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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/58

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

Fish Poisoning.—Some fish are supplied with poisonous glands, by means of which they secure their prey and protect themselves from their enemies. The "dragon weaver," or "sea weaver" (Trachinus draco), is one of the best known of these fish. There are numerous varieties widely distributed in salt waters. The poisonous spine is attached partly to the maxilla and partly to the gill cover at its base. This spine is connected with a poisonous gland; the spine itself is grooved and covered with a thin membrane, which converts the grooves into canals. When the point enters another animal its membrane is stripped back and the poison enters the wound. Men sometimes wound their feet with the barbs of this fish while bathing. It also occasionally happens that a fisherman pricks his fingers with one of these barbs. The most poisonous variety of this fish known is found in the Mediterranean Sea. Wounds produced by these animals sometimes cause death. In Synanceia brachio there are in the dorsal fin thirteen barbs, each connected with two poison reservoirs. The secretion from these glands is clear, bluish in color, and acid in reaction, and when introduced beneath the skin causes local gangrene and, if in sufficient quantity, general paralysis. In Plotosus lineatus there is a powerful barb in front of the ventral fin, and the poison is not discharged unless the end of the barb is broken. The most poisonous variety of this fish is found only in tropical waters. In Scorpæna scrofa and other species of this family there are poison glands connected with the barbs in the dorsal and in some varieties in the caudal fin.

A disease known as kakke was a few years ago quite prevalent in Japan and other countries along the eastern coast of Asia. With the opening up of Japan to the civilized world the study of this disease by scientific methods was undertaken by the observant and intelligent natives who acquired their medical training in Europe and America. In Tokio the disease generally appears in May, reaches its greatest prevalence in August, and gradually disappears in September and October. The researches of Miura and others have fairly well demonstrated that this disease is due to the eating of fish belonging to the family of Scombridæ. There are other kinds of fish in Japanese waters that undoubtedly are poisonous. This is true of the tetrodon, of which, according to Remey, there are twelve species whose ovaries are poisonous. Dogs fed upon these organs soon suffered from salivation, vomiting, and convulsive muscular contractions. When some of the fluid obtained by rubbing the ovaries in a mortar was injected subcutaneously in dogs the symptoms were much more severe, and death resulted. Tahara states that he has isolated from the roe of the tetrodon two poisons, one of which is a crystalline base, while the