« AnteriorContinuar »
of London,” by Prof. Owen, as the Euplectella aspergillum, from the fact of its being in shape like the common Aspergillum Javanicum of Java. "Mr. Cuming” says Prof. Owen " has entrusted to me for description one of the most singular and beautiful as well as the rarest of the marine productions, with which his researches in the Philippine Islands have enabled him to enrich the zoological collections of his native country.” The first specimen of this remarkable sponge was purchased by Mr. Cuming, the celebrated conchologist, at the death of Mr. William J. Broderip, who had formerly given the sum of £30 to become the possessor of this then unique Euplectella. This specimen, the only one known for a great many years, is now in the possession of the authorities of the British Museum in England, by whom it is greatly prized in consequence of its possessing the gelatinous film in its natural state. It certainly is one of the most curious and extraordinary combinations of fibrous and silicious structure which the bed of the ocean has ever yielded up to the researches of the naturalist. It differs materially from any sponges with which we are acquainted, being regular in its form. It is of cornucopia shape, and has a horny skeletonlike network, composed of large silicious fibres running from the base to the head, surrounded by smaller fibres, forming square open meshes resembling a net or basket-work. It ranges in height from six to even fifteen inches. At the lower extremity, or root, it averages about an inch in thickness, but its size gradually increases as it approaches the top, where often it is two inches wide. It is surmounted by a ridge about quarter of an inch wide, and is closed at the larger extremity by a delicate open lace work of fibres possessing no particular pattern. It is on this light and pretty structure that the fibrous gelatinous substance rests, resembling in texture the common sponge, but in this instance disposed in an irregular foliated pattern, over which the usual film of the sponge is laid during life. The base or root attaches itself to almost anything which may serve as a support; some being fixed to rocks, others to shells, and indeed any submarine objects which may present a surface strong enough to answer the purpose required. It is remarkable, but nearly all the specimens I have examined of this sponge have had enclosed in them a common hermit or soldier-crab. How this pugnacious member of the crustacean class becomes imprisoned it is difficult to conceive. Dr. Gray, of the British Museum, in speaking of them in "Land and Water,” a London periodical, says that "the natives of the Philippine Islands deny that they are sponges, but say that they are formed by the crabs that are usually found in them, and that a pair of crabs form two close together. Hence they regard two specimens, as we should call them, a single individual.” They consist of pure silica, and Mr. C. G. Brewster, naturalist, Boston, to whose courtesy I am indebted for the accompanying faithful engraving, has several specimens which, having lost their outer covering or film, have been cleaned by being placed in a weak solution of chloride of lime, and afterwards exposed to the action of the atmosphere. The Euplectella is found principally near the island of Zebu, one of the Philippine's, where the first specimen was obtained by the late Hugh Cuming.
The forms of sponges are very irregular, some being branched, others round or pear-shaped, and others resembling a cup, like the well known "Neptune's cup” of the Indian Seas. During life they are extremely beautiful in colors, possessing tints which it would be impossible to describe, and which I do not think have ever been faithfully represented in consequence of their beauty departing immediately after life ceases. Dr. Johnson states that the green color of the fresh-water sponge (Spongilla fluviatilis) depends upon the action of light, as he has proved by experiments which showed that "pale-colored specimens became green when they were exposed for a few days to the light and full rays of the sun; while on the contrary, green specimens were blanched by being made to grow in darkness or
shade. All sponges are aquatic, and with few exceptions marine. They attach themselves to all manner of objects which may present a point of support, whether floating or fixed; some select their abode on very unexpected objects. In one case recorded in the "Natural History of British Sponges,” by Dr. Johnson, a specimen belonging to the genus Halichondria, a sponge not uncommonly found on some of our coasts, was discovered growing from the back of a small live crab, - "a burden” says the learned Doctor, "apparently as disproportionate as was that of Atlas,—and yet the creature has been seemingly little inconvenienced with its arboreous excrescence.” The fresh-water sponge (Alcyoncila stagnorum) is frequently to be met with floating in docks attached to logs of timber. It is very interesting to observe that these low organisms even seem to be attracted to each other, as it were in family groups. The Alcyonellæ live in groups of from ten to fifteen, and some sponges are so intimately connected as to be inseparable. Respecting their geographical distribution they are to be met with in all seas, and although they abound to a much greater extent in the tropics, even on the coast of Great Britain a great many species occur, nearly forty having been reckoned to belong to one genus alone.
