Page:Philosophical Transactions - Volume 096.djvu/19

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and mechanical Action of the Muscles of Fishes.

size of a millet-seed, containing a white substance like the carbonate of lime found in the intercostal ganglions of frogs. This vesicle is included within the sheath of the nerve.

The coats of the blood-vessels are of a delicate texture, and easily ruptured. In order, therefore, to secure them from being injured by the violent and sudden actions of the muscles, the principal trunks both of the arteries and veins are inclosed in osseous canals, formed by the bases of the superior and inferior spinous processes; and their first ramifications lie within grooves in the spines. As they pass out to supply the muscles, their branches are immediately subdivided, so that a considerable vessel soon becomes extremely minute.

The rate, at which many fishes move through a medium so dense as water, is very remarkable; their velocity being scarcely surpassed by the flight of the swiftest birds: and although the large proportion of muscles, and their advantageous application, may partly account for the phenomenon, yet the power would be inadequate to the effect, if it were not suddenly enforced; as is evident from the slow progress of eels, and such fishes as are incapable from their length, and flexibility, of giving a sudden lateral stroke.

But the quickness and force of action in the muscles of fishes are counterpoised by the short duration of their powers. Those accustomed to the diversion of angling, are aware how speedily the strength of a fish is exhausted, for if, when hooked, it be kept in constant action, it soon loses even the ability to preserve its balance, and turns upon its side, fatigued and incapable of motion. This has been vulgarly attributed to drowning, in consequence of the mouth being closed upon