G. Brown (George Brown) Goode.

The fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) online

. (page 116 of 146)
Online LibraryG. Brown (George Brown) GoodeThe fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) → online text (page 116 of 146)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


follows :

"Dr. Elliott Coues, who has observed Fulgur carica forming its cases at Fort Macon, North
Carolina, states that the females bury themselves a few inches below the surface of the sand on
the flats that are uncovered at low water, and remain stationary during the process. The string



or mi: CONCH. ,;;,

of capsules is gradually thrust upward a-s fast as formed, ami tinally protrudes from the surface of
the sand, anil, when completed, lie* exposed on it.s surface. The string In-gins as a single shred,
two or three inches long, without .well-formed eases; the first eases are small and imperfect in
shape, but they rapidly increase in size and soon become jwrfect, the largest being in the middle;
the series ends more abruptly than it began, with a few smaller and less iterfuct capsules. The
number of capsules varies considerably, but there are usually seventy-five to one hundred or
more. At Fort Macon Dr. Coues observed this species spawning in May, but at New Haven they
spawn as early as .March and April. It is probable that the period of spawning extends over
several months. Mr. Sanderson Smith thinks that they also spawn in autumn on Long Island. It.
is not known how long a time each female requires for the formation of her string of capsules.
There are two forms. of these capsules, about equally abundant in this region. In one the sides of
the capsules are nearly smooth, but the edge is thick or truncate along most of the circumference,
and crossed by numerous sharp transverse ridges or partitions, dividing it into facets. Dr.
Cones states that these belong to Fulgur carica. An examination of the young shells, ready
to leave the capsules, confirms this. The other kind has larger and thinner capsules, with a thin,
sharp outer edge, while the sides have radiating ridges or raised lines. Sometimes the sides
are unlike, one being smooth and more or less concave, the other convex and crossed by ten
or twelve radiating, elevated ridges extending to the edge. This kind was attributed to Fulgur
carica by Dr. G. H. Perkins, and formerly by Mr. Sanderson Smith, but a more careful examina-
tion of the young shells, within the capsules, shows that they belong to Sycotypus canaliculate." 1

Eggs so exposed are subject to numberless accidents, being drifted ashore, ground to pieces
by storms, and no doubt eaten by bottom-feeding fishes, so that only a few eggs out of the
hundreds in each "necklace" are ever born, or, accomplishing that, are able to survive the perils
of unprotected youth and grow to adult age and strength. Having once done so, however, this
mollusk probably lives to a very great age.

An examination of a specimen of either of these species will show that in both the
muscular part is large and strong and the mouth powerful. The food of the Conch being mainly
the ile*h of other mollnsks, its method of killing them is one of brute strength, since it is unpro-
vided with the silicious, file-like tongue by means of which the small "Drills" set at naught the
shelly armor of their victims. The Conch is a greater savage than that. Seizing upon the unfor-
tunate Oyster, unable to run away, he envelops its shell in the concave under surface of his foot,
and, by just such a muscular action as you would employ in grasping an object in the palm of
your fist, crushes the shell into fragments and feasts at leisure on the flesh thus exposed. Where
Oysters or other prey are abundant, this operation is quickly repeated and vastly destructive.
One planter in the upper part of Buzzard's Bay, where these pests are very troublesome, thought
one Winkle was capable of killing a bushel of Oysters in a single hour. They do not confine
themselves to Oysters altogether, of course ; any mollusks or other marine animal, sluggish and
weak enough to be caught and broken up, suffers from their predacity. I was told in New
Jersey, by an intelligent man, that the Conch would even draw the Razor-shell out of his burrow
and devour it. If this be true, no doubt the Soft Clam also falls a victim to the same marauder.
The Quahaug is generally safe in his massive shells.

The oyster-beds most subject to attack and harm by the Winkles and Concha are those
planted in water which is quite salt, as is the practice in New England and Long Island Sound.
The beds of the Great South Bay, Si a i en Island, and the southern Jersey coast are well protected
by the outer beaches from the sea, and to these barriers owe their immunity from the Fulgur,
while the Sycotypu*, though present inside the beaches, seems to do small damage. Oystermen

'Report U. 8. Fuh Commission, part i, 1873, pp. 366, 358.



