[Three Hundred Animals Contents]
THE figure of the animal above bas been correctly copied at the foot of Blackfriars Bridge in the month of May, 1812, from a specimen exhibited there for several days by the fishermen, who had caught it below the river; it is about three feet and a half long, the head forming more than the third part of the whole; the mouth is uncommonly large, and armed with several rows of white and sharp teeth, not very regularly set, and seemingly moving in the cartilaginous jaws. The tongue appears fleshy and broad, the pectoral fins widely extended, and placed a little below the eyes; and between them and the mouth a sort of suture in black stitches and in vandyke shape, appears very conspicuous upon the silvery white of the skin in this part of the animal. The back is armed with several rows of tubercles; but the most curious peculiarity belonging to this ill-shaped citizen of the deep is that he seems to have received the gift of feet; for the ventral fins are exactly in that shape with divided toes, the use of which appears to be that of opening the ooze at the bottom of the sea or the sand on the shores, where this gluttonous fish conceals himself with his jaws wide open, to catch the imprudent flounder or sole, or any others which their giddiness leads to the dangerous abyss. The colour is brownish, and the scales hardly perceptible.
The Sun Fish. Unable to follow the inhabitants of the waterdown to the grottos that adorn the bottom of the ocean, and where their habits, their food, their pleasures are secreted, man had but little opportunity to study the nature of fishes; he therefore was, upon a transient view, obliged to describe them in haste, and to give them names alluding to their form; as he did to quadrupeds and birds by borrowing from their voice an analogous sound to denominate them. The shape of this fish is round, and surrounded with a fin which answers the purpose of nature, and brings to our mind the idea of the sun, as it is painted, encompassed with rays of light. This fish is also known by the name of Diodon. He appears like the upper part of the body of a very deep fish which had been amputated in the middle. The mouth is small with two broad teeth only in each jaw. When alarmed, he inflates his body to a globular shape of a great size, and is beset with large and sharp spines, which the animal can erect or depress at pleasure; by this manoæuvre he defends or secures himself against the attacks of his enemies, and might have been named the hedge hog of the sea, if other fishes had not already obtained the name of Echini. The back of this curious marine animal is of a rich blue colour. He frequents the coasts of both the ancient and new continent, and has been found on the shores of England. There are several species of this genus of fish but the difference between them is so inconsiderable that it would not be interesting to our readers to find here a minute description of each kind.