Branchiostegals five; pseudobranchiee absent. Gills four. Body elongate, subcylindrical anteriorly; head depressed, having supe-riorly somewhat plate-like scales. Eyes lateral. Gill-openings wide, the membranes of the two sides connected beneath the isthmus. A cavity exists above and accessory to the true gill-opening, but although some thin bony laminoe are present, no suprabranchial organ is developed. Teeth in the jaws, vomer, and palate. A single, long, spineless dorsal fin, and a similar though shorter anal. Ventrals thoracic or absent; when present consisting of six rays, the outer of which is unbranebed and sometimes articulated at its extremity. Lateral line abruptly curved or almost interrupted. Air-bladder present. Pyloric appendages, when present, few.
The Ophiocephalidae , having hollow cavities in their heads, and an amphibious mode of respiration, are able to exist for lengthened periods out of their native element, and can travel some distance over the ground, especially when it is moist. They are able to progress in a serpentine manner, chiefly by means of their pectoral and caudal fins, first one of the former being advanced, and then its fellow.
These fishes appear to be monogamous, some breeding in grassy swamps or the edges of tanks, some in wells or stone-margined receptacles for water, and others again in holes in river-banks. The varieties which live in tanks and swamps keep much to the shallow and grassy edges.
Amongst the fish which I myself raw exhumed from the mud of a dried-up tank were some Ophiocephali ; they are also recorded by the natives of India as descending with downpours of rain.
Geographical distribution Freshwater fishes distributed through-out Baluchistan, Afghanistan, India, Burma, Ceylon, China, Siam, and the Malay Archipelago, from elevated localities and the most inland districts to within the influence of the tides. They inhabit both ponds and rivers ; and are known as Murrel in Northern India.
Uses All these fishes are useful as food, those which inhabit rivers being better flavoured than the others which live in sluggish or stagnant water.
Ventral fins present. Pyloric appendages two.
Hoovina murl , Can.; Pu verarl , Tam.; Pu murl , Hind.; Pula chapa , Tel.; Choaree verarl and Curavu , Mal.; Kubrah , Sawl and Dowlah , Punj.; Holee mach , Chittagong; Na-yan-daing , Burm.; Ha-al , Assam. Saal ,Ooriah.
D. 45 - 55, A. 28 - 36, C. 14, L.l. 60 - 70, L tr. (41/2 - 61/2) / (13 - 11) or (51/2 - 81/2) / (13 - 11).
Colour : Length of head from 4 to 5, of caudal 6 to 7 1/2, height of body 7 to 71/2 in the total length. Eyes diameter 7 (5 in the young) of length of head, 1 to 11/2 diam. from end of snout and also apart. Greatest width of the head equals 1/2 or 2/3 of its length. Teeth - in numerous villiform rows in jaws, vomer, and palate; a posterior row of about 12 large conical teeth exists on either ramus of the mandible. Fins - pectoral rather more than 1/2 as long as the head but not reaching to above origin of anal: ventral two thirds as long as pectoral. Scales - on the summit of the head of moderate size; 16 rows between snout and base of dorsal fin, 10 between eye and angle of preopercle. Lateral line - first passes along 16 or 18 rows of scales, then descends for two rows, and subsequently passes direct to the centre of the caudal. Colours - varies with age and the water. Back greyish green; the immature with a brilliant orange band passing from eye to the middle of tail, in the more mature there are five or six cloudy bands descending to below the lateral line; abdomen orange; on posterior third of the body, on the dorsal, anal and caudal fins are pearly-white spots. There is generally a large black ocellus at the upper part of caudal fin, which is gray; ventrals orange.
|Drawing of O. marulius taken from Day's «Fishes of India» pl. lxxvi, fig. 4.|
Hab. Fresh waters, principally rivers, from Ceylon and India to China; attaining as much as four feet in length. These fish take a live bait pretty well.
I am doubtful whether the two next species, O. leucopunctatus and O. pseudomarulius, might not be considered varieties of O. marulius.
Sowarah , Tel.; Maral , Maráthi.
D. 47-53. A. 28 -35, C. 14, L. l. 59 - 60, L. tr. (4 1/2 - 61/2) / (13 - 11) or (5 - 8) / (13-11)
|Drawing of O. leucopunctatus taken from Day's «Fishes of India» pl. lxxvii, fig. 1. Today it is considered to be a synonym of C. marulia.|
Habitat. Coromandel and Western coasts of India, also in some of the rivers in the Deccan and the Cauvery in Mysore. This species is also said to be found in China. It attains 3 feet or more in length.