696 NATURAL HISTORY OF AQUATIC ANIMALS.

will tell you, also, tbat beds which are disturbed from time to time by the planter will suffer more
harm than neglected beds, especially in summer. Of course it is to be expected, as reported, that
where planting has gone on for many years, there these predatory mollusks have visibly increased
in numbers.

In regard to ridding our beds of (his pest, I can only advise, as heretofore, that every effort
be made to destroy every specimen taken and every "necklace" of eggs which can be got hold of.
The trawl, tangles, etc., recommended for the suppression of star-fishes, in my Report to the
Census Bureau upon the Oyster Industries, would take up these eggs at the same time, and thus
do double service. Persistent fighting is the only resource against this enemy, however, as in
the case of others.

Some points of minor interest may be mentioned before leaving this subject. Both of these
shells were used by the Indians of the coast ceremonially, and as material for the making of white
wampum, their money of inferior value, which consisted of bead-shaped sections of the central
column of the shell. From them, also, were fashioned sundry articles of service and ornament,
such as trowels, spoons, and dippers; they are sometimes even yet called "ladle shells." The
Indians ate the animals, too, when hard pressed for food, and have been followed in this practice
by the whites, to some extent. De Voe says they used sometimes be sent into Catharine Market,
New York, from Long Island, and found sale; "but," he adds, "they are not generally relished.
being somewhat strong flavored. They are mostly used by the poor who live near the coast."
Several foreign mollusks, not greatly different, are eaten generally being boiled and perhaps
proper cooking would make these Conchs more palatable than they have hitherto proved.

Under the name of "Drill" is included a numerous class of univalve mollusks, which are
carnivorous in their tastes, and armed with a tongue-ribbon so shaped and so well supplied with
flinty teeth that by means of it they can file a round hole through an enemy's shell, a habit
which renders them of much account in the fisheries, where the victim they attack is the valuable
Oyster, as they are sadly prone to do. The mode in which the entrance is made has been clearly
described by Rev. Samuel Lockwood, as follows :

"The tongue is set with three rows of teeth like a file; it is, in fact, a tongue-file, or dental
band, and is called by conchologists the lingual ribbon. . . . Having with the utmost care
witnessed a number of times the creature in the burglarious act, I give the following as my view
of the case: With its fleshy disk, called the foot, it secures by adhesion a firm hold on the upper
part of the Oyster's shell. The dental ribbon is next brought to a curve, and one point of this
curve, on its convex side, is brought to bear directly on the desired spot. At this point the teeth
are set perpendicularly, and the curve, resting at this point, as on a drill, is made to rotate one
circle, or nearly so, when the rotation is reversed; and so the movements are alternated, until,
after long and patient labor, a perforation is accomplished. This alternating movement, I think,
must act favorably on the teeth, tending to keep them sharp. To understand the precise movement,
let the reader crook his forefinger, and, inserting the knuckle in the palm of the opposite hand,
give to it, by the action of the wrist, the sort of rotation described. The hole thus effected by
the drill is hardly so much as a line in diameter. It is very neatly countersunk. The hole
finished, the little burglar inserts its siphon or sucking-tube, and thus feeds upon the occupant of
the house into which it has effected a forced entrance. To a mechanic's eye there is something
positively beautiful iu the symmetry of the bore thus effected it is so 'true'; he could not do it
better himself, even with his superior tools and intelligence."

These small "Snails," "Drills," "Borers," and "Snail-bores," as they are variously called,
belong to several species of Natica, Purpura, Anachis, Aatyris, Tritia, Ilyanassa, etc. ; but the master



DESTRUCTIVENESS OF THE COMMON DRILL. 697

amiinost destructive, as well as most abumlunt of them all, is the Urosalpinx cinerea of Stimpaon.
It is this which is the common "Drill" of the oyster-beds; and it is its eggs, laid in small vase-
shapcd capsules, which are often found attached in groups to the under surfaces of stones.
Several of the small mollusks mentioned above lay eggs in this way, but the Drill's capsules have
very short stalks, or are almost sessile, and are compressed with an ovate outline, while angular
ridges pass down their sides. The natural home of the Drill is the tide-pools and weedy borders
of rocky shallows, where barnacles, hydroids, anemones, rock-loving limpets, and other associated
forms that find shelter among the alga) afford it abundant food. Though this is precisely where
the Mussels grow till the rocks are almost black with them, it is said that they are never attacked
by the Drills.

