The Zoologist/4th series, vol 1 (1897)/Issue 672/Editorial Gleanings

Editorial Gleanings (June, 1897)
editor W.L. Distant
4036904Editorial GleaningsJune, 1897editor W.L. Distant


In the 'Annali del Museo Civico di Storia Naturale di Genova," Ser. 2a, vol. xvii. (xxxvii), under the well-known title "Viaggio di Leonardo Fea," which has headed very many zoological contributions by different specialists during recent years, is found a "Riassunto Generale dei Risultati Zoologici" by the traveller and collector himself. Fea made some most extensive zoological collections, embracing many orders, in Upper Burma, and these, under the energetic supervision of Dr. Gestro, have been, with the excellent method pursued by the institution over which he presides, distributed for identification amongst well-known specialists. This has resulted in the publication of ninety-five different special memoirs, and three others which partially refer to the zoological spoils of this expedition. The present summary forms in its separate condition a most interesting volume, in which Signor Fea has given to zoologists the results of a naturalist's observations and impressions made in a most productive region. We have placed our copy by the side of the Rev. F. Mason's early work on the Biology of Tenasserira and Burma, published at Maulmain in 1852.

In the 'Bulletin de la Société Nationale d'Acclimatation de France' for April are some interesting notes on the "Fish-oil" industry of Japan, by Daniel Bellet. Sea-fishing affords great employment to the Japanese. A French consul has recently estimated that no less than 3,300,000 individuals are engaged in the vocation, and these figures are apparently accurate from the statistics afforded by other documents. There are 710,610 fishermen, each of whom is the head of a family; 186,517 households salt fish or prepare marine manure; 1,592,690 persons gather seaweed; and 748,231 occupy themselves as under-salters, or with other work connected with the industry. The proceeds of these fisheries are valued at thirteen millions of yens—a yen is nominally a dollar or a little less than five francs, though actually it is a little less than three francs—including the fish-oil, but not counting the secondary productions. The Japanese thus largely practise an industry well known in Europe, and Herrings, Sardines, Whitings, Haddocks, Skates, Congers, Tunnies, and Shads are used for the purpose. In the same 'Bulletin' for March we read that M. Edouard Foa, the well-known traveller, has sent home from Central Africa a tube containing specimens of the Tsetse Fly in a dry condition, which will doubtless prove useful for bacteriological study. These insects will be distributed in the special laboratories "de l"Institut Pasteur, de l'École d'Alfort, de la Faculté de Médecine ou du Muséum."

Undismayed by the daily Monday to Friday performances of the Press Band in the Embankment Gardens, a pair of Sparrows have built a nest in the ornamental ironwork of the band stand, immediately over the conductor's head, and within a few feet of his bâton. Here a young family is being reared, with apparently healthy appetites; for the old birds, taking no notice of the performers, even in the loudest passages, nor of the big crowd of listeners surrounding them, come every few minutes to their untidy nest and feed the youngsters. ('Westminster Gazette,' May 27th.)

At Mearbeck, near Settle, the beautiful residence of Mrs. Preston, a large rookery, which has been there for a very considerable number of years, has unexpectedly been abandoned. Mr. Wooler, the gardener, says that in February last a large number of Rooks came to their old nests and, he thinks, took out the linings of the nests, which can be seen on the ground. Afterwards every Rook disappeared, and the place is now unusually quiet for this time of the year. ('Craven Herald,' Skipton, April 30.)

Lieut.-Colonel H.W. Feilden and Mr. H.J. Pearson, who made a successful expedition to Novaya Zemlya in 1895, are about to proceed to the Petchora river and the coasts of Siberia. The start will be made from Norway, and the explorers will study the geology and zoology of the North Russian shores, and make collections for the British Museum. Some years ago Col. Feilden spent an entire winter in Grinnell Sound—the most northern portion of the globe in which fossil remains have been brought to light—and there obtained ample proof that animals were on the move the whole time.

