The Shark, pp.224-226.

[Three Hundred Animals Contents]

   THERE are several species of this monster, for his boldness and voracity may allow us to style him so. The greatest and most audacious of this destructive tribe of the sea-fish is called the white Shark. He represents the vulture, as the whale does the eagle, among the inhabitants of the deep. Like the whale he is viviporous, but differs from that marine wonder in bulk and in habits. The whale’s peculiar food is a small sea-insect, called the medusa; the Shark lives entirely upon fish or flesh, and it is reported that when he has once tasted of the flesh of a human being nothing can make him desist from his pursuit after the vessels which he suspects to contain the delicate food he seeks after. The white shark is sometimes found weighing near four thousand pounds. The throat is often large enough to swallow a man, which has often been found entire in the stomach of this tremendous animal. He is furnished with six rows of sharp triangular teeth, amounting in the whole to one hundred and forty-four, serrated on their edges, and capable of being erected or depressed at pleasure, owing to a curious muscular mechanism in the palate and jaws of the Shark. The whole body and fins are of a light ash-colour, the skin rough, and often worked into that substance called shagreen, an abreviation of the words “shark” and “green.” His eyes are large and staring, and he possesses great muscular strength in his tail and fins. Whenever he spies from the deepest recesses of the sea, man swimming or diving, he bolts from the place, darts up to his prey, and if unable to take in the whole or snatch away a limb, he follows for a long time the boat or vessel in which the more nimble swimmer has found a safe and opportune retreat: but seldom does he let any one escape his cruel jaws and get off entire. A late worthy member of the Court of Aldermen, Sir Brook Watson, lost, when young, one of his legs in the mouth of one of these monsters. Some commentators of the Book of Jonah are of opinion that it was this fish, and not the whale, that swallowed the prophet. 

   Had nature allowed this fish to seize on his prey with as much facility as many others, the Shark tribe would have soon depopulated the ocean, and reigned alone in the vast regions of the sea, till hunger would have forced them to attack and ultimately destroy each other; but, holding the impartial scale over the whole creation, she ordered that the under jaw of this devouring marine animal should be, by its cumbersome prominency an impediment to his seizing easily his offered food; and it is generally remarked that when on the point of catching hold of any thing the Shark is obliged to twist himself on one side, which troublesome evolution gives often time to escape. The flesh of this fish is of a disagreeable taste, and cannot be eaten with any kind of relish. 

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