Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 39.djvu/852

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

the hosts of the air, but to be bred for her, and every day she is to be placed in the stocks and compelled to give up her silk. This plan may possibly be feasible, but the space and the labor required would make the silk so costly that it could not compete with the product of the contented and simple-minded silkworm.

In fact, the spider, like the cat, is a self-reliant being, who will submit to petting, will become perfectly tame, so long as the friendship is reciprocal, but will never be made a slave to serve our whims. Her sturdy independence, her ability to take care of herself and to go where she pleases, were long ago recognized; for doth not the wise man of old say, "The spider taketh hold with her hands, and is in kings' palaces"?



SLOW as we have been in recognizing that man owes the superiority of his form and his attributes to the experience of his entire animal ancestry, we have been prompt to attribute to other animals psychical and sensorial qualities more or less nearly identical with ours. There really seems to be some insolence in assuming that hearing, as we enjoy it, is refused to the immense majority of living beings, and especially to all the invertebrates. This arises partly from the fact that we are hardly acquainted with our own senses, and that many of our faculties are still left for us to discover while we use them in a way as constant as unconscious, and partly from our natural tendency to base on distant organic analogies functional assimilations which are far from being always admissible.

Here is a pigmentary spot to which we assign the dignity of the eye; there, a hair, an otocyst, which we call the auditory organ; and at the same time we assume that the spot is for seeing and the hair for hearing. As sight and hearing are known to us only as we have them, there results a deplorable misinterpretation of the sensorial function in animals.

Can we, however, have any conception of the power of smell of a ray or a rat? Are there not some insects which can supply the place of nearly all the other senses by the richness of their smell? And do we, aerial animals, know anything about the kind of sense of smell that water animals have?

The comparative physiology of the sight would show curious differences between us and any animal. Ants might have theories respecting luminous undulations that would seem very strange to us. Do they know what we understand by color? Do they com-