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making good their hold by presenting to their grasp little more than an inflated bag. It is also covered with spines, which merely adhere to the skin, and are consequently, capable of being erected on any sudden emergency; thus giving to an innocent, and defenceless creature, a most formidable and obnoxious appearance.
In like manner the common Perch, a graceful little fish, delighting in deep hollows, and gentle streams, and living on water insects, is covered with rough scales, which it erects on the approach of an enemy. The Father Lasher, a general inhabitant of the rocky shores of Britain, lurking among stones, and seaweed, and swimming with great velocity in the stormy seas of Greenland and Newfoundland, presents his formidable head in opposition to his enemies. This part is large in proportion to his bulk; it is covered with spines, and these are capable of being so erected, as effectually to intimidate any ordinary enemy, by the swelling of its cheeks and gills to an amazing size. Hence the observation of the poet,
“ The hurtful scorpion wounding with his head.”
In the Weaver, the means of defence are still more obvious.
The first dorsal fin consists of five strong spines, tinged with black, as well as the intervening membranes. This fin is lodged in a small cavity: the second, consisting of several soft rays, commences at the termination of the first. These spines are apparently the only offensive weapons possessed by the animal. They inflict severe wounds, attended with inflammation, and considerable pain. It is even suspected that the dark spines contain a degree of poison, capable of being ejected in the same manner as that of the common nettle, by means of which the Weaver disables such of the finny darters as it preys upon, from effecting their escape ; and paralyses the attempts of larger ones. Buried among loose pebbles on the sea shore, or else concealed in the oozy bed of ocean, it directs its blows with as much force and judgment as a fighting cock, and frequently throws down the astonished passenger. In the natural and moral world, there is no evil without an antidote. Sea-sand, among which the Weaver hides itself, is a specific for the ejected venom. It also bears within itself a still more sovereign remedy; an immediate cure is effected by applying the liver to the wound.
The Hag-Fish, is a blind, defenceless creature, burrowing in sea-weed and surrounded by innumerable enemies. How then does it elude their vigilance? Is it a swift swimmer, or armed with formidable spines, capable of defying or destroying them at a stroke? By no means. Its usual length in the British seas, is from four to eight inches, its make extremely simple. Has not then
the Creator assigned it any method of defence, or of escape ? Undoubtedly, his beneficence is nowhere more conspicuous than in the construction of this feeble creature. A double row of pores extends beneath the body, from one extremity to the other. And how well do they perform their office! They throw out a quantity of viscid fluid, at the very moment when such an effort is essential to the safety of the animal, which turns the surrounding water into glue, and renders it invisible.
Figure to yourself this helpless fish, calmly reposing on a billow, dark amid the blaze of day, and unable to ward off any attack of its remorseless persecutors. Observe some formidable enemy, approaching with open mouth. In a moment you expect to witness its destruction. No such thing ! Endowed with the sense of feeling to an exquisite degree, it perceives by the sudden undulation of the water, that some foe approaches. Suddenly a cloud envelopes it, and the Hag rapidly disappears.
Now observe another contrivance, equally conducive to the safety of the animal, though of a nature widely different, in the Sting Ray, the Trygon of the ancients. This species is armed with a spine about five inches long, flat at both ends, hard and sharply pointed, the sides, thin and bearded the whole way. It is shed and renewed annually, and serves as a weapon of defence, which, like that of the common Weaver, is capable of inflicting a severe and dangerous wound. Pliny, Ælian, and Oppian, fabled that the poison it contained affected even the inanimate creation; that trees dropped their leaves, and withered before its baneful influence; and that even rocks were incapable of resisting its magic power. In reference to this, the enchantress Circe, is said to have armed her son, with a spear headed by a Trygon spine, as one of the most irresistible of offensive weapons, and that with the baneful gift, he afterwards unknowingly assailed, and murdered, his father Ulysses. The fables of the ancients are generally founded on truth. Some prominent circumstance in the arts, or manners of a primitive people, in the lives of distinguished individuals, or even a striking fact in natural history, was selected from among the many, and invested with the vivid colouring of poetry and romance. Then, as now, the rude inhabitants of
districts headed their spears, and darts, with the formidable spine of the Trygon, as a substitute for iron; and hence it required little effort of the imagination, to endue this weapon with such deleterious qualities as have never been substantiated by fact. At the present day, the Indians of North America tip their arrows with the spine of another species of Ray; and this renders them equally formidable.
Examine the means of defence assigned by the Creator to the Electric Ray. Here you will have reason to confess, that such a wonderful adaptation of means to produce a desired end, could only proceed from the watchful care of a benevolent, and almighty Being. The same is obvious in their configuration. They occupy the whole space between the skin of the upper and under surfaces, and consist of various organs, each of which comprises