Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 6.djvu/21

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11
THE NATURAL HISTORY OF THE OYSTER.

large, brush-like panicle. This contains the staminate or male flowers. Embedded in the green cob of the ear are the pistillate or female flowers. Their pistils make the tassel, which is called "the silk." Upon these falls the fertilizing pollen of the stamens from the raceme above. Without this contact there would be no kernels on the cob. In some plants this bisexuality occurs in the same flower. A notable instance is that of the prolific strawberry known as Wilson's Albany Seedling. A similar fact, certainly an analogous one, is true of the oyster. It is bisexual. It is not masculine alone, nor feminine alone, but both; and perhaps might be defined by that innovation in modern grammar, as of "the common gender." It is hermaphroditic.

The question of the parental relation of the young oyster on its paternal side is most certainly a very perplexing one; for, albeit no matrimonial dereliction was ever known among these Ostreæ, yet the fact remains that no oyster was ever begotten that knew its own father.

If, now, the reader will take a little pains to compare our description of the organism of the oyster with Fig. 7, he will see that, however lowly the oyster may be regarded, it has a compact and even a complex anatomical structure, manifestly a beautiful adaptation to the creature's necessities; and even exhibiting, in a very instructive manner, a wonderful likeness to our own organization. If this seems a startling position, let the reader follow the discussion, and see if it be not made good. If we take an oyster in the hand, it will be observed that, of the two valves or shells, one is much deeper and heavier than the other. This is the bottom or lower valve, because, when lying undisturbed on the bed of the water, it is the under side. The upper valve is often a mere thin plate of shell. It is observable, too, that generally the lower valve is, on the outside, quite convex, while the upper one is usually either flat or a little concave. Let it now be remembered that, anatomically, an oyster has also two sides, and that while living its normal position is to lie on its left side. The valve, then, represented by the cut, is the lower or deep valve, in popular speech, but in scientific phrase it is the left valve. The oyster itself is shown as representing what is popularly known as its upper side, the side seen when eaten on "the half-shell;" correctly speaking, it is the right side of the animal.

Let us now follow the index-words of the figure. We find a thin sheet of flesh lying on the shell. It is the left mantle, for there are two, one to cover the right side also, so that both together are continuous as one, and with it the animal inwraps itself.

The figure shows a portion of the right or upper lobe of the mantle. It is sometimes called the pallium, and really is the oyster's cloak, though it is always and only worn in the house. This is not true, however, of all the mollusca. The beautiful cowries, so high colored and bright, are exceptions. If you examine a common tiger