Of all fish, eels are probably the most interesting, as the least is known of them. Electricians are now examining the animal source of electricity in the electric eel (Gymnotus electricus); zoologists are still searching for the solution of the problem of the generation of eels, of which no more is known than that the young eels are not born alive; and numerous fishing societies are now studying the important question of raising eels in ponds, lakes, etc., that are not connected with the sea.
THE MURaeNae AT THE BERLIN AQUARIUM.
The annexed cut, taken from the Illustrirte Zeitung, is a copy of a drawing by Muetzel, and represents a group of Mediterranean Muraenae (Muraena Helena). This fish attains a length of from 5 ft. to 6 ft., and has a smooth, scaleless body of a dark color, on which large light-yellow spots appear, which give the fish a very peculiar appearance. The pectoral fin is missing, but it has the dorsal and anal fins, which it uses with great ability. Its head is pointed, and its jaws are provided with extraordinarily sharp teeth, which are inclined toward the rear; and at each side of the head it is provided with a gill. The nostrils are on the upper side of the snout, and a second, tubular, pair of nostrils is located near the eyes. The bright eyes have a fierce expression, which makes the fish appear very much like a snake. These fish are ravenous, and devour crabs, snails, worms, and fishes, and if they have no other food, bite off the tails of their brethren. They are caught in eel baskets or cages, and by means of hooks; but they are rather dangerous to handle, as they attack the fishermen and injure them severely.
Since the times of the ancients, Muraenae have been prized very highly on account of their savory flesh. The Romans were great experts at feeding these fish, Vidius Pollio being the master of them all, as he made a practice of feeding his Muraenae with the flesh of slaves sentenced to death. Pliny states that at Caesar's triumphal entry Hirius furnished six thousand Muraenae. Slaves were frequently driven into the ponds, and were immediately attacked by the voracious fishes, and killed in a very short time.