D. 52, P. 17, V. 6, A. 35, C. 15, L. l. 64, L. tr. (6 - 7) / (14 - 10)
Length of head 31/4, height of body 42/3 in the total length to the base of the caudal fin. Eyes - diameter 7 in length of head, 1 diam. from end of snout, and 13/4 apart. The greatest width of the head equals rather more than 1/2 its length, and its height equals 1/2 of its length excluding the snout. The maxilla reaches to beyond the vertical from the behind edge of the eye. Teeth - an inner row of six or eight, rather widely separated conical, in the lower jaw. Fins - dorsal commences above the base of the pectoral. Pectoral 1/2 as long as the head; ventral 3/4 of pectoral. Scales - 16 rows between snout and base of dorsal fin; 10 between eye and angle of preopercle. Colours - grey superiorly, lighter along the sides and beneath. «A black, white-edged ocellus, superiorly on the basal portion of the caudal fin,» Günther, l. c. See remarks under O. leucopunctatus ( Günther, l.c. ). Habitat . India.
D. 47 - 52, P. 16, A. 34 - 36, C. 19, L. l. 60 - 65, L. tr. (5 - 6) / 13.
Length of head 4 to 4 1/2, of caudal 41/2 to 5 1/2, height of body 51/2 to 71/2 in the total length. Eyes - diameter 7 to 71/2 in length of head, from 11/2 to 2 diam. from end of snout, and 2 apart. Teeth - amongst the small ones are a few, widely separated conical, in an inner row in the lower jaw, two or three large teeth on vomer, and a few on the palatines. Fins - dorsal commences above posterior extremity of opercle and is almost 3/4 as high as body. Ventral is2/5 of length of pectoral. Caudal rounded. Scales - 15 rows between snout and base of dorsal fin, 9 rows between eye and angle of preopercle; larger in anterior part of body than in posterior. Colours - dark violet superiorly, becoming dull white shot with purple beneath; the whole back and sides covered with large black blotches, also some on dorsal, caudal, and anal fins, each of which has a red edge; pectorals reddish, with numerous black spots.
|Fig. 118: Drawing of O. barca as found in «Fauna of British India».|
Habitat. - Large rivers of the Bengal Presidency, North-Western Provinces, and Assam;
|Drawing of O. barca as found in «Fishes of India».|
D. 43 - 46, A. 27 - 30, L. l. 95 - 110. L. tr. (7 - 8) / 13 - 12, Vert. 53.
|Drawing of O. micropeltes taken from Day's «Fishes of India» pl. lxxvii, fig. 4.|
Hab. Malabar and Western coast of India, Siam to the Malay Archipelago; attaining at least three feet in length.
D. 37 - 45, A. 23 - 26, L. l. 50 - 57, L. tr. (41/2 -7) / (9 -7) or (51/2 - 8) / (10-9).
Length of head 31/3 to 4, of caudal fin 6, height of body 6 to 8 in the total length. Eyes - 6 to 7 of length of head, 1 diam. from end of snout, and 11/2 apart. Teeth - an inner conical row of lower jaw, cardiform on palatines. Scales - on summit of head large and irregularly shaped; from 18 to 20 rows between snout and origin of the dorsal fin; 9 rows between the eye and angle of preopercle. The number of rows between the lateral line and dorsal fin appears subject to variation. Lateral-line - curves downwards below the twelfth dorsal ray. Colour - dark greyish or blackish superiorly, becoming dirty white or yellowish white beneath; cheeks and lower surface of the mouth streaked and spotted with grey; bands of grey or black from sides to abdomen. Some spots and bars at the posterior end of dorsal fin; ventrals and anal greyish, with some whitish lines or spots along the base of latter. In the young there is occasionally a large black ocellus at end of base of dorsal, and the body may be destitute of any marks.
Hab. - Fresh waters throughout the plains of India, Ceylon, Burma, China and the Philippines, especially delighting in swamps and grassy tanks; attaining 3 feet or more in length. These fishes take a bait very readily, especially a frog, and are said to rise to the salmon fly.
|Drawing of O. stewartii taken from Day's «Fishes of India» pl. lxxvii, fig. 3.|
Length of head 4, of caudal 51/2, height of body 7 to 8 in the total length. Eyes - diameter 61/2 in length of head, 11/4 diam. from end of snout, and 2 apart. Teeth - some conical in the lower jaw, also on the vomer and palate. Fins - the dorsal commences over the base of pectoral fin, is 2/3 as high as body and higher than the anal. Ventral about 1/3 as long as pectoral. Scales - 13 rows between snout and base of dorsal, five between eye and angle of preopercle. Colour - purplish black superiorly, lighter on the sides and beneath; many scales on body with a round black mark. Fins dark, the pectoral in the young yellow in its lower half, with a blue basal spot, external to which it has several vertical black bands; dorsal edged with yellow.
