NANFA-- Fish Folklore: Canteenfish and g-armor

Hoover, Jan J ERDC-EL-MS (
Mon, 12 Nov 2001 16:02:04 -0600

I ran across these fish folklore items last night. Some of you may know
more about them.

Canteenfish - a small, hump-backed fish inhabiting underground pools and
shallow waters of the Mojave Desert. It is reputed to migrate across the
desert, living off the water stored in its hump. "The Field Guide to North
American Monsters" by W. Haden Blackman (Three Rivers Press, New York, 1998)
contains an account but this is the first that I have seen. If this really
is a "cowboy legend," it was probably inspired by pupfishes.

Gar skin - used by Caribbean peoples as breastplates or armor. This is
fishery factoid rather than folklore. I have never seen photographs of the
armor despite having seen references to it in several books. I am guessing
that the armor is made from skin of Cuban and tropical gars. The primary
source of this information seems to be "Utilization of the skins of aquatic
animals" by Charles H. Stevenson (Ann Rept US Comm Fish and Fisheries for
1902) but I have never seen this reference.

Two other items from "Parade of the Animal Kingdom" by Robert and Jane
Hegner (MacMillan and Company, New York, 1935):

Bullheads - were described by Thoreau as "bloodthirsty and bullying set of
rangers, with ever a lance at rest ready to do battle with their nearest

Porcupine fish - when eaten by a shark, secretes a carmine-red fibrous
matter that protects it from digestion; the fish then gnaws its way out of
the stomach and through the body wall of the shark and eventual freedom.

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