The Zoologist/4th series, vol 2 (1898)/Issue 679/Editorial Gleanings

Editorial Gleanings (January, 1898)
editor W.L. Distant

Published in: The Zoologist, 4th series, vol 2, issues 679 (January, 1898), p. 39–48

4077174Editorial GleaningsJanuary, 1898editor W.L. Distant


The welcome appearance of the 'Zoological Record' for 1896 took place last November. The only missing contribution is that on the Echinodermata, which is promised in combination with that of 1897, in the next volume. We may form some estimate of the zoological activity displayed in the year 1896 by an enumeration of the "titles" of separate communications, papers, or memoirs dealing with the different branches of Zoology.

Mammalia 291
Aves 639
Reptilia and Batrachia 307
Pisces 240
Tunicata 30
Mollusca 391
Brachiopoda 20
Bryozoa 21
Crustacea 206
Arachnida 114
Myriopoda & Prototracheata 56
Insecta 1264
Vermes 251
Cœlenterata 122
Spongiæ 57
Protozoa 190

As usual the Insecta have attracted the largest number of workers, and it appears by a computation made by Dr. Sharp, the Editor, that no fewer than 8907 species and 1040 genera and subgenera have been described as new by entomologists.

The above enumeration provokes one other reflection, and that is—what a number of different groups of living creatures are at present neglected in these pages.

With the December number of the 'Annals and Magazine of Natural History,' Dr. William Francis resigns the responsible editorship to his son. For sixty years from the time of its inception Dr. Francis has been connected with this well-known and valued Natural History Magazine, of which 120 volumes have now appeared. Since 1859 he has acted in an editorial capacity. This is an unique record, and thanks for the past and best wishes for the future, from many sources, will follow both Dr. Francis in his retirement and his son in the editorial chair.

Mr. H.M. Evans has written, and Messrs. W. Brendon & Son, of Plymouth, published, a 'Comparative Status of Birds found in the British Isles and in the County of Devonshire, with the Habitat and Range of each Species." The method pursued is in alternate columns—Status of British Isles, and Status Devonshire,—to denote whether the species is Resident, Summer Visitor, Winter Visitor, or Straggler. Recent additions to the British List are appended.

As to Devonshire, Mr. Evans reports that the "county, as might be expected from its great extent and varied physical characteristics, is visited by an extraordinary number of species. It can claim, approximately, three-fourths of the resident nesting-birds of our islands, two-thirds of the summer residents, forty-two out of forty-three winter residents, and seven-eighths of the stragglers. There are, in fact, eighty-four residents, thirty-four summer residents, forty-two winter residents, and one hundred and twenty accidental visitors—all together, four-fifths of the birds ever found in the whole kingdom."

Mr. G.W. Murdoch, the well-known editor of the Science and Natural History Department of the 'Yorkshire Weekly Post,' is engaged in the production of a new Guide to Lakeland, in which special chapters will be given on "Natural History," "Angling," "Scandinavian Elements in Lakeland Places, Names," &c.

'L'Intermédiare des Biologistes; organe international de Zoologie, Botanique, Physiologie et Psychologique' has recently appeared, and the second number (20th November, 1897) is now before us. It is published in Paris, under the direction of Dr. Alfred Binet and Dr. Victor Henri, issued by C. Reinwald, with Schleicher Frères as "éditeurs." It is largely a means of communication between naturalists and others by questions and answers, in fact, on the principle of our well-known literary weekly, 'Notes and Queries.' It also professes to give a 'Sommaire de Periodiques' on General Biology, but this seems confined to a list of contents only.

'Leitfaden fur Aquarien- und Terrarienfreunde,' von Dr. E. Zernecke, published at Berlin by Gustav Schmidt, is the latest addition to the literature on the successful management of Aquaria and Vivaria. Plants suitable for the aquarium are not only well described and illustrated, but their growth and management also dealt with. Amongst the suitable inhabitants of the fresh-water aquarium, several fish are enumerated and figured which are somewhat seldom seen in aquaria in this country, such as members of the tropical and subtropical American genera Pimelodus and Callichthys, as well as the "Paradise" and "Telescope" fishes (Polyacanthus), the Gurami (Osphromenus), and the "Kletterfisch" or, as known to ourselves, "Climbing Perch" (Anabas scandens), from the Oriental region. The Marine (das Seewasser) Aquarium is treated with much greater brevity, though more space is afforded to the Vivarium (das Terrarium), aud some suitable plants for the same detailed. Altogether the last section has been more fully treated by the Rev. G.C. Bateman (vide 'Zoologist,' 1897, p. 478); but Dr. Zernecke's volume is well illustrated, and will prove a useful handbook on a subject as yet none too well known.

