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brier-prickles, which his thinner cousins keep throughout life. Nevertheless (and here is a curious fact, which makes, like most other facts, pretty strongly against the transmutation of species, and the production of organs by circumstances demanding them), prickles, in all three species, are, as far as we can see, useless in Torbay, where no seal or sea-wolf (Anarhicas lupus), or other shell-crushing pairs of jaws wander, terrible to lobster and to cockle. Originally intended, as we suppose, to face the strong-toothed monsters of the Mediterranean, these foreigners have settled in shores where their armor is not needed; and yet centuries of idleness and security have not been able to persuade them to lay it by, as it is written, "They continue this day as at the beginning; Thou hast given them a law which shall never be broken."
curiosity on the strange things that ordinary people pass over without notice, our wonder is continually excited by the variety of phase, and often by the uncouthness of form, under which some of the meaner creatures are presented to us. And this is very specially the case with the inhabitants of the sea, We can scarcely poke or pry for an hour among the rocks, at low-water mark, or walk, with an observant, downcast eye, along the beach after a gale, without finding some oddly fashioned, suspicious-looking being, unlike any concealed interior of the sea becomes thus inform of life that we have seen before. The dark, vested with a fresh mystery; its vast recesses appear to be stored with all imaginable forms, and we are tempted to think there must be multitudes of living creatures whose very figure and structure have never yet been suspected.
Enough of Cardium tuberculatum. What are the names of the other shells which you have gathered, any introduction to Conchology will tell you; and the Sea-side Book will give you many a curious fact as to their habits. If you wish to know more, you must consult that new collection of true fairy tales, Dr. Johnston's "Lectures on Conchology." But the little pink pears are rare, hundreds of them as there happen to be here to-day. They are a delicate sea-anemone,* whose beautiful disc you may see well engraved in Gosse's "Naturalist in Devon.' They adhere by thousands to the under side of loose stones among the sand, and some colony of them has been uprooted by the pitiless roll of the groundswell, and drifted in here, sick and sad, but not so far gone but that each, in a jar of salt-water, will expand again into a delicate compound flower, whose "snake-locked" arms are all marbled with pellucid grays and browns, till they look like a living mist, hovering above the pink-striped cylinder of the body.
There are a hundred more things to be talked of here but we must defer the examination of them till our return; for it wants an hour yet of the dead low spring tide; and ere we go home, we will spend a few minutes at least on the rocks at Livermead, where awaits us a strong-backed quarry man, with a strong-backed crowbar, as we hope (for we and he snapped one right across there yesterday, falling miserably on our backs into a pool thereby), and we will verify Mr. Gosse's observation, that
O sea! old sea! who yet knows half
Gosse's Aquarium, pp. 226, 227.
When once we have begun to look with sand. Touch it, and it is gone down, quick
* Actinia anguicoma.
as light. We must dig it out, and carefully,
for it is a delicate monster. At last, after ten minutes' careful work, we have brought up, from a foot depth or more—what? A thick, dirty, slimy worm, without head or tail, form or color. A slug has more artistic beauty about him. Be it so. At home in the aquarium (where, alas! he will live but for a day or two), he will make a very different figure. That is one of the rarest of British sea-animals, Actinia chrysanthellum, though really he is no Actinia, and his value consists, not merely in his beauty (though that is not small), but in his belonging to what the long-word-makers call an "interosculant" group, a party of genera and species which connect families scientifically far apart, filling up a fresh link in the great chain, or rather the great network of zoölogical classification. And here we have a simple, and, as it were, crude form, of which, if we dared to indulge in reveries, we might say, that the Divine Word realized before either sea-anemones or holothurians, and then went on to perfect the idea contained in it in two different directions, dividing it into two different families, and making on its model, by adding new organs, and taking away old ones, in one direction, the whole family of Actinia (sea-anemones), and in a quite opposite one, the Holothuria, those strange sea-cucumbers, with their mouth-fringe of feathery gills, of which you shall see some anon. Not (understand well) that there has been any "transmutation or development of species" (of individuals, as it ought honestly to be called, if the notion is intended to represent a supposed fact)-a theory as unsupported by experiment and induction, as it is by a priori reason: but that there has been, in the Creative Mind, as it gave life to new species, a development of the idea on which older species were created, in order that every mesh of the great net might gradually be supplied, and there should be no gaps in the perfect variety of Nature's forms. This development is the only one of which we can conceive, if we allow that a Mind presides over the universe, and not a mere brute necessity-a law (absurd misnomer) without a Lawgiver; and to it (strangely enough coinciding, here and there, with the Platonic doctrine of Eternal Ideas existing in the Divine Mind) all fresh inductive discovery seems to point more and more; and especially Professor Owen's invaluable tracts on the Homology of the Vertebrate Skeleton.
