« AnteriorContinuar »
totle, neither of whom, so far as we know, was particularly conversant with the subject; but we may mention that in the year 1686, a gentleman of the name of Ray, one John Ray, among the earliest, and in truth the greatest of the naturalists this country has as yet produced, published, in conjunction with his friend Willughby, a work on fishes.*
In the joint production just alluded to, there is first a description of the salmon, and then of a small but distinct species resembling the river trout, and which these authors properly regard as identical with the branlin of the north of England; in other words, the parr. The paragraph is headed (we regret being obliged, while engaged with a popular and important subject, to refer to one of the unknown tongues,)-Salmulus, Herefordiæ Samlet dictus, Branlino D. Johnson inferius descripto, ut nobis videtur, idem. "Quem
demissi longitudine erat septunciali; sescunciali latitudine: et raro capiuntur majores," &c. "Hujus generis," he adds, " omnes (quod mirum) mares esse aiunt. Trutta persimilis est, ab ea tamen specie differre videtur." We have next an enumeration of Pisces fluviatiles et anadromi è genere truttaceo in Septentrionalibus Angliæ observati à D. Johnson; in the course of which the branlin, above referred to, is described in more detail, and some very remarkable peculiarities in its sexual habits are particularized, as follows:
"Branlins, nonnullis fingerins, i. e. digitales, dicti, quia notas seu areolas transversas nigricantes quinque aut sex, veluti tot digitorum vestigia impressa, in lateribus obtinent, cum macula rubra in unaquaque areola. Caudæ sunt forcipatæ, salmonum ritu; quodque mirum est, omnes mares. Cum salmonibus, procreandi causa, misceri eos mihi persuasum est. (He is a perfect Shaw!) Quum primum enim salmo ovorum editorum congeriem seu acervum malis dicere, relinquit, branlinus (oh, fie!) mox ei incumbit, ovaque (ut verisimile est) spermate suo irrigat et fœcundat; nec alibi unquam inveniuntur branlini quam iis in locis quæ salmones frequentant. Quod ad mare descendant non ausim affirmare,
*De Historia Piscium. Oxon: 1686. +" Salmo Omnium Autorum,” p. 189. § Ibid. p. 193.
siquidem quovis anni tempore apud nos inveniuntur. Fluentis rapidissimis acerrimisque versantur, in quibus nullum Cum aliud genus piscis durare potest. adoleverint sex circitur digitos longitudine æquant."§
The considerate reader will please to bear in mind a few of the above expressions, that he may afterwards mark the curious coincidence of Mr Shaw's observations regarding the spawning of the male parr,-the precedence of Messrs Willughby and Ray in no way diminishing the merits of that sagacious person, who, amid many more important avocations, can scarcely be supposed to have ever taken cognizance of a now obscure Latin folio, published above a century and a half ago.
We proceed to pick out a few more opinions regarding the extremely rapid growth of salmon smolts, and their supposed distinctive nature from the
Dr Arthur Young informs us, when describing the salmon-spawning in certain rivers which run into the Ban, that "young salmon are called grawls, and grow at a rate which I should suppose scarce any fish commonly known equals; for within the year some of them will come to sixteen and eighteen pounds, but in general ten or twelve pounds. Such as escape the first year's fishing are salmon, and at two years old will generally weigh twenty to twenty-five pounds." ||
"About the latter end of March," ob. serves Mr Pennant, "the spawn begins to exclude the young, which gradually increase to the length of four or five inches, and are then called smolts or smoults. About the beginning of May the river is full of them-it seems to be all alive-and there is no having an idea of their numbers without seeing them; but a seasonable flood then hurries them all to the sea, scarce any or very few of them being left in the river."¶
It is indeed true, as expressed by an ancient couplet, that
"Floods in May
but nothing is less authentic than the entire history of the early life and ad
Ibid. p. 192.
British Zoology, Vol. III. He alludes specially to the river Tweed. most of his information from a Mr Potts of Berwick.
ventures of salmon fry, as given by Pennant, although it accords with, and indeed may be taken as a fair sample of the stuff with which most zoological books are crammed.
"About the middle of June," he continues, "the earliest of the fry begin to drop, as it were, again into the river from the
sea, at that time about twelve, fourteen, or sixteen inches in length; and, by a gradual progress, increase in number and size till about the end of July, which is at Berwick termed the grilse time (the name given to the fish at that age). At the end of July, or the beginning of August, they lessen in numbers, but increase in sizesome being six, seven, eight, or nine pounds weight. This appears to be a surprising growth; yet we have received from a gentleman at Warrington an instance still more so. A salmon weighing seven pounds three quarters, taken on the seventh of February, being marked with scissars on the back, fin, and tail, and turned into the river, was again taken on the seventeenth of the following March, and then found to weigh seventeen pounds and ahalf."
