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NY one who has ever been a boy and can
remember back to the days of tag-alders, yellow cowslips, and an angle-worm on a pin-hook, will recall an experience like this: You tried some time to put your finger on a little fish that was lying, apparently asleep, on the bottom of the stream, half hidden under a stone or a leaf, his tail bent around the stone as if for support against the force of the current. You will remember that when your finger came near the spot where he was lying, the bent tail was straightened, and you saw the fish again resting, head up-stream, a few feet away, leaving you puzzled to know whether you had seen the movement or not. You were trying to catch a Johnny Darter. Nothing seems easier, but you did not do it.
Having by well-understood stratagem succeeded where you failed, allow us to give you that acquaintance which he so deftly declined.
In all clear streams from Maine to Mexico the Johnny Darters are found; and the boy who does not know them has missed one of the real pleasures of a boy's life. All of them are very little fishes, - some not more than two inches long, and
1 The original version of this paper was the joint work of the late Professor Herbert Edson Copeland and the writer. – D. S. J.
the very largest but six or eight. But small though they are, they are the most interesting in habits, the most graceful in form, and many of them the most brilliant in color of all fresh-water fishes. The books call them “ Darters; ” for one of the first species known was named Boleosoma, and that in Greek means “ dart-body," - a name most appropriate to them all. The realistic dwellers in the Ohio Valley call some of them “Hog-fish,” and the boys call them “Johnnies.” Certainly the boys ought to know, — and Johnnies they are, and Darters they are; so Johnny Darters they shall be. Their first introduction to science was in 1819, when Rafinesque gave to them their scientific name of Etheostoma. This name seems to mean “strainer-mouth; ” but the “eccentric naturalist," whose peculiar use of the Greek language was not the least of his eccentricities, says that it means " various-mouth,” because no two of those he knew i have the mouth alike. But whatever it may mean, Etheostoma is their name, and Rafinesque their godfather; and we may call them Johnnies for short.
Rafinesque said of the Johnnies that he knew 'they are good to eat fried.” I suppose that he had tried them; but we have not. We should as soon think of filling our pan with wood-warblers as to make a meal of them. The good man goes a-fishing not for “pot-luck,” but to let escape Indian within him."
The Johnny Darter deserves our especial atten1 These were Etheostoma flabellare, Percina caprodes, and Diplesion blennioides.
tion in this Centennial year, for he is altogether an American product. He has all that ardent desire for perfect freedom that is supposed to be native to this continent. Unless all appearance of captivity be concealed in a well-kept aquarium, he will quickly lie on the bottom; dead. Here, at the beginning (for much as we may regret the fact, the death of some individual must precede our acquaintance with the group, and even to some extent with the individual himself), we observe two noteworthy facts: the fish in dying does not turn over, and does not rise to the surface. On dissection, we find that the air-bladder is only rudimentary, being structurally, but not functionally, present, - a distinction not without meaning in these days of evolutionary hypotheses. If our tank be so arranged that the conditions are nearly natural, there being an abundance of stones and weeds on the bottom, our Johnnies will cheerfully live with us, and we shall be ready to study their individual peculiarities, or, as Boyesen's “Scientific Vagabond” would have said, their "psychology.”
For it must be known that while all fish are fish, they are so only as all men are men. The children of one family are not more unlike one another than the fishes of one brood might be if the sickly ones and the lazy ones were as carefully guarded as are ours. As it is, they have their individuality. One is constantly darting over and among the stones, never resting, moving his head from side to side when his body is for a moment still. Another will lie for hours motionless under a stone, moving only for a few inches when pushed out with a stick. These peculiarities of temperament are important factors in the problem of life; and from such differences under varying conditions, may have resulted forms which we now designate as different species.
But we must leave these general questions for the present, and tell the story of the Johnny Darters that live in our aquarium.?
First of these in size and therefore in dignity comes the Log Perch or Hog-fish (Percina caprodes Rafinesque). This is the giant of the family, — the most of a fish, and therefore the least of a darter. It may be readily known by its zebra-like colors. Its hue is pale olive, — silvery below, darker above. On this ground-color are about fifteen black vertical bars or incomplete rings, alternating with as many shorter bars which reach only half-way down the side. The hindmost bar forms a mere spot on the base of the tail, and there are many dots and speckles on the fins. The body is long and slender, spindle-shaped, and firm and wiry to the touch. The head is flat on top, and tapers into a flat-pointed snout which is squared off at the end like the snout of a pig; and this resemblance is heightened by the form of the small mouth underneath it. From this pig-like snout has come the scientific name caprodes. This is a translation of the older name of “hogfish,” which Rafinesque heard applied to it in his time, and which is still used in the same regions.
Percina reaches a length of six or eight inches, 1 At Indianapolis, Indiana. All the species here mentioned, and some others, are found in the White River, near Indianapolis.
and it may readily be caught on a small hook baited with a worm. We often meet an urchin with two or three of them strung through the gills on a forked stick, along with “red-eyes," "stonetoters," "horny-heads," and other “boys' fish." At such times we generally buy the hog-fish for a cent, cut it open to look at the air-bladder, which the books say it does not have, and then lay it away with the rest of our treasures in the bottle of alcohol. We find Percina usually in rapid and rather deep water, as deep as we can wade in when seining in hip-boots. We rarely find them small enough for ordinary aquarium purposes; and the living specimen before us, though wonderfully quick and graceful in its movements, has shown little that is noteworthy, save his courage, his fondness for angle-worms, and a possible disposition to bury himself in the sand. There is something in the expression of his face, as he rests on his “hands and feet” on a stone, that is remarkably lizardlike, suggesting the Blue-tailed Skink (Eumeces fasciatus).
We next come to the fine gentleman of the family, the Black-sided Darter (Hadropterus aspro Cope and Jordan). This one we may know by its colors. The ground hue is a salmon yellow; the back is regularly and beautifully marbled with black in a peculiar and handsome pattern. On the sides, from the head to the tail, runs a jet-black band, which is widened at intervals into rounded spots which contrast sharply with the silvery color of the belly; or we may say that on each side is a chain of confluent round black blotches. Sometimes