G. Brown (George Brown) Goode.

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

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to remove the Oysters which have affixed themselves along with the other things which it is the
intention to destroy. The removal of the smaller forms from the surfaces of the slate would be
more difficult, and attended with danger to the fry already attached. With this object in view,
I would suggest the use of wooden racks or frames lying horizontally, which would receive the
slates into deep notches made with a saw, so as to hold them vertically or edgewise, rendering
their removal, for the purposes of cleansing, and their replacement an easy matter. Other
devices would no doubt answer the same purpose and be more convenient even than the last.
If posts were securely fixed in the bottom eight or ten feet apart, so as to project a foot or so
above the water at the highest tide, a single board six inches wide, nailed against the tops of the
posts edgewise, and extending from one to the other, would provide a simple arrangement from
which to hang the slates singly by means of galvanized wire fastened or hooked to nails partly
driven into the board. By the help of this plan one man with a boat could overhaul inauy



'E. IXOKKSOLL, Report on Oyster Industry, Tenth Census.



I:\KMIKS m TIII: OYSTKKS.

humlrrils of slates in a single day, and ottertually ran- for them for a \vln>l- seu.-on. Tin- l.t
contrivance would not answer well perhaps whore there was a swift current, but would be a meet
admirable arrangement in still ponds or 'elaires.' In such places the whole area might be
I>K>\ ideil witli posts grouped or placed iu rows, so thut when the attendant was at work he could
p.i^ in order from one row to the other in a narrow boat, or two attendants in one boat could take
e.u e of two rows, the ones on either hand, at the same time.

Star-fishes are notorious for the havoc they are capable of making among Oysters. They
have the power apparently of everting their saccular stomachs and extracting the soft parts of
their prey from the shell. Whole beds have been seriously injured by the inroads of these
creatures. They do not seem to be dreaded much in the Chesapeake Bay, however, and appear
to annoy the oyster- planters of New England most seriously;

The oyster-catcher, and some other birds, steal not a few at low tide. Barnacles, annelids,
and masses of hydroid growth sometimes form about the shells and intercept the nutriment of the
poor mollusk, until he is nearly or quite starved; this is particularly true in Southern waters. At
Staten Island the planters are always apprehensive of trouble from the colonization of mussels on
tin ir oyster-beds. The mussels, having established themselves, grow rapidly, knit the Oysters
together by their tough threads, making culling very difficult, and take much of the food which
otherwise would help fatten the more valuable shell-fish. In the Delaware Bay the spawn of
squids, in the shape of clusters of egg-cases, appropriately called 'sea-grapes,' often grows on the
Oysters so thickly, during the inaction of summer, that when the fall winds come, or the beds ure
disturlxnl by a dredge, great quantities of Oysters rise to the surface, bnoyed up by the light
parasitic 'grapes,' and are floated away. This is a very curious danger. Lastly, certain crabs
are to be feared chiefly the Callinecte* ha#tatu, our common 'soft crab,' and the Cancer irrorattu.
Probably the latter is the more hurtful of the two. I have heard more complaint on this score at
the western end of the Great South Bay, Long Island, than anywhere else. Mr. Edward Udall
told me that the crab was the greatest of all enemies to Oysters on the Oak Island beds. They eat
the small Oysters up to the size of a quarter-dollar, chewing them all to bits. These are on the
the artificial beds, for they do not seem to trouble the natural growth. But tolled by broken
Oysters, when the planter is working, they come in crowds to that point. Mr. Udall stated that
once he put down five hundred bushels of seed brought from Brookhaven, and that it was utterly
destroyed by these crabs within a week and while he was still planting. He could see the crabs,
and they numbered one to every fifty Oysters. It is well known that in Europe the crabs are
very destructive to planted beds, and it is quite possible that many mysterious losses may be
charged to these rapacious and insidious robbers. By the way, Aldrovandus and other of the
naturalists of the Middle Ages entertained a singular notion relative to the crab and the Oyster.
They state that the crab, in order to obtain the animal of the Oyster, without danger to their
own claws, watch their opportunity when the shell is open to advance without noise and ca-t .1
pebble between their shells, to prevent their closiug, and then extract the animal in safety.
'What craft!' exclaims the credulous author, 'in animals that are destitute of reason and
voice.""