An increase of ten pounds in less than six weeks! Pretty well, Mr Snip. We regret being unable to believe this fact, although we doubt not that both Mr Pennant and "the gentleman at Warrington" (Reader, he was a tailor) believed it firmly.
none of which we need therefore here detail. We shall merely add, that Pennant's views are adopted by Dr Shaw, who describes Salmo salmulus as a distinct species, adding that "it is very frequent in the rivers of Scotland, where it is called the parr.'
Let us pass over a few years, and from respectfully approach those whom we might have looked for better things.
Baron Cuvier enumerates the parr (or samlet of Pennant) among the other Salmonidæ. "Il y a aussi dans nos rivières une petite truite, le samlet des Anglais-le saumoneau du Rhin (Penn. Zool. Brit. III., Pl. 59, 1), que plusieurs croient distincte; le verdâtre du dos forme, avec le blanc du ventre, des zigzags dans aucun desquels est une tache rouge. C'est un petit poisson délicieux."t
Dr Fleming, in his British Animals, allows the name of parr to dwell in dark oblivion; but the following are his views regarding the growth and migration of salmon fry." The roe becomes perfect, and the young fry, samlets, or smolts (smouts), make their appearance in March or April. When the samlets leave the gravel, where the spawn from which they issued had been deposited, they begin to move downwards to the sea. their progress through the river, and until they reach that point where the frith begins (or where the tide is always either ebbing or flowing), they crowd together, and descend in the easy water at the margin."‡
The parr is described by Mr Pennant as a distinct species, under the name of samlet. He denies that it is the young of the salmon for the following reasons:-1st, It is well known (he supposes), that salmon fry never Ďr Knox, in an ingenious paper continue in fresh water the whole read to the Royal Society of Edinyear, but vanish on the occurrence of burgh in January 1833, has favoured the first vernal floods, which sweep us with his views of salmon smolts, and them all into the sea. 2d, The growth he opens that section of his subject of salmon fry is so sudden as soon to with the following proem. "Many exceed the size of the largest samlet. excellent observers have described, Mr P. then mentions as an "example," with more or less accuracy, the gener(of what?-his own statements on the ation of the salmon, the growth and subject?) that the fry which have progress of the smolt, and the descent quitted the fresh water in spring not of the kelt or spawned fish to the larger than gudgeons, return to it ocean; but I know of no continued again" a foot or more in length," and series of observations on the subject, he then adds other reasons in support published by any one, of an authentic of his opinion, all of which we now nature, and so as to admit of no doubt. know to be entirely erroneous, and To remove this chasm, and to give to
General Zoology, Vol. V. p. 57. (1804.)
† Règne Animal, Tom. II. p. 305. (1817.) The same sentiments are repeated verbatim, in the second edition of 1829.
Edinburgh Philosophical Journal, Vol. X. p. 376. (1824.).
the naturalist a nucleus whereon to build future observation, I have thought it right to detail at considerable length the following history of the salmon smolt, from its first deposition under the gravel in the form of an egg, to its ultimate disappearance from the fresh-water streams, which formed its habitat whilst infantile; remarking, that every thing stated therein fell under my own immediate personal observation. I have thought it preferable thus to narrate at some length, and almost in the order of their occurrence, a series of observations on the generation of the ova, to any other mode of describing the natural history of the salmon-smolt or fry.' "*
The ova commemorated by Dr Knox were observed to be deposited near the sources of a stream, on the 2d day of November, and were "covered up with gravel in the usual way." There are now said to be two methods in which this latter parental duty may be performed; and as the ordinary way (or rather the way ordinarily described) is alleged by some very patient and experienced observers not to be the way at all followed by any salmon whatsoever, it would have been interesting if Dr Knox had informed us circumstantially ofthe performance of this instinctive habit in the instance alluded to, which we doubt not occurred under his "own immediate personal observation." However that may be, the ova in question were found to be changing by the 23d of March; that is, the outer shell was cast, and the fry were observed lying imbedded in the gravel, as fishes, somewhat less than an inch in length, being twenty weeks from the period of their deposition. On re-opening the spawning-bed on the 1st of April, most of the fry were found to have quitted it by ascending through the gravel, and on " April 19, many were taken eight, and even nine inches long, in excellent condition." On the 5th of May, they still abounded in the tributary streams, but were less numerous than before; they had not increased in size, owing to their being, as the Doctor supposes, "in all probability, fry of a later deposit. The extreme of their growth seemed to be about nine inches, at least none
were taken larger than this." "On the 20th of April," it is afterwards added, "these rivers were fished with fly, and were found full of salmon smolts, varying from six to nine inches, -such being the rapidity of their growth from the 1st to the 20th April, or in about three weeks. They were in the finest possible condition, covered with small silvery scales, differing in shape (I mean the scales), from those of the trout or parr." "They are of very rapid growth," the doctor again observes, "many attaining the length of nine inches in twenty-seven days, supposing that I am correct in the exact period of their appearing above the gravel; but during the first seven days, whilst living on the yolk, they grow very little; thus, in twenty days, they apparently grow from one inch to nine inches in length." The doctor, of course, means that he himself sup poses they actually do so.
