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of that region. In like manner, the southern of a limited natural bed in shallow water, oysters when brought to the north become would endeavor to make up for the defi(when they can endure the climate) the rivals ciencies of nature by the importation of seed of the northern natives in firmness of flesh from the Hudson or elsewhere; but for all and depth of body. As a rule, however, they do not maintain themselves more than a single season in the colder northern waters; nor do they bear transportation to Europe or to California so well as the oysters of the north.
As for comparative merit, that is a matter which rivals the oyster itself in delicacy. In Washington or Baltimore, the oyster dealer will generously admit that it is quite possible to find good oysters outside of Chesapeake Bay; but for a “perfect" oyster, he will tell you that it is useless to look to any other locality. The Philadelphian is equally sure that the estuary of the Delaware is the perfect oyster's only home,-a local prejudice which the oyster-eater of New York attributes to a deplorable ignorance of what a firstrate oyster really is. Doctors differ; and the unprejudiced can only rejoice that anywhere between the parallels of 36° and 40° north, one may find oysters worthy of any human palate. Here in New York the favorites are, first and foremost, the Saddle Rocks,-a variety which Jerseymen insist has been exterminated these many years. They still remain, however, not only direct descendants from the colony about the original Saddle Rock, but in many that the supply steadily diminished. The other localities in Long Island Sound; moment a chance-sown bed was discovered for it was not a distinct variety that gave a fleet of dredgers would gather in hot the name its fame, but only an exception- haste, and in a little while every obtainable ally thrifty chance-sown bed of the common oyster would be carried away. Nothing natives,-a grade of oyster that artificial was done to repress the ravages of star-fish culture easily and constantly rivals. Next and
Next and other enemies of the oyster, and its in rank may be mentioned the Blue Points, utter extermination was seriously threatened. coming chiefly from Great South Bay, Long From time to time local laws were enacted Island; the same as the former in stock, but restricting the amount of oysters that might bred under different conditions, and so dif- be taken by any one man in one day, and fering somewhat in flavor. The products forbidding the working of oyster-beds during of Shrewsbury River, N. J., probably come the summer season; but these afforded no next; these were formerly transplanted natives real protection to the more valuable natural of Newark Bay, improved by development beds in deep water, while the close time, in the favorable waters of the Shrewsbury; from which so much was expected, proved but more recently, we are informed, the a hindrance rather than an advantage to seed is commonly brought from Long Island the multiplication of spat. One other law, Sound.
however, indirectly and unwittingly furTwenty years ago the oyster business nished a basis for the development of was carried on at the north very much as American oyster culture—the only really it now is in more southern waters. The practical and profitable system of oyster natural beds were mercilessly dredged—as propagation the world has seen. To enlist they still are, for that matter—and the per. her citizens in the work of restoring and prepetuation of the supply was left for the most serving the oyster-beds of the Sound, the part to accident. Occasionally a man who state of Connecticut passed an act granting owned a mill-pond or claimed the control to any resident of the coast the privilege of
having surveyed and set off for his own use ments of oyster land fell into the hands of a small area of Sound-bed, not already pro- professional oystermen. ductive, on the sole condition that it At the time referred to, twenty years be stocked and kept stocked with oys- or so ago, there were among the oysterters. Immediately a large number of such men of Norwalk two young men, brothers,
THE WATCHMAN'S HOME. claims were entered, and there was a prom- | by the name of Hoyt, who held possession ise of a great renewal of once famous beds of a few acres of oyster ground, which they which had been depleted by over-dredging annually replenished with seed brought from or by the ravages of star-fish. But the the Hudson River. The young oysters, promise was not fulfilled. The measures attached to empty shells and other rubbish, adopted for restocking the grounds were were usually gathered and transplanted in inadequate or useless; nothing was done to the summer time, when nothing was doinsure the fixing of spat or to protect from ing in the regular oyster trade; and it was the attacks of their enemies such young oys- repeatedly observed that later in the season ters as chance supplied; and when a bed a plentiful crop of still younger oysters had happened to be successful it was more likely established themselves on the imported seed. to be stripped by thieves than to yield a Whence did they come? Were they improfit to the owner. Only those who were ported with the others when too small to be directly and constantly employed in the seen, or were they the offspring of native business could manage such property advan- oysters spawning on the spot ? If the latter tageously; and gradually and in spite of were true why should not the spat be equally
plentiful where no planting had been done? The question was hard to answer. Even among professional naturalists, at that time, the physiology of the reproduction of oysters was an unsolved mystery. Yet our young oystermen were confident that there must be a reason for what they saw, and that if they could once master it they would not only be saved the cost of bringing seed from abroad, but they would be able to produce regularly the higher grade of oysters natural to the waters about Norwalk Islands. To this end Mr. Charles Hoyt studied oysters individ
ually and collectively with the directstrenuous opposition from those who refused ness and perseverance of a born naturalist. to recognize the authority of the state to He practiced vivisection relentlessly, watchdivert to individuals what had always been ing the oyster's internal changes day by common right) the more valuable allot-day, particularly during spawning time, until
he was able to tell from an oyster's appear. | which had been much dug over during ance not only whether those of a given bed the summer by men tonging for clams. were about to spawn, but when the spawn- Further, it was observed that objects known ing would begin. At the same time he was to have been lost overboard during the as intently studying the external conditions spawning season—tongs and dredges, rubof successful spawning, by far the obscurer ber boots, bottles, anchor stones, clam-shells problem of the two. Some seasons every opened for fish-bait, and so on—would be object exposed to the tide would be found found in the fall well covered with young covered with spat. At other times, though oysters, while the surrounding objects were the parent oysters showed every evidence quite barren. Why should these things of good spawning condition, and were seen be? Mr. Hoyt not only asked himself this to emit spawn in abundance, the young question again and again, but put the quescrop would be a total failure. A clue to tion repeatedly to nature, believing that the the mystery was first found in noticing that answer would make him master of the secret with a general failure of spat certain local- of successful oyster breeding. The story of ities would be found in the fall thickly set his experiments, his unaccountable successes, with young oysters; and these were places and (at the time) still more unaccountable
failures, would furnish an entertaining record | the half-shell before us. At first sight it of Yankee acuteness, pluck and persever- seems to consist of two almost structureless ance; but there is no space for it here. It parts only—a central tough portion comis enough to say that after long groping in monly miscalled the heart, and a larger mass the dark he began at last to see his way clearly, arriving at the following conclusions of vital importance in oyster culture :
First: That the young oysters are born during July and August, earlier or later according to the season, the depth of the water, and other external conditions.