The Uroalpinx sometimes strays to the oyster-beds, but is usually carried there with the seed
supplies, and, finding plenty of nourishment, lives and increases. Though its multiplication is not
very rapid, it is fast enough to make it a very serious obstacle to success in the course of a few
\cars. In nearly every case I was told that formerly there were no Drills, but now the oyster-
beds were overrun. This was reported in particular of the Great South Bay of Long Island and
at Key port, New Jersey. I heard less of its ravages in New Jersey, except in the Delaware ; but
in Chesapeake Bay nearly every dredge-haul in any part of Maryland or Virginia waters brings
tlifiu up. The Potomac seems to be the district least infested. Of course, in such natural haunts
as Hie rocky shores of Buzzard's Bay and Connecticut they would be present if there were no
Oysters, and are all the harder to dislodge.

Once having attacked an oyster-bed, they work with rapidity, and seem to make sudden and
combined attacks at considerable intervals. Their disappearance from certain restricted localities,
too, for a long time is unexplained.

What is the best way to combat them, or whether there is any hope of ridding the beds of
them, are questions often discussed by oyster-culturiste. It is certain that a great deal of trouble
might be avoided if care were exercised in culling seed to throw out not into the water, but on
the ground or deck all the Drills, instead of carrying them to one's beds, deliberately planting
iliciii, and then grumbling at destruction which previous care would have avoided. It would cost
less in point of mere labor, no doubt, to prevent this plague than to cure it when it became no longer
endurable. Some planters clean up pieces of bottom very thoroughly before planting, in order to
get all this sort of vermin out of their way, as well as to stir up the mud and fit it for the reception
of spat. It is on hard bottom that Drills are especially troublesome, and here some planters go
over the ground with a fine-meshed dredge in order to get them up, but they fail to catch all.
This is done at Norwalk, Connecticut, I know, and the men who have steamers find in the celerity
with which they are able to accomplish this sort of work a great argument against any restriction
to exclusively sailing-rig.

The Drill can be exterminated to a great extent, also, by diligently destroying its eggs. Small
boys might well be paid to search for them and destroy them among the weedy rockH by the shore
at low tide. A gentleman at Sayville, Long Island, assured me that in those years when eels
were plentiful the Drills were kept down because the eels fed on their eggs. This gentleman said
in the Great South Bay the Drills were nearly conquering the planters, and he advised the
removal of all shells from the bottom of the bay, in order that the Drills might have nothing left
on which to place their eggs. This might do there, where there are no rocks along the shore and
the Drill is not native; but I doubt whether so sweeping a measure of protection could ever be
carried out.

On the Pacific coast Qastrochcena and various pholadiform mollusks are a great bane to the



NATURAL HISTORY OF AQUATIC ANIMALS.

oyster-beds, but they penetrate by digging burrows wherein their whole shell is lodged. Where
large numbers of these are present, with the help of boring- worms and sponges, they may so
riddle a reef as to cause its entire disintegration under the first gale. A fourth borer is Purpura
lapillus, which is of interest in another direction. The famous Tyrian purple of ancient days
the regal dye that was deemed too splendid a color to be worn by any but kings and nobles-
was produced from a sea-snail, and conchologists have busied themselves to discover which
particular one.

In the works of Pliny and Aristotle, the earliest sources of knowledge on the subject, the
information is too vague to be relied upon. Dr. Roth, of Munich, in a paper read before the Jeru-
salem Literary Society, says that several years ago (previous to 1857) he found at Jaffa the
Purpura patula, sought as food by the Christians during fast days : " On puncturing this animal
there issued a greenish liquid, which, when exposed to the sunshine, changed to purple. This
purple increased in brilliancy when it was washed." Comparing this with the accounts left by the
ancients, Dr. Roth thinks the color he produced is evidently their blue color, for they had a blue-
purple, a deep purple, and a red-purple. "Between Soor and Saida," according to the same
author, " the Murex truncatut, or trunculus, is found in abundance, and its color is more brilliant
than that of the Purpura. One of these Murex is sufficient to dye a square inch of cloth, which
would require five individuals of Purpura patula. Wool takes the dye better than any other
substance ; silk takes it with difficulty." 1

