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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/336

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316
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

of a boat hollowed above, rounded in front, and drawn out into two points behind (Fig. 1) the outer surface having wart-like processes, while fine points like the teeth of a saw rise from the upper edges in front of and behind the body.

The body itself lies in the upper hollow of the boat, and is so loosely fixed to it that if carelessly handled it is easily separated from the shell. The shell is made of a uniform and structureless substance, about midway in consistence between jelly and gristle. The animal does not appear to be especially affected in its motions by separation from the boat, but flies around in the water as before; but, as it does not live long in captivity, it has not been possible to determine whether or not it is able to form a new shell. It may be said, against such a supposition, that besides perfect animals, only empty shells or rarely shelless animals are found in the sea, while none have ever been observed with imperfect shells, as must have been the case did a new growth take place.

The body is very curiously constructed. Leaving out the wings, it appears insignificant in proportion to the shell, and as if buried in it. The fore-part corresponds with the thicker, bluntly rounded part of the boat. In the posterior channel plays a threadlike tail-appendage, starting from a heart-shaped, extremely thin, and transparent fin, which is attached to the body by a thicker stem. There is no head; in front, at the spot where the wings join in the central line, lies the mouth, projecting in the shape of a little round mast, behind which a dark-brown, crescent-shaped streak may be perceived. This is the pharynx-head shining through the body-cover. Like other mollusks, this animal bears a peculiar inner armament which has been wrongly named the tongue, but has not the least in common with the tongue of vertebrates. This tongue is variously formed, according to the food of the animal—like a file or rubber in plant-eaters, or provided with teeth, hooks, and thorns in carnivores. All the sea-butterflies have on their tongues rows of strong, pointed hooks; they are—perhaps with a few exceptions—distinctively carnivorous. But our fishing did not end with the capture of a few Cymbuliæ and slipping them into the glasses which we had provided, for inspection at home. The Cymbuliæ are the giants among the sea-butterflies of the Bay of Villafranca; a multitude of small fry also swim in the tide which even the most skilled eye can not distinguish from the water, so clear and transparent are they.

"Slowly, Joacchino! Let us drift with the stream!"

I sink the fine net into the water, so that its rim is barely under the surface, and set the long handle on the edge of the boat against the thole-pin. Joacchino slowly pushes the boat onward without beating the water.

"Stop! Give me the lager-beer glass!"