Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 81.djvu/269

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263
GEORGE MARCGRAVE
of a local fish fauna outside of the Mediterranean region, and reflects great credit on Markgraf and the illustrious Prince, whose assistant he was. . . . There were no other similar attempts of importance for a hundred years. . . .

Since copies of his figures are at hand for illustrating them, the present writer wishes to give here Marcgrave's descriptions of two rather well-known fishes as illustrative of the accuracy of his observations and the care with which he recorded them.

The first, whose figure, number 1, is herewith reproduced from his "Natural History of Brazil,"[1] is the spotted sting ray which we know as Aetobatus narinari. Marcgrave's description is as follows:

Of the several species of fish called "Narinari" by the Brazilians, the one which we have described here is Narinari pinima. It is called "Raja" by the Portuguese, and "Pylsteerte" or "Siecle" by the Dutch. It is a Marina pastinaca.

Its body is large, broad, almost triangular in shape, extending out on both sides into very broad triangular wings, which are fleshy in their make up. Near the tail it has two fins about the size of one's hand rounded in outline and of equal length. Its head, which is thick, compressed and furrowed in the middle, is about as large as that of a good-sized pig.

The mouth rounded underneath is triangular, compressed a little and terminates in a snout. The opening of the mouth is on the ventral surface, 5 inches from the end of the snout. The mouth is 21/2 inches wide, toothless, but having in the place of teeth a lower jaw in the shape of a tongue. This is 4 inches long, 11/2 inches wide, and reaches to the external opening of the mouth. Likewise there is an upper jaw placed crosswise, 2 inches long and as many wide.

The lower jaw consists of 17 hard white bones having the shape of the letter V and firmly joined to the membranes. Underneath there lie 17 other bones, one under each, of spongy appearance but not so hard. The upper jaw consists of 14 bones, shaped like the letter I and also joined together by membranes. Likewise there lie above these 14 other bones. Moreover, the two jaws are joined to the other bones of the head by membranes (cartilages).

The cavity of the skull, wherein the brain lies, is about 6 inches long and hardly 2 wide. The snout is wholly cartilaginous. The fish has two small eyes about the size of a nummus misnicus. Behind these eyes on each side is a large breathing hole capable of holding an apple of ordinary size. Within these holes the leaves of the gills lie hidden. On the lower side at the (hinder) end of the head are five oblong incisions.

The whole upper surface of the body is of a dark (ferreus) color with white spots the size of a nummus misnicus scattered over it, while the under part is entirely white. The skin is everywhere smooth and without scales.

The length of the body from the end of the snout to the root of the tail is one and one half feet; the width between the extremities of the triangular wings is 3 feet 10 inches. The length of the fins near the tail is 7 inches, the width 4. The length of the head is 10 inches, the width 7, and it is 11/2 feet thick. The tail is 4 feet 3 inches long and its thickness at the beginning is 5 inches, but it gradually becomes thinner. A little behind the beginning of the tail, there is a small short fin a little more than an inch long; and just behind this standing

  1. The Library of Congress possesses two copies of this rare work. One has the wood cuts plain, the other colored by hand. The writer's own copy has plain figures.