The Annelida are not devoid of value in an economical sense. All round the British and many other coasts the lobworm (Arenicola marina, fig. 20) is used as bait; and here and there Nephthys coeca and Nereilepas fucata. In the Channel and Channel Islands two of the most plentiful of the Nereidae (Nereis cultrifera and N. diversicolor) are extensively employed in fishing. They are constantly sought for between tide-marks with a pointed instrument resembling a spear, and kept in vessels amongst sand and seaweeds. One of the most esteemed baits in ordinary and in conger fishing in the same regions is the large Marphysa sanguinea. The anterior segments of the living annelid only are preserved, since the posterior region is apt to decay and cause the death of the whole. The natives of the Fiji group much relish a form allied tour Lysidice ninetta, and they predict its annual appearance in their seas by observing the phases of the moon. It is called Palolo by the Samoans and Tonguese, and Mbalolo by the Fijians. Occurring in vast numbers, formal presents of the esteemed food are sent by the fortunate chiefs considerable distances to those whose dominions are not visited by the annelid. If the latter has similar habits to the British Lysidice, it probably leaves its retreats in the coral-reefs and rocks for the purposes of reproduction. The extensive use of the Lumbrici in fresh-water fishing, and that of the leech in medicine, need only be alluded to -- the latter forming a considerable item in British importations. Echiurus is employed as bait by the Belgian fisherman, and Pallas records that the natives of the same coast formerly considered the muscular proboscis of the sea-mouse good food. Lastly, a Sipunculus is eaten by the Chinese. An examination, again, of the stomachs of our most valuable fishes shows the important part played by the annelida in their food-supply; and the large number of species of fish which can be speedily captured on a rich coast with bait of Nereis cultifera is ample corroboration. The stomachs of cod and haddock, for instance, are often quite filled with sea-mice with Polynoidae, Terebellidae, Alitta virens, Owenia, trophonia, Phascolosoma; and in fresh water those of trout with Lumbrici.
Read the rest of this article:
Annelida - Table of Contents