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drained to its last drop, the arbitrator (his eyes twinkling glee as he spoke) prefaced his award with these words: “Gentlemen, I have considered
your sole reasons, I have deliberated on your joint reasons, and I have come to the conclusion that your des(s)erts are about equal."
NATURAL HISTORY NOTES.
THE AYE-AYE OF MADAGASCAR.
One of the most remarkable forms of the smaller mammalia to be found in any part of the world is the aye-aye, which inhabits Madagascar only, and of which only one species is at present known. This little creature is so different from all the other quadrumanous animals that it forms a genus and even a family of itself, while it differs in some important points of structure from the lemurs, to which order it is most nearly allied. It is now well known to naturalists that Madagascar, from its geographical position as a continental island, presents some very anomalous forms of animal life, “survivals” of antique forms, which have maintained their existence in this large island, while they have been exterminated in the struggle for life with other animals on the continents.
The aye-aye is one of the most interesting of such animals, and its organisation presents one of the most striking examples that can be found of typical forms modified to serve special ends. Its food, according to Dr. Sandwith's account of its habits when newly caught, consists of wood-boring larvæ, which tunnel beneath the bark of certain hard-wooded trees. To obtain these, the creature is furnished with very powerful chisel-shaped teeth with which to cut away the bark and the wood. As, however, the larva retreats for safety to the end of its hole, the middle finger of the aye-aye's fore hands is considerably diminished in thickness, so as to act as a probe. Thus provided, the finger, with its hook-like claw, is inserted in the tunnel, and the dainty morsel drawn from its retreat; and so the animal obtains, at least in certain conditions and seasons, the bulk of its food.
There are also other modifications of structure, all tending to the more perfect accomplishment of the purposes fulfilled by this little creature in the order of nature: the eyes being very large so as to see by night, for it sleeps by day; the ears expanded widely, and of delicate membrane, to catch the faint sound of the caterpillar at work; and the thumbs of the hinder hands being largely developed to take a firm hold while at work. Dr. Sandwith also observed that the probe finger is used as a scoop when the aye-aye drinks; being bent so as to separate it from the other fingers, it is carried so rapidly from the water to the mouth, passing sideways through the lips, that the liquid seems to pass in a continual stream. Another observer has also pointed out a remarkable point in the structure of the lower jaw of this animal, namely, that they are only joined together by a strong ligament, and do not, as in most other animals, form one connected semicircle of bone. They play easily in a vertical direction, indepen
dently of each other, and when the animal is gnawing, alternately. This accounts for the prodigious power of gnawing that the aye-aye possesses. It was seen to cut through a strip of tin-plate nailed over the door of its cage. As this power is added to the usual vertical and lateral motion of the lower jaw, its effect is not astonishing. From this strong gnawing power the aye-aye was at first classed, by Cuvier and Buffon, among the rodentia, but it is now determined to be an exceedingly specialised form of the lemuroid type.
“ Thus," says Professor Owen, we have not only obvious, direct, and perfect adaptations of particular mechanical instruments to particular functions—of feet to grasp, of teeth to erode, of a finger to probe and extract—but we see a correlation of these several modifications with each other, and with adaptive modifications of the nervous system and sense organs : of eyes, e.g., to catch the least glimmer of light, and of ears to detect the feeblest grating of sound, the whole determining a complex mechanism to the perfect performance of a particular kind of work.”
The natives of Madagascar have a superstitious dread of the animal, believing that the person who kills an aye-aye will die within a year. This fear, added to the nocturnal habits of the creature, has made it difficult to obtain specimens.
A living specimen of the aye-aye, a female, was sent over, in 1859, to this country, and lived for some time in the Regent's Park Gardens. . As regards the habits of the animal, fresh information was soon obtained by the superintendent of the gardens, Mr. A. D. Bartlett, in some points curiously differing from Dr. Sandwith's observations. The animal slept during the day, the body curved and lying on the side, while the tail was spread out and flattened over it, so that the head and body were almost covered by it. Only at night did it show activity, crawling about and gnawing the timber of its cage, but showing no uneasiness at the appearance of a light, indeed trying to touch it with its long fingers. It often hung by its hind legs, and in this position would clean and comb the tail with a rapid motion of its hook-like finger, in this action much resembling some of the bats (Pteropus).