General Nicolas de Depp, who is evidently an enthusiastic pisciculturist, has contributed to the 'Bull. Soc. Nat. d'Acclimatation de France' (October, 1897), under the title 'L'Aquarium-Serre,' a description, with plans and views, of aquaria and necessary buildings which he has constructed on his residential property at Odessa. Many useful hints as to structure and appliances are given, while the combination of plant-conservatory and aquarium is not only to be highly commended, but is also a sequence which in its in frequency creates surprise.

'On Chlamydoselachus anguineus, Garm., a remarkable Shark found in Norway, 1896,' is the title of a memoir recently published at Christiania, by Prof. R. Collett. This Shark which was only described in 1884, and of which there are at least fifteen specimens preserved in the different museums of Europe and America, is one of the most remarkable of living fish. It is not "closely related to any present variety of Shark, or to any that have become extinct in later periods of the earth's existence," but its "ancestors belonged to the older palæozoic formation—the Devonian—when there lived forms of Sharks whose teeth were comparatively of the same nature as those of the present specimen. No known vertebrate has thus its nearest kindred so far back towards the dawn of organic existence. In other words—Chlamydoselachus is the oldest of all living types of vertebrates." The fish under notice was caught in a net at Bugφnæs, in the Varanger Fjord (69° 45' N. lat), on the 4th August, 1896, which had been set at a depth of about 100 to 150 fathoms for catching Coal-fish (Gadus virens).

Prof. Collett remarks:—"When one regards the eel-like construction of its body, the almost serpentine head, its deeply cleft mouth, the frilled and protruding gill coverings, and its formidable array of teeth, which call to mind the python's, one's thoughts turn to that mythical creature which, with more or less regularity, is annually described, or even depicted, in the columns of newspapers, whose existence, however, has never been confirmed, but which, as a rule, is believed in by all (except by naturalists), namely, 'the Sea Serpent'; and the Chlamydoselachus, in fact, appears to satisfy most demands of an ideal sea serpent."

Some interesting figures concerning the sums paid to the late Rev. J.G. Wood, the naturalist, for his popular books, are given by Mr. Newton Crosland in his autobiography, 'Rambles Round My Life,' recently issued. "If I recollect rightly," says Mr. Crosland, "he got £30 for each of his books 'The Common Objects of the Country' and 'The Common Objects of the Seashore.'" Mr. Crosland remonstrated with Mr. Wood on his humble opinion of himself, so when he undertook his great publication, the 'Natural History,' in three volumes, he asked £2000 for the work, and he got it.

The International Congress of Zoology meets on Aug. 23rd at Cambridge. The following executive Committee has been formed:—

President: The Right Hon. Sir John Lubbock. Vice-Presidents: The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, Dr. W.T. Blanford, Sir W.H. Flower, The President of the Linnean Society (Dr. A. Günther), Prof. E. Ray Lankester, Prof. A. Newton, Dr. P.L. Sclater, The President of the Entomological Society (Mr. R. Trimen), Sir William Turner, and Lord Walsingham. Treasurers: Prof. S.J. Hickson and Dr. P.L. Sclater. Secretaries: Prof. F. Jeffrey Bell, Mr. G.C. Bourne, and Mr. A. Sedgwick. Ordinary Members: Dr. Gadow, Mr. F.D. Godman, Lieut.-Col. Godwin-Austen, Sir George F. Hampson, Mr. S.F. Harmer, Prof. Howes, the Hon. W. Rothschild, Mr. H. Saunders, Prof. Seeley, Dr. D. Sharp, Mr. A.E. Shipley, Prof. C. Stewart, and Dr. H. Woodward.