In a specimen of the common Ostrea rirginica, recently handed me for examination by my
friend. Mr. John Ford, the substance of the shell was thoroughly cavernated so as to render it
extremely brittle and readily crushed; in fact, the inner table of the shell left standing showed a
great number of elevations within, which indicated points where the intruding parasite had been
kept out by the Oyster, which had deposited new layers of calcareous matter at these places so

1 E. IxoraaoLL : Report on the Oyster Industry, Tenth Cenu.



750 NATURAL HISTORY JF AQUATIC ANIMALS.

as to give rise to the elevations simken of. Besides this, the inner table had become so weakened
at the insertion of the adductor muscles that the animal in closing had torn a part of it loose,
which had been repaired by the deposition of a brown, horny substance. Evidence of the presence
of the boring sponge may very frequently be noticed in shells of Oysters brought to the markets,
though it often appears as if the parasite had left its work incomplete, being killed on its host.
I find that Schmidt has also noted this, and that the boring operations of the sponge usually seem
to stop in the case of living mollusks at the nacreous layer.

Upon examining some Scotch Oysters, obtained for me for study by Professor Baird, I was
struck with the fact that every one was infested with this organism. The effect of the parasitism
was that all of the specimens had abnormally thick shells, dne evidently lo the effort made by
the Oyster to deposit more and more calcareous matter in order to exclude its persistent tormentor.
Internally the shell showed irregularities due to the intrusion of the sponge. It is highly probable
that in this case the growth of the Oysters had been impeded by the parasite, in consequence of
the effort made by the animals to exclude their enemy by increasing the thickness of their shells.
This same tendency to increase the thickness of the valves I have noticed in specimens of our
native Oyster, the shells of which were infested with this parasite. It is very remarkable that the
Oyster should make an effort to exclude its enemy by such a means ; and it is not less remarkable
to observe that the lime carbonate secreting function of the mantle is often stimulated to extra
exertion long before the parasite has actually intruded into the cavity of the shell.

Dr.'Leidy gives a lucid account of the living sponge as found in Ostrea rirginiana and Venux
merceiMria. He says: "This boring sponge forms an extensive system of galleries between the
outer and inner layers of the shells, protrudes through the perforations of the latter tubular
processes, from one to two lines long and one-half to three-fourths of a line wide. The tubes are
of two kinds, the most numerous being cylindrical and expanded at the orifice in a corolla form,
with their margin thin, translucent, entire, veined with more opaque lines, and with the throat
bristling with siliceous spicuhe. The second kind of tubes are comparatively lew, about as one is
to thirty of the other, and are shorter, wider, not expanded at the oriflce, and the throat unob-
structed with s|iicul;c. Some of the second variety of tubes are constituted of a confluent pair,
the throat of which bifurcates at bottom. Both kinds of the tubes are very slightly contractile,
and under irritation may gradually assume the appearance of superficial, wart like eminences
within the perforations of the shell occupied by the sponge. Water obtains access to the interior
of the latter through the more numerous tubes, and is expelled in quite active currents from the
wider tubes."

The boring process seems to be effected by the action of the living soft material of the sponge,
according to observations which have recently been made by a Russian naturalist, according to
whom it appears that the calcareous matter is dissolved away by the parasite, I am told by a
practical oysterman that a bed once planted with Oysters which are badly infested by the boring
sponge is apt to remain so for some time, and that the beds adjoining become infested, for the
reason that the embryo sponges, which are thrown off in large numbers from the infested "plants,"
swim about in the water, attach themselves to other Oysters, to begin their injurious growth and
excavations in sound shells.

