.Devonian fish

The Devonian period is a range of geological time which falls in the Paleozoic era, roughly 408 to 360 million years ago. During this time forests and amphibians made their first appearances. According to The Columbia Encyclopedia,

The most notable Devonian animals were the jawed and bony fishes, which appeared in great numbers toward the close of the period. Conspicuous types were sharks, armored fishes, lungfishes, and ganoid fishes.

Of these Devonian fishes, H. G. Wells has written in A Short History of the World

Fishes of a pattern now gone from the earth, and fishes allied to the sharks and sturgeons of to-day, rushed through the waters, leapt in the air, browsed among the seaweeds, pursued and preyed upon one another, and gave a new liveliness to the waters of the world. None of these were excessively big by our present standards. Few of them were more than two or three feet long, but there were exceptional forms which were as long as twenty feet.

In Grendel, the Dragon mentions the Devonian fish as an example of "nonce-rules" (71); that is, something new which rises to meet a single occasion. It connotes a fluke or an accident, randomness which produces more randomness. The Devonian fish seems to be a good example of this because, as Wells continues,

We know nothing from geology of the ancestors of these fishes. They do not appear to be related to any of the forms that preceded them.

view complete index A - L

view complete index M - Z