Mr. Louis Becke, in the 'Pall Mall Gazette,' has recently contributed some particulars of vessels attacked by infuriated Whales: —

"Only three years ago the writer saw in Sydney Harbour the barquentine 'Handa Isle,' which, on the passage from New Zealand, had been so attacked. She was a fine vessel of three hundred tons, and was sailing over a smooth sea with a light breeze when two large Sperm Whales were sighted. They were both travelling fast, and, suddenly altering their course, made direct for the ship. Then one sounded, but the other continued his furious way, and deliberately charged the barquentine. He struck her with terrific force just abaft the mainmast and below the waterline. Fortunately the barquentine was laden with a cargo of timber, otherwise she would have foundered instantly. The blow was fatal to the cetacean, for in a few minutes the water around the ship was seen to be crimson with blood, and presently the mighty creature rose to the surface again, beat the ensanguined water feebly with his monstrous tail, and then slowly sank.

"Some of these onslaughts upon ships were doubtless involuntary; as where a Whale, attracted by the sight of a ship, had proceeded to examine her, misjudged his distance, and came into collision with disastrous effect to both. But there are many instances where the Whale has deliberately charged a ship, either out of pure 'devilment,' or when maddened with the agony of a wound inflicted by a harpoon. Some years ago a small school or 'pod' of Sperm Whales was sighted off Strong's Island, in the Caroline Archipelago, by a New Bedford barque and a Hawaiian brig. Both ships lowered their boats at once, and in a very short time Captain Wicks, of the Hawaiian brig, got fast to a large bull who was cruising by himself about half a mile away from the rest of the 'pod.' As is not uncommon among Sperm and Hump-backed Whales, the rest of the school, almost the instant their companion was struck, showed their consciousness of what had occurred, and at once crowded closely together in the greatest alarm, 'lying motionless on the surface of the water as if listening, and sweeping their huge flukes slowly to and fro as a cat sweeps its tail when watching an expected spring from one of its own kind. So terrified were they with the knowledge that some unknown and invisible danger beset them, that they permitted the loose boats—five in number—to pull right on top of them.' Four of the boats at once got fast without difficulty, leaving three or four of the Whales huddled together in the greatest fear and agitation."

One of the largest bull Whales which had been wounded, after destroying one of the boats, suddenly appeared twenty minutes later close to the Hawaiian brig. He was holding his head high up out of the water, and swimming at a furious speed straight towards the ship, which he struck a "slanting blow just for'ard of the forechains." Everyone on board was thrown down by the force of the concussion, and the ship began to make water fast. Scarcely had the crew manned the pumps when a cry was raised, "He's coming back." Looking over the side, the Whale was seen some thirty feet below the surface, swimming round and round the ship with incredible speed, and evidently not injured by his impact. In a few moments he rose to the surface about a cable length away, and then, for the second time, came at the ship, swimming well up out of the water, and apparently meaning to strike her fairly amidships. This time, however, he failed, for a bomb was fired into him from another boat which occasioned almost immediate death.

In last year's 'Zoologist' (p. 287) we drew attention to the projected expedition of Lieut.-Col. H.W. Fielden and Mr. H.J. Pearson to the Petchora River and the coasts of Siberia. The expedition has been successfully accomplished, and the naturalists have returned. The zoological results have been communicated in abstract to a meeting of the Royal Geographical Society. Col. Fielden and Mr. Pearson started in the 'Laura' from Skaars on June 17th, and sighted Kolguev on the 25th, whence they set their course for the island of Dolgoi. Soon after they came upon the pack ice, which prevented their advance. It was extremely dirty, covered with gravel and silt, and with branches and logs scattered over it. Finally they forced their way into Dolga Bay, on Waigatz Island. Eventually they continued their voyage to Novaya Zemlya, and anchored in Cairn Bay on June 26th, where there is a Samoyede settlement. With regard to the scientific results of the voyage, the ornithology of Waigatz, Novaya Zemlya, and the North Island has been practically worked out, and the results of their observations will soon be published. The botanical collections were satisfactory, and several interesting plants had been added. But by far the most important discovery was the finding of what had hitherto been considered the rarest and most inaccessible of flowering plants, the Pleuropogon sabinii, growing in the greatest profusion both in Novaya Zemlya and Lutke Land. Collections of rocks and fossils, insects, and marine invertebrates have also been made.

