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Micrographia - or some physiological descriptions of minute bodies made by magnifying glasses with observations and inquiries thereupon/Chapter 50

Observ. L. Of the wandring Mite.

In September and October, 1661. I observ'd in Oxford several of these little pretty Creatures to wander to and fro, and often to travel over the plains of my Window. And in September and October, 1663. I observ'd likewise several of these very same Creatures traversing a window at London, and looking without the window upon the subjacent wall, I found whole flocks of the same kind running to and fro among the small groves and thickets of green moss, and upon the curiously spreading vegetable blew or yellow moss, which is a kind of a Mushrome or Jews-ear.

These Creatures to the naked eye seemed to be a kind of black Mite, but much nimbler and stronger then the ordinary Cheese-Mites; but examining them in a Microscope, I found them to be a very fine crusted or shell'd Insect, much like that represented in the first Figure of the three and thirtieth Scheme, with a protuberant oval shell A, indented or pitted with an abundance of small pits, all covered over with little white brisles, whose points all directed backwards.

It had eight legs, each of them provided with a very sharp tallon, or claw at the end, which this little Animal, in its going, fastned into the pores of the body over which it went. Each of these legs were bestuck in every joynt of them with multitudes of small hairs, or (if we respect the proportion they bore to the bigness of the leg) turnpikes, all pointing towards the claws.

The Thorax, or middle parts of the body of this Creature, was exceeding small, in respect both of the head and belly, it being nothing but that part which was covered by the two shells B B, though it seem'd to grow thicker underneath: And indeed, if we consider the great variety Nature uses in proportioning the three parts of the body, (the Head, Thorax, and Belly) we shall not wonder at the small proportion of this Thorax, nor at the vaster bulk of the belly, for could we exactly anatomise this little Creature, and observe the particular designs of each part, we should doubtless, as we do in all her more manageable and tractable fabricks, find much more reason to admire the excellency of her contrivance and workmanship, then to wonder, it was not made otherwise.

The head of this little Insect was shap'd somewhat like a Mite's, that is, it had a long snout, in the manner of a Hogs, with a knobbed ridge running along the middle of it, which was bestuck on either side with many small brisles, all pointing forward, and two very large pikes or horns, which rose from the top of the head, just over each eye, and pointed forward also. It had two pretty large black eyes on either side of the head E E, from one of which I could see a very bright reflection of the window, which made me ghess, that the Cornea of it was smooth, like those of bigger Insects. Its motion was pretty quick and strong, it being able very easily to tumble a stone or clod four times as big as its whole body.

At the same time and place, and divers times since, I have observed with my Microscope, another little Insect, which, though I have not annexed the picture of, may be worth noting, for its exceeding nimbleness as well as smalness; it was as small as a Mite, with a body deep and ridged, almost like a Flea; it had eight blood-red legs, not very long, but slender; and two horns or feelers before. Its motion was so exceeding quick, that I have often lost sight of one I have observed with my naked eye; and though, when it was not frighted, I was able to follow the motions of some with my Microscope; yet if it were never so little startled, it posted away with such speed, and turn'd and winded it self so quick, that I should presently lose sight of it.

When I first observ'd the former of these Insects, or Mites, I began to conjecture, that certainly I had found out the vagabond Parents of those Mites we find in Cheeses, Meal, Corn, Seeds, musty Barrels, musty Leather, &c. these little Creatures, wandring to and fro every whither, might perhaps, as they were invited hither and thither by the musty steams of several putrifying bodies, make their invasions upon those new and pleasing territories, and there spending the remainder of their life, which might be perhaps a day, or thereabouts, in very plentiful and riotous living, might leave their off-spring behind them, which by the change of the soil and Country they now inhabite, might be quite alter'd from the hew of their primogenitors, and, like Mores translated into Northern European Climates, after a little time, change both their skin and shape. And this seems yet more probable in these Insects, because that the soil or body they inhabit, seems to be almost half their parent, for it not only hatches and brings those little eggs, or seminal principles, to perfection, but seems to augment and nourish them also before they are hatch'd or shaped; for it is obvious enough to be observ'd, that the eggs of many other Insects, and particularly of Mites, are increas'd in bulk after they are laid out of the bodies of the Insects, and plump'd sometimes into many times their former bigness, so that the bodies they are laid in being, as it were, half their mothers, we shall not wonder that it should have such an active power to change their forms. We find by
Schem. XXXIII.
relations how much the Negro Women do besmeer the of-spring of the Spaniard, bringing forth neither white-skinn'd nor black, but tawny hided Mulattos.

Now, though I propound this as probable, I have not yet been so farr certify'd by Observations as to conclude any thing, either positively or negatively, concerning it. Perhaps, some more lucky diligence may please the curious Inquirer with the discovery of this, to be a truth, which I now conjecture, and may thereby give him a satisfactory account of the cause of those creatures, whose original seems yet to obscure, and may give him cause to believe, that many other animate beings, that seem also to be the mere product of putrifaction, may be innobled with a Pedigree as ancient as the first creation, and farr exceed the greatest beings in their numerous Genealogies. But on the other side, if it should be found that these, or any other animate body, have no immediate similar Parent, I have in another place set down a conjectural Hypothesis whereby those Phænomena may likely enough be solv'd, wherein the infinite wisdom and providence of the Creator is no less rare and wonderfull.