Lump Fish, Or Lump Sucker, a name given to several spiny-rayed fishes of the family discoboli. The position of this family has been the subject of considerable difference of opinion among naturalists. Swainson placed them in the order apodes with the eels and lampreys; Cuvier ranked them among malacopterygians with the cod and sole; J. Muller properly restored them to the acanthopterygians, but, from the union of their ventrals into a disk, established for them, with the gobioids, the family cyclopodi, separating eleotris. Agassiz places the discoboli with the mailed-cheeked fishes, in the neighborhood of the sculpins, separating them entirely from the gobioids. The best known genera of the lump fishes (discoboli and gobiesocidm of ichthyologists) are cyclopterus (Linn.), liparis (Artedi), lepi-dogastcr (Gouan), and gobiesox (Lacep.). - In the genus cyclopterus the body is thick and high, without scales, covered with a mucous skin with a few osseous points over its surface; the teeth are small and sharp, on the jaws and pharyngeals; the mouth large; gill covers small, and their openings closed below; bran-chiostegous rays six; the pectorals very large, extending under the throat, and embracing the concave disk formed by the united ventrals, by means of which they adhere to rocks and other objects; the skeleton is mostly cartilaginous; the stomach large with numerous pyloric appendages, the intestine long, and the air bladder moderate.
The common lump fish (C. lumpus, Linn.), found on both sides of the Atlantic, varies from 8 to 20 in. in length, and may attain a weight of 18 lbs.; its appearance is grotesque and forbidding, its form being clumsy, its skin slimy, its flesh flabby, and its fins comparatively small. The first dorsal fin is rather a fleshy ridge just behind the head, with simple rays; the second dorsal, with branching rays, is about opposite the anal; besides the scattered tubercles, there are three distinct rows proceeding backward respectively from the eye, posterior angle of operculum, and ventral disk. The color is bluish slate above with blackish spots, and yellowish below. It is common from the shores of Scotland to the coast of Greenland; notwithstanding its unwholesome look, its flesh is esteemed as food by the northern Europeans. It is not uncommonly thrown up on our beaches during storms, and is occasionally caught by the hook when fishing for cod, but it is not eaten in this country. By means of the ventral disk it can attach itself very firmly to objects; it is voracious, feeding principally on young fish; it spawns about May, just before which the colors are brilliant, with tints of blue, purple, and orange.
Several other species occur in the vicinity of Greenland, described by Richardson in the Fauna Boreali-Americana. - The genus liparis differs from the preceding in having a more elongated body, compressed posteriorly, and a single long dorsal with a corresponding anal fin. The unctuous lump fish, or sea snail (L. communis, Art.), from 6 to 18 in. long, brownish above with darker stripes, and yellowish white below, is often caught on the shores of Scotland, where it adheres to stones in the small pools left by the receding tide; it feeds on aquatic insects, mollusks, and small fishes; it occurs also on the coasts of Greenland, where other species are found. - In the genus lepido-gaster the pectorals are very large, descending below the throat, supported by four firm rays at the lower part on each side, and united around an oval disk in front of the concave disk formed by the ventrals; there are apparently two pairs of pectorals and two pairs of ventrals, but one pair of each are mere folds of skin and not true fins; the membranous fold of the second pectorals contains fibrous rays, and is attached to the shoulder bone, and the membranous ventral fold to the styloid or pubic bone, which structural peculiarities, in the opinion of Agassiz, render necessary the separation of this genus and its allies into a distinct family.
The body of the Cornish lump sucker (L. Gou-ani, Lacep.) is smooth, with a single dorsal fin opposite the anal and near the caudal; bran-chiostegal rays five; no pyloric appendages; the length is only three or four inches, and the general tint pale flesh color, with carmine spots and patches. There are other species, all remarkable for their powers of adhesion, which enable them to resist strong currents and the action of the waves, and possibly to attach themselves to various objects, or even to fish, for purposes of locomotion, like the remora or sucking fish; they are sluggish in their habits, and delight to hide beneath stones near low-water mark; their food consists of crustaceans and marine worms, which they swallow entire; they are very tenacious of life; on account of the small openings from the gills; they have no air bladder. An allied genus is gobiesox, in which the pectorals and ventrals form only one disk; the dorsal and anal are short, and separated from the caudal. The toothed lump fish (G. dentex, Lacep.), from the Cape of Good Hope, may be known by the strong teeth in the front of the jaws; it is scarlet-colored, and several inches long. - Other genera are mentioned by Muller and Agassiz.
Lump Fish (Cyclopterus lumpus).