Cornhill Magazine,  4 (1861), 42–49.

The Salmon and its Growth

[James G Bertram]




Natural History, Naturalists, Expertise, Controversy, Animal Development, Amateurism, Extinction, Animal Husbandry, Breeding, Commerce

    Begins by noting that there is 'something almost akin to romance in the history of the salmon' (42), and suggests that many interesting aspects of the salmon's history can be observed 'rod in hand, on a breezy spring day, while trying to coax "the monarch of the brook" from his sheltering pool' (44). Such an observer may even witness things that have so far been missed by 'naturalists [...] and some of our savans' (45). Indeed, while 'Dr. Knox, the anatomist, asserted that the parr was a hybrid belonging to no particular species of fish', the 'Etterick Shepherd always believed the parr to be the young of the salmon', and he was subsequently proved correct, although 'the question was determined in a rather more formal mode than that adopted by the poet' (43). Also comments on the numerous predators that prey upon the salmon, which mean that 'only one egg out of every thousand ever becomes a full-grown salmon' (45). When one takes 'into account the enormous waste of life indicated by these figures', it is only the immense fecundity of the female salmon that prevents the fish's total extinction. However, the 'sad destruction of life incidental to the natural mode of breeding' can be overcome by the artificial breeding system known as 'pisiculture'. Far from pisiculture being a recent innovation, it is known that the 'luxurious Romans indulged in the mysteries of fish breeding, and [...] fattened fish or dwarfed them at pleasure'. (46)

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