Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 11.djvu/671

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BATHYBIUS AND THE MONERS.

were correct. We will, however, for the nonce, suppose the contrary to be the fact, and will grant that Bathybius is not a Moneres, nor even an organism. Does it follow from this that the Moneres too have no existence? Or must we say that, as the familiar great sea-serpent of fable does not exist, therefore there is no such thing as a sea-serpent? We know that there are many sea-serpents belonging to the family of the viviparous and highly-venomous Hydrophidæ (Hydrophis, Platurus, Æpysurus, etc.), which chiefly inhabits the Indian Ocean and the Sunda Archipelago, but none of which attain any considerable size.

It were useless here again to quote my own researches which have demonstrated the existence of upward of a dozen different species of Moneres, some living in fresh, others in salt water. I would, however, state that these observations have since been repeated and confirmed by a number of competent investigators. Some of these Moneres appear to be very widely distributed in fresh water, as for instance the genera Protomœba and Vampyrella. Protamœba agilis and Vampyrella spirogyræ may be observed almost any summer at Jena. P. primitiva and V. vorax have been seen by sundry observers in very diverse localities. Other new Moneres forms have been quite recently discovered by Cienkowski and Oskar Grimm. When the attention of microscopists has been more generally directed to these extremely simple organisms, we may hope that our knowledge of them will be considerably widened and deepened.

Whether Bathybius is or is not a true Moneres, at all events we already know with certitude a number of true Moneres whose fundamental importance is quite independent of Bathybius. We know that even now there exist in the waters of our planet a number of very low forms of life, which are not only the simplest of all actually observed organisms, but even the simplest imaginable of living things. Their whole body, in the fully-developed and reproductive condition, consists of nothing but a little mass of structureless protoplasm, whose changing, variable processes all at once discharge the various life functions—movement, sensation, transmutation of matter, nutrition, growth, and reproduction. Morphologically considered, the body of a Moneres is as simple as an inorganic crystal. We cannot distinguish in it separate parts; or, rather, each part is equivalent to each other. These facts and their far-reaching consequences apply to all Moneres without exception—with or without Bathybius!—and hence it does not affect the theory at all whether Bathybius exists or not.

When we describe these Moneres as "absolutely simple organisms," we of course only express their morphological simplicity, the absence of distinct organs. Chemico-physically, they may be highly composite; indeed, we must in any case ascribe to them, as to all albuminous bodies, a highly-complex molecular structure. Many regard the slime-like albuminous body of Moneres as a single chemical albu-