Plutarch on Anaximander’s Zoogony (Quaest. Conv. VII 8. 4 730E = 12 A 30 DK)

In Quaestiones Convivales (730E), Plutarch notes that according to Anaximander’s zoogony  first living creatures originated in fish, like οἱ γαλεοί, one species of Selachia, which corresponds  to modern dogfish. Plutarch describes this kind of fish also in two other treatises (De  sollertia animalium 982A and De amore prolis 494C). In the two latter instances Plutarch refers  to two peculiarities of the dogfishes, namely their way of breeding which resembles the mammals  and the way of nursing their youth — mother lets it swim around, feed itself and then  takes the offspring back inside her body. Aristotle duly observed both peculiarities (HA I 5.  489b11 f.; VI 10. 565b24) as typical for the majority of Selachia (a broader class than modern  Selachii, or sharks), including γαλεοί, and it is almost certain that Plutarch depends on this  report. On the contrary, there is no reason to believe with some scholars that Plutarch had in  view Aristotle’s famous description of one species of γαλεοί, namely γαλεὸς λεῖος (mustelus  levis) with its unusual mode of breeding the youth (HA 565b2–9). In his testimony for Anaximander  Plutarch does not have nursing in view– his point is only the womb-like conditions  in which the young develop before birth within mother’s body. The comparison with the dogfishes  is thus more trivial than often assumed and might, of course, stem from Anaximander.  More probable, nevertheless, that it was added by Plutarch himself in order to make his discourse  about abstinence from fish more impressive.

 Pimenova A. Plutarch on Anaximander’s Zoogony (Quaest. Conv. VII 8. 4 730E = 12 A 30 DK)