Devil Fish, a cartilaginous fish of the ray family, and the genus cephaloptera (Dumeril). In this genus the head is truncated in front, and provided on each side with a pointed, wing-like process, separate from the pectoral fins, and capable of independent motion; these processes, however, seem sometimes to be prolongations of the pectorals, and give the name to the genus, which signifies wings upon the head. The pectorals are of great breadth, triangular, resembling wings, and making the transverse diameter of the fish greater than the longitudinal, with the tail included; the jaws are at the end of the head, the lower the more advanced; the eyes are prominent and lateral; the tail is armed with one or two serrated spines, and is long and slender; in front of the spine is a small dorsal fin with 36 rays; the teeth are small, numerous, flat, and arranged in many rows; the small nostrils are placed near the angles of the mouth, and openings (probably the auditory) are situated on the dorsal aspect of the appendages to the head, behind the eyes; the branchial openings are five on each side, large, linear, near each other, the fifth being the smallest; the ventral fins are small, rounded, near the base of the tail; the skin is rough to the touch, like that of some sharks; the skeleton is cartilaginous.

The old genus cephaloptera has been divided by Muller and Henle, and the genus ceratoptera added. In the first the mouth is on the ventral aspect, and the pectorals are prolonged forward to a point beyond the head, resembling horns; four species are described. In the second the mouth is at the end of the snout, the upper jaw is crescentic, and the under convex; there are no teeth in the upper jaw, and they are small and scale-like on the under; the pectorals are separated from the precephalic fins by a rayless space; this includes three species, and among them, probably, the one mentioned below as caught at Kingston, Jamaica. The devil fish mentioned by Catesby, in his "Natural History of Carolina," is probably the same as the gigantic ray described by Mitchill in vol. i. of the "Annals of the Lyceum of Natural History of New York," under the name of the "vampire of the ocean" (0. vampyrus, Mitch.). This specimen was taken in the Atlantic, near the entrance of Delaware bay, in 1823, and was so heavy as to require three pair of oxen, a horse, and several men to drag it on shore; it weighed about five tons, and was 17 1/4 ft. long and 18 ft. wide; the skin on the back was blackish brown, and on the belly black and white, and very slimy; the mouth was 2 3/4 ft. wide, the greatest breadth of the skull 5 ft., and the distance between the eyes 4 1/6 ft.; the cranial appendages were 2 1/2 ft. long and a foot wide, tapering, supported internally by 27 parallel cartilaginous articulated rays, allowing free motion in almost all directions, and probably used as prehensile organs; the immense pectorals were attached to the scapular arch, and contained 77 articulated parallel cartilaginous rays, and were used like wings to fly through the water.

The specific name of this ray was given by Mitchill from its size, representing in its family what the vampire does in the bat family. This specimen was again described by Lesueur in the "Journal of the Academy of Natural Sciences" (vol. iv., 1824), as C. giorna (Lacep.). Cuvier and De Kay consider the latter a distinct species, rarely exceeding the weight of 50 lbs. The devil fish is occasionally seen on the coast of the southern states in summer and autumn, and wonderful stories are told of its strength and ferocity, its extraordinary shape and size having transformed a powerful but inoffensive animal into a terrible monster. Other species are met with in the tropical parts of the Atlantic and Pacific, both in mid ocean and on sandy coasts, which they approach to bring forth their young. They are not uncommon in the West Indies, and Dr. Bancroft, in vol. iv. of the "Zoological Journal," describes one which was captured in 1828 in the harbor of Kingston, Jamaica, after a resistance of several hours, which dragged three or four boats fastened together at the rate of four miles an hour. In this specimen, which was smaller than the one described by Mitchill, the mouth was 27 in. wide, opening into a cavity 4 1/2 ft. wide and 3 ft. deep, and so vaulted that it could easily contain a man.

He named it C. manta, which is doubtless a synonyme of C. vampyrus (Mitch.). Anson and other writers have described a fish like a quilt, which wraps itself around a diver and squeezes him to death. The ray called devil fish undoubtedly gave rise to these stories, but it is anatomically impossible that it can so seize its prey, and it does not appear that any one has ever witnessed such an event. The pectoral fins of the devil fish are too thick at their base and anterior margin, and their cartilages are too rigid, to allow of their being so bent downward as to enfold a man or any other prey in the manner alluded to; they are composed of a great number of joints, more than 600, and must be capable of a considerable variety of motions calculated to impel the animal through the water with great strength and speed. The appendages to the head can hardly be used in locomotion. Lieut. St. John, who has watched attentively the movements of this fish, says these flaps are used in driving a large quantity of water toward the mouth when the animal is at rest, feeding; they can be bent in front of and even into the mouth, and are probably prehensile organs for various purposes; when swimming, the flexible ends are coiled up.

The nature of the teeth and the narrowness of the gullet also render it improbable that this fish feeds upon anything but small fry, which it sweeps toward the mouth with its cranial flaps. The truth appears to be that the devil fish, though powerful and hideous, is a timid and harmless creature, avoiding rather than attacking man; but when attacked and defending itself, the serrated spine of the tail would prove a dangerous weapon, inflicting a deep, lacerated, and possibly fatal wound to man or fish within its range. They are gregarious, and are pursued by fishermen for the oil of the liver. - The pieuvre of Victor Hugo's Tra-vailleurs de la mer, rendered "devil fish" in the English translation of that work, is a fictitious monster, the description of which applies to no species of the devil fish. - Another large and hideous fish, which is sometimes called sea devil or devil fish, is the lophius pis-catorius (Linn.); this is described under Goose Fish. (See also Octopus.)

Devil Fish (Cephaloptera vampyrus).

Devil Fish (Cephaloptera vampyrus").