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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 48.djvu/507

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EFFECT OF DROUGHT UPON ANIMAL LIFE.

THE EFFECT OF PROLONGED DROUGHT UPON ANIMAL LIFE.[1]
By Dr. CHARLES C. ABBOTT.

FROM July 6 to October 31, 1895, both inclusive, a period of one hundred and eighteen days, there were but seven days when brief showers occurred, no one exceeding one tenth of an inch of rain; and there were four days when prolonged, heavy showers occurred, no one exceeding seven tenths of an inch of rain; and three days, or parts of twenty-four hours, when the fog condensed and for a brief time a drizzle or "Scotch mist" prevailed.

The more prolonged rains occurring September 26th and October 13th caused little brooks, that had been dry for several weeks, to "run" for forty-eight hours, but there was no freshening of the weeds or grass on either upland or meadow. About our dooryards and along the headlands, even where shaded by rank weed growths and the fences, the ordinary grass was brittle, brown, and resting flat upon the earth. Before the beginning of September the landscape had a scorched appearance, this applying also to the foliage of several species of deciduous trees. By this time, too, the last trace of surface moisture had disappeared from the ordinarily wet or "mucky" meadows.

During this time, even at its close, I did not notice any appreciable diminution of the volume of water flowing from the hillside and meadow-surface spring.*, although I learned that many wells had partly or wholly failed. But, in all cases save one that I examined, the water did not pass over its usual course and join ordinarily permanent brooks, and through them reach the river. The extremely dry ground immediately about the springs absorbed the entire outflow at greater or less distances from their sources. Of course, near the springs there was the usual luxuriance of aquatic and semi-aquatic vegetation, and, what is of interest to the zoölogist, an abnormal abundance or overcrowding of animal life in these oasitic areas.

The continued presence of animal life depends upon the food supply. It is equally evident that no form of animal life can survive for any protracted period an absence of moisture. During the prevalence of the drought heavy dews doubtless afforded a sufficiently copious morning draught to slake the thirst for a period of twenty-four hours, and so met the needs of small mam-


  1. This article treats of an area of about two thousand acres of upland and meadow in the Delaware River Valley, lying between Trenton and Bordentown, Mercer County, New Jersey.