In 'Nature' for May 27th, Grassi and Calandruccio, supplementing their last announcement on the larva of the Common Eel, that they had succeeded in following the transformation of Leptocephalus brevirostris into Anguilla vulgaris, now supply figures of a specimen of L. brevirostris with its larval teeth still intact, and also of another specimen captured by Dr. Silvestri in the Straits of Messina, which is described as follows:—"Its total length is 71 mm. The anus is about 29 mm. from the apex of the snout, the anterior extremity of the dorsal fin being about 25 mm from the apex of the snout. The head and the point of the tail have already noticeably acquired the known special characteristics of the Eel. The larval teeth have totally disappeared, while the distinctive ones seem still entirely absent. It lacks all traces of pigment." The authors consider that these characteristics are sufficient "to convince anyone of the reality of the metamorphoses discovered by us." As Mr. J.T. Cunningham has previously pointed out, "it is a curious fact that the larvæ, now identified as those of the Eel, are found in greatest abundance in the stomach of the Sun-fish, Orthagoriscus mola, which Grassi believes to be a deep-sea species. In the Straits of Messina this fish rarely appears, except in the months from February to September, and the occurrence of L. brevirostris is limited to that period."

In the 'Athenæum' for May 29th Canon T.K. Cheyne has contributed a most interesting communication on "Mythic Singing Crocodiles":—"Reading Dr. James's introduction to his 'Apocrypha Inedita,' ii., in the Cambridge 'Texts and Studies,' vol. v., No. 1, I was interested to see that he illustrates the strange flying creatures called Chalkadri, with the feet and tails of lions and the heads of crocodiles and wings like those of angels (a description which also applies to the phoenixes), by Vishnu's bird Garuda. Long ago this same mythical bird was introduced into discussions on the Hebrew cherub, on which Jehovah is said to ride (Ps. xviii. 10), since it is Garuda's chief function to act as the animated chariot of Vishnu. It was new to me that Garuda is also said to have carried Aruna (Vishnu's charioteer) on his back and placed him in front of the sun to prevent it from consuming the world by heat. This gives an interesting parallel to the use of the wings of the phoenix and the Chalkadri, but suggests that Aruna, and not Garuda, is a parallel to these two mythic birds. Garuda still seems to me a distant relative of the cherub. As to the name Chalkadri, I cannot agree with my friend Mr. Charles that it is a transliteration of χαλκύδραι, brazen hydras or serpents. The serpents of Num. xxi. 6 have no solar connection whatever: neither did the old writers attribute any to the brazen serpent. It seems to me that one of the two French scholars to whom Dr. James's volume is dedicated has given the most reasonable view of the name Chalkadri. I will not take up space with recapitulating M. Berger's interesting analogies and arguments, for which see a recent number of the French journal of folk-lore called 'Melusine.' His conclusion is that Chalkadri is a corruption of 'Crocodile,' the letters being mixed up, as so often happens in corruptions. I know that the description only speaks of the head as being that of a crocodile. But the name preceded this description. The only thing which M. Berger has not cleared up is the combination of the phoenix and (ex hyp.) the crocodile as attendants on the sun. Can this arise from the fact that the sun-god was identified (among other symbolic animals) with the bennu or phoenix and the crocodile (see Brugsch, 'Religion und Mythologie der alten Aegypter,' pp. 24, 105)? How animals with crocodiles' heads were supposed to sing, I do not know. I presume that the phœnix (which was confused apparently with the swan) sang before it had the misfortune to get a crocodile's head, and that the crocodile learned the secret of the phœnix! The references in the introduction to the dragon are also very interesting. Has Dr. James intentionally omitted mentioning the old Babylonian dragon-myth? It is true this has become sadly distorted. In the act of closing this letter I find in the Palestine Fund 'Quarterly Statement' for July, 1888, a note by Col. Conder on crocodiles in Palestine, in which he points out that these animals are mentioned as 'corcodrils' by Sir John Maundeville; this is very near Chalkadri. He also quotes from a tract of the thirteenth century, showing that crocodiles were then called 'cocatrices.'"