From the preceding brief quotations,
will be perceived that Dr Knox entirely coincides with the hitherto prevailing opinion regarding the rapid growth of salmon smolts, and their speedy descent towards the sea. We shall merely mention, in regard to the cognate and now inseparable branch of our subject, namely, the parr ques tion, that although our learned anatomist does not discuss it, we fear that there too he partakes of the fallible nature of humanity; for in his introductory observations, he enumerates the parr as among the distinct species, and adds, that "though in some measure unimportant in itself, by reason of its want of bulk, it has nevertheless received from us (meaning himself, Dr Knox) a degree of attention almost equal to that bestowed on the salmon, and which seemed in some measure necessary by its supposed connexion with the natural history of the salmon."§
In the supplementary portion of the voluminous English edition of Baron Cuvier's work, no mention is made of parr; but the following observations are appended as applying to salmon fry.
"The young salmons grow rapidly, and very soon come to the length of four or five inches. When they have attained
* Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Vol. XII. Part II. p.
+ Ibid. p. 480.
Ibid. p. 481.
§ Ibid. p. 466.
nearly to a foot in length, they have suf ficient strength to abandon the upper parts of the rivers, and to gain the sea, which they quit again, when they are eighteen inches long, towards the commencement of summer, and later than the old individuals of their species. At two years of age they weigh six or eight pounds, and at five or six years old they only weigh ten or twelve. From these data we may easily judge of the advanced age of those which are fished in Scotland and in Sweden of six feet long, and not weighing less than eighty or one hundred pounds."
We have lived for a tremendous time in Scotland, and for a short time in Sweden, but we solemnly aver that we never met in either country with a salmon as long as ourselves; and yet we measure only six feet upon our stocking soles. We no doubt (thanks to a pretty regular supply of Peebles ale) weigh somewhat more than a hundred pounds; but it does not follow from that fact, or indeed from any other known to naturalists, that salmon fished by man of woman born, ever now-a-days weigh and measure to the extent and ponderosity above mentioned. In truth, such a thing would never answer in the north country. Our Highland fishermen, though intelligent in mind and nimble in body, are rather a diminutive race -a small people, though a strong and a salmon six feet in length would not only frighten them out of their propriety, but would actually deprive them of their property, by carrying themselves, their net, and coble, at one fell swoop" into the "injurious sea."
A very ingenious young gentleman of Neufchatel, M. Agassiz, maintains an opinion regarding the parr, different from, though equally erroneous with, those we have now narrated. He believes the parr to be neither more nor less than one of the many conditions of the common river trout, salmo fario (Linn.†). We regret that so respectable a person should harbour such a thought of our beloved fish; but we can't help it. We doubt not he will speedily see the error of We will be glad to go
with him to Drumlanrig, on the close of the ensuing meeting of the British Association at Glasgow.
Sir William Jardine, an excellent practical observer, and certainly a good authority on any point like that in question, states, in reference to the parr, that the chief uncertainty "has latterly resolved itself into whether the parr was distinct, or a variety or young of the common trout, S. fario; with the migratory salmon it has no connexion whatever. Among the British salmonidæ, there is no fish whose habits are so regular, or the colours and markings so constant." After describing the distinctive marks of the parr, Sir William continues:-" In this state, therefore, I have no hesitation in considering the parr not only distinct, but one of the best and most constantly marked species we have, and that it ought to remain in our systems as the Salmo salmulus of Ray."
The Rev. Leonard Jenyns, an accomplished naturalist and careful compiler, after giving the supposed distinctive characters of the parr, and stating the different views which had prevailed regarding it, observes:
It is, however, now pretty well ascertained to be a distinct species, always remaining of a small size. Is called in some places a parr, in others a skirling or brandling."§
Dr Richardson, in his ichthyological volume, does not express any very explicit opinion regarding the parr; but he reports in a commendatory spirit, and therefore, we presume, approves of Dr Knox's account of the rapid growth of smolts, and he names the name of parr evidently as a separate species, and refers in a note to Sir William Jardine's supposed distinctive characters of that same.
