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CHAP. 83. (57.)—LAND FISHES.

Besides these, there are still some wonderful kinds of fishes1 which we find mentioned by Theophrastus: he says, that when the waters subside, which have been admitted for the purposes of irrigation in the vicinity of Babylon, there are certain fish which remain in such holes as may contain water; from these they come forth for the purpose of feeding, moving along with their fins by the aid of a rapid movement of the tail. If pursued, he says, they retreat to their holes, and, when they have reached them, will turn round and make a stand. The head is like that of the sea-frog, while the other parts are similar to those of the gobio,2 and they have gills like other fish. He says also, that in the vicinity of Heraclea and Cromna,3 and about the river Lycus, as well as in many parts of the Euxine, there is one kind of fish4 which frequents the waters near the banks of the rivers, and makes holes for itself, in which it lives, even when the water retires and the bed of the river is dry; for which reason these fishes have to be dug out of the ground, and only show by the movement of the body that they are still alive. He says also, that in the vicinity of the same Heraclea, when the river Lycus ebbs, the eggs are left in the mud, and that the fish, on being produced from these, go forth to seek their food by means of a sort of fluttering motion,—their gills being but very small, in consequence of which they are not in need of water; for this reason it is that eels also can live so long out of water;5 and that their eggs come to maturity on dry land, like those of the sea-tortoise6. In the same regions also of the Euxine, he says, various kinds of fishes are overtaken by the ice, the gobio more particularly, and they only betray signs of life, by moving when they have warmth applied by the saucepan. All these things, however, though very remarkable, still admit of some explanation. He tells us also, that in Paphlagonia, land fishes are dug up that are most excellent eating; these, he says, are found in deep holes or spots where there is no standing water whatever, and he expresses his surprise at their being thus produced without any contact with moisture, stating it as his opinion, that there is some innate virtue in these holes,7 similar to that of wells; as if, indeed, fishes really were to be found in wells.8 However this may be, these facts, at all events, render the life of the mole under ground less a matter for surprise; unless, perhaps, these fishes mentioned by Theophrastus are similar in nature to the earth-worm.

1 Cuvier remarks, that nothing is known of the fish of the Euphrates here mentioned by Pliny from Theophrastus; as, indeed, all particulars relative to the fresh-water fish of foreign countries are the portion of Ichthyology with which we are the least acquainted. Judging, however, from what is stated as to their habits and appearance, they may be various species of the genus Gobius of Linnæus, and more especially the one called periophthalmus by Bloch. These species are in the habit of crawling along the grass on the banks of rivers.

2 Generally considered the same as our gudgeon. It is called "cobio" (from the Greek κωβιὸς), by Pliny, in B. xxxii. c. 53. It was a worthless fish, "Vilis piscis," as Juvenal says.

3 What Heraclea, if that is the correct reading, is meant here, it is impossible to say. Cromna is mentioned in B. vi. c. 2.

4 Cuvier thinks, that Pliny here alludes to a species of loche, the Cobitis fossilis of Linnæus, which keeps itself concealed in the mud, and can survive a long time in it, after the water above it is absorbed. Hence it is often found alive in the mud of drained marshes, or in the dried-up beds of rivers.

5 Cuvier remarks, that many fish, the orifice of the gills of which, like those of the eel, is small, or which have in the interior of those parts organs proper for the preservation there of water, are able, like the eel, to live for some time on dry land; such, for instance, as the periophthalmi previously mentioned, the chironectes, the ophicephali, the anabas, and others; but it is difficult to say, he observes, of what species were those of the Lycus, which are here mentioned.

6 Or turtle. See c. 12 of the present Book.

7 It is most probable that Sillig is right in his supposition, that "quam" should be read "æquam;" otherwise it does not appear that any sense can be made of the passage. Schneider, in his commentaries upon Theophrastus, Sillig says, quite despaired of either amending or explaining this passage; which, however, with Sillig's emendation is very easily to be understood.

8 In accordance with the opinion of Vossius and Sillig, we read here "in illis," instead of the common, and most probably incorrect, reading, in nullis."

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