Malacopterygii apodes

Malacopterygii apodes  (Footless soft fin).

To this order belong the Eels (fig. 41). They have no abdominal fins, and are therefore called apodial, or footless; they very much resemble the serpent in their elongated form; they live chiefly in rivers and ponds, in the mud of which they obtain worms, &c., upon which they feed, they have been known to leave the water at night and travel for some distance in search of worms, frogs, &c. These fish live a long time after they are removed from the water, and are extremely tenacious of life; their skins are covered with such fine small scales that they appear quite smooth, and are extremely slimy. The Conger Eel is much thicker in proportion than the common Eel, and has a dorsal fin like a fringe all down the back; it grows to the weight of ninety or a hundred pounds sometimes. Eels are often caught by thrusting many-pronged spears (having the spears barbed) into the mud, and the Eels are brought up sticking between the prongs. The Electrical Eel (Gymnotus electricus) belongs to this section; it somewhat resembles a large ordinary Eel four or five feet long, but has a broad ventral fin running all along its lower part; it is famous for its power of giving electrical shocks when touched, and seems to have the power of using this influence at pleasure, but after giving a certain number of shocks its power becomes exhausted, and it has to remain some time before it can again give out shocks of any strength; these shocks are sufficiently strong to prove fatal to small animals, and even to mules and horses crossing the streams which they frequent, when a number will attack them at once. This creature is a native of the rivers and pools of South America, Demerara, &c.; the natives kill them by driving in a great number of horses, and when the Eels have exhausted their electrical powers, they are then caught and killed.

FIG. 41.—THE EEL (Anguilla acutirostris).