« VorigeDoorgaan »
phenson proposed establishing a locomo
TREE-CLIMBING CRABS. tive factory, and training a body of mechanics skilled to the new work at New- NEW who look at the vast quantities of castle. The thousand pounds given to crabs, lobsters, sea crayfish, shrimps, him by the coal-owners for his invention and prawns, which are so temptingly and of the safety-lamp he could advance. Mr. abundantly displayed in the shops of our Pease and another friend advanced five fishmongers, consider them in any other hundred each, and so the Newcastle En- light than as delicacies for the table. At gine Factory was founded.
present we desire only to touch upon cerWith what determined perseverance tain strange species, the existence of which Mr. Stephenson upheld the cause of the even is not generally known, and thus locomotive in connection with the pro- throw an interest around the whole tribe. posed Liverpool and Manchester line; First let us take a cursory glance at the how he did cheaply what all the regular Crustaceans, as the naturalist terms them engineers declared impossible or ruinous, -that is, crabs, lobsters, and similar spein carrying that line over Chat-Moss, cies. persevering, when all who were about him Crabs and lobsters are strange creatures: had confessed despair, and because he had strange in their configuration ; strange in made good his boldest promises in every the transmutations which they exhibit from one case; how he was at last trusted in the egg to maturity ; strange in the process the face of public ridicule, upon the merits they undergo of casting off, not only their of the locomotive also; how, after the line shell, but the covering of their eyes, of was built, at the public competition of their long horns, and even the lining of light engines, constructed in accordance their tooth-furnished stomach ; strange, with certain strict conditions, his little also, are they in their habits and manners. Rocket won the prize ; how the fulfillment We presume that our reader has often of his utmost assertions raised Stephenson wandered along the sea-shore, and floundto the position of an oracle in the eyes of ered amid banks of slimy sea-weed. If the public ; how he, nevertheless, went so, he cannot but have disturbed colonies on improving the construction of both rails of little crabs quietly nestling in fancied and locomotives ; how the great railway security ; nor can he have scrutinized the system, of which the foundations were laid nooks and recesses of the coast, the shalpatiently by him, was rapidly developed ; lows, and the strips of sand left dry at ebb how, when success begot a mania, he was tide, without observing numbers of little, as conspicuous for his determined modera- or perchance large crabs, some concealed tion, as he had before been for his determ- in snug lurking-places, others, tripping ined zeal; how he attained honor and for with a quick, sidelong movement over the tune, and retired from public life, again to beach, alarmed by the advance of an ungrow fruits or vegetables in his garden, welcome intruder. Some of these Cruspineapples instead of leeks, again to pet taceans are exclusively tenants of the animals and watch the birds' nests in the water, have feet formed like paddles, for hedges, we need not tell in detail ; Mr. swimming, and never venture on land; Smile's excellent biography tells it all. others seem to love the air and sunshine,
One of the chief pleasures of his latter and enjoy an excursion, not without hopes days was to hold out a helping hand to of finding an acceptable repast, over the poor inventors who deserved assistance. oozy sands ; some, equally fond of the He was a true man to the last, whom fail- shore and the shallow water, appropriate ure never drove to despair ; whom success to themselves the shells of periwinkles, never elated to folly. Inch by inch he whelks, etc., and there live in a sort of made his ground good in the world, and castle, which they drag about with them for the world. A year before his death, on their excursions, changing it for a larger, in 1848, somebody, about to dedicate a not without serious scrutiny, as they inbook to him, asked him what were his crease in measure of growth. " ornamental initials." His reply was,
The Crustaceans afford interesting ob“I have to state that I have no flourishes jects for the consideration of those who to my name, either before or after ; and I delight in the study of natural history; think it will be as well if you merely say, especially those of the warmer latitudes George Stephenson."
of the globe. They vary in size, from microscopic animalcules to the gigantic certainly to be placed among the most exKing Crab: to the former, the luminosity traordinary of its race. The Hermit Crabs of the ocean, or of the foam before the are voracious, and feed on animal subprows of vessels, is to a great extent at- stances, and this is the character of the tributable, each minute creature glowing Crustaceans in general. On the contrary, with phosphoric radiance.
