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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/386

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366
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

otherwise be lost on sterile ground or killed by frost or damp or eaten by birds and insects, would no doubt effect a slight increase in the food-supply, but his efforts would be very far behind the requirements of modern agriculture. His harvest would be as nothing compared with that of the farmer who sows improved seed; cultivates, protects, and nourishes his seedlings, and thus increases many hundred-fold the bounty of nature. Can similar improved methods be applied to the harvest of the sea? The Superintendant of the United States Fish Commission, Prof. Marshall McDonald, is now trying on a large scale experiments which will furnish an answer to this question, and the result will be eagerly looked forward to by those who are interested in pure science, as well as by those who value nothing except economic results. The young shad which are reared from the artificially fertilized eggs are usually turned out into the streams soon after they are born to shift for themselves. Many of them perish from accidents and the attacks of enemies, while others are forced to struggle for an insufficient supply of food. All horticulturists and breeders of domesticated animals know that the size and vigor and vitality of a plant or animal depend to a great degree upon its treatment during its infancy and youth, and that a stunted or injured infant seldom becomes a valuable adult plant or animal. Last spring about half a million young shad were placed soon after hatching in a large pond in Washington, and were carefully tended and fed and protected from enemies during the whole of the period which the young shad spends in fresh water. The young fishes prospered and grew rapidly, and nearly all of them were still alive when the time for migrating to the ocean came in the fall. The gates of the pond were then opened one morning, and all day long the silver stream of young shad poured out through them and started on the long journey down to the sea. All naturalists will look forward with the greatest interest to the time when these fishes return, bringing back with them to the fishermen of the Potomac the wealth of food which they have gathered in the ocean. In the mean time we may indulge the hope that the strong constitutions which they have acquired during their carefully nurtured youth will enable them to excel their less favored brothers, and that when they reach our market they will have some of the excellence of our improved garden products.

But this is not all. These shad were reared from selected eggs. The adults which enter our waters first in the spring are most valuable to the fishermen, since they are put upon the market at a time when fresh fish are scarce and high priced. Our experience with garden vegetables justifies the expectation that the eggs of early shad shall themselves give birth to early shad. Now, all