Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 11.djvu/198

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186
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

GAR-PIKES, OLD AND YOUNG.
By Professor BURT G. WILDER,
OF CORNELL UNIVERSITY.
II.

THE writer's opportunities for observing the motions of the adult gar were too brief to enable him to describe them accurately. It is to be hoped that this fish may soon be placed in some public aquarium. But the motions of several young gars were carefully watched daily during three weeks.

The movements of the little gars, even the smallest, were very unlike those of the common little fishes, minnows or catfishes, which were placed with them. These latter seemed agitated, and splashed about in an indeterminate way. But the little gars, though they went like arrows when disturbed, usually remained almost at rest, or moved slowly about with a dignified, almost solemn air, as if conscious of very ancient and honorable lineage. They also have, as was remarked by Prof. Agassiz, the power of moving the head upon the neck; and occasionally the whole body was thrown into two or three undulations, resembling those of a short serpent; and so impressive is the air of supercilious self-possession that one might almost imagine them shrugging their shoulders at other creatures, including the bipeds of recent creation, who study their movements.

To sounds in general they paid no attention. But a tap upon the side of the vessel usually caused them to start and open the mouth, sometimes two or three times in succession.

It has already been said that the little gar first taken was recognized as such; yet the resemblance to the adult was mostly in the general elongated form of the body, and in several other respects there were marked differences. First, in color. The old gar is a bluish ash-color, or light gray; darker above, and lighter below, but with no distinct patches. All of the young gars presented a distinct though irregular dark stripe along the side of the body and head, crossing the eye. The belly, too, was almost white, and strongly contrasted with the darker regions.

Second, the smallest ones had no scales at all; but with one, 108 millimetres (about four and a quarter inches) long, the hinder half of the body showed outlines of the scales in process of formation, and the larger ones had the armor more or less fully developed. At about the same time the upper and lower borders of the tail become protected by several pair of pointed plates, the fulcra.

The third and most striking peculiarity of the young gars con-