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maggots, which urn to flesh-flies. The reptile used to come forth every evening from a hole under the garden-steps; and was taken
supper, on the table to be fed. But at last a tame raven, kenning him as he put forth his head, gave him such a severe stroke with his horny beak as put out one eye.
After this accident, the creature languished for some time and died.
I need not remind a gentleman of your extensive reading of the excellent account there is from Mr. Derham, in Ray's Wisdom of God in the Creation, p. 365, concerning the migration of frogs from their breeding-ponds. In this account he at once subverts that foolish opinion, of their dropping from the clouds in rain ;* showing that it is from the grateful coolness and moisture of those showers that they are tempted to set out on their travels, which they defer till those fall. Frogs are as yet in their tadpole state; but in a few weeks our lanes, paths, fields, will swarm for a few days with myriads of those emigrants, no larger than my little finger nail. Swammerdam gives a most accurate account of the method and situation in which the male impregnates the spawn of the female.
How wonderful is the economy of Providence with regard to the limbs of so vile a reptile ! While it is an aquatic, it has a fish-like tail and no legs; as soon as the legs sprout, the tail drops off as useless, and the animal betakes itself to the land !
Merret, I trust, is widely mistaken when he advances that the rana arborea is an English reptile: it abounds in Germany and Switzerland.
It is to be remembered that the salamandra aquatica of
He did not eat from the end of November till March, gradually losing his appetite and gradually recovering it: he never seemed affected by cold, except in the way of losing his inclination for food.”—RENNIE.
* I was once witness to a swarm of very small frogs, which suddenly made their appearance, after a very heavy rain, in a garden I occupied at Fulham. The garden was completely surrounded by a high wall. The entrance to it was through the house. It was a dry gravel; and there was no moist place in it in which the spawn of frogs could have been deposited. The garden also had been well trenched and no frogs found in it. There also were no drains communicating with it. I merely mention the fact, without pretending to account for the circumstance of so many thousands of young frogs, just ou: of the tadpole state, being found in the garden. Mr. Loudon saw the same occurrence at Rouen.- ED.
Ray (the water-newt, or eft*) will frequently bite at the angler's bait, and is often caught on his hook. I used to take it for granted that the salamandra aquatica was hatched, lived, and died in the water. But John Ellis, Esq., F.R.S. (the coralline Ellis), asserts, in a letter to the Royal Society, dated June the 5th, 1766, in his account of the mud iguana, amphibious bipes from South Carolina, that the water-eft, or newt, is only the larva of the land-eft, as tadpoles are of frogs. Lest'I should be suspected to misunderstand his meaning, I shall give it in his own words. Speaking of the opercula, or coverings to the gills of the mud iguana, he proceeds to say, that “The form of these pennated coverings approaches very near to what I have some time ago
observed in the larva, or aquatic state of our English lacerta, known by the name of eft, or newt, which serve them for coverings to their gills, and for fins to swim with while in this state; and which they lose, as well as the fins of their tails, when they change their state, and become land animals, as I have observed, by keeping them alive for some time myself.”.
Linnæus, in his Systema Nature, hints at what Mr. Ellis advances, more than once.
Providence has been so indulgent to us as to allow of but one venomous reptile of the serpent kind in these kingdoms, and that is the viper. As you propose the good of mankind to be an object of your publications, you will not omit to mention common salad oil as a sovereign remedy against the bite of the viper. As to the blind worm (anguis fragilis, so called because it snaps in sunder with a small blow)
* A friend of mine put a newt into a bottle of brandy, and it lived ten minutes in it. This will prove how capable they are of undergoing the extremes of heat and cold, as they have been known to recover after having been frozen perfectly hard. There are also undoubted proofs of newts having lived in the intestines of human beings. A leech, also, after it has been frozen and then thawed, will live and suck eagerly. Both newts, lizards, and some other amphibia, are provided with lungs, and might be supposed capable of uttering sounds, but they are altogether mute.—Ed.
+ A blind worm, that I kept alive for nine weeks, would, when touched, turn and bite, although not very sharply: its bite was not sufficient to draw blood, but it always retained its hold until released. It drank sparingly of milk, raising the head when drinking. It fed upon the little white slug (limax agrestis, Linn.) so common in fields and gardens, eating six or seven of them one after the other ; but it did not eat them every day. It invariably took them in one position. Elevating its head slowly above its victim, it
I have found, on examina ion, that it is perfectly innocuous. A neighbouring yeoman (to whom I am indebted for some good hints) killed and opened a female viper about the 27th of May: he found her filled with a chain of eleven eggs, about the size of those of a blackbird ; but none of them were advanced so far towards a state of maturity as to contain any rudiments of young. Though they are oviparous, yet they are viviparous also, hatching their young within their bellies, and then bringing them forth. Whereas snakes lay chains of eggs every summer in my melon beds, in spite of all that my people can do to prevent them; which eggs do not hatch till the spring following, as I have often experienced. Several intelligent folks assure me that they have seen the viper open her mouth and admit her helpless young down her throat on sudden surprises, just as the female opossum does her brood into the pouch under her belly, upon the like emergencies; and yet the London vipercatchers insist on it to Mr. Barrington, that no such thing ever happens.* The serpent kind cat, I believe, but once in
would suddenly seize the slug by the middle, in the same manner that a ferret or dog will generally take a rat by the loins; it would then hold it thus sometimes for more than a minute, when it would pass its prey through its jaws and swallow the slug head foremost. It refused the larger slugs, and would not touch either young frogs or mice. Snakes kept in the same cage took both frogs and mice. The blind worm avoided the water: the snakes, on the contrary, coiled themselves in the pan containing water, which was put into the cage, and appeared to delight in it. The blind worm was a remarkably fine one, measuring fifteen inches in length. It cast its slough while in my keeping. The skin came off in separate pieces, the largest of which was two inches in length, splitting first on the belly, and the peeling on the head being completed the last. After the skin was cast the colour of the reptile was much lighter than it had before been.
I had for the first time, while this blind worm was in my custody, an oppor. tunity of witnessing the power which slugs have of suspending themselves by a thread. They availed themselves of it in escaping from the cage of the reptile. The cage was on a shelf four feet six inches from the floor, and, with the aid of the glutinous filament which they exuded, the slugs lowered themselves from it to the ground.-G. D.
* Having taken much pains to ascertain the fact of young vipers entering the mouth of the other, I can now have little doubt but that such is the case, after the evidence of persons who assured me they had seen it. I also found young vipers in the stomach of the mother, of a much larger size than they would be when first ready to be excluded. Amongst others, a vipercaacher on the Brighton downs told me that he had often witnessed the fact. -Ed.