Page:Origin of Species 1872.djvu/216

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

across the object-glass of my microscope. When a branch was placed on its face, the vibracula became entangled, and they made violent efforts to free themselves. They are supposed to serve as a defence, and may be seen, as Mr. Busk remarks, "to sweep slowly and carefully over the surface of the polyzoary, removing what might be noxious to the delicate inhabitants of the cells when their tentacula are protruded." The avicularia, like the vibracula, probably serve for defence, but they also catch and kill small living animals, which, it is believed, are afterwards swept by the currents within reach of the tentacula of the zooids. Some species are provided with avicularia and vibracula, some with avicularia alone and a few with vibracula alone.

It is not easy to imagine two objects more widely different in appearance than a bristle or vibraculum, and an avicularium like the head of a bird; yet they are almost certainly homologous and have been developed from the same common source, namely a zooid with its cell. Hence, we can understand how it is that these organs graduate in some cases, as I am informed by Mr. Busk, into each other. Thus, with the avicularia of several species of Lepralia, the movable mandible is so much produced and is so like a bristle that the presence of the upper or fixed beak alone serves to determine its avicularian nature. The vibracula may have been directly developed from the lips of the cells, without having passed through the avicularian stage; but it seems more probable that they have passed through this stage, as during the early stages of the transformation, the other parts of the cell, with the included zooid, could hardly have disappeared at once. In many cases the vibracula have a grooved support at the base, which seems to represent the fixed beak; though this support in some species is quite absent. This view of the development of the vibracula, if trustworthy, is interesting; for supposing that all the species provided with avicularia had become extinct, no one with the most vivid imagination would ever have thought that the vibracula had originally existed as part of an organ, resembling a bird's head, or an irregular box or hood. It is interesting to see two such widely different organs developed from a common origin; and as the movable lip of the cell serves as a protection to the zooid, there is no difficulty in believing that all the gradations, by which the lip became converted first into the lower mandible of an avicularium, and then into an elongated bristle, likewise served as a protection in different ways and under different circumstances.

In the vegetable kingdom Mr. Mivart only alludes to two cases,