220. NATUEAL AND ARTIFICIAL OYSTER-BANKS.

CHARACTERISTICS op NATURAL OYSTER-BANKS. I have examined a number of oyster-
banks, which were readily accessible in shallow water, with gratifying results as to the habits
of the animal under virtually undisturbed conditions. These banks, like those formed by the



POSITION'S OF THE SPAT. 751

European Oyster, always appear to be much longer than wide, but many of them are almost
entirely exposed to the air during low tide, a rare occurrence, according to Mohius. with the
hanks on the Selilesu ii; I lolstein coast of the North Sea. I learned from the owiiera of
.tome of these hanks that, althonirh a considerable proportion of the Oysters on them were
at times Iro/.en to death during the severe winters, the fecundity of those which remained was
Mich, eiuiiliiiied \\ith the naturally favorable conditions found on the banks for the growth
of old and young, as to restore the beds to their wonted productiveness in one or two seasons.
Whether this description of the fecundity of the beds found in shallow water is overdrawn
or not matters little, since there was the plainest evidence that we had here before our eyes
the lies) natural conditions for the propagation and feeding of the individuals. The beds are,
in a word, natural spat-collecting grounds; places where such conditions obtain as will allow a
large proportion of the swarming brood of the spawning season to affix itself securely and survive
in positions where, an abundance of food may be got. The tide ebbing and flowing over the beds
not only carries with it in suspension the microscopic food best adapted for the nourishment of the
Oysters, but also tends, owing to the peculiar arrangement of the shells on the banks, to keep tlio
surface of the latter clean, so as to be well adapted as favorable points of attachment for the young.

In all of the natural banks which I have had the pleasure of examining in the Chesapeake,
the individual Oysters assume an approximately vertical position. The assumption of this position
seems perfectly natural ; with the hinge end downwards and the free edges of the valves directed
upward the animals are in an excellent position to feed, while the outside vertical surfaces of the
valves are well adapted to afford places of attachment for the spat. The latter, however, appears
to attach itself in the greatest abundance to the old Oysters at the surface of the bank. The result
is that when one removes the Oysters from the bed they are found to adhere together in clusters,
generation alter generation being piled one on top of the other in succession. As many as four
generations may be made out in most cases ; the oldest being buried in the mud and sand below
and is often found to be smothered by those which have followed. Even below the last stratum
of living Oysters, if one keeps digging, it is discovered that the shells of numerous still more
remote ancestors of the living ones now occupying the bed are disposed vertically in the sand and
earth beneath. Attached to the upper edges of these dead shells follows, we will say, the first
living generation and so on to the fourth, composed mainly of young individuals or spat only a
few days or mouths old. Whether it is proper to regard the superimposed series of individuals as
generations may be questioned, but as no more expressive word (x:curs to me, I wish, to be under-
stood as using it here with qualifications.

POSITIONS OF THE SPAT. The spat does not fix itself in any constant position ; the young
may have the hinge of the shell directed downward, upward, or to the right or left hand.
Singularly enough the shells do not grow in the directions which the free edges of the valves
are made to assume in the young. Should the young happen to be fixed hinge downward
the free edges of the valves grow in length directly upward; in case the hinge is directed
either to the right or to the left, the layers of calcic carbonate will be deposited in
such a way upon one side as to cause the free edges of the valves to be eventually
directed upwards, causing the umbonal portion of the valves to describe an arc of 90.
In case the hinge is at first directed upward, the layers of carbonate of lime will be deposited
in such a way by the mantle as to bring the mouth of the shell upward. The attempt to >''
into a vertical position will, however, not always be successful in cases like the last; the arc of
180, which it is necessary for the animal to traverse from its starting point in order to build
its shell with the free edges opening upward, seem to be a feat a little too difficult of accom-
plishment, in spite of the wonderful persistence of effort manifested by the inhabitant.



752 NATURAL HISTORY OF AQUATIC ANIMALS.

The habit of growing in the erect position, where the banks are prolific and undisturbed,
causes the individuals to be very much crowded together, so that they do not have a chance to
expand and grow into their normal shape. From this cause, overcrowding, the shells of the
individual Oysters become very narrow and greatly elongated; the peculiar forms which result
arc known to oysterineu as "Raccoon Oysters," or "Cat's-tongues," the latter name being probably
derived from a suggestive resemblance to the tongue of a cat. Fossil Oysters appear to have had
the same habit. In some banks their crowded condition may be inferred from the fact that I
counted as many as forty Oysters in an area included by a quadrangle of wire including exactly
one square foot; thirty individuals to the square foot was a fair average on one bank
examined.

