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Micrographia - or some physiological descriptions of minute bodies made by magnifying glasses with observations and inquiries thereupon/Chapter 37

Observ. XXXVII. Of the Feet of Flies, and several other Insects.

The foot of a Fly (delineated in the first Figure of the 23. Scheme, which represents three joints, the two Tallons, and the two Pattens in a flat posture; and in the second Figure of the same Scheme, which represents onely one joint, the Tallons and Pattens in another posture) is of a most admirable and curious contrivance, for by this the Flies are inabled to walk against the sides of Glass, perpendicularly upwards, and to contain themselves in that posture as long as they please; nay, to walk and suspend themselves against the under surface of many bodies, as the ceiling of a room, or the like, and this with as great a seeming facility and firmness, as if they were a kind of Antipodes, and had a tendency upwards, as we are sure they have the contrary, which they also evidently discover, in that they cannot make themselves so light, as to stick or suspend themselves on the under surface of a Glass well polish'd and cleans'd; their suspension therefore is wholly to be ascrib'd to some Mechanical contrivance in their feet; which, what it is, we shall in brief explain, by shewing, that its Mechanism consists principally in two parts, that is, first its two Claws, or Tallons, and secondly, two Palms, Pattens, or Soles.

The two Tallons are very large, in proportion to the foot, and handsomly shap'd in the manner describ'd in the Figures, by A B, and A C, the bigger part of them from A to d d, is all hairy, or brisled, but toward the top, at C and B smooth, the tops or points, which seem very sharp turning downwards and inwards, are each of them mov'd on a joint at A, by which the Fly is able to open or shut them at pleasure, so that the points B and C being entered in any pores, and the Fly endeavouring to shut them, the Claws not onely draw one against another, and so fasten each other, but they draw the whole foot, G G A D D forward, so that on a soft footing, the tenters or points G G G G, (whereof a Fly has about ten in each foot, to wit, two in every joint) run into the pores, if they find any, or at least make their way; and this is sensible to the naked eye, in the feet of a Chafer, which, if he be suffer'd to creep over the hand, or any other part of the skin of ones body, does make his steps as sensible to the touch as the sight.

But this contrivance, as it often fails the Chafer, when he walks on hard and close bodies, so would it also our Fly, though he be a much lesser, and nimbler creature, and therefore Nature has furnish'd his foot with another additament much more curious and admirable, and that is, with a couple of Palms, Pattens or Soles D D, the structure of which is this:

From the bottom or under part of the last joint of his foot, K, arise two small thin plated horny substances, each consisting of two flat pieces, D D, which seem to be flexible, like the covers of a Book, about F F, by which means, the plains of the two sides E E, do not always lie in the same plain, but may be sometimes shut closer, and so each of them may take a little hold themselves on a body; but that is not all, for the under sides of these Soles are all beset with small brisles, or tenters, like the Wire teeth of a Card used for working Wool, the points of all which tend forwards, hence the two Tallons drawing the feet forwards, as I before hinted, and these being applied to the surface of the body with all the points looking the contrary way, that is, forwards and outwards, if there be any irregularity or yielding in the surface of the body, the Fly suspends it self very firmly and easily, without the access or need of any such Sponges fill'd with an imaginary gluten, as many have, for want of good Glasses, perhaps, or a troublesome and diligent examination, suppos'd.

Now, that the Fly is able to walk on Glass, proceeds partly from some
Schem. XXIII.
ruggedness of the surface: and chiefly from a kind of tarnish, or dirty smoaky substance, which adheres to the surface of that very hard body; and though the pointed parts cannot penetrate the substance of Glass, yet may they find pores enough in the tarnish, or at least make them.

This Structure I somewhat the more diligently survey'd, because I could not well comprehend, how, if there were such a glutinous matter in those supposed Sponges, as most (that have observ'd that Object in a Microscope) have hitherto believ'd, how, I say, the Fly could so readily unglew and loosen its feet: and, because I have not found any other creature to have a contrivance any ways like it, and chiefly, that we might not be cast upon unintelligible explications of the Phænomena of Nature, at least others then the true ones, where our senses were able to furnish us with an intelligible, rationall and true one.

Somewhat a like contrivance to this of Flies shall we find in most other Animals, such as all kinds of Flies and case-wing'd creatures; nay, in a Flea, an Animal abundantly smaller then this Fly. Other creatures, as Mites, the Land-Crab, &c. have onely one small very sharp Tallon at the end of each of their legs, which all drawing towards the center or middle of their body, inable these exceeding light bodies to suspend and fasten themselves to almost any surface. Which how they are able to do, will not seem strange, if we consider, first, how little body there is in one of these creatures compar'd to their superficies, or outside, their thickness, perhaps, oftentimes, not amounting to the hundredth part of an Inch: Next, the strength and agility of these creatures compar'd to their bulk, being, proportionable to their bulk, perhaps, an hundred times stronger then an Horse or Man. And thirdly, if we consider that Nature does always appropriate the instruments, so as they are the most fit and convenient to perform their offices, and the most simple and plain that possibly can be; this we may see further verify'd also in the foot of a Louse which is very much differing from those I have been describing, but more convenient and necessary for the place of its habitation, each of his leggs being footed with a couple of small claws which he can open or shut at pleasure, shap'd almost like the claws of a Lobster or Crab, but with appropriated contrivances for his peculiar life, which being to move its body to and fro upon the hairs of the creature it inhabits, Nature has furnish'd one of its claws with joints, almost like the joints of a man's fingers, so as thereby it is able to encompass or grasp a hair as firmly as a man can a stick or rope.

Nor, is there a less admirable and wonderfull Mechanism in the foot of a Spider, whereby he is able to spin, weave, and climb, or run on his curious transparent clew, of which I shall say more in the description of that Animal.

And to conclude, we shall in all things find, that Nature does not onely work Mechanically, but by such excellent and most compendious, as well as stupendious contrivances, that it were impossible for all the reason in the world to find out any contrivance to do the same thing that should have more convenient properties. And can any be so sottish, as to think all those things the productions of chance? Certainly, either their Ratiocination must be extremely depraved, or they did never attentively consider and contemplate the Works of the Almighty.