But here we are at the old banks of boulders, the ruins of an antique pier, which the monks of Tor Abbey built for their conveni
ence, while Torquay was but a knot of fishing huts within a lonely limestone cove. To get to it, though, we have passed many a hidden treasure; for every ledge of these flat New-red-sandstone-rocks, if torn up with the crowbar, discloses in its cracks and crannies nests of strange form, which shun the light of day; beautiful Actinia fill the tiny caverns with living flowers; great Pholades bore by hundreds in the softer strata; and wherever a thin layer of muddy sand intervenes between two slabs, long Annelid worms, of quaintest forms and colors, have their horizontal burrows, among those of that curious and rare radiate animal, the spoon worm, a bag about an inch long, half bluish gray, half pink, with a strange scalloped and wrinkled proboscis of saffron color, which serves, in some mysterious way, soft as it is, to collect food, and clear its dark passage through the rock.
See, at the extreme low-water mark, where the broad olive fronds of the Laminariæ, like fan-palms, droop and wave gracefully in the retiring ripples, a great boulder which will serve our purpose. Its upper side is a whole forest of sea-weeds, large and small; and that forest, if you examined it closely, as full of inhabitants as those of the Amazon or the Gambia. To "beat" that dense cover would be an endless task; but on the under side, where no sea-weeds grow, we shall find, full in view, enough to occupy us till the tide returns. For the slab, see, is such a one as sea-beasts love to haunt. Its weed-covered surface shows that the surge has not shifted it for years past. It lies on other boulders clear of sand and mud, so that there is no fear of dead sea weed having lodged and decayed under it, destructive to animal life. We can see dark crannies and caves beneath; yet too narrow to allow the surge to wash in, and keep the surface clean. It will be a fine menagerie of Nereus, if we can but turn it.
Now, the crowbar is well under it; heave, and with a will; and so, after five minutes' tugging, propping, slipping, and splashing, the boulder gradually tips over, and we rush greedily upon the spoil.
A muddy, dripping surface it is, truly, full of cracks and hollows, uninviting enough at first sight: let us look it round leisurely, to see if there are not materials enough there for an hour's lecture.
The first object which strikes the eye is
* Thalassema neptuni, (Forbes' British Star Fishes, p. 259).
tower issues, every half-second-what shall we call it?—a hand or a net of finest hairs, clutching at something invisible to our grosser sense. That is the Pyrgoma, parasitic only (as far as we know) on the lip of this same rare Madrepore; a little "cirrhipod," the cousin of those tiny barnacles which roughen every rock, and of those larger ones, also, who burrow in the thick hide of the whale, and borne about upon his mighty sides, throw out there tiny casting nets, as this Pyrgoma does, to catch every passing animalculæ, and sweep them into the jaws concealed within its shell. And this creature, rooted to one spot through life and death, was in its infancy a free swimming animal, hovering from place to place upon delicate ciliæ, till having sown its wild oats, it settled down in life, and became a landowner, and a glebæ adscriptus, for ever and a day. Mysterious destinyyet not so mysterious as that of the free medusoids of every polype and coral, which ends as a rooted tree of horn or stone, and seems to the eye of sensuous fancy to have literally degenerated into a vegetable. Of them you must read for yourselves in Mr. Gosse's book; in the meanwhile he shall tell you something of the beautiful Madre pores themselves. His description,* by far the best yet published, should be read in full: we must content ourselves with extracts.
probably a group of milk-white slugs, from two to six inches long, cuddling snugly together. You try to pull them off, and find that they give you some trouble, such a firm hold have the delicate white sucking arms, which fringe each of their fine edges. You see at the head nothing but a yellow dimple; for eating and breathing are suspended till the return of tide but once settled in a jar of salt-water, each will protrude a large primrose-colored head, tipped with a ring of ten feathery gills, looking very much like a head of "curled kale," but of the loveliest white and dark chocolate; in the centre whereof lies perdu a mouth with sturdy teeth -if indeed they, as well as the whole inside of the worthy fellow, have not been lately got rid of, and what you see be not a mere bag, without intestine or other organ-but only for the time being. For hear it, wornout epicures, and old Indians who bemoan your livers, this little Holothuria knows a secret which, if he could tell it, you would be glad to buy of him for thousands sterling. For to him blue-pill and muriatic acid are superfluous, and travels to German Brunnen a waste of time. Happy Holothuria! who possesses really that secret of everlasting youth, which ancient fable bestowed on the serpent and the eagle. For when his teeth ache, or his digestive organs trouble him, all he has to do is just to cast up forthwith his entire inside, and faisant maigre for a month or so, grow a fresh set, and eat away as merrily as ever. His name, if you wish
Doubtless you are familiar with the stony skeleton of our Madrepore, as it appears in museums.
