Gymnogaster arcticus, Cuv. Beg. An. (1st Ed). torn. ii. p. 246. Deal-Fish of Orkney, Flem. in Mag. of Nat. Hist. vol. iv. p. 215. with Jig. Vaagmaer, or Deal-Fish, Yarr. Brit. Fish. vol. i. p. 191.
From four to six feet.
" Body excessively compressed, particularly towards the back, where it does not exceed a table-knife in thickness: breadth (in a specimen three feet long) nearly five inches, tapering to the tail: colour silvery, with minute scales; the dorsal fin of an orange-colour, occupying the whole ridge from the head to the tail, with the rays of unequal sizes: caudal fin forked, the rays of each fork about four inches long: pectorals very minute: no ventral or anal fins whatever: vent immediately under the pectoral fins, and close to the gill-openings: head about four inches and a half long, compressed like the body, with a groove in the top: gill-lids formed of transparent porous plates: eyes one inch and a quarter in diameter: both jaws armed with small teeth: lateral line rough: and, towards the tail, armed with minute spines pointing forwards, and these are the only spines on the body." (Another specimen). "Length four feet and a half: breadth eight inches: thickness one inch, thin at the edges, viz. back and belly: length of the head five inches, terminating gradually in a short snout: tail consisting of eight or. nine fin-bones or rays, the third ray seven inches long, the rest four inches: dorsal fin reaching from the neck to the tail, rays four inches long: on each side of the fish, from head to tail, a row of prickles pointing forward, distance between each half an inch: under edge fortified by a thick ridge of blunt prickles: pectorals one inch long, lying upwards: skin rough, without scales (?): colour a leaden or silvery lustre; dorsal fin and tail blood-colour: the skin or covering of the head like that of a herring: several small teeth: gills red, consisting of four layers." Flem. I. c.
The above descriptions were communicated to Dr. Fleming by Dr. Alexander Duguid of Kirkwall, Orkney, in April and October 1829. They relate to a species of fish, which it would seem is not unfrequently cast on the shores of the Island of Sanday during bad weather, and which is called there the Deal-Fish. Dr. Fleming considers it as identical with the Vaagmaer of Olafsen, the Gymnogaster arcticus of Brunnich, and of Cuvier's first edition of the " Regne Animal," though afterwards referred by this last author to the genus Gymnetrus, Bl.*, under the belief that the ventrals, usually considered as wanting in the Vaagmaer, were only accidentally lost in the specimens hitherto observed†. The Vaagmaer is found off Iceland. Nothing is known of it as a British species beyond what Dr. Fleming has recorded in the work above referred to.
Pl. 423. Blochian Gymnetrus, Shaw, Gen. Zool. vol. iv. p. 197. pl. 29. Ceil Conin, Couch in Linn. Trans, vol. xiv. p. 77. Hawkeris Gymnetrus, Yarr. Brit. Fish. vol. i. p. 188.
A doubtful native. Said to have been "drawn on shore in a net at Newlin in Cornwall, in Feb. 1791. The extremity of the tail was wanting; the length of what remained was eight feet and a half, the depth ten inches and a half, thickness two inches and three quarters; weight forty pounds." Couch. The species itself is an obscure one, and not well ascertained. Bloch and Shaw have both figured the caudal fin from imagination, that part having been deficient in the specimens hitherto obtained.
* Reg. An. 2nd Edit. torn. ii. p. 219.
† This opinion, that the Vaagmaer possesses ventrals, when not mutilated by accident, has been confirmed by Professor Reinhardt, who has recently published a notice respecting a nearly perfect specimen of this fish, which had been cast ashore during the foregoing year, on the coast of Skagen. Sec L'Instittit, 18.34. p. 158.