Second: That the young oysters, or spat, | of whiter and more tender substance edged swim freely for a time, then attach them- | with black. The tough part is the strong selves for life to some solid object if any- | muscle with which the oyster closes and thing suitable be presented; if not they die. holds together the two valves of its shell.
Third: The supporting object, which may When the muscle is relaxed the valves are be any firm substance, must be clean,—that is, slightly thrust apart by means of a small free from the slime that speedily covers elastic ligament in the hinge, the oyster's everything under water.
normal condition at rest being with its doors For the successful propagation of oysters, a little ajar. The softer portion of the oystwo conditions are therefore essential: the ter's body comprises the various organs of breeding oysters must spawn, and the vagrant life, common to all animals of the higher oyster-brood must be furnished with suit- grades. That pulsating, purse-like transparable resting-places at the precise moment ent body in the cavity back of the great when they are ready to settle down for muscle, is the heart. In spite of the rough life. It is in supplying the latter, surely usage the animal has received in the procand cheaply, and in a way that answers for ess of opening, the heart keeps on slowly deep water as well as shallow, that the supe- beating. Life persists,—sensitive life, too, riority of American oyster culture consists. as readily appears on touching the border And it is to the credit of Mr. Charles Hoyt, that two or three years before the famous studies and discoveries of Professor Costé were begun in France by command of the French government, he had anticipated them alone and unaided; and more, he had put his discoveries to a more successful use, employing simpler, more natural, and more economical methods of oyster propagation than the French oyster farmers have attained to even at the present day. The best of the French methods, the “tile method,” developed by Dr. Kemmerer, of St. Martins, Isle de Ré, is at once feeble and enormously expensive compared with the American method; and its application is limited almost exclusively to flats daily laid bare by the tide. In our climate such operations would not survive the first cold winter, even if it were possible to produce oysters by of fringe around the oyster's outer edge. them at anything like the price which oys- See how it shrinks from the touch as though ters bring in our markets.
in pain. And notice the quivering motion Though simple, the internal structure of of the filaments of the dark border when the oyster is much more curious and inter- looked at through a magnifying glass. It esting than might be supposed. Let us is by the movement of these fleshy threads examine one as it lies, a tempting morsel, on or cilia, that the oyster keeps up the circu
lation of water
ally the fluid thickens, until the swarming Very little requires special explanation. young are ready to be turned from their The current set in motion by the cilia flows parental shelter to shift for themselves. downward toward the hinge, passing to the Then they are ejected in puffs of milky mouth through the tentacles, which, like cloud, the pasty coating of each young oyssensitive lips, select from the contents of ter quickly hardening into a delicate shell the stream the living atoms which constitute as soon as it comes in contact with seathe oyster's food; for the oyster is not an water. At this stage the young fry have omnivorous scavenger, as has been thought, little likeness to their parent; but their free but a dainty feeder, subsisting entirely on life quickly ends. Their shell thickens, and living organisms. The rejected particles losing their capacity for swimming, they pass on around the muscle, and are cast are forced to adopt the settled life of their out with the stream, which, taking up in its kind—unless, as occurred with the speci
, subsequent course the waste and refuse of men figured on page 234, they happen to the system, serves as a common sewer to settle on the back of a crab or other travelthis close-walled realm. The stomach liesing object. below the mouth, concealed by other or- The prime secret of successful oyster gans; so also does the large and important breeding lies, as already noted, in capturing organ, the liver : and the two usually con- the young vagrants just at the time the tain digestive juices enough not only for the character of their life changes. In this it oyster's need, but also for the need of the will not do to trust to nature alone, in other man who eats it. It is this ability of the words, to accident. Nature fails too freuncooked oyster to digest itself that makes quently; so art steps in and makes sure it such a welcome morsel to the stomach of that the conditions under which nature sucthe dyspeptic.
ceeds are uniformly secured at the critical Sexually, the oyster is complete in itself, moment. the ova being produced and fertilized by The oyster farmer's work falls naturally the same individual; and every mature into two parts. During the cooler months oyster is capable of being the parent of mill. he is chiefly engaged in harvesting his crop ions. Reproduction begins the third or and preparing it for market. As warm
The ova are not at once cast weather approaches he begins the more upon the water for development, as in the specific work of making ready for the case of most other mollusks, but are re- spawning season. As the oyster requires tained in the folds of the gills for hatching. from three to five years to mature, it is eviAt an early stage the ova are fecundated; dent that the grounds of any extensive and, bursting the capsules which contain grower will present beds of oysters in them, they swim freely in a thick white fluid various stages of development, with other prepared for their reception. At this time
At this time areas from which the matured crop has just the oyster is said to be in “milk.” Gradu
Gradu- been gathered. In no case, however, will