this Crab, or rather Lobster Crab—for it Certain crabs, especially in the West takes an intermediate place between them Indies, are almost exclusively terrestrial, -is more delicate in its appetite, and feeds visiting the sea only at given periods, upon fruits, to obtain which it climbs up for the deposition of their eggs. These certain trees, at the feet of which it makes crabs, carrying in their gill-chambers suffi- a burrow. The species in question is the cient water for the purpose of respiration, Purse Crab or Robber Crab (Birgus latro) live in burrows, and traverse considerable of Amboyna, and other islands in the South tracts of land in the performance of migra- Pacific Ocean. It is probable that there tory journeys. Of these some, as the Vio- are more than one species, but voyagers let Crab, are esteemed exquisite delicacies. have not attended to nice discrimination. Of one of the Burrowing Crabs Cuvier The first naturalist who placed upon thus writes :
record the habits of the Purse Crab was “The animal closes the entrance of its bur- Herbst ; and to his account Rumphius, row, which is situated near the margin of the sea,
Seba, Linnæus, and Cuvier refer. The or in marshy grounds, with its largest claw. latter observes that, “according to a popuThese burrows are cylindrical, oblique, very lar belief among the Indians, the animal deep, and very close to each other; but gen feeds on the nuts of the cocoa-tree, and erally each burrow is the exclusive habitation of a single individual. The habit which these that it makes its excursions during the crabs have of holding their large claw elevated night.” He gives fissures in the rocks, in advance of the body, as if making a sign of or holes in the ground, as its places of rebeckoning to some one, has obtained for them
treat. the name of Calling Crabs. There is a species observed by Mr. Bosc in South Carolina, which
That the accounts of the early writers passes the three months of the winter in its and travelers should have been received retreat without once quitting it, and which with incredulity is not surprising, nor that never goes to the sea except at the epoch of
the statements of the natives should have egg-laying."
been deemed almost unworthy of serious The same observations apply to the consideration. The truth of these details Chevalier crabs (so called from the celerity has been, however, within the last few with which they traverse the ground.) years, abundantly confirmed in all their These are found Africa, and along the essentials. MM. Quoy and Gaimard asborders of the Mediterranean.
sure us that several individuals of this Some crabs, truly aquatic, as the Vaulted species were fed by them for many months Crab of the Moluccas, have the power of on cocoa-nuts alone : a circumstance comdrawing back their limbs and concealing mented upon by Professor Owen, when a them in a furrow, which they closely fit ; specimen of this crab was laid before one and thus, in imitation of a tortoise, which of the scientific meetings of the Zoological retracts its feet and head within its shell, Society, with additional information from they secure themselves, when alarmed, Mr. Cuming, in whose fine collection of from the attack of enemies. Other aquatic Crustacea, shells, etc., from the islands species have the limbs adapted for clinging of the South Pacific, several specimens to weeds and other marine objects. Of were preserved. According to this enterthese, some have the two or four hinder prising voyager and naturalist, these crabs pair of limbs so placed as to appear to are to be found in great abundance at Lord spring from the back; they terminate in a Hood's Island, in the Pacific. He there sharp hook, by means of which the animal frequently met with them on the road; attaehes itself to the valves of shells, frag- and states that, on being disturbed, they ments of coral, etc., which it draws over | instantly assumed a defensive attitude, its body, and thus lurks in concealment. making a violent snapping with their powAllied in some respects to the Hermit or erful claws or pincers, and continued this Soldier Crabs, which tenant empty shells, snapping as they retreated backward. and to which we have briefly alluded, is They climb a species of palm, (Pandanus one which, from its habits and manners, is odoratissimus,) and eat a small kind of cocoa-nut that grows thereon. They live “ The adult crabs inhabit deep burrows, at the roots of the trees, and not in the which they excavate beneath the roots of holes of rocks ; and they are a favorite food quantities of the picked fibres of the cocoa-nut
trees; and here they accumulate surprising among the natives. Such is the substance husk, on which they rest as on a bed. The of Mr. Cuming's account; to which we Malays sometimes take advantage of their shall now add a most interesting passage labors by collecting the coarse fibrous subfrom Mr. Darwin's “Researches in Ge
stance and using it as junk.
