« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
ve-ge-ta-tion [L. vegeto, to sprout, to grow], the process of growing, plants in general. ter-res-tri-al [L. terrestris, from terra, the earth], belonging to the earth. 20-o-phytes [Gk. zoon, an animal; phuton, a plant], bodies supposed to partake of the nature of an animal and á vegetable. WHEN not a breath of air ruffles the surface of the sea, and the boat drifts slowly with the current, few things afford more pleasure than the attentive study of the fairy-like scene beneath. The luxuriant vegetation, red, green, brown, orange, swaying to and fro above the patches of shining sand strewn with shells of various forms, seems a storehouse of food for the numerous species of fish, which, darting in and out, add animation to the picture. We can carefully observe the habits of terrestrial animals, and minutely describe their appearance; but such glimpses as these are all we can obtain of the movements of the finny tribes. The dredge and the net often reveal the forms of the inhabitants of the deep, and wonderful indeed are these. “They that go
down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; these see the works of the Lord and His won. ders in the deep.”
At certain seasons, the Arctic Ocean is filled with such dense masses of meduse, as to appear changed in colour. These form the favourite food of myriads of fish which swarm in those waters. The fish are not directly of much commercial value ; but they, in their turn, nourish the seals, bears, and walruses, which yield oil, skins, and ivory in rich abundance. Round our own shores, many species of fish abound. In addition to the cod and flounder tribes, which are the most characteristic, shoals of herrings, pilchards, and sprats every year leave the deep waters, and approach the land to deposit their spawn. These annual migrations give employment to thousands of fishermen, and load our tables with whole. some food. The fish of the temperate zones, although far inferior in beauty to those which sport in tropical waters, are much more valuable as articles of diet. Nature, in her operations, compensates the loss of one benefit by the gift of another. The bird so beautiful as to have gained the name of “bird of paradise somewhat like a raven; while the songster which “at heaven's gate sings” is decked with sober brown.
Fish are exposed to such relentless persecution that the greater number of the young never reach maturity, but form the food of their more powerful brethren. Numerous zoophytes devour their eggs and fry, countless birds pounce upon them as they approach the surface, and even pursue them into their native element, while seals, bears, and other land animals decimate their ranks.
The smaller varieties would soon be swept from the ocean, if Nature had not decreed that the continual decrease should be balanced by a corresponding increase. Those most exposed to destruction produce eggs in astonishing abundance. The number of ova deposited in a single season by a cod has been estimated at 9,000,000. On the other hand, the voracious shark only drops one egg into the ocean at a time.
Some fish are provided with weapons as remarkable
as they are formidable. Those not so highly favoured have recourse to stratagem. The globe-fish, when in danger, puffs itself out like a balloon, and as it floats on the surface, displays a profusion of spines. The sword-fish, an inhabitant of the Mediterranean and of the eastern parts of the Atlantic, is provided with very powerful means of attack. The snout is prolonged into the long, bony process to which it owes its name. So strong is this that it is sometimes driven into the hull of a passing vessel. In the British Museum may be seen a portion of the keel of an East Indiaman, witń the sword of a fish still inserted. The saw-fish has its long, flat beak set with teeth on both sides. The flying-fish is provided with fins so large as to enable the animal to escape from its enemy, the bonito, by darting more than 500 feet through the air. Often, however, it only rushes from death in one form to encounter it in another, as in its flight through the air it is hotly pursued by numerous sea-birds.
Not only have open foes to be guarded against, but secret dangers everywhere abound. The angler, crouching close to the ground, stirs up the sand or mud, and then keeps moving to and fro two elongated appendages, one of which has a broad, silvery termination. The fish attracted to the spot by curiosity, or impelled by hunger, fall an easy prey. The remora, or sucking-fish, by means of a striated apparatus on its head, attaches itself to a whale or shark, and even to a passing ship, and thus with little trouble to itself, secures a free passage to its destination, or makes a more rapid escape from its pursuer.