In feeding, the left hand only was used, and from its very rapid movement it was difficult to observe it closely, but the peculiar middle finger was raised so as not to touch the food. This ayeaye showed no inclination to take any kind of insect, but fed freely on a mixture of milk, honey, and eggs, or on any thick, sweet, glutinous fluid, rejecting meal-worms, grasshoppers, larvæ of wasps, etc. From this fact Mr. Bartlett is disposed to think that the animal cannot be carnivorous;
quently taps the bark with its fore feet, and then listens for the movement of its prey beneath, thus saving itself useless labour."-(See "Nature,” September 21, 1882.)
but from its possessing such large and powerful teeth he infers that it may perhaps wound trees, and cause them to discharge their juices into the cavity made by its teeth, and that upon this fluid it possibly feeds. He thinks this supposition confirmed by the fact that the aye-aye frequently returned to the same spot on the tree which she had previously injured. Other habits in feeding seemed to strengthen this view, since the animal paid little attention to its food, and did not watch or look after it, continuing to thrust out its hand for a while after the vessel containing the food was removed. This apparently stupid act is so unlike the habits of an animal intended to capture and feed on living creatures that Mr. Bartlett believes that its usual food consists of inanimate substances. He frequently saw it eat a portion of bark and wood after taking a quantity of its fluid food.
The facts noted by two such careful and scientific observers seem to differ so much on important points that they raise the question whether there may not be more than one species of aye-aye, or whether the food of the female may not differ, at certain times at least, from that of the male. Possibly, however, the explanation is to be found in the fact that none of the insects of this country which were offered to the aye-aye were suitable to its tastes. It therefore preferred another kind of food to starvation, and ate bread, eggs, and honey with milk; for its native habits and food in the woods of Madagascar declare plainly its office as a check upon the undue prevalence of tree-destroying xylophagous larvæ. “Had the aye-aye possessed an indiscriminate appetite for insects, it would satisfy such appetite on much easier terms than by gnawing into hard wood for a particular kind of grub.” But, as testified by a Frenrh observer, it has by no means an equal liking for all species of larvæ, but distinctly chooses certain kinds; and Dr. Sandwith specifies its favourite food as the destructive moulouk. The restriction of its likings to the wood-boring kinds was therefore necessary to insure the complete use of all the wonderfully adapted parts of its organisation; and thus the aye-aye furnishes a very interesting example of design in creation.
According to M. Soumagne, the aye-aye constructs true nests in trees, which resemble enormous ball-shaped birds' nests. He und then in a belt of forest inland from the port of Tam:idve. They were composed of the rolled-up leaves of the traveller's-tree (Urania speciosa), and were lined with small twigs and dry leaves. The opening of the nest was placed at the side, the nest being lodged in the fork of the branches of a large tree. In this nest-building habit the ayeaye resembles the lower lemuroid animals.
JAMES SIBREE, JUN.
Near “Plantation House,” the Resident's hill station,* under a large tree, there was an ant-dwelling, not exactly to be called an ant-hill, but a subterranean ant-town, with two entrances. Into this an army of many thousand largish ants, in an even column three and a half inches wide, marched continually in "well-dressed" ranks, about twenty-seven in each, with the regularity of a crack regiment on the “march past,” over all sorts of inequalities, rough ground, and imbedded trunks of small trees, larger ants looking like officers marching on both sides of the column, and sometimes turning back as if to give orders. Would that Sir John Lubbock had been there to interpret their speech!
