Ascending margin of the preopercle very oblique; a few obsolete denticulations about the lower angle: soft portion of the dorsal a little higher than the spinous: dorsal extending a little beyond the anal.
L. pusillus, Jen. Cat. of Brit. Vert. An. 25. sp. 69.
(Form). Distinguished by its small size. Back but little elevated, sloping very gradually towards the snout; ventral line more convex than the dorsal; sides compressed: depth contained about three times and three-quarters in the entire length; thickness half the depth, or barely so much: head one-fourth of the entire length: snout rather sharp; jaws equal: teeth of moderate size, conical, regular, about sixteen or eighteen in each jaw: eyes rather high in the cheeks, situate halfway between the upper angle of the preopercle and the margin of the first upper lip; the space between about equal to their diameter, marked with a depression; a row of elevated pores above each orbit: preopercle with the ascending margin very oblique; the basal angle, which falls a little anterior to a vertical line from the posterior part of the orbit, very obtuse, and remarkably characterized by a few minute denticulations, which further on become obsolete, and in some specimens are scarcely anywhere obvious: lateral line a little below one-fourth of the depth; nearly straight till opposite the end of the dorsal, then bending rather suddenly downwards, and again passing off straight to the caudal: number of scales in the lateral line about forty-five: dorsal commencing at one-third of the length, excluding- caudal; spinous portion nearly three-fourths of the whole fin, the spines very slightly increasing in length from the first to the last, which last is not quite one-third of the depth of the body; soft portion a little higher than the spinous, of a somewhat rounded form, the middle rays equalling nearly half the depth: anal cemmenoing a little anterior to the soft portion of the dorsal, and terminating a little before it; the first three rays spinous, the third being the longest,but the second the stoutest spine; soft rays resembling those of the dorsal: caudal nearly even, with rows of scales between the rays for nearly half their length: pectorals rounded, about two-thirds the length of the head, immediately beneath the commencement of the dorsal; all the rays soft and articulated, and, except the first, branched: ventrals a little snorter; the first ray spinous, shorter than the second and third, which are longest; all the soft rays branched; the last ray united to the abdomen by a membrane for half its length:
* By an error, the L. Psittacus was inserted in my Catalogue as British, independently of Donovan's species.
B. 5; D. 20/10 or 11; A. 3/9; C. 13; P. 14; V. 1/5.
(Colours of specimens in spirits). Yellowish brown, with irregular transverse fuscous bands: dorsal irregularly spotted with fuscous; anal light brown; the other fins pale.
This species, which is the smallest in the genus, is possibly the Tardus minor or Corkling of Mr. Jago*. It is apparently quite distinct from any of those described by other authors. Though belonging to the present section, which it is convenient to retain, it would seem to form the transition to the Crenilabri, to which its near affinity is indicated by the rudimentary denticulations on the margin of the preopercle. The only specimens I have seen, amounting to four or five, were obtained at Weymouth by Professor Henslow, and are now in the Museum of the Cambridge Philosophical Society. One of these is very minute, and quite young, but the two largest, measuring four inches, have all the appearance of being full-grown fish.
Zool. vol. iii. p. 252. pl. 47. Id. (Edit. 1812). vol. in. p. 342. pl. 58. Comber Wrasse, Yarr. Brit. Fish, vol. i. p. 289. Labrus Comber, Gmel. Linn. torn. i. part iii. p. 1297. Turt. Brit. Faun. p. 99. Flem. Brit. An. p. 209.
An obscure and doubtful species. Pennant's fish, which was obtained from Cornwall, is thus characterized. " Of a slender form: dorsal fin with twenty spinous, and eleven soft, rays: pectoral with fourteen: ventral with five: anal with three spinous and seven soft: tail round. Colour of the back, fins, and tail, red: belly yellow: beneath the lateral line ran parallel a smooth even stripe from gills to tail, of a silvery colour".
Mr. Couch is recorded to have met with a single individual of this species several years since, but his account of it, as given in the " British Fishes" of Mr. Yarrell, is scarcely more explicit. He observes that " compared with the Common Wrasse, the Comber is smaller, more slender, and has its jaws more elongated: the two upper front teeth are very long: a white line passes along the side from head to tail, unconnected with the lateral line: it has distinct blunt teeth in the jaws and palate: the ventral fins are somewhat shorter than in others of the genus".
* Ray, Syn. Pise. p. 165.
It may be observed that Pennant supposed his fish to be the Comber of Mr. Jago*. This, however, must be considered very doubtful, Ray mentioning nothing respecting Jago's fish, except that it was small, scaly, and of a red colour. Cuvierf regarded it as a red variety of the L. maculatus, with a series of white spots along the flank.
* * Dorsal with from sixteen to eighteen spinous rays: form elongated.