1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Dory

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DORY, or John Dory (Zeus faber), an Acanthopterygian fish, the type of the family Zeidae, held in such esteem by the ancient Greeks that they called it Zeus after their principal divinity. Its English name is probably a corruption of the French jaune dorée, and has reference to the prevailing golden-yellow colour of the living fish. The body in the dory is much compressed, and is nearly oval in form, while the mouth is large and capable of extensive protrusion. It possesses two dorsal fins, of which the anterior is armed with long slender spines, and the connecting membrane is produced into long tendril-like filaments; while a row of short spines extends along the belly and the roots of the anal and dorsal fins. The colour of the upper surface is olive-brown; the sides are yellowish, and are marked with a prominent dark spot, on account of which the dory divides with the haddock the reputation of being the fish from which Peter took the tribute money. It is an inhabitant of the Atlantic coasts of Europe, the Mediterranean and the Australian seas. It is occasionally abundant on the coasts of Devon and Cornwall, and is also found, though more sparingly, throughout the British seas. It is exceedingly voracious, feeding on molluscs, shrimps and the young of other fish; and Jonathan Couch (1789-1870), author of a History of British Fishes, states that from the stomach of a single dory he has taken 25 flounders, some 2½ in. long, 3 fatherlashers half grown and 5 stones from the beach, one 1½ in. in length. They are often taken in the fishermen's nets off the Cornwall and Devon coast, having entered these in pursuit of pilchards. They are seldom found in deep water, preferring sandy bays, among the weeds growing on the bottom of which they lie in wait for their prey, and in securing this they are greatly assisted by their great width of gape, by their power of protruding the mouth, and by the slender filaments of the first dorsal fins, which float like worms in the water, while the greater part of the body is buried in the sand, and thus they entice the smaller fishes to come within easy reach of the capacious jaws. The dory often attains a weight of 12 ft, although those, usually brought into the market do not average more than 6 or 7 lb. It is highly valued as an article of food.

The family Zeidae has assumed special interest of late, O. Thilo[1] and G. A. Boulenger[2] having shown that they have much in common with the flat-fishes or Pleuronectidae and must be nearly related to the original stock from which this asymmetrical type has been evolved, especially if the Upper Eocenegenus Amphistium be taken into consideration. This affinity is further supported by the observations made by L. W. Byrne[3] on the asymmetry in the number and arrangement of the bony plates at the base of the dorsal and anal fins in the young of the John Dory. (G. A. B.)


  1. “Die Vorfahren der Schollen,” Biol. Centralbl. xxii. (1902), p. 717.
  2. “On the systematic position of the Pleuronectidae,” Ann. and Mag. N. H. x. (1902), p. 295.
  3. “On the number and arrangement of the bony plates of the young John Dory,” Biometrika, ii. (1902), p. 115.