Each ant of the column bore a yellowish burden, not too large to interfere with his activity. A column, marshalled in the same fashion, but only half the width of the other, emerged equally continuously from the lower entrance. From the smaller size of this column I suppose that a number of the carrier ants remain within, stowing away their burdens in storehouses. Attending this latter column for eighteen paces, I came upon a marvellous scene of orderly activity. A stump of a tree, from which the outer bark had been removed, leaving an under layer apparently permeated with a rich, sweet secretion, was completely covered with ants which were removing the latter in minute portions. Strange to say, however, a quantity of reddish ants of much larger size, and with large mandibles, seemed to do the whole work of stripping off this layer. They were working from above, and had already bared some inches of the stump, which was four feet six inches in diameter. As the small morsels fell among the myriads of ants which swarmed round the base they were broken up, three or four ants sometimes working at one bit till they had reduced it into manageable portions. It was a splendid sight to see this vast and busy crowd inspired by a common purpose, and with the true instinct of discipline, for ever forming into column at the foot of the stump.
Towards dusk the reddish ants, which may be termed quarriers, gave up work, and this was the signal for the workers below to return home. The quarriers came down the stump, pushing the labourers rather rudely, as I thought, out of their way, and then forming in what might be called "light skirmishing order," they marched to the lower entrance of the town, meeting as they went the column of workers going up to the stump. They met it of course at once, and a
P.S.—Since the above lines were written, a month ago, some additional information has been furnished to me by my friend, the Rev. R. Baron, F.L.S., as to the habits of the aye-aye, and confirming in most points Dr. Sandwith's observations. Mr. Baron says the animal is chiefly, if not exclusively, found in a part of the eastern forest, in about 17° 22' s. lat. He “was told that it fre
minute of great helter-skelter followed, this column falling back on itself as if assailed in great confusion. If this is the ordinary day's routine, why does that column fall into confusion, and why, after throwing it into disorder, do the reddish ants close their ranks and march into the town in compact order parallel with the working column going the other way, and which they seemed to terrorise ? Is it possible that the smaller ants are only slaves of the larger ? Inscrutable are the ways of ants! However, when the advancing column had recovered from its confusion it formed up, and wheeling round in most regular order, fell behind the rear-guard of the working column, and before dark not an ant remained outside except a dead body.
Soon after the last of its living comrades had disappeared, six ants, with a red one (dare I say ?) in command, came out and seemed to hold a somewhat fussy consultation round the corpse which had fallen on the line of march to the stump. After a minute or two three of them got hold of it, and with the other four as spectators or mourners, they dragged it for about six feet and concealed it under a leaf, after which they returned home. All this was most fascinating. A little later Captain Murray destroyed both entrances to the town, but before daylight, by dint of extraordinary labour, they were reconstructed lower down the slope, and the work at the stump was going on as if nothing so unprecedented had happened.
I should have liked also to study the ways of the white ant, the great timber-destroying pest of this country, which abounds on this hill. He is a large ant of a pale buff colour. Up the trunk of a tree he builds a tunnel of sand, held together by a viscid secretion, and under this he works, cutting a deep groove in the wood, and always extending the tunnel upwards. I broke away two inches of such a tunnel in the afternoon, and by the next morning it was restored. Among many other varieties of ants, there is one found by the natives, which people call the "soldier ant." I saw many of these big fellows, more than an inch long, with great mandibles. Their works must be on a gigantic scale, and their bite or grip very painful ; but being with a party, I was not able to inake their acquaintance.
their ravages is that of sugar-planting, and statistics collected in the West Indies show that in Jamaica alone the damage done by these ravenous foes is estimated at £ 100,000 per annum!
Much of this mischief is due to the invasion of a rat, larger and more formidable than the common Norwegian rat, namely, the Mus saccharivorous, which for many years defied all attempts to subdue it. Cats and ferrets utterly failed, but a temporary check was given by the introduction of the all-devouring Cuban ant (Formica omnivora), which proved a deadly foe to the young rats.
Eighty years later a new rat-destroyer was introduced, namely, the enormous Agua toad of South America, which soon made night hideous with its hoarse croaking. For awhile it seemed to make some head against the foe, but, strange to say, both the ants and the toads are now rapidly diminishing.