It consists of a number of thin, calcareous plates,
to consult so triumphant a hygieist, is Cucu-standing up edgewise, and arranged in a radiating
manner round a low centre. A little below the
margin, their individuality is lost in the deposition
maria Hyndmanni, named after Mr. Hynd-
This is but the skeleton; and though it is
Let it, after being torn from the rock, recover its equanimity; then you will see a pellucid, gelatinous flesh emerging from between the plates, and little exquisitely formed and colored tentacula, with white clabbed tips fringing the sides of the cup-shaped cavity in the centre, across which stretches the oval disc marked with a star of some rich and brilliant color, surrounding this central mouth, a slit with white crenated lips, like the orifice of one of those elegant cowry shells which we put upon our mantelpieces. The mouth is always more or less prominent, and can be protruded and expanded to an astonishing extent. The space surrounding the lips is commonly fawn
Next, what are those bright little buds, like salmon-colored Banksia roses half expanded, sitting closely on the stone? Touch them, and the soft, fleshy part is retracted, and the orange flower of flesh is transformed into a pale pink flower of stone. That is the Madrepore, Caryophyllia smithii, one of our south coast rarities; and see, on the lip of the last one, which we have carefully scooped off with the chisel, two little pink towers, delicately striated; drop them into this small bottle of sea-water, and from the top of each |
* A Naturalist's Rambles in the Devonshire Coast, p. 110.
color, or rich chestnut-brown; the star or van-nated everywhere else by his sturdier brown dyked circle rich red, pale vermillion, and some- cousin of the Hanoverian dynasty. times the most brilliant emerald green, as brilliant as the gorget of a humming-bird.
And what does this exquisitely delicate creature do with its pretty mouth? Alas for fact! It sips no honey-dew, or fruits from paradise.
I put a minute spider, as large as a pin's head, into the water, pushing it down to the coral. The instant it touched the tip of a tentacle it adhered, and was drawn in with the surrounding tentacles between the plates. With a lens I saw the small mouth slowly open, and move over to that side, the lips gaping unsymmetrically, while, with movement as imperceptible as that of the hour hand of a watch, the tiny prey was carried along between the plates to the corner of the mouth. The mouth, however, moved most, and at length reached the edges of the plates, and gradually closed upon the insect, and then returned to its usual place in the centre.
Mr. Gosse next tried the fairy of the walking mouth with a house-fly, who escaped only by hard fighting; after which, the gentle creature, after swallowing and disgorging various large pieces of shell-fish, found viands to its taste in "the lean of cooked meat, and portions of earth-worms," filling up the intervals by a perpetual dessert of microscopic animalcules, whirled into that lovely avernus, its mouth, by the currents of the delicate ciliæ which clothe every tentacle. The fact is, that the Madrepore, like those glorious sea-anemones whose living flowers stud every pool, is by profession a scavenger, and a feeder on carrion; and being as useful as he is beautiful, really comes under the rule which he seems at first to break, that handsome is who handsome does.
Another species of Madrepore* was discovered on our Devon coast by Mr. Gosse, more gaudy, though not so delicate in hue, as our Caryophyllia; three of which are at this moment pouting out their conical orange mouths and pointed golden tentacles in a vase on our table, at once grumbling and entreating for something to eat. Mr. Gosse's locality, for this and numberless other curiosities, is Ilfracombe, on the north coast of Devon. Our specimens came from Lundy Island, in the mouth of the Bristol Channel, or, more properly, that curious "Rat Island" to the south of it, where still lingers the black long-tailed English rat, extermi
* Balanophyllia regia, Coast of Devon, p. 399.
