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“ Then as nede is, they weren nothing idel ;

Gnawing, and fast the armurers also,
Like file and hammer, pricking to and fro.”—CHAUCER.

420. Why do Indians ascertain the presence of armadillos in their burrows by observing the movements of musquitoes ?

Because musquitoes enter the holes of armadillos for the purpose of sucking their blood. When, therefore, the Indians see that a number of musquitoes come out of a hole, they know that it is inhabited.

421. As it often takes a considerable time to dig an armadillo out of his hole, it would be a long and laborious business to attack each hole indiscriminately without knowing whether the animal were there or not. To prevent disappointment the Indians carefully examine the mouth of the hole, and put a short stick down it. Now, if on introducing the stick a number of musquitoes come out, the Indians know to a certainty that the armadillo is there; whenever there are no musquitoes in the hole, there is no armadillo. The Indian having satisfied himself that the armadillo is there by the musquitoes which come out, he immediately cuts a long and slender stick, and introduces it into the hole; he carefully observes the line the stick takes, and then sinks a pit in the sand to catch the end of it; this done, he puts it farther into the hole and digs another pit, and so on, till at last he comes up with the armadillo, which has been making itself a passage in the sand till it had exhausted all its strength through pure exertion. I have been sometimes (says Mr. Westerton) three-quarters of a day in digging out one armadillo, and obliged to sink half-a-dozen pits, seven feet deep, before I got up to it. The Indians and negroes are very fond of the flesh, but I consider it strong and rank.

422. Why has the American ant-eater such a long snout and protrusive tongue ?

Because, like the armadillo, it devours ants, but has not the power of burrowing like that animal. The long tongue, which is covered with a viscid fluid, therefore enables the ant-eater to capture the ants before they have time to run into the ground, after being surprised.

The way in which the ant-eater proceeds is to approach the ant-hill, and with its large hooked claws to destroy a portion of it. By this partial spoliation of the building thousands of ants are exposed, as they run to and fro in a state of alarm. Then the long tongue, which is capable of being thrown out some eighteen inches, goes rapidly to work, being projected about twice in a second, and each time drawing in many dozens of ants.

“On every side are seen, descending down,

Thick swarms of souldiers loaden from the town;
Thus, in Battalia, march embody'd ants,
Fearful of winter, and of future wants.”—DRYDEN.

423. The ant-eater has two very large glands situated below the roof of the tongue. From this is emitted the glutinous liquid with which the long tongue is lubricated when he puts it into the ants' nests. These glands are of the same nature as those found in the lower jaw of the wood-pecker. The secretion when wet is very clammy and adhesive, but on being dried it loses those qualities, and may be pulverised between the finger and thumb.

424. Why are ant-eaters of great importance in the economy of nature ?

Because, without the check which they put upon the multiplication of ants, the produce of the soil, even in the most fertile

parts of the world, would inevitably be destroyed. It seems almost incredible that

so robust and powerful an 2

animal as the ant-eater, or ant-bear, can procure sufficient subsistence from ants alone ; but this circumstance has nothing strange for those who are acquainted with the tropical parts of America, where the ant-hills often almost touch one another for miles together.

425. The ant-hills of South America are often more than twenty feet in diameter, and

many feet in height. These wonderful edifices are thronged with two-hundredfold more inhabitants, and are proportionally far more numerous than the small ones, with which we are better acquainted. Breeding in vast numbers, and multiplying with great celerity and profusion, the increase of these insects would soon enable them to swarm over the greatest extent of country, were not their propagation and diffusion stinted by the active exertions of that part of the animal creation which continually subsist by their destruction.

The following short passage from Mr. Darwin's “ Observations on the Natural History of Rio de Janeiro” will give the reader a good idea of the magnitude of ants' nests there :-" Travelling onward we passed through tracts of pasturage, much injured by the enormous conical ants' nests, which were nearly twelve feet high. They gave to the plain exactly the appearance of the mud volcanoes at Jorullo, as figured by Humboldt.”

“ And that if he wol sayn it is not thus,

I wol it prove, and finder good witnesse,
That soth is that my bille wol expresse."-CHAUCER.

Mr. Waterton also remarks :-"In the far-extending wilds of Guiana, the traveller will be astonished at the immense number of ants which he perceives on the ground as well as in the trees. They have nests in the branches four or five times as large as that of the rook; and they have a covered way from them to the ground. In this covered way thousands are continually passing and repassing, and if you destroy part of it they immediately repair it. Other species of ants have no covered way, but travel exposed to view upon the surface of the earth. You will sometimes see a string of these ants a mile long, each carrying in his mouth to its nest a green leaf the size of a sixpence.