All of the observant writers upon the Oyster agree that it is essential that the bottom upon
which oyster-banks are to be permanent should not be liable to shift or be covered by mud or
sediment. The experience of the writer strongly enforces such a conclusion. The permanent
banks, owing to the great number of dead shells scattered through the bottom soil upon which
they have been established, acquire a peculiar solidity or fixedness which the currents of tide water
cannot sensibly affect. When these banks are once covered by the clusters of Oysters more or
less securely held together by the lower portions becoming imbedded in the soil below, and
mutually wedged and fitted together by the any msurfaces of contiguous clusters which have
become neatly adapted to each other by pressure, it is a very hard matter for the tides to smother
the bank unless sufficient soil in suspension is carried by the waters to completely cover the
animals.

ESTABLISHMENT OF ARTIFICIAL BEDS. The Inferences to be drawn from the foregoing
observations are very important. They naturally lead to the inquiry whether artificial Oyster-
beds cannot at least be established in shallow water, where the difficulties in altering the
character of the bottom so as to adapt it to the wants of the Oyster are not practically
insurmountable. I believe that the establishment of artificial beds, which, would in time become
similar in every respect to the natural ones, is possible in a moderately rapid tideway. The
localities, I apprehend, are abundant along the shores of the Chesapeake, and I certainly
know of few places where the existing natural conditions for such a project are any better
than those found in Saint Jerome's Creek. The bottom would, of course, have to undergo such
preparation as would insure to it solidity, and it might be well to imitate the flat, ridge like
character of. the natural banks in constructing artificial ones. The long axis of the beds should
probably lie transversely to the direction in which the tide ebbs and flows in and out of the
creeks, as appears to be the case with many banks examined. The next thing to do would be
to colonize these artificial banks with Oysters stuck thickly into the bottom, hinge downward,
imitating the position of the animals in the natural banks. The cost of such an experimental
bank would be comparatively insignificant.

Since the publication of the substance of the foregoing suggestion I have seen the idea
practically realized in the Cherrystone River, Virginia. A heap of Oyster-shells had been
scattered so as to form a low, solid elevation, which was submerged twice a day by the tide.
Upon this spat had caught and grown until the whole in two years was as completely and
solidly covered by living natural-growth Oysters as any good natural bank. The desirability
of using the jxwrly grown stock from natural and artificial banks as "seed" for planting
appears reasonable, and could no doubt be made profitable where banks of a sufficient extent
could be established, from which a supply of seed could be obtained.



SPAT COLLECTORS. 753



I have liceii informed by an old oystcrinan that pine bushes stuck securely into the
bottom so as to be submerged in shallow areas have been found very effectual a.s collectors.
In tact, lie told me that in one case \vliich had fallen under his observation an oyster-planter
\vlin fiillmved this plan had the satisfaction of seeing his submerged bushes load with spat,
much of which afterwards grew to marketable size. Afterwards a productive ridge or bank
was the result where the brush palisade had originally acted as a collector. Thick palisades
of brush might be stuck into the bottom near permanent oyster-banks with good results.
Doubtless it would be possible to establish banks by this method if, in addition, oyster-shells
or stones were strewn on the bottom along either side of the brush palisade, in order to afford
a foundation for the fixation of the first generations of oysters.

SPAT-COLLECTORS. Lieutenant Winslow, in 1879, used hurdles or nests of half-round tiles,
eight to sixteen in number; the results from one placed in the Big Annemessex were very flatter-
ing. After it had been immersed twenty-four days 1,506 Oysters had attached themselves. After
forty live days had elapsed 1,334 still remained, and after ninety-three days were past the number
still adherent was 539. I have had no such success, but in other parts of the bay, as at Tangier
Sound for instance, spat falls in great abundance. I have seen the inner face of one valve of a dead
Oyster furnish attachment for over forty spat from one-eighth to three eighths of an inch in
diameter. Sponges, pieces of wreck, old shoes, pebbles, iron ore, leather, the external surface of
the shell of MoJiolaria, branches of trees and logs which have fallen into the water act as collectors.
(hsters are sometimes found inside of bottles which have been thrown upon the bottom, the fry
having wandered through the neck and attached itself to the inner surface, growing to the size of
two inches in diameter and over. The spat is shaped much like the scallop or Pectcn, a form which
it often retains until it measures more than two inches in diameter. The primary requisite in
collectors is that they shall present clean surfaces while the spawning season is in progress.
Small inequalities are probably an advantage, as the very youngest spat is often found in chinks
and angles on the shells of the adults. No other organisms should be Allowed to grow and cover
up or smother the oyster spat. Barnacles, infusoria, moss animals, polyps, and many other
organisms are liable to accumulate on the surface of the collectors to the detriment of the young
Oysters which have established themselves. Many of these animals, polyps especially, eat the
young fry in the free-swimming stage, as shown by Dr. Horst.