RAMBLES IN FLORIDA.
BY R. E. C. STEARNS.
It was nearly noon of a delightful day in February when leaving the City of Tampa we crossed the Hillsborough River to the opposite bank for the purpose of visiting Rocky Point, which is situated upon old Tampa Bay; the route, for the greater part of the distance of seven miles, is through an open forest of pines, of the species previously met with ; the lack of undergrowth afforded pleasant and shaded vistas in every direction. In following the sandy road we waded through broad and shallow pools, miniature lakes made by the recent rains, in which we dipped our cans, and drinking found it more palatable than the water from the muddy springs we had just passed.
Upon both sides of, and a few rods from, the road are small deep ponds, covering perhaps an acre, surrounded with gaunt and leafless cypresses, Taxodium distichum, standing grim and naked in the midst of the forest; hoary, speechless giants, whose gnarled limbs seem to clutch at, while they sustain long drooping tufts of pendulous moss, that, in the sombre light, looked more like funeral emblems than living vegetation. Over these glassy lakelets the
towering boughs of the cypress
many specimens of various species of which were seen slowly marching with solemn strides, like veteran soldiers, guarding the solitude of the forest.
Seating ourselves upon a fallen pine we halted to rest awhile, for walking is warm work on such a day. There are no wild flowers, and in many places no grass, for a fire, which the last rain only partially extinguished, burned even the scanty sod.
Again we started, and moving forward had proceeded but a few rods when up flew a wild turkey (Meleagris gallo-pavo Linn.), the only specimen yet met with by us in Florida, and farther on, but out of range, a flock of quails, Orty. Virginianus. This species is quite pretty; in fact all of the quails are tidy-looking birds, but the Californians, * with their plumed heads, rather lead the others.
* 0, pictus Baird, and Lophortyr Californicus of Bonaparte, are common in the game season in the San Francisco markets, especially the latter species. They have, of late years, become more plentiful in California, though previously quite abundant. Their increase is owing to two causes: the game-laws of the State protect them during the breeding season, and the extended settlement of the agricultural lands, leads to the ex. termination of those animals that prey upon them,
The small hillocks of sand, of which we have seen at least a hundred since we left Tampa, are made by a species of Gopher (Geomys pinetus Raf.). The people call them Salamanders. The propriety of the name is not perceptible. Three or four species of Geomys are found in the Pacific States. *
We have arrived at the edge of the timber; the road no farther winds beneath the shade of the forest, but lies broadly open to a burning sun. It follows for a short distance through a sedgy marsh, with a rank growth upon either side and terminates at a cluster of cabins, which stand upon the sandy margin of the bay.
The small rudely thatched buildings, are occupied by a number of workmen engaged in the manufacture of salt. Their apparatus is of the simplest description. It consists of a few kettles, or evaporators, made by cutting in halves, longitudinally, the shells or outer cylinders of small steam boilers, which are rudely set in masonry of stone and mud. Into these kettles the salt water is pumped by hand from a well-hole, a large pit dug in the sand, into which the water
The evaporation is produced by means of a fire under the kettles; the inflammable pitch-pine making an admirable fuel for this purpose. The thatched cabinst of the salt makers were quite a novelty to us. They are fifteen to
seeps, or flows.
The Gophers make sad havoc in the suburbs of San Francisco, by cutting of the roots of rare plants in the flower beds, or by gnawing through the cabbage roots in the market gardens. As they work underground, they are not easily detected, though mercilessly hunted upon some occasions by the gardeners, who frequently use a trap to catch them. The Gophers have a pouch in each cheek, in which they can carry food to their burrows.
In an article entitled "South-Western Slang,” published in the “Overland Monthly," Vol. III, p. 129, the writer says, “ On account of the great number of Gophers in that State, and the former use of their skins for money, a Floridian is called a “Gopher.”
In California, a man who practices deception, or acts in an underhanded manner, is sometimes called a “gophering fellow."
| These palmetto structures resemble the thatched cabins of the natives upon the Isthmus of Darien, which are seen by the traveller while crossing from Aspinwall to Panama.
AMER. NATURALIST, VOL. III. 58