Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 6.djvu/20

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

taken up. Many years ago we remember the then small village of Keyport suffering a loss in one season of $50,000. Even a severe storm continued unusually long has smothered the beds by agitation of the mud, for the oyster must keep its nib out of the bottom. But two seasons ago, in one of the branches of Shrewsbury River, a crop was almost entirely lost, the supposition being that it was poisoned by the washing from a new turnpike, in the construction of which a peculiar ferruginous earth had been used. Formerly the oyster throve as a native as high up the North River as Peekskill, and probably its limit was not below fifty miles from the mouth of the river. They are now, however, exceedingly scarce, even as high as Croton. The belief exists that the railroad has destroyed them by the washing from the necessary working of the road, which is constantly finding its way to the river-bed. So long ago as 1851, Colonel John P. Cruger, of Cruger's Landing, a very intelligent observer, called our attention to the fact of the mischief thus done.

And there are meteoric causes which affect the oyster. We have known an unusually severe winter to kill the bivalves in great numbers. And even the seed in its transport from Virginia has been destroyed—whole valuable cargoes—by foggy weather, and adverse winds. Moreover, as will be seen, the oyster has its deadly enemies in the animate ranks.

PSM V06 D020 An oyster dredge at work.jpg
Fig. 5.—An Oyster-Dredge at work.

The Physiology of the Oyster.— By persons engaged in the business, we have been asked, "Are there hes and shes among the oysters?" The answer of the naturalist would be, "There are not." Low down in the scale of life many animals on their sexual side are singularly suggestive of plants. Take, for example, that splendid grass, Zea mays—Indian-corn. On the top of this graceful plant is a