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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/692

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

foliage instantly disappeared down into the tree trunk, leaving only the brown stem standing.

Aghast with surprise at the sudden revelation that this charming foliage, like the petals of the flowers in the last tank, was also a cluster of living suckers, I asked what name they were called by, and heard with disgust the answer "worms." These beautiful, curious creatures only the things we know by the loathsome word "worms!"

These sea worms, or annelids, as the scientific scholars call them, build up for themselves the brown tubes that resemble the rough stems of pines or palms, and from the top they send out their worm-like bodies in clusters, where they wave back and forth in the water, to sweep in any food that may be near, always holding themselves in readiness to withdraw into their holes at danger.

Whether the brilliant foliage of each tree was but the many tentacles of a single animal emerging from the tube, or whether it was a whole family of worms come up to the top of their home to gaze from the chimney, so to speak, we could not discover. But, strange to say, the grotesque little sea horse seemed to be trying to decide that question for himself, for, after swimming away a moment in fright at this sudden disappearance, he returned and appeared to be peeping down into the tube.

The next tank revealed even greater surprise than we had yet seen. Here in the water long white gauze ribbons were waving, as if hung from above, and so transparent that we could see quite through them, almost as if they were composed of the white of an egg. It was only by looking closely that up near the top we could see a tiny black dot, like a pinhead, in each fleecy scarf. This was the head of the animal, or its eye, or mouth, or whatever such a delicate dot might be called.

These are of the jellyfish family, and have only lately been added to the aquarium. Owing to the difficulty of procuring such pulplike masses, they are extremely rare specimens, and can be seen nowhere else. Surely nothing more frail, more delicately lovely exists on land or sea, in plant or animal life, than these gauzy living sashes of the sea.

But not all the denizens of the tanks are beautiful to look upon. There is a tank near the door of entrance filled with objects so hideous that one starts away from them with horror. These are the octopi, or devilfish. Imagine the ugliest, biggest black spider that you ever saw, and enlarge it to the size of the largest turtle you ever saw, and on the end of each of the spider's legs fasten a wicked-looking mouth, and you can form some idea of how frightful an octopus can be.