The New Student's Reference Work/Mudfishes

Mudfishes, a group of widely differing fishes frequenting muddy waters. The term includes the bowfin or mudfish found throughout our central states from Lake Superior to Florida and Texas; a small marine goby occuring on the California coast; the killifish called the mummichog; and the lungfishes or Dipnoi. The flesh of the bowfin is eaten by our negroes, but not relished by whites. This fish is known in the south as mudfish or grindle; in the north it is sometimes called dogfish, sometimes lawyer. It is very gamy, makes a brave struggle before it surrenders, and also is very hardy, for it can live a considerable time out of water. It attains a length of about two feet, a weight of twelve pounds; the head is thick, the mouth filled with powerful teeth. It is very voracious. When frightened, the young seek safety in the mother's huge mouth. The mummichog is common in our brackish waters. The Dipnoi or double-breathers, in having lungs, approach the class of amphibia just above the fishes. They are descended from a very ancient stock of fishes, representatives of which are found in the mesozoic rocks. There are only three varieties now living: the ceratodus of Queensland, Australia; the protopterus of the rivers of tropical Africa; and the lepidosiren of the Amazon and its tributaries. All are fresh-water fish of an eel-like form, and attain a length of three to six feet. Ceratodus is the largest, reaching a weight of twenty pounds. Its flesh is highly esteemed as food. It feeds on plants and the insects found upon the leaves. Protopterus is smaller. It feeds on insects, frogs and smaller fishes. At the approach of the dry season it burrows in the mud, and forms a capsule of earth around itself. This is lined internally with a moist slime secreted by the glands in the skin. Within this case the fish lies in a dormant condition, feeding upon fatty material stored up mainly in the tail. These capsules of earth have been dug out, and the living fish safely transported to Europe and the United States. They are revived by immersion in the water. The lepidosiren is not so well-known as the other two forms.