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Fish #150 Pilot Fish Naucrates ductor ~ Christopher M. Walshaw
Dry-point etching 20 x 28 cm
A carnivorous fish of the Trevally or Jackfish family that congregates around sharks, rays and turtles where it eats parasites and morsels of food left over from the host's feeding. Whilst widely distributed in warm or sub tropical seas it is an occasional visitor to these shores. They are known to follow ships leading the ancients to surmise that they would navigate the ship to its desired course. One myth surrounding our fish is that it can pilot the shark towards its prey as well as the mariner to safety. In Earnest Hemingway's "A Moveable Feast" (published posthumously in 1964), the hero refers to the character, John De Passos, as a pilot fish for the wealthy after falling out with him over the Spanish Civil War.
The pilot fish's relationship with the shark or other host is a MUTUALIST one. The pilot fish gets protection from predators and the shark gains freedom from parasites, and my little poem muses on this unusual relationship. Although good to eat the pilot fish is seldom on the menu as to catch them is highly unlikely. Apart from the difficulty of drawing the fish away from the shark there remains the frenetic behaviour once on the hook which renders it a worthy opponent who refuses to submit.
THE PILOT FISH
This brave little fish with unenviable task,
is known as Naucrates Ductor.
She cleans and gleans between the teeth,
of the shark who could easily abduct her.
This pair so rare swim side by side,
and though the host is the meanest,
he respects and protects the Pilot Fish,
his friend and dental hygienist.
By Chris Walshaw 11th July 2018
Christopher M. Walshaw: A Louth born dairy farmer, musician and actor has created the pilot fish image in an intaglio dry point etching method attempting a simple but characterful portrayal of this fascinating fish.
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