The American Pictorial Home Book
or Housekeeper's Encyclopedia - online book

A reference manual of household management in Victorian times.

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56
OBSERVATIONS ON FISHES.
prey. The animal with the largest mouth is usually the victor, and he no sooner has conquered his foe than he devours him. Innumerable shoals or armies of one species pursue those of another species, and with a ferocity that drives them from the frozen zones of the poles to the burning regions of the equator. In these antagonistic pursuits and hostile combats, fierce as fatal, many species must have become extinct, had not Nature, whose tender mercies are over all its works, provided means of escape in proportion to the extent and variety of the danger to which they are exposed. Hence the smaller species are not only more numerous, but more productive than the larger. From instinct they go in search of food and safety near shores and in shallow waters, where many of their foes are unable to follow them.
The fecundity of fishes has been the wonder of those whose attention has been drawn to it* The greater number deposit their spawn in the sand or gravel and some on seaweed. It has been estimated that the flounder produces millions annually; the cod spawns upwards of nine million eggs in one single roe; the mack­erel five hundred thousand, a herring ten thousand, a carp two hundred and sixty-two thousand two hundred and twenty-four, a perch deposited three hundred and eighty thousand six hundred and forty, a female sturgeon seven million six hundred and fifty-three thousand two hundred. Many of the biviporous %species bring forth two or three hundred at a time, and their young, at the moment they come into existence, commence sporting around their parent.
In Reference to the Longevity of Fishes.—It is affirmed that they surpass that of all other created beings, and it is supposed that they are, to a great extent, exempt from the diseases which the flesh of other animals is heir to. It is believed that the most minute species has a longer lease of life than human beings, though the ages of fishes has not properly been ascertained. In what light so­ever we look at the habits of the finny tribe that migrate through the different tracks of the ocean and have their homes in the watery realm, in a solitary capacity or in multitudes which would baffle the skill of the greatest mathematician to number, they are alike wonderful to those who look from the thing created to the benign Creator, who is as infinite as immeasurable in wisdom, and consider with exalted admiration the sublime beauty, vari­ety, power and grandeur of his productions, as manifested in the handiwork of his boundless creation, and yet with due humility and profound adoration call him our Father.
Fish as an article of human food in its nutritive capacity is infe­rior to animal, or what is called butcher's meat, and has ever held a secondary place in the science of gastronomy as a large element in