Several of these monsters were writhing near the glass wall, stretching out their long, boneless arms, and sometimes fastening their suckers upon the glass in the search for food, thus unconsciously showing off the ugliness of their mouths. It was now time for the keeper to come to them in his round of feeding. He put into the tank from above a number of crabs, when suddenly the whole tank seemed filled with octopi. They had been sleeping among the dark rocks, of which they were so much the color that we had not before observed them. The poor little crabs had probably been stunned, or perhaps killed, by the keeper, for they made no resistance when the octopi fastened upon them their long suckers in a death-grasp. The octopi fought with each other over the possession of the crabs, and for some moments there was a terrible waving to and fro of black suckers fully two yards in length.
Beside this tank was another of clear water in which were some peaceful cuttlefish. The keeper, for a few coins, stirred these out of their quiet by moving his long stick after them. They swam about in fright for a moment or two, and then we saw them no more, for the clear water had suddenly become a thick black fluid. The cuttlefish had discharged their bags of ink to escape the pursuing enemy.
The upper floors of the zoölogical station are seldom shown to visitors, but these are almost more interesting than the tank room below. Here the great scholars who make a life study of these strange inhabitants of the deep have their tables; here the dredgings of the sea are brought by fishermen and divers for them to assort; here sea animals are developed by them from the egg, and even from invisible germs.
Each investigator into the strange lower world is furnished with his own aquaria, suited to the special branch he may be studying, for nearly all are interested in a special branch of zoology. One man has come a long distance to pursue the study of sponges, and he is furnished with a perfect garden of them, for they are brought up from this part of the Mediterranean in infinite variety.
Another student is studying the habits of mollusks, and basins and jars of these and their eggs are near him. There are divers' costumes hanging on the walls in which the savants may themselves descend to the bottom of the sea and study the inhabitants in their native houses.
There are laboratories and libraries here, adapted to the most exhaustive study, and a fleet of small boats is also kept exclusively for the use of the zoological station.
Fishermen constantly bring in baskets filled with what seems to be only wet rubbish, heaps of stones, and worthless bits of pulp.