Imágenes de páginas

the buxom air, which proving no "fenced brazen wall," as it was deemed, admits him to pastures green, and instantaneously the whole flock, like a troop of voltigeurs, bolt boldly onwards, bound after bound, as if an earthquake's mouth did gape beneath them. Now, your "men wot writes" are just precisely animals of this description, barring (we fear and mourn) that their coats are far more threadbare, themselves more gaunt and grim, and their other habits rather those of fleecing than of being fleeced. They, too, for a time (and many times) compose confusedly huddled statement, of which one portion knocks the other down, and the spread of knowledge looks extremely thin, till some one, bolder or more desperate than the rest (or driven by fear or hunger), makes a sudden spring upwards into the world of imagination, where he (being a lad of genius) invents a round unvarnished tale of circumstantial truth,— "Of truth severe, in fairy fiction dress'd."


Away go the others through that glorious gap; and the fond admiring public, finding the stream of history so continuous, and concordant as Cruden on the point in question (whatever it may be), would just as soon" doubt that the stars are fire," as harbour the least misgiving as to what it sees in print. And so the matter is settled for a hun

dred years.

But a day of reckoning comes at last; for, sooner or later (let us again suppose it a question of salmon fry), some reasonable creature appears upon the river bank with his eyes open, and finds that if he chooses to use them he can see; so, turning neither to the right hand nor to the left, and studiously eschewing books, he looks down into the clear translucent water, and what does he see? That, we think, must depend entirely upon circumstances, and we all know that these are among the most variable things on the face of the earth. So it is impossible to say exactly what any man may see when he looks down into the water. It may be his own face-and such a face! But let that pass- -we mean nothing personal either to ourselves or others. Of this, however, we are well assured, that no man will ever more behold salmon smolts nine inches long, and only three weeks old, descending to the sea.

We believe we need not burden our precious pages by any additional references to the recorded opinions of what are called scientific observers. The preceding will surely suffice to show that these gentlemen have always regarded the parr as a distinct and well-defined species; and the reader may afterwards draw his own conclusions as to whether their views of salmon fry were founded on fact, or altogether imaginative and illusory.

We are ourselves one of the gravest individuals in existence; yet we confess it does somewhat tickle the remains of our risibility to see Sir William Jardine and Dr Knox, Mr Selby and Dr Fleming, Mr James Wilson (a brother of Professor Wilson's) and Dr Richardson, not exactly puzzling their brains about this vexed question-for the question seemed quite happy, and so, assuredly, were they, good easy men!-but resting satisfied in the supposed certainty that they understood its bearings in every possible point, and could "box the compass" on the subject to the clear conviction of each rational being in the three kingdoms, and the town of Berwick-upon-Tweed. But as it will be speedily shown to the world in general (and we hope admitted by themselves in particular), that these gentlemen knew nothing at all about the matter, we may be here allowed to pass from their opinions, and report the actual facts as proved by Mr Shaw. That these facts may not be regarded as the result of hasty or of superficial observation, we may mention that this ingenious person has resided almost during his entire life by the banks of salmon streams, and that his opportunities have thus been as ample as we know his efforts have been unremitting and laborious, to ascertain the genuine history of this noble and most valuable species.

Mr Shaw had long been of opinion, in opposition to the prevailing sentiments upon the subject, that the small fish commonly called parr was the young or natural produce of the salmon; and that all recorded attempts to trace the true history of the latter species, in its earlier states, were "fanciful in their nature, and delusive in their results." So far back as 11th July 1833, he captured a few of these small fishes, and placed them in a pond supplied by a wholesome streamlet. There they throve and prospered

till the month of April following, when they began to assume a somewhat different aspect, and in the earlier part of May they were converted into what are usually called salmon smolts or fry-that is, they became of a fine deep blue upon the back, the sides and under-portions of a delicate silvery aspect, with the scales very deciduous, or easily adhering to the hand. At this time, also, they exhi bited what may be called a migratory instinct, several of them insisting, very imprudently as we opine, to leap out of the pond, not simply into the air, for that would have been all well enough in its way, but on to the surrounding bank. The consequences are as easily imagined as described, they died.

