Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 6.djvu/11

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THE

POPULAR SCIENCE

MONTHLY.



NOVEMBER, 1874.



THE NATURAL HISTORY OF THE OYSTER
By Rev. SAMUEL LOCKWOOD, Ph. D.
I.

AN illiterate fisherman once became wellnigh eloquent in his effort to describe to us the treasures which the waters offered freely to man. Nature is, indeed, lavishly opulent. Among the food-treasures of this bounteous harvest of the sea, the oyster ranks high in the general esteem. And deservedly so, for she is truly the queen of the bivalves. Let us try to tell the story of her life.

Oyster-planting.—For a creature of such lowly rank in the scale of animate being, it is wonderful what a literature attaches to the oyster. Through the roll of the ages it has been a factor of prime importance in the convivial instincts, the moralities, and the industries of men. It has honorable mention in classic song and story. When imperial Rome had her many million populace, and her almost fabulous wealth, the oyster figured prominently in the more than lavish luxury of that extravagant city. Do our oyster-growers know how ancient their calling is? About 2,400 years ago one Sergius Orata, a man of a practical mind, turned Lake Avernus into an oyster-bed; and through his culture of this bivalve the Lucrin oysters, as they were called, became in reputation the "Saddle-Rocks" of Rome. And what a splendid market he had! His practical genius carried the new industry of oyster-planting to great perfection; and such was his reputation in that line that the Romans had a saying that, should the oysters stop growing in Lucrin Lake, Sergius would make them grow on the tops of the houses. Avernus has at last succumbed to the mutations of time, and is to-day a miserable hole of volcanic mud. It now offers a good opportunity to test the great man's abilities; but Sergius Orata himself "dried up" some time ago.

Near Baiæ and Curiæ is the Neapolitan Lake Fusaro (Fig. 1). This was the classic Acheron. It is about three leagues round, and is hardly