Remarks on Miscellaneous Subjects

John McClelland

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III. Ophiocephalus Barca. Buch.

We have been favoured by C. D. Russell, Esq. of Rungpore, with two specimens of this species of fish, together with some very interesting particulars regarding its habits.

Buchanan , who but few things have escaped, remarked that this species which he found in the Bramaputra, river near Goalpara, inhabits holes, dug like those of the martin, that is, a kind of swallow, (Hirundo,) in the perpendicular banks; in these he says it lurks watching for its prey with its head out, and notwithstanding its strong variegated colours, it is an ugly animal. We have long been familiar with this species, which is common throughout Bengal, but we were never so fortunate as to see it on a high bank overlooking the waters, or comfbrtably enjoining the fresh breeze, with its head projecting from a bird's nest. Indeed there are no high banks for the enjoyment of either birds or fishes in Bengal. Hence perhaps, according to the following account (which has been published in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1839, p. 551) this species appears to visit Boutan, we presume for the benefit of the mountain air. 1

On the Bora Chung, or Ground Fish of Bootan.To the Secretaries to the Asiatic Society.

First drawing of C. amphibeusThe first drawing of C. amphibeus. It was first considered to be a specimen of C. barca until 1845. Then it became its own species.

Through Mr. Russell's kindness we have been enabled to identify the Bora Chung, or Ground-Fish of Bootan, with Ophiocephalus Barca, and it will be seen how fully Buchanan's account of its habits correspond with that of Mr. Russell, as given by Dr. Pearson. We are not yet fully prepared to form an opinion on this subject, but we have long been desirous of arranging the result of our observations on the Ophiocephali of India, and when an opportunity for doing so arrives we shall endeavour to elucidate this curious habit in one of the species. In the meantime, if any of our readers could favour us with details regarding the habits of any of the other Species of the group, we should feel greatly obliged. With regard to Ophiocephalus gachua, another member of the game family, Buchanan obs erves that it is very common in the ponds and ditches of Bengal, and is one of those fishes which are supposed to fall with rain from heaven. In fact with the first heavy showers of the season, it has often been seen leaping and wriggling in the grass; and by both natives and many Europeans is supposed to have fallen with the rain. I have, however, no doubt, says Buchanan, that the animal when thus discovered has been in search of a more commodious abode. During the dry season, he continues, it has suffered much from being pent up in half putrid water, so that when the first heavy rain falls, it is eager to enjoy the grateful supply of fresh-water, and wriggles among the moist grass in search of more room, and of the food which must have been nearly exhausted in the pools that it formerly occupied.

We have here given a figure of Ophiocephalus Barca, 3, Pl. xi.

They are very abundant in the plains of Bengal, but except in the curious instance brought to notice by Mr. Russell, we never knew them to inhabit mountains, but perhaps the Chail river, in the vicinity of which Mr. Russell found them, is not much above the level of the plains.


1 1839 when McClelland had received the first specimen of this fish, he considered this species as C. barca. So did he in this article. Until 1845 when he classified this fish to be a new species: Channa amphibeus (McClelland, 1845). Most of the time, it was synonymized still with C. barca due to Francis Day' Fishes of India. Only until recently, a revalidation of specimen made it a valid species. See: Musiksinthorn for further details. [] Back

Acknowledgement and Source(s)

This passage was originally published under the above title in: The journal of the Calcutta Natural History Society . vol.1 pp. 427-429 , 1841

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