In March 1835, he again took from the river about a dozen parrs of a larger size, that is, about six inches long. They at this time bore upon their sides the ordinary perpendicular bars or blotches, and all the other characteristics of the so-called parr. He transferred them to his pond, and by the end of April of the same year, they too assumed the characters of salmon fry; "the bars becoming overlaid by the new silvery scales which parrs of two years old invariably assume before departing towards the sea."


now entertained no doubt that the larger parrs observable in autumn, winter, and early spring, were in truth young salmon advancing to the conclusion of their second year; while the smaller spring and summer parr (called May parrs in certain parts of Scotland) were younger individuals of the same species, only entering upon their second year. This, then, our ingenious friend regarded (and we think truly) as the detection of the great leading error of preceding observers, who, as we have already sufficiently shown, had uniformly maintained that salmon fry grow to the length of six or eight inches in as many weeks, and that after the lapse of this brief period, they take their gregarious departure to the sea. Now, it is the rapidity with which the twoyear-old parr assumes the aspect of the acknowledged salmon fry that has led to this most erroneous conclusion; for hasty or superficial observers taking cognizance, first, of the hatching of the ova in early spring; and, secondly, of the seaward migration of smolts soon afterwards, have ima


gined these two facts to take place in immediate or speedy succession;" whereas they had nothing to do with each other, any more than an infant sent to nurse has to do with any "Adonis of a boy" who may be setting out to push his fortune in New Holland. We shall now state what Mr Shaw has ascertained to be the actual proceedings of these little fishes for weeks and months after they are hatched, and during which they dream not at all of the "injurious sea," in spite of what our naturalists have asserted to the contrary.

That the species in question should so seldom be apparent in the rivers in an earlier state than that in which it is known as the May or summer parr, might well be deemed a somewhat per plexing circumstance. But perplexities were the very spurs with which Mr Shaw was determined to "ride the water." He therefore made a minute examination of the streams where old salmon had spawned the preceding winter; and he there found in vast numbers a very small but extremely active fish, which he naturally concluded to be the young parr, or actual samlet of the season. To test the truth of this opinion, he scooped up a few dozen of them on the 15th of May 1834. They then measured not more than an inch in length, and the small transverse bars which mark the parr were already clearly distinguishable. He placed them in his ponds, where they throve well; and by the ensuing May (1835), when they had been a year in his possession, they were found, on examination, to mea sure on an average about three and a-half inches. At this period they en tirely corresponded to the small parr to be seen in the natural streams of the river; and neither the free nor the captive brood of these dimensions exhibited any tendency to assume the silvery aspect of the smolt. Mr Shaw, however, felt satisfied, from the result of his former tentative experiments on the parr, that they would ultimately assume that silvery aspect; so he allowed them just to "bide their time;" and, accordingly, in May 1836, they were transmuted into smolts or salmon fry. They then measured six and a-half inches in length, their colour on the dorsal re gion being of a fine deep blue, the sides and abdomen silvery white, the dorsal, caudal, and especially the pec

toral fins, tipped or tinged with black. The smolts of the river were at this time descending seawards-no difference could be discovered between them and their brethren in captivity-the latter were known to have completed their second year; and so Mr Shaw very naturally asks," Is it likely that those in the river, which so identically resembled them, were only a few weeks old?" We answer, in the face of all the naturalists in the known world, not only is it unlikely, but utterly impossible.

The small but active fish now alluded to (call it parr, pink, fingerling, or what you please), is nowhere to be met with for the first few months of its existence, except in those streams, or their near vicinity, in which undoubted salmon had deposited their spawn during the preceding winter. They may be seen in such streams by a careful observer early in April, but so young and weak, in consequence of their recent emergence from the spawning bed, as to be unable to struggle with the current. 66 They therefore," says Mr Shaw, alluding to a particular instance, "hetook themselves to the gentler eddies, and frequently into the small hollows produced in the shingle by the hoofs of horses which had passed the ford." They remain in these quiet places during the spring and earlier part of summer; but as they gain an increase of size and strength, they begin to scatter themselves all over the shallower parts of the river, especially wherever the bottom is composed of fine gravel. From their small size, however, they continue comparatively unobserved throughout the whole of the first summer, during which they are seldom taken by the angler. But no sooner do the two-year-olds disappear (as smolts in spring), than these small fishes, now entering upon their second year, become bolder and more apparent, and then constitute, and continue for nearly another year to constitute, the parr of anglers, and of all other observers, whether wet or dry. But their shy and shingle-seeking habits during the earlier months of their existence so greatly screen them from observation, as to have led to the erroneous belief already dwelt upon, that the silvery smolts were the actual produce of the very season in which these are first observable, and were only a few weeks old-the fact

being, that prior to their seaward emigration, they have dwelt rejoicingly for a couple of years in "rivers of water." We certainly now agree with Mr Shaw, in regarding it as singular (and are willing to bear our share of blame in that fatuity), that anglers should not have troubled themselves to enquire what became of the older generation of parrs-that is, of the comparatively large individuals which may be captured late in autumn and in earliest spring, but none of which can be detected after the departure of the so-called smolts. "If the two are not identical, how does it happen that the one so constantly disappears simultaneously with the other? Yet no one alleges that he has ever seen parr, as such, per forming their migration towards the sea. They cannot do so, because they have been previously converted into smolts."

