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CHAP. 38. (21)—EELS

Eels live eight1 years; they are able to survive out of water as much as six days,2 when a north-east wind blows; but when the south wind prevails, not so many. In winter,3 they cannot live if they are in very shallow water, nor yet if the water is troubled. Hence it is that they are taken more especially about the rising of the Vergiliæ,4 when the rivers are mostly in a turbid state. These animals seek their food at night; they are the only fish the bodies of which, when dead, do not float5 upon the surface.

(22.) There is a lake called Benacus,6 in the territory of Verona, in Italy, through which the river Mincius flows.7 At the part of it whence this river issues, once a year, and mostly in the month of October, the lake is troubled, evidently by the constellations8 of autumn, and the eels are heaped together9 by the waves, and rolled on by them in such astonishing multitudes, that single masses of them, containing more than a thousand in number, are often taken in the chambers10 which are formed in the bed of the river for that purpose.

1 Spallanzani, in his "Nat. Hist. of the Eel in the Lagunes of Comacchio," says, that immediately after their birth they retreat to the Lagunes, and at the end of five years re-enter the river Po.

2 Eighty or a hundred hours at most, Spallanzani says.

3 Cold, or a foul state of the water, Cuvier says, is very destructive to the eel.

4 Or Pleiades. See c. 20.

5 Aristotle, Hist. Anim. B. viii. c. 75, says the same, and likewise that they feed mostly at night. The reason for their not floating when dead, he says, is their peculiar conformation; the belly being so remarkably small that the water cannot find an entrance; added to which they have no fat upon them.

6 See B. iii. c. 23.

7 See B. iii. c. 20.

8 The setting of the Pleiades or the rising of Arcturus. See B. ii. c. 47.

9 Spallanzani informs us that the fishermen of the Lagunes of Comacchio form with reeds small chambers, by means of which they take the eels when endeavouring to re-enter the river Po; in these such vast multitudes are collected, that they are absolutely to be seen above the surface of the water.

10 Excipalis.

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