Hab. - Cachar and Assam, in both running and standing water, to about 10 inches in length.
D. 32 - 37. P. 15. A. 21 - 23. C. 12. L. l. 40 - 45. L. tr. (3 - 4) / (7 - 6).
Length of head 31/2 to 41/4 of caudal fin 51/2 to 6, height of body 6 in the total length. Eyes - diameter 6 of length of head, 1 diam. from end of snout, and from 11/4 to 11/2 apart. Teeth - an inner row widely separated and conical, in lower jaw, some also on vomer and palatines. Fins - pectoral as long as head behind eyes, ventral 2/5 length of pectoral. Scales - broad and irregular on summit of head; 4 or 5 rows between orbit and angle of the preopercle; 12 between snout and base of dorsal fin. Lateral-line - bends downwards after about 12 scales. Colour - varies materially, according to the water in which the fish resides: usually greenish, lighter beneath; dorsal, caudal, and anal slate-coloured, with orange margins; pectoral with a black base, transversely barred (except in some Andaman specimens), and having a slight reddish or orange edge. In the young there is often a large ocellus with a light edge on the last five dorsal rays; caudal barred. Occasionally body is spotted with white, or even orange.
Hab. - Fresh waters throughout India, Ceylon, Burma, and the Andamans, also near Gwádar on the Mekran coast; attaining at least 13 inches in length.
D. 29 - 32. P. 17. A. 21 - 23. C. 12. L.l. 37 - 40. L. tr. (4 -5)/ 9 to 9/6.
Length of head 31/3 to 32/3, of caudal 51/4 to 61/4, height of body 51/2 to 7 in the total length. Eyes - diameter 7 to 81/2 in length of head, 1 to 11/2 diam. from end of snout, and 12/3 to 2 apart. Teeth - a posterior row of four or five conical ones in the lower jaw. Fins - pectoral half length of head or even more, reaching to above origin of anal; ventral is 3/4 as long as pectoral. Dorsal 2/3 height of the body, and a little higher than anal. Scales - on summit of head large and of irregular shapes; 12 rows between snout and origin of dorsal; five rows between eye and angle of opercle Lateral-line - with a slight curve above fourth anal ray. Colour - varies with the water they reside in. Back greenish, becoming yellow on sides and abdomen, with a dark stripe along side of head; several bands from back pass downwards to middle of body. Fins spotted, vertical fins with a narrow light edge and dark basal band; ventrals white or grey. Some specimen have scattered black spots over the body and head.
|Drawing of O. punctata taken from Day's «Fishes of India» pl. lxxviii, fig. 1: «The one figured. (life-size) is from Calcutta, and is of purplish colour, due to the brackish water from which it was taken.»|
Hab. Fresh-waters, generally in the plains in the plains of India, stagnant preferred to running. this species attains to about a foot or a little more in length. I found a female, in February, contained upwards of 4,700 large besides some small ova. Ceylon ( Günther ).
Differs from Ophiocephalus in being deficient in ventral fins and having no coecal appendages.
Geographical distribution. Ceylon and China.
D. 34. P. 14. A. 22. C. 14. L. l. 41. L. tr. (31/2 - 41/2) / (7 - 6).
|Fig. 119: Drawing of C. orientalis as found in «Fauna of British India».|
Length of head 32/3 to 41/3, height of body 61/2 to 8 times in the total length. Eyes - diameter 5 in length of head, 1 diam. from end of snout, and 11/2 apart. Teeth - some enlarged ones in the lover jaw. Fins - pectoral equals length of postorbital portion of head. Scales - with longitudinal striated and raised lines. Colour - dirty greenish superiorly, dull white or brown on the sides and beneath; there appear to be some darkish spots on the body and fins. Pectoral with vertical bars on its basal third.
|Drawing of C. orientalis as found in «Fishes of India».|
Hab. Fresh waters of Ceylon.
This chapter was originally published under the above title in: The fauna of British India including Ceylon and Burma : published under the authority of the secretary of state for India in council. Fishes. by Day, Francis and Blanford, William Thomas. Vol.2, London 1889; pp. 359-366. This book was published as part of: Fauna of British India including Ceylon and Burma : published under the authority of the secretary of state for India in council . London : Taylor and Francis, 1888 - 1939.
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