Look, now, at these tiny saucers of the thinnest ivory, the largest not bigger than a silver threepence, which contain in their centres a milk-white crust of stone, pierced, each with its living architect within. You under the magnifier, into a thousand cells, see two sorts; in one the tubular cells radiate from the centre, giving it the appearance of a tiny compound flower, daisy or groundsel; in the other they are crossed with waving grooves, giving the whole a peculiar fretted look, even more beautiful than that of the former species. They are Tubulipora patina and Tubulipora hispida; and stay-break off that tiny rough red wart, and look at its cells also under the magnifier: it is Cellepora pumicosa; and now, with the Madrepore you hold in your hand the principal, at least the commonest, British types of those famed coral insects, which in the tropics are the architects of continents, and the conquerors of the ocean surge. All the world, since the publication of Darwin's delightful "Voyage of the Beagle," and of Williams's Missionary Enterprises," knows, or ought to know, enough about them: for those who do not, there are a few pages in the beginning of Dr. Landsborough's "British Zoophytes," well worth perusal.
There are a few other true cellepore corals round the coast. The largest of all, Cervicornis, may be dredged a few miles outside, on the Exmouth bank, and a few more Tubulipores; but all tiny things, the lingering, and, as it were, expiring remnants of that great coral-world, which, through the abysmal depths of past ages, formed here in Britain our limestone hills, storing up for generations yet unborn the materials of agriculture and architecture. Inexpressibly interesting, even solemn, to those who will think, is the sight of these puny parasites, which, as it were, connect the ages and the zones; yet not so solemn and full of meaning as that tiny relic of an older world, the little pear-shaped Turbinolia (cousin of the Madrepores and Sea-anemones), found fossil in the Suffolk Crag, and yet still lingering here and there alive in the deep water off Scilly and the west coast of Ireland, possessor of a pedigree which dates, perhaps, from ages before the day in which it was said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." To think that the whole human race, its joys and its sorrows, its virtues and its sins, its aspirations and
counter to, the impressions of sense; and of that custom in nature which makes this caution so necessary, namely, the repetition of the same form, slightly modified, in totally different animals, sometimes as if to avoid waste; for why should not the same conception be used in two different cases, if it will suit in both?) and sometimes (more marvellously by far), when an organ fully developed and useful in one species, appears in a cognate species, but feeble, useless, and, as it were, abortive, and gradually, in species still farthere removed, dies out altogether; placed there, it would seem, at first sight, merely to keep up the family likeness. We are half jesting; that cannot be the only reason, per
Playing such fantastic tricks before high heaven, haps not the reason at all; but the fact is As make the Angels weep. one of the most curious, and notorious also, in comparative anatomy.
Look again at those sea-slugs. One, some three inches long, of a bright lemon yellow, clouded with purple, another a dingy gray,* another (exquisite little creature) of a pearly French white, furred all over the back with what seem arms, but are really gills, of ringed white, and gray, and black. Put that yellow one into water, and from his head, above the eyes, arise two serrated horns, while, from the after part of his back spring a circular Prince-of-Wales'-feather of gills,they are almost exactly like those which we saw just now in the white Cucumaria. Yes; here is another instance of that same custom of repetition. The Cucumaria is a low, radiate animal-the sea-slug a far higher mollusc; and every organ within him is formed on a different type; as indeed are those seemingly identical gills, if you come to examine them under the microscope, having to oxygenate fluids of a very different and more complicated kind; and, moreover, the Cucumaria's gills were put round his mouth; the Doris's feathers round the other extremity; that gray Eolis's, again, are simple clubs, scattered over his whole back, and in each of his nudibranch congeners these same gills take some new and fantastic form; in Melibaa those clubs are covered with warts; in Scyllaea, with tufted bouquets; in the beautiful Antiopat they are transparent bags; and in many other English species they take every conceivable form of leaf, tree, flower, and branch, bedecked with every color of the rainbow, as you may see them depicted in Messrs. Alder and Hancock's un
its failures, has been rushing out of eter-
Yes; it is this vision of the awful perma-
But we must make haste; for the tide is rising fast, and our stone will be restored to its eleven hours' bath, long before we have talked over half the wonders which it holds. Look, though, ere you retreat, at one
or two more.
What is that little brown fellow whom you have just taken off the rock to which he adhered so stoutly by his sucking-foot? A limpet? Not at all: he is of quite a different family and structure; but, on the whole, a limpet-like shell would suit him well enough, so he had one given him : nevertheless, owing to certain anatomical peculiarities, he needed one aperture more than a limpet; so one, if you will examine, has been given him at the top of his shell.* This is one instance among a thousand, of the way in which a scientific knowledge of objects must not obey, but run
* Fissurella grœca.
*Doris tuberculata and billineata.
Gosse's "Naturalist in Devon," p. 325.