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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/396

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382
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

belladonna leaves (Atropa belladonna, deadly nightshade). You may feed them with belladonna for weeks without observing the least toxic symptoms. The meat of such animals, however, proves poisonous to any one who eats it, producing the same symptoms as the plant. Pigeons and various other herbivora are also to some degree safe from the effects of this poison, while in warm-blooded carnivora it causes paralysis and asphyxia. In frogs the effect is a different one, consisting of spasms. The meat of goats which had fed on hemlock has sometimes occasioned poisonous effects. Chickens are nearly hardy against nux vomica and the extremely dangerous alkaloid, strychnine, contained in it, while in the smallest amount it is a fatal poison to rodents. More remarkable yet in this respect is the immunity of Choloepus Hoffmanni, a kind of sloth, living on the island of Ceylon, which, when given ten grains of strychnine, was not much affected. Pigeons are possessed of high immunity from morphine, the chief alkaloid of opium, as well as from belladonna. Eight grains were required to kill a pigeon, not much less than the mortal dose for a man. Cats are extremely sensitive to foxglove (Digitalis purpurea), which on the contrary may be given to rabbits and various birds in pretty large doses. Many kinds of fish may be killed by just a trace of Cocculus indicus, although their meat is not made injurious by it. Laughing-gas, or nitrogen monoxide, a means used to relieve pain in light surgical operations, affects man more than any other creature; when breathed in a mixture of four parts of laughing-gas and one part of oxygen it produces a pleasant kind of intoxication together with diminished sensibility, though in animals no such effect has been observed.

The immunity of certain animals against the bite of venomous serpents is remarkable. Numerous observations have been recorded proving the polecat, hedgehog, and buzzard to be proof against the bite of the viper; it is mortal for most other animals of the same size and nearly related to them.

Immunity, however, is not limited to the relations of animals to poisons of vegetable or animal origin, but is manifested as well in conditions and processes in the healthy animal organism and in its susceptibility to diseases. The resistance offered by the living stomach of an animal to the dissolving effect of the juice secreted by the stomach itself has to be explained by immunity. A watery solution of pepsin—the digestive principle of the stomach—acidulated by muriatic acid, and thus, as to composition, corresponding to the digesting juice of living animals, upon addition of pieces of the stomach of any mammal, dissolves them, forming a perfect solution. The stomach of the living healthy animal, on the contrary, does not undergo the least change by the secreted juice; it is proof against the digesting effect of its