Although these quaint auxiliaries have steadily done their best to consume the young rats, their friendly efforts have availed little, and it was found necessary for each estate to employ a staff of negro rat-catchers, who, by the aid of phosphoric poisons, curious traps, and trained dogs, kept up an incessant rat war.
But all their endeavours could not keep pace with the increase of the sweet-toothed foe. One proprietor states that he has hitherto paid at the rate of one penny per head for all rats killed by the rat-catchers, and that his annual expenditure under this head has been twenty thousand pence. This does not include the rats who have fallen victims to dogs or poison.
Another proprietor says he has paid about £ 70 a year to the rat-catchers, and that the annual destruction of his canes has been a loss of at least £200. Other estates declare their loss to have been twenty-five per cent. of the entire sugarcrop, and fully one-third of all corn and vegetable crops.
In short, the sugar estates of Jamaica have, till quite recently, estimated their annual losses from the rat-plague at £ 50,000, and all other plantations, including corn, cacao, coffee, arrowroot, cocoa-palms, and all manner of fruits and vegetables, estimated their losses at about the same figure, so that Jamaica has had to credit the invading rat army with a destructive power equal to £ 100,000 per annum.
At length a powerful ally has been secured, who bids fair to exterminate the pest. This is none other than the common Indian mungoose (Herpestes Ichneumon), the natural foe of rats and snakes.
Its introduction was suggested early in this century, but the experiment was never tried till ręcent years, when several specimens were procured, but unfortunately they were imported from London, and, having been bred in captivity, of course proved cowardly and useless.
Only ten years ago, in 1872, did it occur to Mr. Espent to introduce the mungoose direct from India. Four males and five females reached him in safety, and were turned out upon his estates. So amazing has been their fecundity, that already there is not a district on the island on which a
MUNGOOSE AS A RAT-KILLER.
I suppose the wide world contains few countries so favoured as not to have suffered from the invasion of the omnivorous army of rats. Even the blessed isles of the Pacific, which could boast of no other quadrupeds except a small dog, and in some cases also a hideous breed of lean pigs, possessed indigenous rats. These, however, have been almost entirely exterminated by the more powerful brown and black rats, which having taken free passage by the first European ships which touched the isles, found these new and fertile regions so much to their liking that they have overspread the land, increasing and multiplying exceedingly.
Perhaps the industry which suffers most from
large number of their descendants are not busily engaged in the destruction of their hereditary foes. Being excellent swimmers, they find no obstacle in streams or lagoons, but make their way in every direction.
Within a very few years of their first importation, the negroes captured thousands of young mungooses, and sold them to planters in the most remote districts, and these, without exception, speak in unmeasured praise of the boon conferred on them by the introduction of these zealous ratcatchers. They now reckon their annual outlay on rat-catching at less than one-tenth of what it has been in past years. Some are even more fortunate.
One large proprietor states that whereas hitherto his annual expenditure for rat-catching and poison was upwards of £ 300, it is now absolutely nil, the rats having almost disappeared since the arrival of the mongoose.
C. F. GORDON CUMMING.
THE MYSTERIOUS MEDUSA.
memoirs at the Royal and Linnæan Societies, and many notices have appeared in various scientific journals. By common consent the new Medusa has been named Limnocodium (Pond-bell) Sowerbii, the specific name being in honour of Mr. W. Sowerby, F.L.S., the accomplished Superintendent of the Botanic Garden. In a paper by Mr. Sowerby he says as to the supposed origin of the animal
"Although it is to be presumed that the new Medusa, from its having been found only in the warm water, is a native of the Tropics, we have as yet been unable to determine how or from whence it came into our tank. At first it was sug. gested that it arrived from the Amazon river on the roots of the Victoria Regia, but as this plant is an annual, and every year a new individual plant is raised from seed of our own saving, this supp sition is untenable ; the only water-plant we have received within the last year or so from abroad is the newly-introduced Pontederia azurea, which came to the Gar. dens indirectly from Brazil, in March, 1879, and the tank is cleaned out every winter, and remains during some months empty and dry. Many water-plants have been added to the collection from correspondents at home, but we have not heard of the new jelly-fish having yet been observed in any other tank in the United Kingdom. They were first seen on June 9, 1880, and rapidly increased in numbers during about fourteen days, when they became less numerous, the last one being seen on June 28th. A few were preserved in a glass jar in the office; these remained very active for several weeks, but the last died on August 5th ; a few again appeared in the tank on August 28th. Their food, no doubt, is surnished by any living animal organisms that happen to come within their power and the reach of their arms; they were seen picking out from the toils of the labyrinth of their tentacles living Daphne (water-fleas) and other tit-bits, using the tip of their long trunk-like stomach (manubrium) exactly as the elephant employs his trunk ; in fact, manipulating as with the hand, secking, approaching, and comforting any part of the body touched
or irritated. This extreme sensibility and the retractile power of the tentacles, and lively movements of all parts of the individual, imparted to it an appearance of intelligence seldom noticed in the so-called lower animals.”
