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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 89.djvu/576

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A Magician Among the Fishes

��I 'I" IS (l()iilitlt'>s irur tluu ihere are no iiK-rniaids in llie sea and no Neptune with crown and Howing locks, but the species of life that do exist there are in many ways e(|uall\' as interesting as the mythological folk. Take the little puffer fish, for exam- ple, which has attracted the attention of scientists from earliest times on account of its shrewd hab- it of defending itself by infla- tion. The mo- ment it scents danger in the form of a larger fish, searching for a dinner, it instantly dis- tends itself with water un- til it becomes almost spher- Above: ical in shape, l^^^^^^ sothatnoordi- shape.

nary fish could There are swallowit. l)i- numerous

rector H. C. ^P^^'<=^. Townsend of ,„ the New York A(|uarium, placed a few good-sized scup, or porgies, in a tank whicli contained a do/.en young puffers about two inches in length, which the hungn,' scuj) attacked at once. InstantK' thebabx jjuffers inflate( themselves and became almost globular in form, so thai the larger fish were unable lo do more than knock lliem about like tov balloons

��varying size

��too large to be swallowed, and on which they could get no hold whatever.

The puffers arc of many species, many of them reaching a length of about two feet, most of the larger kinds being found onK in the large ri\iTs of the trojiics.

When caught n nets and dragged ashore they inflate t h e m s e 1 \' e s with air just as with water when in the sea, making a slight sucking sound until their skins are as tight as drums. They remain inflated until thrown back into the water and can be knocked about on the beach like rub- ber balls with- out a particle of air escaping. E V e n w hen thrown back into the water they ma\' float u|)side down for a I inie before assum- ing their normal lape.

.■\ valve in the t li riK> I is the nuans b\' which this choice, edible fish is changed in- to an unmanage- able balloon and b.ick ag.iin when its fright is over. The \alvc seems to be controlled entirely by the \olilion of the fish, unless the fright which the fish ex- periences iijion

���A candlf suspended from u wire sliines through the stretched skin lis throufth thin oiled paper making a bizarre lantern


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