Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 11.djvu/669

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BATHYBIUS AND THE MONERS.

a critique of this subject. We will endeavor, by impartially weighing the facts, to form an unprejudiced judgment on Bathybius, now so decried and so generally discredited.

With respect to dead Bathybius—deep-sea ooze brought from the North Atlantic and preserved in spirits of wine—all the observers who have studied it closely agree in saying that it contains greater or smaller masses of coagulated protoplasm, which, in their morphological and chemico-physical properties, bear the closest resemblance to certain Moneres. The results obtained by Huxley from material examined by him—results which I myself have been able to confirm and enlarge have been admitted as correct by all the other observers who studied the same ooze.

With respect to living Bathybius, we have positive testimony as to its characteristic, Rhizopod-like movements from three competent observers, namely, Sir Wyville Thomson, Prof. William Carpenter, and Dr. Emil Bessels. All three made their observations on deep-sea ooze from the North Atlantic. On the other hand, the attempts made by members of the Challenger Expedition in various seas to repeat and confirm these earlier observations on the movement phenomena led only to negative results.

What follows now from this testimony, all of which we mast recognize as of equal credibility, but which, nevertheless, is self-conflicting? Simply that the Bathybius-ooze has a limited geographical distribution, and that it was an over-hasty generalization to people all deep-sea abysses with that organism. But from the fact that the Challenger Expedition did not rediscover living Bathybius it surely does not follow that the observations made in other localities by the Porcupine Expedition were faulty. Or, from the fact that the Challenger Expedition found Radiolarian ooze only in a comparatively limited area in the Pacific and nowhere else, must we draw the conclusion that no such thing exists? We know that the vast majority of organic species have a limited distribution; why, then, should not the distribution of Bathybius be limited too?

Hence I confess I cannot understand why Huxley should have so suddenly and so totally changed his views about Bathybius. Still less do I understand how, at the last meeting of the German Naturalists' Association at Hamburg (September, 1876), Bathybius could ever have been publicly interred. In the Berlin Nationalzeitung I find the following notable report (dated Hamburg, September 21st) of a paper by Prof. Möbius, on "Marine Fauna and the Challenger Expedition:"

"Over these plateaus [deep-sea plateaus, from 3,700 to 4,000 feet deep] we should look for the mysterious 'primordial slime,' Bathybius, to which the famous Huxley gave the name of Bathyhius Haeckelii as a compliment to his genial friend of Jena. But, unfortunately, natural history met with a sad mishap. Bathybius, which fitted so nicely into the modern hypotheses of the be-