Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Weever

From volume XXIV of the work.
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WEEVER. The weevers (Trachinus) are small marine fishes which are common on the coasts of Europe, and which have attained notoriety from the painful and sometimes dangerous wounds they are able to inflict upon those who incautiously handle them. They belong to a family of spiny-rayed fishes (Trachinidæ), and are distinguished by a long low body with two dorsal fins, the anterior of which is composed of six or seven spines only, the posterior being long and many-rayed; their anal resembles in form and composition the second dorsal fin. The ventral fins are placed in advance of the pectorals, and consist of a spine and five rays. The caudal fin has the hind margin not excised. The body is covered with very small scales, sunk in and firmly adherent to the skin, but the upper surface of the head is bony, without integument. The head, like the body, is compressed, with the eyes of moderate size and placed on the side of the head; the mouth is wide, oblique, and armed with bands of very small teeth.

Several species of weevers are known, but two only occur on the British coasts, viz., the Greater Weever (Trachinus draco) and the Lesser Weever (T. vipera); the former is frequently found of a length of 12 inches, and possesses some thirty rays in the second dorsal fin, whilst the latter grows only to about half that length, and has about ten rays less in the dorsal. The coloration of both is plain, bnt the short first dorsal fin is always of a deep black colour. The weevers are bottom fish, burying and hiding them selves in the sand or between shingle,—the lesser species living close inshore and the greater preferring deeper water, and being found sometimes floating on the surface at a distance of several miles from the shore. Although weevers, especially the lesser, are in the habit of burying themselves in the sand, and are abundant in some localities much resorted to by bathers, accidents from stepping upon them are much more rare than from incautiously handling them after capture. They probably make their escape on perceiving the approach of a person. The wounds are inflicted by the dorsal and opercular spines, are very painful, and sometimes cause violent local inflammation. In the absence of any special poison organ it is most probable that the mucous secretion in the vicinity of the spines has poisonous properties. The spines are deeply grooved, the poisonous fluid which is lodged in the grooves being thus introduced into the punctured wound.