressed so as to form a sharp edge. In the
type genus the much compressed body is deep or oblong in form, with the scales of
moderate size, and the lateral line running below the middle of the tail ; the short
dorsal fin, which is not furnished with a spine, being situated opposite the interval
between the pelvic and anal fins, In both jaws the lips are simple, the upper
being protractile, and generally longer than the lower, although occasionally the
reverse condition obtains. The pharyngeal teeth may be arranged in either a
single or double series ; and the scales do not extend across the sharp edge of the
lower surface of the hinder part of the body. Distributed over Europe north of
Alps, portions of Western Asia, and North America, the breams are repre-
ted by about fifteen species, of which the common bream and the white bream
blicea) are found in Britain. The white bream, shown in the upper figure of
r illustration, has the general colour of the sides bluish white, without any trace
of the golden yellow lustre, from the presence of which the common species is often
termed the carp-bream. They may also be distinguished by the iris of the eye in
the latter being yellow, and in the former silvery white, tinged with pink. Yarrell
writes that " bream swim in shoals, feeding on worms, and other soft-bodied animals,
with some vegetable substances ; and if the water they inhabit suits them, which
is generally the case, as they are hardy in their nature, they grow rapidly, and
spawn in May. At this season one female is generally followed by three or four
males, and they bear at this time a whitish tubercle on their scales, which causes
thorn to feel rough to the hand." In some of the Irish lakes bream run to as
much as 12 or 14 Ibs. in weight ; and as they are a greedy fish, great numbers can
be taken by the aid of ground-baiting. Of the other two species here figured, the
zope (A. Ixtllerus), forming the second figure from the top, is an inhabitant of
Germany, Holland, and Sweden; while the zarthe (A. vijnba), is found in the
Danube, as well as in the rivers of North Germany, Sweden, and Russia. The



464



TUBE-BLADDERED GROUP.



latter species may be easily recognised by the keeled upper surface of the tail,
and the projecting muzzle ; while the zope is characterised by the great elongation
of the anal fin, which commences opposite to the dorsal, and extends nearly to the
tail, combined with the oblique direction of the cleft of the mouth.




Rapfen.



GROUP OF BREAM.

White Bream, Zope, Zarthe, and Common Bream (J nat. size).

By this name is known in Austria the typical representative
(Aspius rapax) of a small genus of carps, containing four species
from Eastern Europe and China, and somewhat intermediate in structural
characters between the breams and the bleaks. Agreeing with the former in the
shortness of the gill-rakers, these fishes always have the lower jaw projecting
considerably beyond the upper, which is but slightly protractile ; the anal fin
never has less than thirteen rays; and the sharp lower edge of the abdoinni
behind the pelvic fins is crossed by the scales. Common in Eastern and Northern



CARP TRIBE.



465



Europe, although unknown in the British Islands, the rapfen, is generally found
in lakes or rivers flowing through level country, as it requires clear but tranquil
waters. In colour it is bluish black above, with the sides bluish white, and the
under surface white ; the dorsal and anal fins being blue, and the others tinged
with red. In weight this fish does not exceed a dozen pounds, and in length never
measures more than a yard.





Bleak.



Especial interest attaches to the beautiful little fish known as
the bleak (Alburnus lucidus), of which a figure is given on the
right side of the illustration on p. 462, on account of the use of the pearly matter
from its scales in the manufacture of artificial pearls. Of bleak there are fifteen
species, ranging over Europe and Western Asia ; the common British species being
found only to the north of the Alps, although represented by an allied form in
Italy. From both the preceding genera these fish are distinguished by the slender
and lanceolate form of the closely set gill-rakers. The body is more or less

VOL. V. 70



466 TUBE-BLADDERED GROUP.

elongate, with the scales of moderate size, and the lateral line running below the
middle of the tail. The fins are generally similar to those of the last genus ; and
the lower jaw projects more or less beyond the upper, which is protractile. In
the hinder part of the abdomen the scales do not extend across the sharp lower
edge. Generally about 4 or 5 inches in length, and never exceeding 7, the
common bleak is steel-blue in colour above, with silvery white sides and under
surface, and the dorsal and caudal fins grey, the others being colourless. It is
found in rivers, lakes, and ponds, preferring clear water; and in calm, warm
weather swimming rapidly about near the surface in search of flies and other
insects. During the spawning-season, which is in May and June, bleak collect in
large shoals, which are preyed upon not only by perch, but likewise by gulls
and terns.

Nearly allied to the bleak is a small fish (Leucaspiua delineatus) from the
rivers of Eastern and Southern Europe, distinguished by the extreme shortness of



Online LibraryRichard LydekkerThe new natural history (Volume 5) → online text (page 49 of 62)