Page images

THE MORSE.-The Morse is an animal of the seal kind; but differing from the rest in a very particular formation of the teeth, having two large tusks growing from the upper jaw, shaped like those of an elephant, but directed downwards; whereas, in the elephant, they grow upright, like horns; it also wants the cutting teeth, both above and below: as to the rest, it pretty much resembles a seal, except that it is much larger, being from twelve to sixteen feet long. The morses are also generally seen

(The Morse.) to frequent the same places that seals are known to reside in ; they have the same habitudes, tbe same advan., tages, and the same imperfections. There are, however, fewer varieties of the morse than the seal; and they are rarely found, except in the frozen regions near the pole. They were formerly more numerous than at present; and the savage natives of the coast of Greenland destroyed them in much greater quantities before those seas were visited by European ships upon the whalefishery, than now. Whether these animals have been since actually thinned by the fishers, or have removed to some more distant and unfrequented shores, is not known; but certain it is, that the Greenlanders, who once had plenty, are now obliged to toil more assiduously for subsistence; and as the quantity of their provisions decrease, for they live mostly upon seals, the numbers of that poor people are every day diminishing. As to the teeth, they are generally from two to three feet long; and the ivory is much more esteemed than that of the elephant, being whiter and harder. The fishers have been known formerly to kill three or four hundred at once; and along those shores where they chiefly frequented, their bones are still seen lying in prodigious quantities. In this manner a supply of provisions, which would have supported the Greenland nation for ages, has been, in a few years, sacrificed to those who did not use them, but who sought them for the purposes of avarice and luxury.*

* SEA-HORSE.- In the end of December inhabitants considered it as a supernatural 1817, a large unknown marine animal was being, adapting it to the ideas which they seen near the mouth of Loch Seaforth, an usually associate with the Each Uisg (Water arm of the sea which separates the islands of Horse), an imaginary entity, and the Seilch Lewis and Harris. A few days afterwards, it Uisg, an animal supposed, and asserted by was discovered by some of the inhabitants, people in other matters not unworthy of lying upon a small rock at the Sound of credit, to have been seen on several lakes in Stockness, on the east coast of Harris. One Harris and Lewis. The largest and most of them, an expert marksman, prevailed upon perfect specimen of the sea-horse in any colthe rest to venture out with a boat, in order lection in Europe, is that in the College to attack it. He landed upon another small Museum, in Edinburgh, which was presented rock, near that on which the animal was by Captain Scoresby.—En. reposing, and taking a deliberate aim, dis- THE MORSE.— The seals and morses come charged his musket at it. The animal imme- during the summer heat into the seas near diately plunged into the sea, to appearance the Bay of Horisont and that of Kloek, in unhurt; but keeping its head and part of its troops of eighty, a hundred, and even two body above the water, presented an oppor. hundred, especially the morses, which remain tunity of lodging two other shots, the last of there many days, until hunger forces them which, passing through the chest, proved back into the main ocean. Many morses are fatal. It was then secured, by fixing a rope seen towards Spitzberg. On land they are to its tusks, and dragged ashore. It proved killed with lances. They are hunted for their to be the Sea-Horse or Morse. It was up- tusks and fat. The oil is nearly as much wards of ten feet in length; and two barrels esteemed as that of the whale. Their tusks of blubber were obtained from it. The tusks are also very valuable. The interior of these were about nine inches in length. The teeth is considered more valuable than ivory.


THE MANATI.-We come, in the last place, to an animal that terminates the boundary between quadrupeds and fishes. Instead of a creature preying among the deeps, and retiring upon land for repose or refreshment, we have here an animal that never leaves the water, and is enabled to live only there.

The Manati is somewhat shaped in the head and the body like the seal; it has also the fore legs or hands pretty much in the same manner, short and webbed, but with four claws only: these also are shorter in proportion than in the former animal, and placed nearer the head; so that they can scarcely assist its motions upon land. But it is in the hinder parts that it chiefly differs from all others of the seal kind; for the tail is perfectly that of a fish, being spread out broad like a fan, and wanting even the vestiges of those bones which make the legs and feet in others of its kind. The largest of these are about twenty-six feet in length; the skin is blackish, very tough and hard; when cut, as black as ebony; and there are a few hairs scattered, like bristles, of about an inch long. The

eyes are very small, in proportion to the animal's head; and the ear-holes, for it has no external ears, are so narrow as scarce to admit a pin's head. The tongue is so short, that some have pretended it bas none at all; and the teeth are composed only of two solid white bones, running the whole length of both jaws, and formed merely for chewing, and not tearing its vegetable food. The female has breasts placed forward, like those of a woman ; and she brings forth but one at a time: this she holds with her paws to her bosom ; there it sticks, and accompanies her wherever she goes.

