Jaws and Teeth

jaw, figure, lower, upper and ones

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Fermin (1769) contents himself with saying that the jaws are filled with long and trenchant teeth which nothing can withstand.

Parra's interesting book on Cuban fishes, published in 1783, contains a pretty fair description of the dental apparatus of the West Indian barracuda, perhaps the best up to date. His figure, however, is crude. See figure 17, plate v.

His statement reads : "In the upper jaw these fish have in front four teeth larger than the others, and posteriorly three or four others also large: on the external lip of this jaw they have a row of teeth small in size. In the lower jaw they have one in the middle, also large, which corresponds to a space which has been noted in the upper jaw. . . . there appear on the margin of the lower jaw, teeth small at first but which soon grow larger and articulate with the large and small teeth of the upper jaw. To their sharp edges and position as described is due the fact that these animals cut like a knife when they bite." The most accurate description of the jaws and teeth of fishes of the genus Sphyrcena that I have seen is that by Cuvier and Valenciennes, in the third volume of their Histoire naturelle des poisons (1829). In speaking of the Mediterranean form, S. vulgaris, the common spet, they note that the lower jaw ends in a fleshy point, that the tip of the upper is truncated to adapt itself to the curve of the lower, and that both have membranous lips outside the teeth. Cuvier and Valenciennes's descrip tion of the jaws was not read until months after my own specimens had been described, yet the reader of this paper will find the descrip tions almost interchangeable. They say: "The intermaxillaries [premaxillaries?] have along their edge a single row of very small teeth, numerous and sawlike; but at their anterior extremity and a little inside, they each have two large ones, one behind the other, com pressed, trenchant, a little arched and pointed. A little further back and at some distance from the intermaxillary teeth, but in the same line, there are on each palatine three or four equally large, cutting and pointed, but not arched teeth; then there follow backward along the length of each palatine twelve to fifteen other teeth, very small and shaped like saw teeth, after the fashion of those on the intermaxillaries.

"On the lower jaw there are two strong cutting teeth, pointed and hooked, which correspond in this anterior region to the four on the upper jaw. The fish often has only one and this gives it the air of never having had but one at the end of the lower jaw. Along each side of this jaw one sees at first sight a series of a score of very small teeth of which the hinder ones become very large and trenchant but not half equalling the great palatine teeth which are directly above them. When the mouth is closed the lateral teeth of the lower jaw enter into the interval between the intermaxillary and palatine teeth of the upper. The vomer has no teeth." Of the great barracuda, Cuvier and Valenciennes give an excellent colored figure accompanied by a line drawing of the jaws and teeth.

The former figure is reproduced as figure 18 of plate v, while figures 19 and 20, plate vi, show both the line drawing referred to and the head of the colored figure. The reader is particularly requested to contrast the figure of the jaws and teeth with the photographs of Florida specimens. Cuvier and Valenciennes note that the great teeth are very large and non-arched, but their figure has them cially the upper ones) curved backward. Of the other teeth they say: " Each palatine has a number of large teeth, which may range from five or six to ten or twelve, without any little ones, either in their intervals or farther back. At the most each has three or four small ones, which are only seen in young specimens or when one cleans off a skeleton. Hence the edge of this bone is sharp and smooth." In their figure the great teeth above and below are hooked backwardly; there is only one big canine below but two above. In the line drawing two lower canines are seen straight and unpointed, while the four big upper ones are backwardly hooked.

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