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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/455

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THE HERRING.

The only other organs of the herring, which need be mentioned at present, are the milt and roe, found in the male and female herring respectively.

These are elongated organs attached beneath the air-bladder, which lie, one on each side of the abdominal cavity, and open behind the vent by an aperture common to the two. The spermatic fluid of the male is developed in the milt and the eggs of the female in the roe. These eggs, when fully formed, measure from one sixteenth to one twenty-fifth of an inch in diameter; and as, in the ripe female, the two roes or ovaries stretch from one end of the abdominal cavity to the other, occupying all the space left by the other organs, and distending the cavity, the number of eggs which they contain must be very great. Probably 10,000 is an under-estimate of the number of ripe eggs shed in spawning by a moderate-sized female herring. But I think it is safer than the 30,000 of some estimates, which appear to me to be made in forgetfulness of the very simple anatomical considerations that the roe consists of an extensive vascular framework as well as of eggs; and, moreover, that a vast number of the eggs which it contains remain immature, and are not shed at the time of spawning.

In this brief account of the structure of the herring I have touched only on those points which are peculiarly interesting, or which bear upon what I shall have to say by-and-by. An exhaustive study of the fish from this point of view alone would require a whole course of lectures to itself.

The herring is a member of a very large group of fishes spread over all parts of the world, and termed that of the Clupeidæ, after Clupea, the generic name of the herring itself. Our herring, the Clupea harengus, inhabits the White Sea, and perhaps some parts of the Arctic Ocean, the temperate and colder parts of the Atlantic, the North Sea, and the Baltic, and there is a very similar, if not identical, species in the North Pacific. But it is not known to occur in the seas of Southern Europe, nor in any part of the intertropical ocean, nor in the southern hemisphere.

There are four British fishes which so closely resemble herrings, externally and internally, that, though practical men may not be in any danger of confounding them, scientific zoölogists have not always succeeded in defining their differences. These are the Sprat, the Allice and Twaite Shads, and the Pilchard.

The sprat comes nearest; indeed, young herrings and sprats have often been confounded together, and doubts have been thrown on the specific distinctness of the two. Yet if a sprat and a young herring of the same size are placed side by side, even their external differences leave no doubt of their distinctness. The sprat's lower jaw is shorter; the shields in the middle of the belly have a sharper keel, whence the ventral edge is more like a saw; and the ventral fin lies vertically