The author of the above has subsequently added the following note to the same journal:—

"Mr. H. Bradley points out to me that the Chalkadri of the Slavonic Enoch would naturally arise out of calcatrix (cf. 'Cockatrice' in the 'New English Dictionary '). Calcatrix is a literal translation of ίχνεύμων; the ichneumon and the crocodile were confounded. This would introduce a fresh element into the strange mingling of animals represented by Chalkadri, and an element entirely inconsistent both with the phœnix and with the crocodile from the point of view of (Egyptian) solar mythology. For the sungod hated the ichneumon (the symbol of Set) as much as he must have loved the phœnix and the crocodile (his own symbols). That the writer takes the most important part of the Chalkadri (the head) from the crocodile is, however, satisfactory to a mythologist, and we may, perhaps, rest assured now, thanks to M. Berger and Mr. Bradley, that the Chalkadri was in no sense either a serpent or (in spite of its wings) a bird. And if M. Berger pointed in the right direction, the 'New English Dictionary' suggests the probably right conclusion."

At the May meeting of the Norfolk and Norwich Naturalists' Society Mr. Southwell exhibited a remarkably fine example of the old race of Norfolk Great Bustards, which had recently come into his possession, and had not hitherto been recorded. The specimen is a very old male, and is even larger than the fine male killed in 1818, now in the Castle Museum; it was shot at Swaffham early in the present century, probably about 1830, by a Mr. Glasse, Q.C., who then occupied Vere Lodge, Raynham, near Fakenham, Norfolk, as a shooting box. It remained in the possession of the Glasse family until recently sold with the effects of the daughter, Miss Glasse, who died at Bournemouth.

The Galapagos Archipelago was visited by Darwin in 1835; its remarkable zoology, sketched by the 'Voyage of the 'Beagle,' at once aroused the highest interest among naturalists, whilst Darwin's deductions concerning the origin of the Galapagoan fauna are amongst the best known passages in his writings. Since the visit of the 'Beagle,' our knowledge of the avian fauna has been increased by the large collections made by Dr. Habel in 1868, the naturalists of the 'Albatross' in 1888 and 1891, and by Messrs. Baur and Adams in 1891. In 1876 Salvin published his wellknown paper "On the Avifauna of the Galapagos Archipelago," which has remained the most important contribution to the subject. Mr. Robert Ridgway has now brought the subject thoroughly up to date by an exhaustive contribution on "Birds of the Galapagos Archipelago," published in the Proc. U.S. Nat. Mus., vol. xix., 1896. During recent years at least one of the indigenous birds has become extinct, the larger Mockingbird of Charles Island, Nesominus trifasciatus, being no longer found. "Others appear to have become extinct on the islands where they were originally found." Forty-six genera of birds have thus far been found in the Galapagos Archipelago, of which six appear to be peculiar, but from a study of the genera alone it is impossible to decide whether the "nonpeculiar portion of the Galapagoan avifauna is most nearly related to that of lower Central America or the West Indies." The number of species which have been ascertained to occur in the Galapagos Archipelago is one hundred and five. Even now the study is incomplete, for Mr. Ridgway mentions—"The anomaly of individuals adult as to plumage, but with bills suggesting immaturity, and of others which show exactly the reverse, remains to be explained; and there are other questions which only protracted field-studies by a competent investigator can decide."

Mr Charles A. Witchell, writing in the June issue of 'Knowledge,' describes 'The Swift's Night-flight':—"During June and July, dwellers in places where the Swift abounds may investigate its recently discovered habit of soaring upward at evening and (apparently) spending the night in the sky." It was during the last cloudless Jubilee June (1887) that this extraordinary incident in the life of a diurnal British bird was first noticed in England. Mr. Witchell finds, "It is convenient to watch the Swifts from a somewhat elevated spot, so that they may be kept within view as continuously as possible, since, if they pass out of the field of vision at a distance, it is almost impossible to find them again. It is also desirable to have a support to lean upon, for without this the constant gazing towards the zenith becomes very tiring, especially if field-glasses are used. It is not often that the birds can be seen during the whole of the upward flight; they generally swing around in wide circles for some time, and pass out of sight towards the horizon, after which the repeated cry 'swee ree' first indicates their return."