The use of the methods employed abroad for collecting spat has not been tested in the United
States upon a scale large enough to enable us to arrive as yet at any very important conclusions.
Roofing slate coated with mortar promises good results; the valves of oyster shells strung upon
wire, pine cones, and brush have been used, but in unfavorable places, so as to vitiate to some
extent the results which were expected. A coating of cement will not answer; it gets too hard,
so that the spat when it is to be removed from the collectors cannot be loosened without injuring
its delicate, thin valves. The coating of lime and sand should be thick enough so as to make a
layer of at least an eighth of an inch over the surface of the collector. It should also be allowed
to thoroughly "set," as a stone mason would say, after it has been applied so as not to wash off
readily. A strong mortar should be mixed for the coating, composed of sharp sand and good
lime, in the proportions of about equal parts, and thin enough to dip the slates or tiles iuto the
mixture bodily. If the first coat is not found to be thick enough a second and third may be
applied. The tiles or slates after coating should be allowed to dry for two or three days so as to
allow the coating to " set " firmly.
48 F



754 NATURAL HISTORY OF AQUATIC ANIMALS.

Various ways of supporting the tiles and slates have been devised, cbeap forms of which are
described in the treatises of Coste and Fraiche. The primary requisite in putting down collectors
is that they shall be so placed as not to be covered by mnd, especially where the bottom is overlaid
with ooze. In such cases they must be supported so as to prevent their falling into the nind, the
effect of which would be to make them useless. In practice, I suspect, that it would be well to
look after the collectors occasionally and to brush off the mud, because in some places I have
noticed that thick deposits of sediment soon collect upon the upper surfaces. This accounts for
the fact that several observers have noticed that the spat is disposed to attach itself and survive
on the lower surface of the collectors.

I am informed by Mr. C. P. Hull that the practice of strewing oyster-shells as spat-collectors
on hard sea-bottom two or three fathoms deep is becoming quite common on .the Connecticut
shores of Long Island Sound. Here, the practice is to scatter two hundred and fifty to three
hundred bushels of shells over an acre of bottom. The method there has also been so successful
and profitable as a means of increasing the area of the oyster fishery that the price of the dead
shells has increased and is likely to continue to do so, since the demand is greater than the supply.
Mr. Hull, himself a practical oyster-culturist, proposes to introduce this system into praclice on
his projected plantations on the Chesapeake, where a beginning has already been made by this
method under the direction of Captain Hine, at Cherrystone, the superintendent of the firm of
Maltby & Co., of Norfolk, now largely interested as planters in the Cherrystone Eiver. This
method is the same as that extensively practiced in Europe.

How AN OYSTEE TAKES ON FLESH. Among oystermen the business of fattening or feeding
the Oyster is one of the most important, from the fact that upon the condition of the market.
able product Largely depends its value. Fatness, so called, in the Oyster is a condition wholly
different in nature from the state known under that name in stall-fed domestic animals. The
turgidity of the reproductive organs is not usually indicative of fatness, as it appears some authors
have supposed, Mobius being the only one who has apprehended its true nature. The word " fat,"
as applied to indicate the condition of the Oyster when in flesh, is a misnomer, since it is not fat
at all which is the immediate cause of the condition of plumpness which betokens a fitness for
market, but a very extensive deposit of protoplasmic matter which has been assimilated and laid



Online LibraryG. Brown (George Brown) GoodeThe fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) → online text (page 125 of 146)