A propos to the subject of "Wasp v. Spider," discussed in 'The Zoologist' (1897, pp. 475–76, and ante, p. 29), Mr. Richard M. Barrington has contributed to the 'Irish Naturalist' (1897, p. 325) an account of a combat between a large Spider and a Wasp which he one day placed in its web. In this encounter victory remained with the Spider, but the writer adds:—"I don't think this would have been quite possible save for the apparent power possessed by the Spider of lassoing a dangerous enemy by shooting out its glutinous threads by a sort of centrifugal jerk when sweeping past its victim." In 'Knowledge' (vol. xx. 1897, p. 301), Mr. Enock describes an experiment of "presenting a large Bumble-bee tail first to the side of the silken tube of a British Trap-door Spider. The Spider seized it, but was wonderfully careful in so manipulating it that without seeing the Bee (the aerial part being quite opaque), she managed to turn it completely round until she had firm hold of the head; then she promptly pulled the Bumble-bee through and down."

Mr. William Thorpe has presented to the British Museum the shell of a giant Tortoise which lived for upwards of two hundred years in the grounds of Plantation House, in the island of St. Helena. It was frequently the object of much curiosity on the part of the great Napoleon during his enforced stay on the island.

With the gradual extinction, as evidenced by a recently-issued return of the Cape Agricultural Department, of the various species of big game in South Africa, it is not surprising to learn from a report just made to the Colonial Office that Monkey-skins are scarcer than formerly on the Gold Coast, the increasing warfare which is carried on against these unfortunate animals having resulted in a total extermination of the species in the less distant provinces. In 1894 no fewer than 168,405 skins were exported, valued at £41,001, whereas last year the number fell to 67,660.

According to the 'Temps' correspondent at Antananarivo, a special fine net made entirely of Spiders' webs is being manufactured in the professional school at Antananarivo. The process is a very simple one. The thread of several dozen Spiders is wound on winders, the quantity produced by each Spider ranging from fifteen to forty yards. The covering of the web is removed by repeated washing, and the web made into a thread of eight strands. When the thread is spun it is easily woven into a gauze, which is very fine but very strong. It is to be used for an experimental covering of a navigable balloon by M. Renard, the head of the French military balloon school at Chalais, near Paris, who has been engaged for many years in experimenting in aerial navigation. It is believed that the difference in the weight of an ordinary covering and the Spiders' web-net will make a great improvement.—Dalziel.

A monster Swordfish was brought to the market at Taiping recently. It was 30 ft. long, and its flesh and bones weighed 900 catties, or 1,200 lb., fat 230 catties, entrails 400, and the sword 30 catties. Total weight, 2,070 lb.—Penang Gazette.

At Stevens's well-known Sale Rooms, on the 6th December last, there was sold the collection of stuffed birds formed by the late Mr. Richard Ashby, of Egham. This collection was interesting as containing many birds that were acquired at the Henry Doubleday sale. There was also sold at the same time a skeleton of the Moa, at the price of forty-eight guineas, which was really made up of "the bones of one species," and had been set up by Capt. F.W. Hutton from the Enfield deposit, who wrote: "After rejecting bones of young birds and others too imperfect for measurement, I had 1,031 leg-bones left." The Enfield deposit was described by Mr. H.O. Forbes in 'Nature,' March, 1892. Since then other collections have been sold in mournful sequence, such as the Lepidoptera formed by the late Rev. A. Matthews, of Gumley.

Another of the monographs devoted to the "North American Fauna," and published by the United States Department of Agriculture, has reached our hands. This is No. 13, and is a "Revision of the North American Bats of the Family Vespertilionidæ," by Gerrit S. Miller, Jun. This publication has the good fortune to be founded on ample material. The collection of Bats, which consists of more than 3000 specimens, chiefly in alcohol, has been brought together during the past few years by the field naturalists of the Survey. In addition the writer has examined the Bats in the United States National Museum, the American Museum of Natural History, and several private collections, making a total of about 2,700 specimens of American Vespertilionidæ. With these animals, however, alcoholic preserved specimens are not the only thing needful, and Mr. Miller regrets that so few well-preserved skins are available for comparison. "Without good series of dry specimens it is impossible to determine the limits of individual variation in colour, as conclusions of the most general kind only can be based on specimens that have been subjected to the action of alcohol." Forty-six species and subspecies of Vespertilionidæ are recognized as occurring in America north of Panama and in the West Indies.