We quite endorse Mr. Sowerby's remark as to the apparent intelligence of the little beings. We have watched them this June in glass jars, containing water of different temperature, and have been fascinated by their graceful and animated movements.
(Lymnocodium Sowerbii.) In June, 1880, in the Victoria tank at the Royal Botanic Society in Regent's Park, specimens of a strange and new animal were observed. It was like a-minute jelly-fish; but no Medusa had ever been seen except in sea-water. In form it is somewhat like a ring, with tentacles (which point upwards instead of downwards, as in all known jelly-fish) and a digestive organ floating below the disk, like the stick of the Liliputian parasol which spreads above. The largest specimens are scarcely half an inch in diameter. The marginal ring is extremely contractile, and movement is caused by the contraction, more or less rapid according to the temperature of the water, but ceasing, or being directed hither and thither, by the apparent will of the creature. The whole structure is of the utmost tenuity, and in colour and aspect like the most delicate skeleton of a leaf.
Professors Allman and Ray Lankester have read
THE WIDOW AND HER MONEY-BAGS.
A PERSONAL RECOLLECTION BY THE LATE LORD LAWRENCE.*
T was my practice in India, where every one
who wishes to preserve health either walks or
rides early in the morning, instead of taking a mere constitutional (as it is called) to endeavour to join that object with business, or, at any rate, with amusement. There was always some end in view—a village to visit, a new road to be made, or an old one to be repaired, the spot where a murder had been perpetrated to be examined. If I was in tents, making my annual visits in the interior of the district, which seldom occupied less than five months of the year, there was plenty to
* Life of Lord Lawrence. By B. Bosworth Smith (Smith, Elder, and Co.).
engage the attention. I seldom failed to visit every village within a circle of seven or eight miles before the camp moved on another march. Their locality, the nature of their soil, their means of irrigation-a point of much importance in the East—the general appearance of the inhabitants, and the character they bore among their neighbours, were all points on which I was much interested; for all such information was of infinite value in the performance of my daily duties.
I had in truth so much to occupy me, or, what is pretty much the same thing, made so much occupation for myself, that, though often the sole European in the district, and literally without any one with whom I could exchange a word in my native tongue, I do not think that I ever felt listless for a day. I sometimes rode alone, but more frequently with a single horseman, who either carried my rifle or boar spear. Thus, if anything in the way of game tumed
I did not lose a chance; and if a messenger was required, or anything was to be done, an active fellow was always ready. More than once I have in this way brought home a buck; and many is the good run I have had with wolf, hyena, and wild boar. It would have no doubt enhanced the pleasure to have had a friend with whom to contest the spear, and to talk over the turns and chances of the field when ended. Still, when I look back on those days, it is surprising how much I enjoyed them in my comparative solitude.
Nor was I thus always lonely. At times a friend or two from the nearest station would pass a week with me, or a rendezvous on the borders of contiguous districts would be arranged among us, and then the woods would ring with whoop and cry and wild halloa. Oh, those were pleasant days ! I hope some are still in store for me, for the easy, quiet, jogtrot life does not answer for one who has lived a life of action. I recommend all my friends to think twice before they leave India; at any rate until they feel themselves growing old, or want a pair of crutches. It is but a melancholy pleasure, after all, merely looking back upon such scenes.
