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OF THE GYMNOTUS TRIBE. — ELECTRICAL EEL.
this bappen to be so large as not otherwise to be immediately over
come, we are told that the Conger will coil its body round, and thus prevent its escape; whilst in the mean time, it kills it by means of its teeth. It devours great quantities of the
different species of Outtle-fish, and other soft marine animals, which have not sufficient agility or address to escape from its pursuit.
Until the Congers are grown to a size so large that they are able stoutly to defend themselves, they are liable to attack from numerous foes. The Wolf-fish, all the larger species of Rays, and even the sea Craw-fish, and Lobsters, destroy them in vast numbers.
During the winter months, it is said tbat these fish conceal themselves deep in the mud; and that, so long as the cold weather lasts, they seldom come forth from their retreats.
OF THE GYMNOTUS TRIBE IN GENERAL.
Some of the species of Gymnotus inhabit the fresh waters, and others live in the ocean. They are all, except three, confined to America.
THE ELECTRICAL GYMNOTUS, OR EEL.
These fishes possess the singular property of giving a shock, (similar
in its effects to that produced from a charged jar,) to any body, or any number of bodies connected together.
On touching an Electrical Eel with one hand, a sensation is experienced similar to that arising from touching the conductor of machine: with a short iron
rod the same was felt, but less powerfully. While another person provoked the fish, Dr. Williamson put his hand into the water at the distance of three feet from it, and felt an unpleasant sensation in the joints of his fingers. Soine small fish were thrown into the water, and the animal immediately stunned and swallowed them. A larger fish was thrown in, which he stunned likewise and attempted to swallow; but, from its size, he could not do so. Dr. Williamson put his hand into the water, and had another
THE ELECTRICAL EEL.
fish thrown in at some distance. The Eel swam up to it, and at first turned away without offering it any violence: after a little time be returned, and, looking steadfastly at it for a few seconds, gave it a shock, by which it instantly turned upon its back, and became motionless. Dr. Williamson at that very instant felt the same sen. sation in his fingers, as he had done when he put his hand into the water before. A fish was afterwards struck, but not quite killed. When the Electrical Eel perceived this, he returned, and at a second shock, evidently more severe than the former, rendered it motionless. On touching the Eel with one hand so as to provoke it, and holding the other in the water at a little distance, a severe shock was felt through both the arms and across the breast, similar to that from a charged jar. Eight or ten persons, with their hands joined, experienced the same, on the first touching the head, and the last the tail of the fish. A dog being made a link in this chain, uttered a loud yell at the instant of contact. When the Eel was touched with silk, glass, or any other non-conductor, no shock was felt. From a long series of experiments, it appeared to Dr. Williamson that these properties partook so nearly of the nature of electricity, that whatever would convey the electrical fluid, would also convey the fluid discharged by the Eel; and vice versa. He, however, was not able to observe that any spark was produced on contact. This mode of defence the fish never adopted except it was irritated; and Dr. Williamson has passed his hand along the back and sides from head to tail, and has even lifted part of its body out of the water, without exciting it to injure him.
Mr. Bryant mentions an instance of the shock from one of these fish being felt through a considerable thickness of wood. One morning, while he was standing by, as a servant was emptying a tub, in which an Electrical Eel was contained, he had lifted it entirely from the ground, and was pouring off the water to renew it, when he received à shock so violent as occasioned him to let the tub fall. Mr. B. then called another person to his assistance, and caused them together to lift up
the tub, each laying hold only on the outside. When they were pouring off the remainder of the water, they each received å shock so smart, that they were compelled to desist.
Persons have been knocked down with the stroke. One of these fish having been shaken from a net upon the grass, an English sailor, notwithstanding all the persuasions that were used to prevent him, would insist on taking it up; but the moment he grasped it, he dropped down in a fit; his eyes were fixed; his face became livid; and it was not without difficulty that his senses were restored. He said, that the instant he touched it, “the cold ran swiftly up his arm into his body, and pierced him to the heart."
This property seems principally of use to the Electrical Eels in securing their food; for being destitute of teeth, they would otherwise be scarcely able to seize it. The force of the shock has been satisfactorily proved to depend entirely on the will, and to be exerted as circumstances require. The prey of these fish are generally so stunned by the shock, as to appear dead; but when these bave been taken into another vessel, they have been always found to recover. When the Electrical Eels are hungry, they are tolerably keen in pursuit of their food; but they are soon satisfied, not being able to devour much at one time. An Electrical Eel, upwards of three feet in length, could not swallow a fish more then three, or at most three inches and a half long.
The organs which produce this wonderful accumulation of electric matter, constitute nearly one-half of that part of the flesh in which they are placed, and, perhaps, compose more than one-third of the whole animal. There are two pairs of these organs, one on each side. Their structure is very simple and regular, consisting only of flat partitions, with cross divisions between them. The partitions are thin membranes placed nearly parallel to one another, and of different lengths and breadths.
OF THE SWORD-FISHES IN GENERAL.
THESE are very large and powerful animals, often growing to the length of twenty feet and upwards. Their voracity is unbounded, for they attack and destroy almost every living thing that comes in their way. The larger fish they penetrate with their long, hard, and swordshaped upper jaw. There are two species, one only of which is found in the European seas.
THE BROAD-FINNED, AND THE EUROPEAN SWORD-FISH.
The former of these inhabit the Brazilian and East Indian Seas, and
also the Northern Ocean. They frequently grow to the length of twenty feet or upwards, and are very powerful fish.
When his majesty's ship Leopard, after her return from the coast of Guinea
and the West Indies, was ordered, in 1725, to be cleaned and refitted for the Channel service, in stripping off her sheathing the shipwrights found in her bottom, pointing in a direction from the stern towards the head, part of the sword or snout of one of these fishes. On the outside, this was rough, not unlike seal-skin, and the end, where it was broken off, appeared like a coarse kind of ivory. The fish, from the direction in which the sword lay, is supposed to have followed the ship when under sail. The weapon had penetrated through the sheathing which was an inch thick ; and passed through three inches of plank, and beyond that, four inches and a half into the timber. The forco requisite to effect this must have been excessively great, especially as no shock was felt by the persons on board. The workmen declared