That the parr is not the young of the salmon, Mr Yarrell considers to be sufficiently obvious from the circumstance, that parrs by hundreds may be taken in the rivers all the summer, long after the fry of the year, of the larger migratory species, have gone down to the sea; and the greater part of those parrs taken even in au
* Griffith's Animal Kingdom, Vol. X. p. 473. (1834.)
+ Fourth Report of the British Association for the Promotion of Science, p. 622. (1835.)
Edinburgh New Phil. Jour. for January 1835.
§ Manual of British Vertebrate Animals, p. 427. (1835.) Fauna Boreali-Americana, Part III. p. 145. (1836.)
tumn do not exceed five inches in length, when no example of the young salmon can be found under sixteen or eighteen inches, and the young of the bull-trout and salmon-trout are large in proportion." "By the kindness of various friends, I have received parrs from several rivers on the east, south, and west shores; and from close comparative examination of specimens from distant localities, and these with the young of others of the Salmonidæ, I believe the parr to be a distinct fish.' In his supplement Mr Yarrell in some measure modifies his opinion regarding the rapid growth of salmon fry, but in relation to Mr Shaw's earlier experiments, he still continues to maintain that there is not conclusive evidence of the non-existence of a distinct small fish, to which the name of parr ought to be exclusively applied.†
The author of a recent treatise on "Ichthyology" also argues and illustrates the subject of the parr, upon the ground of its being a distinct species.
"Although the history of the parr," he observes," is still in truth obscure, we certainly deem ourselves authorized to state, that it is not the young of the salmon. It may be found in rivers throughout the year, and is more especially abundant during those midsummer months, in which the acknowledged young of the salmon is unknown except as a fish returning from the sea. The most characteristic and irrepressible instinct of the latter seems to consist in its descent to the sea a few weeks after exclusion from the egg; and if our summer parr is also the young of the salmon, the fact presents a very rare and remarkable example of different individuals of the same species varying in their instinctive habits. The occurrence of parr in rivers so long after midsummer, and the entire disappearance of smolts (as the young salmon are sometimes called) anterior to that period, is a main argument in favour of their being distinct; and we cannot get over the difficulty by simply asserting, that such as go down to the sea early are parr, and that such as go down late are parr also. It is admitted that the ova of salmon are hatched in spring, and that the growth of the young (by whatever name we choose to call it) is extremely rapid. Now, as nobody ever finds a parr above a few inches long (six inches is a
large one), and as, by the end of summer, they must be several months old, how can we (in the belief of their being young salmon) reconcile their imputed age with their actual dimensions? Still more difficult will it be to explain, in connexion with that belief, how the brood which has descended seawards in the spring, should, after the lapse of the same period, be found in their native rivers, weighing many pounds."
Now this may be all very logically reasoned in its way, but unfortunately the premises are erroneous; for as smolts do not go down to the sea the same season they are hatched, they cannot return from it in the course of the immediate summer, "weighing many pounds;" ergo, the arguments adduced are of no avail.
Dr Parnell, in like manner, regards the parr and salmon smolt as quite distinct. He gives what he regards as their differential characters, and concludes by observing, that "there is still great doubt as to the parr being a migratory species, since no instance has been recorded of its capture in the sea; nor does it appear to me to be so common a fish as is generally considered.
Its habits require further investigation."§ The investigation here delicately hinted at, has now taken place, and has, we think, been attended by a triumphant though un looked-for result. We need not, then, detain our readers by prolonging our historical exposition, which, in truth, we have brought up to the present period; but shall now, after a single slight digression, proceed to Drumlanrig to visit Mr Shaw.
Writers on this and innumerable other subjects, may in truth be likened to a flock of sheep about to enter park or pasture ground. The way is by no means narrow, and there is much hallooing with stentorian lungs, while the arms of brawny butchers wave like windmills, and shepherds' dogs utter their short, uneasy bark, with burning breath, fierce eyes, and fiery tongue; but not a fleece of all that woolly mass will move an inch. Then all at once, for no apparent reason, at least for none which did not exist before-one of their number springs at least a couple of yards into
* British Fishes, II., pp. 43, 47. (1836.)
Supplement, p. 4. (1839.) Encyclopædia Britannica, (Seventh Edition,) Vol. XII. p. 208. (1836.) Fishes of the Frith of Forth, p. 143. (1838.)