However, to return to my story, from which I have strangely digressed. My follower was instructed to ride at a respectful distance, so that I might freely converse with any one I might pick up by the way. One or more of the headmen, or some of the proprietors of the village I was visiting, usually mounted his mare, and rode with me to the next village; thus acting as a guide, and at the same time beguiling the tedium of the way, often with useful information, at any rate with amusing gossip.
I had one morning mounted my horse for such an expedition, but had not proceeded far when I met the kotwal, or chief-police officer, of the neighbouring town, bustling along in quite unwonted haste. On seeing me, after making the usual salutations, he reported that a burglary had occurred in the town during the previous night, and that he was anxious that I should visit the spot myself, as neither he nor any of the police could make anything of the case.
I at once assented, and as we rode along I ascertained that the party robbed was a poor widow, who, with her niece, lived in a large and substantial but rather dilapidated house in the neighbouring town. The robbery, it seemed, had created much sensation, from the circumstance that the widow asserted that she had lost a large sum of money, whereas she had hitherto been deemed miserably poor. “ Some of the neighbours,” remarked the policeman, “deny that she has been robbed at all, and indeed to me it appears suspicious; I suspect there is some fareb (deceit) in the matter. Where could such a helpless creature get so much money? It was but the other day that she was exempted from her quota of the watch-tax, as mooflis (a beggar), and now she
asserts that she has lost one thousand and fifty rupees.” “ Well, well,” said I, “that will do; we will hear what she has to say for herself. Don't you pretend to make out that she was not robbed. I
suppose there are marks about the house of a forcible entry?” “Oh, yes,” he replied, “I don't deny there is a hole in the wall by which the door has been opened. There were two marks of footsteps about the interior of the courtyard, but the ground was so hard, we could make nothing of it, I have, however, sent for the khojia (tracker), and if anything is to be discovered, I am sure he is the man to do it."
By this time we had arrived at the house, where we found some policemen, some of the neighbours, and the widow. The khojia, or personage celebrated far and near for his powers of recognising and tracing the marks of biped and quadruped, had already examined the premises. He informed me that the footsteps were difficult to trace, from the hardness of the soil, as well as from the passing and repassing of the people; but that he had satisfied himself that there had been two thieves, that the two had entered the house, but that only one appeared to have left it, and that he had followed those traces, through various turnings and windings, till they finally stopped at the house of a man who was said to be the nephew of the widow herself. He then showed me tho different marks, from the interior of the widow's house up to the very threshold of that of the nephew. There were certainly some traces, but so very indistinct to my eye that I could form no opinion. The tracker, however, seemed perfectly convinced. “ One foot,” he observed, “is small and delicate, which goes to the nephew's house; the other, a large, broad foot, I cannot trace beyond the courtyard.” The nephew was moned, his foot was compared with the print, the khojia insisted that it exactly corresponded, and it certainly answered to the description he had previously given.
We then entered the house and carefully examined the premises. The thieves, it seemed, had picked a small hole in the side of the wall, so as to admit a man's hand, and had thus opened the outer door. It was clear that the theft was perpetrated by some one who was well acquainted with the premises, for the money had been concealed in three earthen pots, buried in the ground floor within a small recess. The ground had been dug up in the exact spot where the pots lay, and it must have been the work of only a few minutes, for they were close to the surface. It seemed that there was some suspicion of the nephew in the mind of both the old woman and her neighbours, for he was a man of reckless and dissolute habits, • But, widow,” I said, “ did he know of your treasures ? Did he know of the place where you concealed them?” “No," she replied to my query, “I can't say he did. I never let him come into the house for many years, though he has sometimes come as near as the door, and asked me to make friends; but I was afraid of him, and never let him pass my threshold.” "Well," I remarked, “it seems a bad business. That you have been robbed is evident, but there seems no clue as to