“These crabs are very good to eat; moreover, ology and Natural History," relative to
under the tail of the larger ones there is a great the habits of these crabs, as observed by mass of fat, which when melted yields as much him in the Keeling Islands, or Cocos Is- as a quart bottleful of limpid oil. lands, situated in the Indian Ocean, six
“ It has been stated by some authors that
the Birgus latro crawls up the cocoa-nut trees, hundred miles distant from the coast of
for the purpose of stealing the nuts. I very Sumatra. In these islands, of coral forma- much doubt the possibility of this; but with tion, the cocoa-nut tree so prevails as to Pandanus (to which Mr. Cuming refers as being appear, at a first glance, to compose the
ascended by this crab) the task would be very
much easier. I understand from Mr. Liesk whole wood, but five or six other kinds
that on these islands the Birgus lives only on are also to be seen, and one of large size. the nuts which fall to the ground.” Here the Great Purse Crab is abundant. Mr. Darwin writes as follows:
It may at first appear that Mr. Cum
ing's and Mr. Darwin's respective ac“I have before alluded to a crab which lives
counts of the non-climbing of this animal, on the cocoa-nuts; it is very common on all parts of the dry land, and grows to a monstrous
on the one side, and of its actually climbsize. It is closely allied to, or is identical ing trees on the other, are contradictory. with, the Birgus latro. This crab has its front The height of the stem of the cocoa-nut pair of legs terminated by very strong and
tree, its circumference, and comparative heavy pincers, and the last pair by others
external smoothness, would certainly prove which are narrow and weak. It would at first be thought quite impossible for a crab to open insurmountable, or at least very serious, a strong cocoa-nut, covered with the husk; but obstacles to the most ambitious and most Mr. Liesk assures me that he has repeatedly greedy Birgus, however large and strong seen the operation effected. The crab begins by tearing away the husk, fiber by fiber, and it might be. But these difficulties are by always from that end under which the three no means so formidable in the plants of eye-holes are situated. When this is com- the Pandanus tribe ; a group composed of pleted the crab commences hammering with its arborescent or bushy species, with long, heavy claws on one of these eye-holes till an opening is made. Then, turning its body, thin, rigid, sword-shaped leaves resemby the aid of its posterior and narrow pair of bling those of the pine-apple, usually arpincers, it extracts the white albuminous sub range in a manner so obviously spiral, stance. I think this is as curious a case as I that they are commonly called Screwever heard of, and likewise of adaptation in structure between two objects apparently so
pines. In the genus Pandanus (a word remote from each other in the scheme of nature
derived from the Malay Pandang) the as a crab and a cocoa-nut tree. The Birgus | leaves decidedly present this spiral mode is diurnal in its habits; but it is said to pay of arrangement. The Pandanus odorevery night a visit to the sea for the purpose atissimus is celebrated for the fragrance of moistening its gills.”
of its essence, and is referred to by the These gills, we may here observe, are Sanscrit poets under the name of Kelaka. very peculiar, and scarcely fill up more It is the Keora and Ketgee of the Hindoos, than a tenth of the chamber in which they and the Kazee of the Arabs. Oil impregare situated, and which, doubtless, acts as nated with the essence of its flowers, and a reservoir for water, to serve during the water distilled from them, are highly esanimals' excursions over the dry and teemed, both for their odor and medicinal heated land. The young are hatched and qualities. In the peninsula of India this live for some time on the coast. At this species is called the Caldera bush ; and period of existence we cannot suppose Dr. Roxburgh informs us that it is from that cocoa-nuts form any part of their diet; the tender white leaves of the flowers, most probably soft saccharine grasses, particularly of the male flowers, that the tender fruits, and animal matters consti- essence is obtained. The lower pulpy tute their food, until they attain to a cer- part of the drupes is sometimes eaten, as tain degree of size and strength. Mr. is also the terminal bud, together with the Darwin continues :
white base of the long acute leaves, either boiled or raw. It forms an excel- a mass of seed berries or ovaries, collected lent hedge, but occupies an inconvenient into a tuberculated head. In some species degree of room. The leaves are com- they are dry and fibrous, in others fleshy posed of tough white longitudinal fibers, and succulent. well adapted for the fabrication of matting This slight description of the general and cordage, for the manufacture of sacks character of the Pandanus, or screw-pine, and similar articles. An allied and very will suffice to show that the ascent of these fragrant species is common in Tahiti, arborescent plants, having the stem furwhere it is called the Wharra tree; nished with a rigging of cord-like roots, others are found in the Mauritius, where and bearing a multitude of firm, long, and they are known as the Vaquois plant. spirally-arranged leaves, will be by no Long roots are thrown off from the sides means a work of difficulty, as would neof the stems of these screw-pines, for the cessarily be that of the tall, feathery-topped purpose of holding them more steadily in cocoa-nut tree, destitute of all available the loose sandy or con -formed
points of aid or support. Hence the conwhich they grow. The fruit consists of l tradiction in the two accounts referred to
is seeming, and not real, and both state of the tail and the spines which border the ments are easily reconciled. We may gill covers. It is by the same agency here observe that fine specimens of the that it traverses the land. The statement Birgus are to be seen in the British of M. Daldorf is corroborated by M. John, Museum.
