**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!


Fish Out Of Water
by [?]

In England itself, on the other hand, we have at least one kind of fish which exemplifies the opposite or migratory solution of the dry pond problem, and that is our familiar friend the common eel. The ways of eels are indeed mysterious, for nobody has ever yet succeeded in discovering where, when, or how they manage to spawn; nobody has ever yet seen an eel’s egg, or caught a female eel in the spawning condition, or even observed a really adult male or female specimen of perfect development. All the eels ever found in fresh water are immature and undeveloped creatures. But eels do certainly spawn somewhere or other in the deep sea, and every year, in the course of the summer, flocks of young ones, known as elvers, ascend the rivers in enormous quantities, like a vast army under numberless leaders. At each tributary or affluent, be it river, brook, stream, or ditch, a proportionate detachment of the main body is given off to explore the various branches, while the central force wriggles its way up the chief channel, regardless of obstacles, with undiminished vigour. When the young elvers come to a weir, a wall, a floodgate, or a lasher, they simply squirm their way up the perpendicular barrier with indescribable wrigglings, as if they were wholly unacquainted, physically as well as mentally, with Newton’s magnificent discovery of gravitation. Nothing stops them; they go wherever water is to be found; and though millions perish hopelessly in the attempt, millions more survive in the end to attain their goal in the upper reaches. They even seem to scent ponds or lakes mysteriously, at a distance, and will strike boldly straight across country, to sheets of water wholly cut off from communication with the river which forms their chief highway.

The full-grown eels are also given to journeying across country in a more sober, sedate, and dignified manner, as becomes fish which have fully arrived at years, or rather months, of discretion. When the ponds in which they live dry up in summer, they make in a bee-line for the nearest sheet of fresh water, whose direction and distance they appear to know intuitively, through some strange instinctive geographical faculty. On their way across country, they do not despise the succulent rat, whom they swallow whole when caught with great gusto. To keep their gills wet during these excursions, eels have the power of distending the skin on each side of the neck, just below the head, so as to form a big pouch or swelling. This pouch they fill with water, to carry a good supply along with them, until they reach the ponds for which they are making. It is the pouch alone that enables eels to live so long out of water under all circumstances, and so incidentally exposes them to the disagreeable experience of getting skinned alive, which it is to be feared still forms the fate of most of those that fall into the clutches of the human species.

A far more singular walking fish than any of these is the odd creature that rejoices (unfortunately) in the very classical surname of Periophthalmus, which is, being interpreted, Stare-about. (If he had a recognised English name of his own, I would gladly give it; but as he hasn’t, and as it is clearly necessary to call him something, I fear we must stick to the somewhat alarming scientific nomenclature.) Periophthalmus, then, is an odd fish of the tropical Pacific shores, with a pair of very distinct forelegs (theoretically described as modified pectoral fins), and with two goggle eyes, which he can protrude at pleasure right outside the sockets, so as to look in whatever direction he chooses, without even taking the trouble to turn his head to left or right, backward or forward. At ebb tide this singular peripatetic goby literally walks straight out of the water, and promenades the bare beach erect on two legs, in search of small crabs and other stray marine animals left behind by the receding waters. If you try to catch him, he hops away briskly much like a frog, and stares back at you grimly over his left shoulder, with his squinting optics. So completely adapted is he for this amphibious long-shore existence, that his big eyes, unlike those of most other fish, are formed for seeing in the air as well as in the water. Nothing can be more ludicrous than to watch him suddenly thrusting these very movable orbs right out of their sockets like a pair of telescopes, and twisting them round in all directions so as to see in front, behind, on top, and below, in one delightful circular sweep.