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427. Why is the ornythorynchus provided with this duck-like appendage ?

Because, although a quadruped, the animal inhabits the water, living in burrows on its borders, and being insectivorous, finds its food, as the duck in part does, by exploring the plants and herbs along the margins of fresh-water rivers and lakes. The broad beak acts as a kind of shovel. It is peculiar to Australia and Van Dieman's Land, and has been regarded by naturalists as a link between the aquatic birds and the mammalia.

428. So peculiar is the formation of its muzzle, that when a specimen was first sent to this country a general suspicion was excited that a hoax was designed. Dr. Shaw expressed the opinion that of all the mammalia, the ornythorynchus was the most extraordinary in its conformation ; exhibiting a perfect resemblance to the beak of a duck, engrafted upon the head of a quadruped.

“As for such as are whole-footed, or whose toes are webbed together (excepting some few) their legs are generally short, which is the most convenient size for swimming.”-DERHAM.

The ornythorynchus is about twenty inches long, having a long and flattened body, like that of the otter, covered with a thick soft fur, moderately dark brown above, and whitish beneath. The beak, like the bill of the duck, is furnished with transverse plates. The teeth are situated in the back of the mouth, two on each side, with flat tops and no roots. The feet are furnished with a membrane uniting the toes, and in the anterior feet extending beyond the nails. The tail is flat and obtuse. From the form of this animal it is fitted to reside in the water ; and it must feed on soft food, as the structure of the beak will not enable it to grasp anything firmly. The central portion of the mandibles is a bony continuation from the skull, and anterially and laterally, a cartilaginous substance, perfectly moveable, extends some little distance from the bony portion. Feet, five-toed and webbed. In the fore feet the web extends a short distance beyond the claws, is loose, and falls back when the animal burrows; claws strong, blunt, the two lateral shorter than the three middle ones. Hind feet short, narrow, turned backwards, and, when the animal is at rest, somewhat resembling a fin. The male ornithorynchus is armed with a spur on each hind leg, having a canal in it similar to that in the poison fang of venomous serpents, and, like this, also furnished with a gland at the base, secreting a fluid ; hence it has been thought likely, though there is no evidence of the fact, that wounds produced by them would be dangerous. They have no external ear, and their eyes are very small, but brilliant. The motions of the mandibles in this animal, when seeking its food in the mud and water, are the same as those of a duck when feeding in similar situations.

The young are produced in a very imperfect state, and are very unlike the fullgrown animal. The skin is entirely destitute of fur; the eyes are not formed, and their place is merely indicated by the presence of a few wrinkles on the skin. The margin of the bill is at that time soft, and the tongue advances to its front edge, so that the young animal can obtain nourishment by sucking, which was at first thought impossible. The mammary gland is very simple in structure, and is divided into a large number of separate lobes. The ornithorynchus, when asleep, rolls itself up like a hedgehog, keeping its back warm by bringing over it the Hattened tail. It dresses its fur, combing it with its feet, and pecking at it with its beak, and seems to take great delight in keeping it smooth and clean.


429. Why is the seventh order of mammalia called Pachydermata ? +

Because they are characterised by thick skins or hides. The term is derived from the Greek, and means thick-skinned.

* Maunder's “ Treasury of Natural History."

+ Pack-c-der-ma'-ta.

“ Where the elephant browses at peace in his wood,

And the river-horse gambols unscathed in the flood,
And the mighty rhinoceros wallows at will,
In the pool where the wild ass is drinking his fill.”—PRINGLE.

430. A very imperfect notion of the appearance and texture of the skin of the leading species of the pachydermata, the elephant, rhinoceros, &c., is obtained from examining the specimens which are confined in menageries, even in places where they are treated with the greatest kindness and care. The skin of the elephant in confinement is invariably callous, and often apparently chapped or cracked into pieces, which have little or no sensibility. But when the animal is in good health, and in its proper climate, the skin is smooth and soft, and is probably almost as sensitive to the bite, even of a small insect, as the thinnest skin that can be imagined. When the animal is in this condition, there is, indeed, a wonderful power in the muscles of the skin, so that by agitation of these alone an elephant is capable of shaking off a wild beast which may have sprung upon it.

The hide of the rhinoceros is probably thicker than that of any other pachydermatous animal. Yet the creature is remarkably sensitive of the condition of its skin, which, though not possessed of a high degree of feeling, exerts a considerable influence over the comfort of the animal. Hence the rhinoceros and other thickskinned quadrupeds inhabiting hot climates, will remain for hours in the water, laving their skins, for which purpose it is absolutely necessary to provide baths for these animals when they are kept in confinement.


431. The pachydermata are subdivided into1. Proboscidea, or those possessing a prolonged snout or proboscis

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