also a Danish observer, to whom we are That, among such animals as the Crab indebted for the knowledge of its name in tribes, a tree-climbing species is to be | Tranquebar, which alludes to its arboreal found is certainly curious, but it is not proceedings. without a parallel among fishes. Among these latter, many leave the water, some even for a long period, and perform over
THE CHINESE EMIGRANT. land journeys, aided in their progress by the structure of their fins. In these fishes N no country in the world, perhaps, are the gills and gill-chambers are constructed so many laws made only to be broken, for the retention of water for a consider as in China. If many of these statutes and able time, so as to suffice for the neces- regulations are excellent in themselves, sary degree of respiration. In our own and conceived in a wise moral spirit, others country we may mention the eel, which, are unwise, and even preposterous, while as we know, from personal experience, not a few are rendered impracticable by often voluntarily quits the river or lake, natural causes. Thus, for example, emiand wanders during the night over the gration is strictly prohibited, so that, overadjacent meadows, probably in quest of peopled as the empire is, no Chinese can dew-worms.
lawfully leave his country to settle in But the marshes of India and China another. Nevertheless, during the last present us with fishes much more decid- fifty years, want of room, and scarcity of edly terrestrial, and which (some of them, bread at home, have annually driven many at least) were known to the ancients. thousands to migrate to other lands; and
Among these are several members of a the officers of government have been genus called Ophicephalus, (from their obliged to wink and connive at their departsnake-like form). These fishes, having ure. It could not, indeed, be otherwise, an elongated and cylindrical body, creep in districts where the population had far on land to great distances from their na outrun its means of subsistence, and where tive waters. The boatmen of India often people, in years of bad harvests, were not keep these fishes for a long time out of unfrequently reduced to the frightful extheir true element, for the sake of divert-tremity of selling their children, and even ing themselves and others by their terres- eating one another. Horrible as is this trial movements; and children may be alternative, it is yet a well-ascertained often seen pursuing this sort of sport. Of fact. Within these last twelve years, or these terrestrial or land-haunting fishes since the conclusion of the English war the most remarkable is the Pannei-eri, / with the Celestial Emperor, these streams (tree-climber,) as it is called in Tranque- of emigration have been greatly swollen. bar. This fish inhabits India, the Indian In all the neighboring seas, wherever there islands, and various parts of China, Chu- is an island, peninsula, or promontory, held san, etc.; living in marshes, and feeding by the English, Dutch, or other European on aquatic insects, worms, etc. Not nation, we are now pretty sure to find a only does this fish wander on land, but, colony of industrious Chinese ; while according to Daldorf, a Danish gentleman, other individuals of that nation have transwho, in 1797, communicated an account ported themselves as far as St. Helena, of its habits to the Linnæan Society, (Trans. Australia, California, and other distant Linn., iii., p. 62), it mounts up the bushes regions. The following story of an emior low palms to some elevation. This grant occurred a few years ago. gentleman states that he has himself ob In a very poor, crowded, and hungry served it in the act of ascending palm- district, in the province of Fokien, there trees near the marshes, and had taken it lived a distressed agricultural family, conat a height of no less than five feet, meas- sisting of wife and husband, two sons and ured from the level of the adjacent water. a daughter. They had struggled hard It effects its ascent by means of its pec- through two seasons of drought and dearth, toral and under fins, aided by the action and were anticipating better fortune in the