We have received from the "Department of Agriculture" of the Province of British Columbia an excellent publication on "Insect Pests and Plant Diseases, containing remedies and suggestions recommended for adoption by farmers, fruit-growers, and gardeners of the Province." Mr. R.M. Palmer, Inspector of Fruit Pests, in his Report for the year ending 1896, speaking with reference to his work in visiting and inspecting orchards in the different section of the Province, says:—"The necessity of this work has been emphasized by the discovery of the most dangerous scale-insect enemy of fruit-trees known—the San Jose Scale (Aspidiotus perniciosus)—in two orchards on Vancouver Island, and although, so far as known, this pest has not spread, it is hardly possible that the infestation is limited to these cases.... It has cost the fruit-growers of California and Oregon hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight the San Jose Scale, and the war against it still continues.... The appearance of San Jose Scale in orchards and gardens in Ontario, and some of the Eastern and Southern States, has created widespread consternation amongst fruit-growers there, and a demand for legislative assistance from the respective governments in dealing with the pest, similar to that enacted in the Pacific Coast States and British Columbia, has sprung up."

Ornithologists who care for the by-paths of their Science will find a paper on "The Mythology of Wise Birds," by H. Colley March, in the 'Journal of the Anthropological Institute,' just published (vol. xxvii. p. 209). "Literature abounds in poetical allusions to the wisdom of birds, to the warnings they desire to deliver, to the tidings they are ever ready to carry. 'We bear our civil swords and native fire,' says Prince John (2 Hen. IV. v. 5), 'as far as France, I heard a bird so sing.''Curse not the king,' says the Preacher, 'for a bird of the air will carry the matter' (Eccl. x. 20). Such allusions are poetical only; but the voices that primeval man heard, primeval whether in time or only in civilization, were as real to him as the visions he saw. The history of demonology conclusively declares them to have been neither romance nor make-believe." As the author further remarks, "It was natural that in different countries men should have been attracted by different orders of birds. The Grallatores, or Waders, whilst they were esteemed throughout the Old World, were chiefly venerated in Egypt; and the same may be said of the Accipitres, such as Eagles, Hawks, and Vultures. The Columbæ were much admired in the East; and of the Passeres, the suborder Conirostres found most favour in Europe." The subject is a most interesting one; we all recall the Bennu (Ardea bubulcus), sacred among the ancient Egyptians to Osiris, and the use of the Dove in early Christian art.

'Science' announces the death of the eminent entomologist, Dr. George H. Horn, at Philadelphia, on Nov. 25th last, at the age of fifty-eight. He has bequeathed his valuable entomological collections and books and an endowment of 200 dols. per annum to the American Entomological Society. From the residuary estate, after the death of his sister, further bequests will accrue to the Entomological and other scientific societies. Dr. Horn was a renowned coleopterist, and was a contributor to Godman and Salvin's 'Biologia Centrali-Americana.'

Johannes Frenzel, formerly Professor of Zoology at Cordoba University, in the Argentine Republic, and of late years director of the biological and fishery station on the Müggelsee, near Berlin, died on Oct. 21st, owing to an accident on the lake. Dr. Frenzel was only thirty-nine years old at the time of his death—Natural Science.

Since the advent of the rinderpest at Groote Schuur, Mr. Rhodes's well-known residence at the Cape, the following animals have died of the disease:—One Eland Bull, one Koodoo, one Hartebeeste, one Klipspringer, one Steinbuck, and one Antelope. One Eland Cow, which took rinderpest and was inoculated, has since recovered.

A new fish has come to light. In the 'East London Dispatch' the menu of the St. Andrew's dinner is thus reproduced:—Soup— Cockie Leekie and Clear. Fish—Scotch Haggis.

We regret to announce the death of Mr. Henry Stacy Marks, R.A., which occurred at his house near Regent's Park on Sunday, Jan. 9th. He was born in London on Sept. 13th, 1829. His diploma picture, "Science is Measurement," is one of his most characteristic paintings. It shows an old naturalist, himself almost a skeleton, measuring the skeleton of a huge bird, and combines the artist's dry humour with his knowledge of bird anatomy. Every visitor to the Duke of Westminster's fine home at Eaton Hall will remember the twelve panels of birds—gorgeous in colouring, accurate in drawing—which adorn that palatial residence. It was as a painter of curious and humorous bird-life that Mr. Stacy Marks was supreme. He studied the quarter of the birds at the "Zoo" with untiring patience, and the result was to be seen in several Academy canvases and in more than one private exhibition of water-colour studies, remarkable for dexterity of handling, colour, and humour. Mr. Marks's favourite bird-sitter probably was the Adjutant Stork, but Flamingoes always found in him a congenial painter, and his Parrots, Cockatoos, and Macaws are very highly prized possessions of those collectors lucky enough to secure them.