Snout sharp, compressed at the sides; gape extending to beneath the middle of the eye: about one-third of the entire length before the dorsal, and between one-eighth and one-ninth before the pectorals.
A. acutirostris, Yarr. in Proceed, of Zool. Soc. 1831Z p. 133. Riss. Hist. Nat. de l'Ewr. Merid. torn. iii. p. 198.? A. vulgaris, Turt. Brit. Faun. p. 87. Bern. Brit. An. p. 199. Mursena Anguilla, Block, Ichth. pl. 73. Common Eel, Penn. Brit. Zool.
* Compiled from Cuvier and Bloch.
† The above formula is from Bloch: according to Cuvier, there are but eight rays in the branchiostegous membrane.
vol. iii. p. 142. Id. (Edit. 1812). vol. iii. p. 191. Bowd. Brit, fr. wat. Fish. Draw. no. 7. Sharp-headed Eel, Yarr. in Zool. Journ. vol. 4. p. 469. L'Anguille long-bee, Cuv. Reg. An. torn. ii. p. 349.
Usual length from two to three, sometimes four, feet: has been known to attain to six feet three inches.
(Form). Very much elongated; body thick, approaching to cylindrical; the depth and thickness nearly uniform for three-fourths of the entire length; the last quarter compressed and slightly tapering: depth, taken at the commencement of the dorsal fin, equalling about one-sixteenth of the entire length: head, measured from the end of the snout to the branchial orifice, contained nearly eight times and three-quarters in the same; convex, and slightly elevated, at the nape, from which point the profile slopes forward, becoming much depressed above the eyes: snout sharp and attenuated, compared with that of the two next species; the sides rather compressed: jaws gradually narrowing towards their extremities, which are slightly rounded; the lower one a little the longest; both furnished with a broad band of velvet-like teeth, the band above dilating on to the fore part of the vomer: gape small; the commissure of the lips not extending to a vertical line drawn as a tangent to the posterior part of the orbit: eyes small; the distance from them to the end of the snout not equalling twice their diameter; the space between them rather less than the above distance: nostrils double; the anterior orifice tubular, situate on the edge of the upper lip, the posterior one a simple pore immediately in advance of the eye: a row of pores above the upper lip on each side, and another forming the commencement of the lateral line; which last arises a little above the pectorals, and passes off straight to the extremity of the tail: gill-opening reduced to a small round aperture, immediately before, and a little below, the pectoral fin: scales very minute, scarcely visible, deeply imbedded in a thick, soft, slimy skin: dorsal commencing at about (sometimes a little before) one-third of the entire length; low, preserving throughout the same elevation, which equals scarcely more than one-fourth of the depth: vent before the middle of the entire length by a space equalling the depth of the body; anal commencing immediately behind it, similar to the dorsal: both dorsal and anal are carried quite to the extremity of the tail, forming by their union a pointed caudal: pectorals small and rounded, not half the length of the head; the distance from the line of their insertion to the end of the snout contained eight times and a half in the entire length, and about twice and three-quarters in the portion anterior to the commencement of the dorsal fin: ventrals wanting. Number of vertebrae one hundred and thirteen*. (Colours). Upper part of the head, back, and a large portion of the sides, dark olivaceous green, tinged with brown; lower part of the sides paler: throat, belly, and a portion of the anal fin, yellowish white.
Common in rivers, lakes, and other fresh-waters, throughout the country. Attains to a larger size than either of the two following species, with which it was formerly confounded. Two taken some years since in a fen-dyke near Wisbeach, in Cambridgeshire, weighed together fifty pounds; the heaviest twenty-eight, the other twenty-two pounds. Usually, however, much smaller. Generally considered as viviparous, but, from the observations of Mr. Yarrell, it is probable that this is not the case†. In the Autumn, migrates down the rivers, in order, it is said, to pass the Winter in the brackish water, and to deposit its spawn; the young fry migrating up the river in the Spring. Many, however, certainly remain in ponds all the year, and breed there. Roves about, and feeds, principally in the night. Said to quit its native element occasionally, and to cross meadows, in search of other waters, as well as for the purpose of feeding on worms and snails*. Very tenacious of life. Obs. This species varies a good deal in colour, according to the nature of the water in which it is found. Those in which the belly is of a clear white are called sometimes Silver Eels.
* The number of vertebrae rests on the authority of Mr. Yarrell.
† See on this subject Proceed, of Zool. Soc. 1831. p. 133; also Jesse's Glean, in Nat. Hist. (Second Series), p. 57, etc.