No less remarkable are the methods employed by certain fish which feed on insects. The archer, to secure its prey, approaches with the utmost caution, and then, taking aim with all the deliberation of a rifleman, darts a drop of water at the insect with such remarkable accuracy that it seldom escapes. The climbing-fish (anabas) ascends trees by means of its tail and spiny fin, when in pursuit of food. The astonishment of a naturalist was great, when, after shooting at a bird, a fish dropped wounded at his feet. The hassar, an in.
habitant of South America, as soon as it discovers its native pool drying up, and not desiring to be gobbled up by the first passing bird, marches off to search for safer quarters.
EXERCISC.-44. COMPOSITION. 1. Make a list of the different kinds of fish that are mentioned in chis lesson.
2. Compare the fish of the tropical regions with those that are found in the waters of temperate climes.
3. Give other phrases for: a profusion of spines, hotly pursued, its native pool, annual migrations.
4. What kinds of fish are most productive?
ABOUT FISH. PART II. FISH THAT ARE MORE USEFUL THAN CURIOUS.
con-gealed [L. con. together; gelu, frost], made hard and solid by cold, frozen. ac-cu-mu-la-ted (L. ad, to; cumulo, to heap, to pile up), gathered together. na-tu-ra-list [L. natura, nature], one who studies the works and productions of nature. STRANGE as it appears to find fish climbing trees, stranger by far is it to find them inhabiting volcanoes and hot springs. From the volcano Cotopaxi, living fish have been ejected in numbers so great as to taint the air for miles around. Humboldt on one occassion, found the temperature of the accompanying water to be 210°, or only two degrees below boiling point. It is difficult to determine in what temperature fish cannot exist, for it is said that if congealed in a mass of ice, they regain their former powers ou the return of spring.
In the pools of mountain streamlets, in the rivers formed by their accumulated waters, in the lakes, embosomed among the mountains, in the shallow moss pools, and in the deep salt sea, fish in endless variety and in rich profusion reward the study of the naturalist or the labours of the fisherman. Almost every land reaps a share of the bounteous harvest Nature has provided. The canoes of the islands of the Pacific rise and fall on the big rolling waves, as their owners capture the
gaudy fish which sport in those waters. Amid snow and ice, the wandering Esquimaux ensnare the finny tribes. In the magnificent lakes of Central Africa, so long unknown to civilized man, the negro finds a constant supply of food. On every sea-shore, and by every winding river and picturesque lake, the fisher dries his nets and lines, which daily provide variety for the table of the rich and luxury for the board of the poor,
Nowhere, however, is this provision so rich in amount and excellent in quality as in the waters of those countries where the products of the vegetable kingdom are won from a reluctant soil. The seas and rivers of Europe, more especially of its northern countries, abound in fish, many species of which are of the highest value to man as articles of diet. The Mediterranean, although richest in the number of its species, is inferior in the quantity and quality of its fish, when compared with the waters around our own shores. On the Dogger Bank, nearly midway between the British Isles and Denmark, thousands of hardy seamen brave the piercing winds of the German Ocean to supply the markets of London and of other large towns
with cod, haddock, and ling. The bays and friths from Yarmouth to Wick, and from Wick to the Isle of Man, are every summer afternoon enlivened by multitudes of small boats starting to spread their herring nets when the sun has sunk in the west. Through the haze of a July morning the men of Cornwall anxiously watch the appearance of the mighty army of pilchards, which annually invade the waters of that iron-bound coast. Mackerel, as perishable as beautiful, are captured at certain seasons in immense quantities from Cornwall to Norfolk. Flounders, turbot, cod, whitings, and haddocks are the constant inhabitants of all the shallow waters of Britain and Norway.
The stromming, not larger than the sprat, but of a delicate flavour, is captured in vast quantities in the Baltic, and thereafter salted and exported to the countries around the Gulf of Bothnia.
The tunny fishery of the Mediterranean is not only profitable, but affords much amusement to the inhabit.