As in the course of former correspondence with Mr Shaw, both ourselves and others threw every legitimate obstacle in his way, so far as argument and explanation of the old theory of the distinction of parr and salmon fry were concerned, he repeated his experiments in a variety of modes, and both literally and metaphorically left no stone unturned (many a Scottish stream, as we know to our cost, is stony enough) to ascertain the truth. Having already traced the progress of the parr, from an inch in length, through its several stages up to the period of migration, he was himself satisfied as to the identity of that fish with the smolt. But as it was still maintained by his opponents (and, we believe with few exceptions, in the most friendly spirit of the love of truth, which may certainly be felt and acted on even by men clinging fondly to the forlorn hope that a parr is not a salmon), that there might be some error in his procedure, he entered upon a new 'series of experiments, of a somewhat different but even more decisive nature.

On the 10th of January 1836, he observed a female salmon of about sixteen pounds weight, in company with two males of about twenty-five pounds weight, engaged in the process of spawning. The two males kept up an incessant conflict during the entire day, for what Mr Shaw calls "the possession of the female." These gentry seem, indeed, to be of a

more amorous nature than is usually supposed of such cold-blooded creatures; and, in the course of their manoeuvrings, the males frequently drove each other almost ashore, and repeatedly showed themselves on the very surface of the water, displaying their dorsal fins, and lashing the water with their tails, from something of the same victorious sensation, we presume, as that which influences a game cock to strut, crow, and clap his wings, so soon as he has performed his morn ing exercises. Our observer secured in proper time a quantity of the spawn, which he placed among gravel in a small stream of pure water. On the 26th of February, or forty-eight days after being deposited, he could perceive some appearance of animation, in a minute streak of blood, which traversed for a short distance the in. terior of the egg, and originating near two small dark-coloured spots, which turned out eventually to be the eyes of the embryo fish. On the 8th of April, or ninety days after being imbedded in the gravel, he found the fry extricated from the egg, which was not the case about a couple of days preceding. At this period, and for a considerable time afterwards, their most marked and peculiar feature consisted of a conical baglike appendage, of a beautiful transparent red, and greatly resembling a light-coloured currant, which adhered by its base to the abdomen. This, in fact, is the yolk, or vitelline portion of the egg, which continues to adhere to the young fish, and affords probably its sole nourishment for several weeks after it has escaped from the capsule. They still continued for a considerable period beneath the gravel, and we may here observe that both the time of hatching, and the disappearance of the bag, seem to depend, in a considerable degree, on the temperature of particular years, each process being more speedily effected in a mild than during an inclement season. In the instance in question, a period of 140 days was required to perfect the form and features of these little fishes, which even then measured little more than an inch in length, and corresponded in all respects with the small parr on which Mr Shaw had formerly experimented, as well as with such as existed at that moment in great numbers in the natural beds of the river. He has repeated these experiments over and over again with the same result; and, not satisfied with

lifting the spawn from the stream (some harmless people having still continued to assert that he might pos sibly have mistaken other ova for those of salmon), he lifted the salmon themselves, and forcing them to spawn (in the manner detailed in the communications already named), he watched the vivification and final development of the young, and found in all cases an entire agreement in every essential particular.

Thus, on the 27th of January 1837, a quantity of spawn was impregnated and deposited in a small stream which had been made to flow into one of his carefully constructed ponds. The temperature of the water in the streamlet was 40°, that of the river water 36o. On the 21st of March (fifty-four days after impregnation), the embryo fish were visible to the naked eye. On the 7th May (101 days after impregna. tion), they had burst the capsule, and were to be found among the shingle of the stream. The temperature of the water was now 439-that of the atmosphere 45°. It is this brood which Mr Shaw has studied up to the present time, that is, which he has watched continuously for more than the entire period requisite to elapse after their exclusion from the egg until their assumption of those characters which distinguish the undoubted salmon fry; and it may, therefore, be advisable to present our readers with a few brief descriptive notes regarding them.