This animal can scarcely be called amphibious, as it never entirely leaves the water, oply advancing the bead out of the stream, to reach the grass on the river sides. Its food is entirely upon vegetables; and, therefore, it is never found far in the open sea, but chiefly in the large rivers of South America; and often above two thousand miles from the ocean. It is also found in the seas near Kamtschatka, and feeds upon the weeds that grow near the shore. There are likewise level greens at the bottom of some of the Indian bays, and there the manatees are harmlessly seen grazing among turtles and other crustaceous fishes, neither giving nor fearing any disturbance. These animals, when unmolested, keep together in large companies, and surround their young ones.(g) They bring forth most commonly in autumn: and it is supposed they go with young eighteen months, for the time of generation is in spring.

The manati has no voice nor cry, for the only noise it makes, is by fetching its breath. Its internal parts somewhat resemble those of a horse; its intestines being longer, in proportion than those of any other creature, the horse only excepted.

The fat of the manati, which lies under the skin, when exposed to the sun, has a fine smell and taste, and far exceeds the fat of any sea animal; it has this peculiar property, that the heat of the sun will not spoil it, nor make it grow rancid ; its taste is like the oil of sweet almonds ; and it will serve very well, in all cases, instead of butter: any quantity may be taken inwardly with safety, for it has no other effect than keeping the body open. The fat of the tail is of a harder consistence; and, when boiled, is more delicate than the former. The lean is like beef, but more red; and may be kept a long while, in the hottest days, without tainting. It takes up a long time in boiling ; and, when done, eats like beef. The fat of the young ones is like pork; the lean is like veal; and, upon the whole, it is very probable that this animal's flesh somewhat resembles that of turtle ; since they are fed in the same element, and upon the A moderate sized tusk weighs three pounds; towards the vessel with a cable, and then and a common morse will furnish half a ton killed with a lance peculiarly formed. He is of oil. When one of these animals is en- then dragged to the nearest land, or flat icecountered on the ice or in the water, the berg. They then flay him, throw away the hunters strike him with a strong harpoon, skin, separate the two tusks from the head, made expressly for the purpose, which will or simply cut the head off, cut out the fat, often glide harmlessly over his thick and hard and carry it to the vessel.— ZORGDRAGER'S skin. When it penetrates, the animal is drawn Travels.

(8) Acta Petropolitana.

very same food. The turtle is a delicacy well known among us : our luxuries are not as yet sufficiently heightened to introduce the manati; which, if it could be brought over, might singly suffice for a whole corporation.

THE PLATYPUS. Of all the treasures in natural history with which the new world is gradually enriching our stock, it is probable that none has yet been discovered differing so much in its general appearance from

every other known quadruped, as the Duck-billed Platypus. It is a na. tive of New Holland, and was

first described by Dr. Shaw, in bis Natural Miscellany, from a specimen in the possession of Mr. Dobson.

Of all the mammalia yet known it

(The Red Platypus.) seems the most extraordinary in its conformation ; exhibiting the perfect resemblance of the beak of a duck, engrafted on the head of the quadruped. So accurate is the similitude that, at first view, it naturally excites the idea of some deceptive preparation by artificial means : the very epidermis, proportion, seratures, manner of opening, and other particulars of the beak of a shoveller, or the broad-billed species of duck, presenting themselves to the view; nor is it without the most minute and rigid examination, that we can persuade ourselves of its being the real beak or snout of a quadruped. The body is depressed, and has some resemblance to that of an otter in miniature ; it is covered with a very thick, soft, and beaver-like fur ; and is of a moderately dark brown above, and of a somewhat ferraginous white beneath ; the head is flattish, and rather small than large; the mouth or snout, as before observed, so exactly resembles that of some broad-billed species of duck, that it might be mistaken for such; round the base is a flat circular membrane, somewhat deeper or wider below than above, viz. below near the fifth of an inch, and above an eighth. The tail is flat, furry like the body, rather short and obtuse, with an almost bifid termination : it is broader at the base, and gradually lessens to the tip, and is about three inches in length; its colour is similar to that of the body. The length of the whole animal, from the tip of the beak to that of the tail, is thirteen inches; of the beak an inch and a half; the legs are very short, terminating in a broad web, which on the fore feet extend to a considerable distance beyond the claws, bat on the hind feet reaches no farther than the roots of the claws. On the fore feet are five claws, straight, strong, and sharp pointed; the two exterior ones somewhat shorter than the three middle ones. On the hind feet are six claws, longer and more inclined to a curved form than those of the fore feet; the exterior toe and claw are considerably shorter than the four middle ones. All the legs are hairy above; the fore feet are naked both above and below; but the hind feet are hairy above and naked below. The nostrils are small and round, and are situated about a quarter of an inch from the tip of the bill, and are about the eighth of an inch distant from each other. There is no appear. ance of teeth ; the palate is removed, but seems to have resembled that of a duck; the tongue also is wanting in the specimen. There are no external ears; the auditory foramina are placed about half an inch beyond the eyes. On the upper part of the head, on each side, a little beyond the beak, are situated two small oval spots, in the lower parts of which are imbedded the eyes, or parts of vision.


When we consider the general form of the animal, and particularly its bill and webbed feet, we shall readily perceive that it must be a resident in watery situations; that it has the habit of digging or burrowing in the banks of rivers, or under ground; and that its food consists of aquatic plants and insects. This quadruped verisies in a most striking manner the observation of Buffon, “that whatever was possible for nature to produce has actually been produced."*

* HABITS AND ECONOMY OF THB ORNI- her capture, and being skinned while yet THORHYNCHUS.-In an account of the habits warın, it was observed that milk oozed through of this creature by a gentleman who has had the fur on the stomach, though no teats were many opportunities of investigating them, visible on the most minute inspection ; but and which was lately read before the Meeting on proceeding with the operation, two canals of Science and Correspoudence of the Zoolo. were discovered containing milk, and leading gical Society, we are informed that the spot to a large glandular apparatus." it chooses for its burrow is the bank of a These canals, however, as has been reriver " where the water is deep and sluggish, cently ascertained by minute dissection, are and the bank precipitous and covered with not single; but on each side there is a bundle reeds, or overhung with trees. Considerably of small capillary tubes, united so as to forin below the strean's surface is the main en. a short cord; these fine tubes open in a dark trance to a narrow passage, which leads coloured circle on the skin, but which is codirectly into the bank bearing away from the vered by the fur, the glandular mass from river at a right angle to it

, and gradually which they proceed being of large size, comrising above its highest water-mark. At the pressed, extending nearly the whole length of distance of some few yards from the river's the body, and lying iminediately beneath the edge, this passage branches into two others, skin. From the collective evidence we have which, describing each a circular course to the been able to obtain, as well as from some right and left, unite again in the nest itself, circumstances connected with its anatomy, which is a roomy excavation lined with leaves we are strongly disposed to believe that the and moss, and situated seldom more than ornithorhynchus is ovoviviparous, or, in other twelve yards from the water, or less than two words, that the young are indeed hatched feet beneath the surface of the earth.” Here from eggs, but hatched before their birth, it brings up its young, safe iu its inaccessible when they are extremely small, and that their retreat from the eyes of the curious.

nutriment is the fluid prepared in the large Similar as is the ornithorhynchus in many mammary gland, and which the mother has points of its outware structure to the bird, it most probably the means of instilling into also exhibits certain analogies in its internal the mouth of its helpless offspring. Such is conformation. Without entering into anato- the mystery which yet hangs over this extramical details, we may state that it is yet a ordinary creature; an animal which seems matter of doubt whether or not it produces as if expressly inade to show how multiform eggs, from which its young are afterwards and inexhaustible are the resources of the hatched. That it does not produce its young almighty Creator ; nor can we help remarkas mammiferous animals in general is uni- ing, that it appears to form a link betwer'n versally allowed; but whether it be truly ovi- the more perfect mammalia and the feathe end parous, (that is, producing eggs which are race, uniting the forms and characters of ench afterwards hatched,) or ovoviviparous, (that in its own structure, so as to be in truth a is, producing eggs which are hatched before parudox.-RELIGIOUS Tract Society's Naexclusion, as is the case with the commuu TURAL HISTORY. viper, Viperu Berus, Daud,) is yet a disputed ORNITHORHYNCHI. September 11.-Dr. point. Iu a coinmunication from Lieut. Weatherhead coinmunicated to the Commit. Maule to the committee above alluded to, and tee several extracts from a letter which he read at a subsequent meeting, that gentleman had recently received from Lieutenant the states, that in several nests, with labour and Honourable Lauderdale Maule, of the 39th difficulty discovered, “no eggs were found in Regiment, now in New South Wales. They a perfect state, but pieces resembling egg. refered to the habits and econoiny of the shell were picked out of the debris of the Ornithorhynchi. pest. In several feinale platypi which we During the spring of 1831," writes Lieu. shot, eggs were found of the size of a large tenant Maule," being detached in the intemusket-ball and downwards, imperfectly forin. rior of New South Wales, I was at some ed however, that is, without the hard outer pains to discover the truths of the generally shell.”....“ An old female, which lived two accepted belief, namely, that the female Plus weeks in captivity with a young one, being typus lays eggs, and suckles its young. killed by accident ou the fourteenth day after * By the care of a soldier of the 39th Rezi


ment, who was stationed at a post on the opinion, with the anatomical reasons Fish River, a mountain stream abounding which it was founded, have been lately laid, with Platypi, several nests of this shy and by Mr. Owen, before the Royal Society, in a extraordinary animal were discovered. paper which is published in the second part

“The Platypus burrows in the banks of of the Philosophical Transactions for 1832. rivers, choosing generally a spot where the Mr. Owen's dissections, however, though they water is deep and sluggish, and the bank established the existence of numerous minute precipitous, and covered with reeds, or over- tubes leading from the glands in question hung by trees. Considerably beneath the through the skin, where it was covered with level of the stream's surface is the main en- wool, did not enable him to detect any canals trance to a narrow passage, which leads di- so large as would appear to be indicated in rectly into the bank, bearing away from the Lieutenant Maule's letter.–ARCANA Or Sciriver, (at a right angle to it,) and gradually ENCE, 1833. rising above its highest watermark. At the distance of some few yards from the river's The MERMAID.—We cannot forbear preedge, this passage branches into two others, which, describing each a circular course to the right and left, unite again in the nest itself, which is a roomy excavation, lined with leaves and moss, and situated seldom more than twelve yards from the water, or less than two feet beneath the surface of the earth. Several of their nests were, with considerable labour and difficulty, discovered. No eggs were found in a perfect state, but pieces of a substance resembling egg-shell were picked out of the debris of the nest. In the insides of several female Platypi which were shot, eggs were found of the size of a large musket ball, and downwards, imperfectly formed, however, i. e. without the hard outer shell, which prevented their preservation."

In another part of his letter, Mr. Maule states, that in one of the nests he was fortunate enough to secure an old female, and two young. The female lived for about two weeks on worms and bread and milk, being abundantly supplied with water, and sup

(The Mermaid.) ported her young, as it was supposed by simi- senting the reader with a few observations on lar means. She was killed by accident on the a creature or being which has employed the fourteenth day after her capture, and on skin- speculation, and enlisted the credulity of manning her while yet warm, it was observed kind in various ages, but which we firmly that milk oozed through the fur on the sto- believe to exist only in the eccentric fancy of mach, although no teats were visible, on the the poet, or the heated imagination of the most minute inspection ; but on proceeding superstitious fisherman. In the year 1822, with the operation, two teats or canals were one of these things, most ingeniously comdiscovered, both of which contained milk. posed, was exhibited, to the infinite astonish

The body of the individual last referred to, ment of the wouder-hunters of the metropolis. (together with several others,) has been pre- The editor of the Literary Gazette observed, served in spirits, to be transmitted to Dr. when this monster was exhibiting: Weatherhead, who stated his intention of “Our opinion is fixed that it is a composiexamining it anatomically on its arrival, and tion; a most ingenious one, we grant, but of laying before the Committee the result of still nothing beyond the admirably put togehis observations on this interesting subject. ther members of various animals. The extra

It was remarked that the existence of milk ordinary skill of the Chinese and Japanese in the situation described by Lieutenant in executing such deceptions is notorious ; Maule, is fully confirmatory of the correctness and we have no doubt but that the Mermaid of the deductions made by Mr. Owen, from is a manufacture from the Indian Sea, where the minute dissectiun of several individuals, it has been pretended it was caught. We ar (including one in the Society's collection, not of those who, because they happen not to presented by Captain Mallarl, R. N., Corr. have had direct proof of the existence of any Memb. z. s.) that the glands discovered extraordinary natural phenomenon, push scepby M. Meckel are really mammary. This ticism to the extreme, and deny its possibility.

« PreviousContinue »