Page:Natural History, Mollusca.djvu/13

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NATURAL HISTORY.



MOLLUSCA.


The four Classes of animals which have been considered in the preceding volumes of this series we have seen to have one character in common; viz. the possession of a bony framework within the body, of which a jointed spine is the most essential element. This character, which unites those four Classes into one great group, and gives to that group the name Vertebrata, by which it is distinguished among naturalists, we have seen, however, by slow degrees, deteriorated, if I may use such an expression, from bone to cartilage, and gradually diminished in its development, until, in the lowest of the Fishes, it can scarcely be recognised at all.

I come now to treat of animals in which the bony skeleton no longer exists. The conditions of their existence do not require such a scaffolding on which to build the constituent muscles: many are habitually immersed in water, a fluid the density of which supports their soft bodies; their motions generally lack the precision, energy and variety of