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Wonders of the Deep 2: Williamson Submarine Expedition, Chapter VII - Some Oddities of Fish Life including the sea urchin and its natural defences, snapper, parrot fish, grunt or pig fish, the sea horse and painted eels.

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One of the most peculiar creatures to be found on the bed of the ocean is the sea urchin. In some respects, particularly in the possession of spines, the sea urchin resembles the hedgehog, but the movement of the spines is different. Whereas the hedgehog, on the appearance of danger, rolls itself up into a ball and forms a defence with its spines, the sea urchin is able to move its spines about in different directions. Some of the sea urchins bore holes into the hard rocks and remain immovably attached to them. They are frequently attacked by many varieties of fish on account of the ripe bunches of sea urchin's eggs, which are regarded by them as a special delicacy. In their attempts to seize the eggs they are frequently badly wounded, and sometimes blinded by the quills. The sting caused by the spines is very much like that caused by the bee, only it is more painful. In olden times the spines of the echinus - for that is the scientific name of the sea urchin - were powdered and then taken as a remedy for various diseases.

Swarms of snappers were seen by the party. These varied in colour, the chief being blue, red, and grey. In appearance they somewhat resemble the English mackerel. Off the coast of Florida, in the United States, they are caught in large numbers and are highly esteemed. Snappers display considerable activity in their search for food.

Here is a fish with a curious snout, a glance at which immediately recalls the homely parrot's beak. The teeth of the jaws are joined together in such a way as to form a sharp-edged beak, which gives such a close resemblance to the parrot's beak. This peculiar formation of the beak enables the parrot fish to bite or scrape off those parts of the coral stocks that contain the polyp, or to cut off the branches of the tough seaweed which constitutes the diet of some of the species. Over a hundred different kinds of parrot fish have been recognised by scientists. Being a tropical fish, they display a most beautiful colouration. Some of the parrot fish attain a length of three feet. Many of the species are eatable, and some are highly esteemed; but there are several kinds that are dangerously poisonous.

A curious small fish found swimming about in these waters is the grunt, which has been so named because, when taken out of the water, it makes a strange grunting noise something like that of a pig. Hence they are also known by the names of "pig fish" and "growler."

One oceanic creature possesses a head that bears a close resemblance to that of the horse; hence its name, sea horse. It can coil up a portion of its tail and firmly attach itself by it to the stem of a seaweed or to some other object. In length, sea horses vary from two to twelve inches, and their colour changes with the general hue of their environment of seaweed.

Occasionally, painted eels, remarkable for their bright spotted and mottled colouration and their size, which ranges from six to eight feet in length, are met with. They are armed with formidable teeth, and are held in no little fear both by fishermen and bathers.


The sea urchin sting


Painted eels

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