Prof. A.E. Verrill, in the Amer. Journ. Sci., January, 1897, from information forwarded to him, recorded the capture of a gigantic Cephalopod on the Florida coast, the body having been described by its discoverer as eighteen feet in length by ten feet in breadth. Prof. Verrill remarked that the proportions given indicated that it might have been a Squid-like form, and not an Octopus. Additional facts, however, have since come to hand, and it is found that the remains are not those of a Cephalopod at all. Several large masses of the integument of the creature, preserved fairly well in formalin, have since been forwarded to Prof. Verrill, who has now come to the conclusion "that the mass cast ashore is only a fragment, probably from the head, of some large vertebrate animal covered with a blubber-like layer of great thickness." The record of the giant Octopus, or Cephalopod allied to Octopus, must therefore be considered as completely refuted.

Lieutenant Peary will start his Arctic voyage of exploration about the 10th of next month, having obtained five years' leave of absence from his duties in the United States Navy for the purpose. He will probably be accompanied by three scientific parties, which will land, according to Mr. Peary's intention, on the coast of Labrador, Baffin Land, and Greenland, for the purpose of studying the botany, glaciology, and ethnology of the northern regions. This year Mr. Peary will go to Whale Sound, on the north-west coast of Greenland, and on returning he will pick up the members of the expedition at the three places indicated. We have little doubt that zoology will also receive due attention.

Two Barbary Wild Sheep and two Tozenburg Goats have been born in the gardens of the Royal Zoological Society of Ireland.

The third edition of 'The Naturalist's Directory' has this year been issued by L. Upcott Gill. This small volume, published at one shilling, is intended for the use of "Students of Natural History, and Collectors of Zoological, Botanical, or Geological Specimens, giving the names and addresses of British and Foreign Naturalists, Natural History Agents, Societies and Field Clubs, Museums, Magazines, &c." Zoologists who possess this small book will find it one of handy reference, and can add to its value by forwarding any corrections and additions, which should be included in the next edition, to the publisher, as the Editor's name is not given.

We recently received the pleasure of a visit from Herr H. Fruhstorfer, of Berlin. The last journey made by this entomological collector was to the Celebes. He is now engaged in working out his Celebesian Rhopalocera, and intends returning to the Malay Archipelago, towards the end of next year, on another entomological expedition.

At a meeting of the Dublin Microscopical Club, held on April 8th, Mr. W.F. Sinclair sent for exhibition two specimens of shagreen. The first was an example of white Asiatic shagreen, such as is used in some English sword-hilts and many Eastern. It was from the skin of Trygon sephen, or some closely allied species of Sting-ray. The principal sources of Asiatic shagreen are the Trygons or Sting-rays, and especially T. sephen, in which the tuberculated area is usually large in proportion to the total surface; and the tubercles (called in trade the "pearl"), though of various sizes, are arranged so as to present a pretty regular pattern, the lesser filling up the interstices of the greater. Their vertical axis, also, is usually at a right angle to the long axis of the fish, which is important to the sword-cutler, as the hilt covered with such shagreen gives a good "cut-and-thrust grip." The Japanese, the best artists in shagreen, usually arrange the two or three large spinal tubercles of this fish so as still further to improve the grip. Urogymnus asperrimus furnishes a skin used for some fancy articles. The Plectognathi, especially Triacanthus and Balistes, furnish a little, of small size and poor quality. Rays, amongst other merits, are much easier to skin than Sharks and Dog-fish; and on the Indian coast, men who never fail to skin Trygon sephen can scarcely be persuaded to do so with any other fish, unless it comes handy just when they want some shagreen. The second specimen was identified by Mr. Boulenger as belonging to Centrophorus granulosus, a deep-sea Dog-fish, widely distributed and especially abundant about Madeira. This is used for the hilts of the best English regulation swords.