Liuton, in his work " On Ancient and Modern Colours," as quoted by Simmonds (" Commer-
cial Products of the Sea," p. 304), states that the Purpurce of the best description were chiefly found
on the rocks of Tyre, on the coast of Asia. They were also collected at Miniuge, on the Gra3tulau
shore in Africa, and on the coast of Laconia in Europe. The colors varied according to the
locality in which they were taken, and also according to the animal's haunt, as has since been
proved by zoologists. Thus, when it lived among sea-weeds or mud the juice it contained was
comparatively worthless ; when among pebbles its quality was improved ; and the dye was best
when the food and surroundings were varied. Researches carried still farther proved that to
produce the richest and most costly dye which art could exhibit, the liquid must be used in
conjunction with that procured from other shell-fish. Just what the species were that were used
it is now impossible to tell, but they were allied to Murex and Buccinum. Niter, urine, water, salt,
and certain sea-weeds were also mixed with the Purpura liquor in compounding certain tints. " In
the reign of Augustus," says Simmonds, " one pound of wool dyed with the Tyriau purple sold for
about 36 sterling [about $175]. We need not wonder at this enormous price when the tedious
nature of the process is considered, and the small quantity of dye obtained from each mollusk.
For fifty pounds of wool the ancients used no less than two hundred pounds of the liquor of the
Murex and one hundred pounds of that of the Purpura, being six pounds of liquor to one of wool ;
consequently the rich Tyrian purple fabrics vied in value even with gold."

The liquor was procured by placing the small shells in a mortar and crushing them. Animals
extracted from the larger shells were added, and also urine, pure water, or water in which purple
Snails had been allowed to putrefy. In this mixture the cloth was soaked and afterwards exposed
to the light, sometimes under the influence of warmth to accelerate the process.

It is said that the dyeing property is a transformation of uric acid into purpurate of ammonia,
called murexide. This is a splendid substance when pure, presenting in one direction beautiful
metallic green reflections, and in others brown and purple tints. Some chemists assert that it is

1 PHIMON : Utilization of Minute Life. London Oroombridge & Sons, 1864, p. 144.



SHELLS ISI.D FOH CAMEO CUTTING.

to this substance tliat the iridescent plumes of humming -birds pheasants, and peacocks owe their
wonderful brilliancy. Mnrcxide is now obtained not only from inollusks, but from yii.iiin. etc.

Dyes fro in inollusks liave IH-I-II obtained in all ages and almost all quarters of the world, and
not only our Purpura htpillun, but also another species which \ve share with (Jreat ISritain. the
Whelk (Iluwhuiiii H mint urn), have been the subject of successful experiment A of this sort. " If the
shell of I'lirpiini Injiinus is broken, there is seen ou the back of the animal, under the skin, a
slender, longitudinal, whitish vein, containing a yellowish liquor. When this juice Is applied to
linen, by means of a small brush, and exposed to the sun, it l>ecoraes green, blue, and purple, and
at last settles into a (hie unchangeable crimson." The housewives of New England therefore have
Crowing abundantly on their sea-side rocks little living bottles of indelible ink which cannot be
excelled by any manufactured product for either beauty or durability, siuce neither acid nor alkali
will affect its color.

On the Pacific coast occur shells of the genus Olivelln, so called because they resemble small
olives. There are three species, Olivella biplicata, 0. gracilin, and 0. (Jama. The first named of
these shells certainly, and possibly the other two, now and then were made into money by many
California!] tribes of Indians, which money circulated widely on the Pacific slope. The common
Indian name for this Olivella money was "colcol." It was made by grinding off the apex or spire
of the shells in such a way that they could be strung. They are still used by some tribes in the
form of double necklaces as ornaments, but are regarded as of small value. Sometimes the shell
was broken crosswise and ground into little disks which passed as coins. This money was very
ancient and widespread through aboriginal traffic in connection with other forms of shell-money to be
mentioned hereafter, and which the present writer has fully discussed in a paper on "Wampum"
contained in the American Naturalist, 1 to which the reader is referred.

Cameos are articles of ornament made by carving portions of various shells in such a way that
a raised figure of one color shall be relieved against a ground of another tint constituting the under
layer of the shell. These colors may vary white on an orange ground, or on dark claret ; pale
salmon-color on orange ; yellow on pink, etc. Anciently cameos were cut upon gems with immense
labor, but latterly this easier imitation in shell has almost entirely superseded the intaglios in
onyx, agate, and jasper. The cameo artists live mostly in London and Paris, and use several
species of large shells that combine a white crust with a nacreous understratum of a different tint.
Two only of these shells come from American waters, and these only touch our coast in tropical
Florida Caxsin mudayaftcarienniii and Strombits gigan the ' Helmet-shell" and the "Conch."