Specimens taken up for examination, when ten days old (16th May), had still a considerable portion of the vitelline bag attached to the abdomen. Specimens removed when forty-eight days old (24th June), had no perceptible bag, but the general symmetry of the form was as yet imperfectly developed. After the lapse, however, of a couple of months (7th July), that form was found to be materially improved, and "to exhibit, in miniature, much of the form and proportions of a mature fish. At the age of four months (7th September), the characteristic marks of the parr were clearly developed. Two months later, six months old (7th November), an accession both of size and strength was ap; parent; and, on comparing the pond specimens with the parr of the river, no marked difference was perceptible." The average length at this time was three inches.

During the ensuing winter months,


it appears from Mr Shaw's observations, that owing to the lowness of the temperature, and the consequent deficiency of insect food, no accession as to size or condition is gained by these juvenile inhabitants of our rivers. Thus a specimen of nine months old, taken in the middle of February 1838, exhibited scarcely any perceptible difference from that last alluded to. But an individual taken when it was a year old (10th May), seemed much improved in condition, and measured about 3 inches. It corresponded in age and dimensions with those individuals which exist in the river, and are there known as "May parr." After the seaward migration of the smolts, or two-year-olds (which takes -place early in May), there are no other 1 parr in the river-saving, of course, the newly hatched young concealed among the shingle-except such as correspond with the specimen in question, which is the pink of the river Hodder, alluded to by Mr Yarrell.* As the summer season advances they increase in size and apparent numbers, and are then the parr, commonly so called, of anglers, which afford a deal of light amusement with the rod to the curious in small fishes, until the "dread realities" of winter put an end to wading, and the wicked cease from troubling these defenceless tribes.

A specimen, eighteen months old (taken from the pond on 14th November 1838), measured six inches in length, and had then attained to the condition in which all the ordinary external characters of the parr were strikingly exhibited. In point of health (and, we hope, of happiness) it was not exceeded by any of the corresponding inhabitants of the natural streams of the river. The reader will particularly bear in mind that the individual specimens now alluded to, which we know to have been examined by our best practical naturalists, and to have been by them admitted to be parr, usually so called, were yet, from the process employed by Mr Shaw, necessarily and unavoidably the young of salmon. They could no more be the young of another species, than the egg of a hen cooped up by any old

woman in a crib upon an empty nest, and which, when called by the cackling of the said hen, she might pick up in a state of "calorific influence," could be the egg of a condor or a lammer geyer.

All the males at the age of eighteen months, in Mr Shaw's possession in the autumn of 1838, then manifested the conditions of a breeding state, by havThe females, ing matured the milt. however, of the same brood, although otherwise in equal health and condition, did not exhibit a corresponding appearance in respect to the maturing of the roe. These two circumstances were previously well known to naturalists; but it was left to Mr Shaw's sagacious ingenuity, to make the former fact bear upon the point at issue. We shall, in the mean time, however, proceed with our brief history of the brood of the spring of the year 1837. We may observe that the two sexes of parr, of the same age, in the river, manifested the corresponding character of each sex, to wit,-of maturity in the male-of immaturity in the female,-an important fact in evidence that all these individuals were in truth specifically the same.

A specimen twenty months old, taken from the pond on the 5th of January 1839, also measured only six inches in length, and still continued to display the characteristic aspect and attributes of the parr; but now—

"A change comes o'er the spirit of our dream."

About the middle of April, the caudal, pectoral, and dorsal fins, began to assume a dusky margin, while at the same time the body of the fish exhibited unequivocal symptoms of a silvery aspect," as well as an increased ele-* gance of form." Specimens two years old, were taken from the pond on the 20th of May, and had then assumed the migratory dress. Their companions in captivity, it was quite apparent, had also undergone the same decided change, and it is worthy of observation that a marked alteration in their habits also occurs at this period.

While in the parr state," says Mr Shaw, “they show no disposition to congregate, but each individual occu

*"Pinks in the river Hodder," says Mr Yarrell, "in the month of April, are rather more than three inches long, and are considered to be the fry of that year."-Supplement to British Fishes, p. 6. These "pinks," Mr Shaw has proved, are a year old by the time alluded to, while the "fry of that year are then, in fact, only quitting the gravel for the first time,

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »