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(Furnished for the Tracts and Lyceum.]
VENOMOUS CHARACTER OF SPIDERS.
A few months since, a gentleman in this vicinity was an eye-witness to a mortal combat between a young rat and a small spider. When they were first discovered, the rat was evidently too weak to offer resistance to its lilliputian foe; but feeling, probably, after repeated trials, that discretion was the better part of valor, endeavored to get out of the reach of its violent antagonist. In this feeble effort, it reminded the astonished spectator of that renowned couplet in Hudibras—
Who from battle runs away
May live to fight another day. However, not to sport with the sufferings of the maimed mischievous night-annoying quadruped, whose species have made many a sad havoc with the family stores, it is evident that the deadly poison of the spider was then diffusing itself through the body. The spider, in the mean time, apparently watched its dying movements, and when the rat crawled too fast, it would dart up to the body and give another bite. Suffice it to say, the rat died, and the fallen enemy, together with its belligerent conqueror, who was captured on the spot, were both secured in one bottle, and may now be seen in the cabinet in Tremont Street, in this city.
The poison of the spider is secreted in sacs, at the angles of the mouth; but in this climate, it is pretty satisfactorily proved, they never attack animals, unless in a case of desperate necessity, where the law of self-preservation obliges them to slay or be slain. In the case now in question, the rat probably pressed the spider against the wall, in passing; and the spider, to save its own life, darted in its fangs. When once excited, nothing seems to appease their wrath but the death of the object of their revenge. This will account for the repeated attacks on the rat.
[Furnished for the Tracts and Lyceum.]
DRAWINGS. To illustrate the lectures which are given before Lyceums, it is very important to present numerous diagrams, in order to give the assembly the clearest understanding of the subject upon which the lecturer is discoursing. Natural history, mineralogy, botany, geography, and astronomy, cannot be comprehended by youth, without something on which the eye can rest, while they listen to the speaker. The utility of drawings must be universally admitted ; yet but little or no pains is taken to prepare them.
A common reason why drawings are not procured, arises from the difficulty—so it is said-of finding artists in the country, who are competent to the undertaking. This, by the way, is no excuse at all. The man who consents to lecture, can best make the pictures he stands in need of. The practice of a few days, does wonders for a person who would not have supposed it possible to have executed a decent looking plan, of any sort, with a pencil. India ink is the only pigment that is necessary. Paper, however coarse, is as good to represent ideas upon as glazed silk. Where large objects are to be portrayed, as the larger class of animals, common cotton cloth, put upon the stretch, and sized over with flour paste, is excellent. The cloth may be rolled up, and thus be kept for many years, always in a condition to be used.
THE TURKEY. Thomas PENNANT published, in the Transactions of the Royal Society, a paper to show that the turkey came from America, and was unknown before the discovery of that continent. Daines Barrington, who has taken the opposite side of the question, asserts that this fine bird boasts an eastern origin. According to a distich in Baker's Chronicle, turkeys were introduced into England from
Spain. Latham, in his Synopsis of Birds, says, that turkeys were brought into England about 1524, and that they unquestionably came originally from America, and are found largest in the northern parts. Bartram, in his travels through the Carolinas and Floridas, represents ' our turkey as a very different species from the meleagris of Asia and Europe; they are nearly thrice their size and weight; they are taller, and have a much longer neck proportionately, and likewise longer legs, and stand more erect; they are also very different in color ; they are all of a dark brown color, not having a black feather on them; but the male is exceedingly splendid, with changeable colors.' Michaux, in his Travels to the westward of the Alleghany Mountains, &c. says, “To the east of the Mississippi, in a space of more than eight hundred leagues, there is only one species of wild turkey. Some weigh thirty-five or forty pounds. The variety of domestic turkeys to which the name of English turkeys is given in France, came originally from this species of wild turkey, and when they are not crossed with the common species, they retain the primitive color of their plumage as well as that of their legs, which is a deep red. If subsequent to 1525 our domestic turkeys were naturalized in Spain, and from thence were introduced into the rest of Europe, it is probable that they were originally from some of the more southern parts of America, where they doubtless exist a species different from that of the United States.'
Notwithstanding the authoritative decisions of the two last quoted writers, I think we may venture to dissent from them, and to say that the wild and tame turkeys are only varieties of the same species. It is well known that they breed together, and that their offspring are also productive. The only difficulty, then, is respecting their size and plumage; all animals are changed by domestication. Their color, in a wild state, is generally uniform and similar, but when tamed, it changes into a number of varieties. The mallard is the stock from whence our domestic duck proceeds, and the gray lag is the origin of the domestic goose. The color of these birds, in their reclaimed condition, is various; in their wild state it is uniform. The turkey, when domesticated, is exposed to
the same mutations. As to comparative size, it may be observed, that the largest wild turkey does not exceed the largest tame turkey one half in weight; and this may also proceed from domestication. If the bison is the original stock of our tame cattle, has not the latter diminished in magnitude by the change? But this diversity may, perhaps, be satisfactorily accounted for in another way. The turkey was introduced into Europe from Spain, and Spain derived it from her tropical colonies. It is a bird which flourishes best in temperate climates; as it extended its migrations too far to the south, it diminished in size : although the identity of species could not be changed, yet a variety was produced of inferior magnitude. From the Spanish turkey, which was thus spread over Europe, we have obtained our domestic one. The wild turkey has been frequently tamed, and his offspring is of a larger size.
BIRDS. The Rev. Dr. Miller, in his excellent work, entitled A Retrospect of the Eighteenth Century, states, that there are two thousand five hundred and thirty-six species of birds. Latham, in the first six volumes of his Synopsis of Birds, has described ninety-six genera, and two thousand and forty-six species. The additions made in his subsequent volumes have increased the number of species to three thousand. .
The number of birds treated by Linnæus did not greatly exceed nine hundred.
There are in Great Britain three hundred and seven species of birds, comprehending all such as either visit that island at uncertain seasons, or are usually domesticated, as well as those which are known to be constant inhabitants, of which one hundred and fifty-four are land birds, and one hundred and fifty-three water birds. · I think it is not unreasonable to suppose that there are in the United States and its territories, one thousand species of birds.