History of Animals
some fishes the time of gestation is not longer than thirty days, with
others it is a lesser period; but with all it extends over a number of
days divisible by seven. The longest period of gestation is that of
the species which some call a marinus.
The sargue conceives during the month of Poseideon (or
December), and carries its spawn for thirty days; and the species of
mullet named by some the chelon, and the myxon, go with spawn at the
same period and over the same length of time.
All fish suffer greatly during the period of gestation, and
are in consequence very apt to be thrown up on shore at this time.
In some cases they are driven frantic with pain and throw themselves
on land. At all events they are throughout this time continually in
motion until parturition is over (this being especially true of the
mullet), and after parturition they are in repose. With many fish
the time for parturition terminates on the appearance of grubs
within the belly; for small living grubs get generated there and eat
up the spawn.
With shoal fishes parturition takes place in the spring, and
indeed, with most fishes, about the time of the spring equinox; with
others it is at different times, in summer with some, and with
others about the autumn equinox.
The first of shoal fishes to spawn is the atherine, and it
spawns close to land; the last is the cephalus: and this is inferred
from the fact that the brood of the atherine appears first of all
and the brood of the cephalus last. The mullet also spawns early.
The saupe spawns usually at the beginning of summer, but
occasionally in the autumn. The aulopias, which some call the anthias,
spawns in the summer. Next in order of spawning comes the
chrysophrys or gilthead, the basse, the mormyrus, and in general
such fish as are nicknamed 'runners'. Latest in order of the shoal
fish come the red mullet and the coracine; these spawn in autumn.
The red mullet spawns on mud, and consequently, as the mud continues
cold for a long while, spawns late in the year. The coracine carries
its spawn for a long time; but, as it lives usually on rocky ground,
it goes to a distance and spawns in places abounding in seaweed, at
a period later than the red mullet. The maenis spawns about the winter
solstice. Of the others, such as are pelagic spawn for the most part
in summer; which fact is proved by their not being caught by fishermen
during this period.
Of ordinary fishes the most prolific is the sprat; of
cartilaginous fishes, the fishing-frog. Specimens, however, of the
fishing-frog are rare from the facility with which the young are
destroyed, as the female lays her spawn all in a lump close in to
shore. As a rule, cartilaginous fish are less prolific than other fish
owing to their being viviparous; and their young by reason of their
size have a better chance of escaping destruction.
The so-called needle-fish (or pipe-fish) is late in spawning,
and the greater portion of them are burst asunder by the eggs before
spawning; and the eggs are not so many in number as large in size. The
young fish cluster round the parent like so many young spiders, for
the fish spawns on to herself; and, if any one touch the young, they
swim away. The atherine spawns by rubbing its belly against the sand.
Tunny fish also burst asunder by reason of their fat. They live
for two years; and the fishermen infer this age from the
circumstance that once when there was a failure of the young tunny
fish for a year there was a failure of the full-grown tunny the next
summer. They are of opinion that the tunny is a fish a year older than
the pelamyd. The tunny and the mackerel pair about the close of the
month of Elaphebolion, and spawn about the commencement of the month
of Hecatombaeon; they deposit their spawn in a sort of bag. The growth
of the young tunny is rapid. After the females have spawned in the
Euxine, there comes from the egg what some call scordylae, but what
the Byzantines nickname the 'auxids' or 'growers', from their
growing to a considerable size in a few days; these fish go out of the