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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/801

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THE FAMILY-LIFE OF FISHES.

company, consisting often of several hundred little beings, crowd closely up to their protector. As already said, the Cyclopterus is but a poor swimmer, and it seems but natural to suppose that large waves should threaten danger, and that heavy breakers could easily hurl it on shore. But kind Nature has taken precautions. This curious inhabitant of the sea is capable of adhering so firmly to any object, rocks, drift-wood, or marine plants, that the most powerful waves can not tear it from its support. Its numerous slimy fins can be made to serve as a suction apparatus, so that its body, when thus fastened to a stone, appears like a ship riding at anchor. The Cyclopterus attains a length of about sixty centimetres, and varies in weight from three to four kilogrammes, sometimes even attaining a weight of six to seven kilogrammes. It can change its color from a yellow or a gray to black. Its progeny is remarkably numerous. Sometimes it is found in the Baltic Sea, but is seldom caught, on account of its peculiar mode of living. The adhesion of its body to the objects to which it has become fastened is so firm that a force of thirty-six kilogrammes is required to tear from its hold a Cyclopterus of about twenty centimetres in length. It has also been observed that this fish remains in one and the same place for weeks together, waiting until its food, which consists of sea-nettles and the smallest of fish, has come within convenient reach. Similar to the stickleback, the Cyclopterus faithfully guards its eggs, which always number hundreds of thousands, and proves very courageous in attacking dangerous enemies and heroically shielding its young. The male fish covers the eggs with his body, and retains this position until the little ones have made their appearance. These fishes are seldom taken by man; in Greenland and Iceland they are sometimes caught in nets, and when found among sea-plants they are speared with a prong-shaped iron. Their worst enemy is the seal, who seems to find them palatable food, although they must be skinned before they can be eaten.

Some species of Ophiocephalus present interesting features in their home-life. One variety which inhabits the Sea of Galilee, in Palestine, is known to seek shallow water during breeding-time. The parent fishes fasten small pieces of grass, leaves, sea-weeds, parts of shells, and small particles of wood, to a rock, or to the roots of an old tree, and weave the whole mass into an oval-shaped nest for their young; they arrange the stalks of grass so as to form a net-like cover, and then fill in the interstices with mud, taking care, however, to leave several openings. At the lower end they place an attachment, generally egg- or pear-shaped, which serves as a sort of cradle, being rocked to and fro by the swell of the waters. The eggs are deposited in the center, and stick to the grass and side-walls of the structure. After the lapse of but a short space of time the nest becomes crowded with tiny beings, which seem anxious to be set at liberty, but are carefully guarded by father and mother until they are capable of taking care