Home | Texts by category | | Quick Search:   
Works by Aristotle
Pages of On The Generation Of Animals

Previous | Next

On The Generation Of Animals   

So also those who assert that conception in female fishes is
caused by their swallowing the semen of the male have not observed
certain points when they say this. For the males have their milt and
the females their eggs at about the same time of year, and the
nearer the female is to laying the more abundant and the more liquid
is the milt formed in the male. And just as the increase of the milt
in the male and of the roe in the female takes place at the same time,
so is it also with their emission, for neither do the females lay
all their eggs together, but gradually, nor do the males emit all
the milt at once. All these facts are in accordance with reason. For
just as the class of birds in some cases has eggs without
impregnation, but few and seldom, impregnation being generally
required, so we find the same thing, though to a less degree, in fish.
But in both classes these spontaneous eggs are infertile unless the
male, in those kinds where the male exists, shed his fluid upon
them. Now in birds this must take place while the eggs are still
within the mother, because they are perfect when discharged, but in
fish, because the eggs are imperfect and complete their growth outside
the mother in all cases, those outside are preserved by the sprinkling
of the milt over them, even if they come into being by impregnation,
and here it is that the milt of the males is used up. Therefore it
comes down the ducts and diminishes in quantity at the same time as
this happens to the eggs of the females, for the males always attend
them, shedding their milt upon the eggs as they are laid. Thus then
they are male and female, and all of them copulate (unless in any
kind the distinction of sex does not exist), and without the semen of
the male no such animal comes into being.

What helps in the deception is also the fact that the union of
such fishes is brief, so that it is not observed even by many of the
fishermen, for none of them ever watches anything of the sort for
the sake of knowledge. Nevertheless their copulation has been seen,
for fish [when the tail part does not prevent it] copulate like
the dolphins by throwing themselves alongside of one another. But
the dolphins take longer to get free again, whereas such fishes do
so quickly. Hence, not seeing this, but seeing the swallowing of the
milt and the eggs, even the fishermen repeat the same simple tale,
so much noised abroad, as Herodotus the storyteller, as if fish were
conceived by the mother's swallowing the milt,- not considering that
this is impossible. For the passage which enters by way of the mouth
runs to the intestines, not to the uterus, and what goes into the
intestines must be turned into nutriment, for it is concocted; the
uterus, however, is plainly full of eggs, and from whence did they
enter it?


A similar story is told also of the generation of birds. For there
are some who say that the raven and the ibis unite at the mouth, and
among quadrupeds that the weasel brings forth its young by the
mouth; so say Anaxagoras and some of the other physicists, speaking
too superficially and without consideration. Concerning the birds,
they are deceived by a false reasoning, because the copulation of
ravens is seldom seen, but they are often seen uniting with one
another with their beaks, as do all the birds of the raven family;
this is plain with domesticated jackdaws. Birds of the pigeon kind
do the same, but, because they also plainly copulate, therefore they
have not had the same legend told of them. But the raven family is not
amorous, for they are birds that produce few young, though this bird
also has been seen copulating before now. It is a strange thing,
however, that these theorists do not ask themselves how the semen
enters the uterus through the intestine, which always concocts
whatever comes into it, as the nutriment; and these birds have a
uterus like others, and eggs are found them near the hypozoma. And the

Previous | Next
Site Search