Gurnard - Encyclopedia

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GURNARD (Trigla), a genus of fishes forming a group of the family of "mailed cheeks" (Triglidae), and easily recognized by three detached finger-like appendages in front of the pectoral fins, and by their large, angular, bony head, the sides of which are protected by strong, hard and rough bones. The pectoral appendages are provided with strong nerves, and serve not only as organs of locomotion when the fish moves on the bottom, but also as organs of touch, by which it detects small animals on which it feeds. Gurnards are coast-fishes, generally distributed over the tropical and temperate areas; of the forty species known six occur on the coast of Great Britain, viz. the red Trigla pleuracanthica. gurnard (T. pini), the streaked gurnard (T. lineata), the sapphirine gurnard (T. hirundo), the grey gurnard (T. gurnardus), the piper (T. lyra) and the long-finned gurnard (T. obscura or T. lucerna). Although never found very far from the coast, gurnards descend to depths of several hundred fathoms; and as they are bottomfish they are caught chiefly by means of the trawl. Not rarely, however, they may be seen floating on the surface of the water, with their broad, finely coloured pectoral fins spread out like fans. In very young fishes, which abound in certain localities on the coast in the months of August and September, the pectorals are comparatively much longer than in the adult, extending to the end of the body; they are beautifully coloured and kept expanded, the little fishes looking like butterflies. When caught and taken out of the water, gurnards emit a grunting noise, which is produced by the vibrations of a diaphragm situated transversely across the cavity of the bladder and perforated in the centre. This grunting noise gave rise to the name "gurnard," which is probably an adaptation or variation of the Fr. grognard, grumbler, cf. the Fr. grondin, gurnard, from gronder, and Ger. Knurrfisch. Their flesh is very white, firm and wholesome.

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