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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/614

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

The Lanius collurio, an allied bird, uses this method still more frequently. He even prepares a small larder before feasting. One may thus see on a thorny branch spitted side by side Coleoptera, crickets, grasshoppers, frogs, and even young birds, which he has seized when they were in flight. (Fig. 3.)

Of all these well-attested facts that which perhaps best shows how animals in certain circumstances may take advantage of a foreign body to utilize the product of the chase is the following, the observation of which is due to Parseval-Deschênes. He followed during several hours an ant bearing a heavy burden. On arriving at the foot of a little hillock the animal was unable to mount with his load, and abandoned it—a very extraordinary fact for one who knows the inconceivable tenacity of insects. The abandonment, therefore, left hope of return. The ant at last met one of his companions, who was also carrying a burden. They stopped, took counsel for an instant, bringing their antennae together, and started for the hillock. The second ant then left his burden, and both together seized a twig and introduced its end beneath the first load which had been abandoned because of its weight. By acting on the free extremity of the twig they were able to use it exactly as a lever, and succeeded almost without trouble in passing their booty on to the other side of the little hillock. It seems to me that these ants who invented the lever are worthy of admiration, and that their ingenuity does not yield to our own.

Animals construct dwellings either to protect themselves from the cold, heat, rain, and other chances of the weather, or to retire to at moments when the search for food does not compel them to be outside and exposed to the attacks of enemies. Some inhabit these refuges permanently; others only remain there during the winter; others, again, who live during the rest of the year in the open air, set up dwellings to bring forth their young, or to lay their eggs and rear the offspring. Whatever the object may be for which these retreats are built, they constitute altogether various manifestations of the same industry, and I will class them, not according to the uses which they are to serve, but according to the amount of art displayed by the architect.

Dwellings formed of Coarsely Entangled Materials.—Diurnal birds of prey are the first animals who practice skillfully the twining of materials. Their nests, which have received the name of eyries, are not yet masterpieces of architecture, and reveal the beginning of the industry which is pushed so far by other birds. Usually situated in wild and inaccessible spots, the young are there in safety when their parents are away on distant expeditions. The abrupt summits of cliffs and the tops of the highest forest trees are the favorite spots chosen by the great