Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 52.djvu/807

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MIGRATION.

indomitable courage and perseverance; but its strength is soon fully taxed in surmounting the obstacles and in fighting the rivals which oppose its progress, until at last, worn and thin, torn and mangled by battle, and battered by rocks and whirlpools, with its skin in rags, its fins crippled and bleeding, and its whole body from nose to tail bruised and emaciated, nothing of its kingly nature remains except the indomitable impulse, which no hardship can quench, still urging it upward, until, if any life is left, it at last reaches the breeding ground.

One of the most magnificent species of this kingly genus was so abundant in the Columbia River before canning houses had reduced its numbers, that the town reaches were packed with salmon, while the surface was covered with the drifting bodies of those that had perished in fierce struggles with the crowd; yet there is good authority for the assertion that not a single one ever returns alive from the breeding grounds in the head waters of the St. Cloud. The whole race is wiped out, utterly exterminated, as soon as it arrives at maturity and physical perfection, in order that the perpetuation of the species may be assured. The whole object and end of the beautifully co-ordinated body, which is provided for by such admirable and wonderful adaptations, which is built up so slowly and at so much cost, is rapid and total destruction.

The marvelous instinct which leads the young fish to the ocean, the organization and the habits which fit it for its marine life—all, in a word, which makes of the salmon our ideal of a lordly fish—is worth nothing as compared with the welfare of generations yet unborn.

Scientific men who are not zoölogists are fond of telling us that science has nothing to do with the Why? and is only concerned with the How? and while this may perhaps be true in the ultimate or philosophical sense of the words, it is often easy in zoölogy to discern why an action is performed, while we are very ignorant of the structural conditions under which it takes place.

As all the individual California salmon seem to act alike, and as the young salmon has no parental instruction, it seems probable that everything it does is the result of its structure or of such nurture as this structure provides for; and yet we may safely say that no one now living is at all likely to discover or to predict its migration from the study of its body, although the reason why the migration takes place is obvious.

Whole books, and not a few of them, have been devoted to learned speculations on the nature of the impulse which leads to the migration of birds, and while the subject is most fascinating, the value of the results has not in all cases paid for the labor.