Of the Helmet-shell several sorts are used in cameo-cutting. Our American example (which
got its name, madagascarienni, through an error in regard to the locality of the type-specimen)
has a blackish inner coat, called an " onyx " ground, and shows up white on a dark claret color.
It is known to the trade as the Black Helmet, and is highly esteemed by cameo-cutters.

The Conch or Queeu Couch (Strombus giyas) is of less account in cameo-making, because it
affords a less quantity of surface suitable for the work a portion of its broad, rose-tinted lip.
Various other ornaments are often made from this and other large shells by turning and sawing
with special machinery, and thus a large demand is created, which is satisfied chiefly through
brokers in London and Liverpool. Just how many shells are sent to England annually it is
impossible to tell; but the amount reaches some tens of thousands. There is also a large
commerce in them both to Europe and to the United States to be used as ornaments alone, and to
be given away by grocers and tea-dealers to promote their custom. In the West Indies, and on

'American NatnralUt, xvii, May, 1883, pp. 467-479.



700 NATURAL HISTORY OF AQUATIC ANIMALS.

many plantations in the Gnlf States, the Conch is perforated at the apex of the spire, and forma
a horn, used to call workmen in from the fields and at dinner. From fragments of this great
uiollusk, also, the Indians of Florida and the Antilles made their most esteemed beads and
pendants. Cabeza de Vaca says that the columella of large Conchs were chiefly available for this
purpose. "These beads are more or less cylindrical or globular, and always drilled lengthwise.
Some are tapering at both ends, resembling a cigar in shape, and were two and one-half inches in
length. The aborigines also made . . . peculiar pin-shaped articles consisting of a more or
less massive stem which terminates in a round knob."

The Strombw enters, when ground, into the manufacture of porcelain ; is extensively burned
for lime; and is carefully calcined for medicinal purposes. There is also derived from it a
secondary product of great value the conch-pearl. When perfect, this pearl is described as either
round or egg-shaped and somewhat larger than a pea, of a beautiful rose color, and watered, that
is, presenting, when held to the light, the sheeny, wavy appearance of watered silk. It is
however, very rare to find a pearl which possesses all the requirements that constitute a perfect
gem, and such proves an exceedingly valuable prize. Although many of these pearls are annually
obtained by the fishermen in the Bahamas, not more than one in twenty proves to be a really
good gem. Pink is the most common and only desirable color, although white, yellow, and brown
pearls are occasionally found. Even among the pink ones there is usually some defect which mars
their beauty and materially injures them ; some are very irregular in shape and covered apparently
with knobs or protuberances; others are too small, while many lack the watering which gives
them their great value and chief beauty. Most of the conch-pearls have been sent to London,
and the demand for them is increasing; a few come to New York.

Lunatia heros is very conspicuous along our coast, from the Gulf of Saint Lawrence to Cape
Hatteras or beyond, wherever sandy shores and pure waters are to be found, and it is abundant
and of very large size on the outer beaches of the coast of New Jersey. "When in motion the
white soft parts are protruded from the shell to a remarkable extent and spread out broadly on
all sides, so as nearly to conceal the shell ; the foot is large, flat, and broadly expanded, with thin
edges, and by means of it the animal is able to burrow, like a mole, beneath the surface of the
sand." This Snail, like many others of its tribe, drills round holes through the sides of various
bivalve shells by means of the small flinty teeth on its ribbon-like tongue, which acts like a rasp,
and having thus made an opening it inserts its proboscis and sucks out the contents. All sorts of
burrowing bivalves in this way fall victims to this and its close ally, the Neverita duplicata. "Nor
do they confine themselves to bivalves, but will drill any unfortunate Gasteropods they may happen
to meet, not even sparing their own young." Their usual haunts are away from the oyster-beds,
however, so that, although they are a familiar sight in the dredge, the harm they do to this
industry is of small account.

Following this in the list come various small shells, such as those of the genera Littorina,



Online LibraryG. Brown (George Brown) GoodeThe fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) → online text (page 116 of 146)