Page:Natural History, Mollusca.djvu/300

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288
DIMYARIA.—SOLENIDÆ.

The habits of a species closely allied to this (S. marginatus) were made the subject of investigation by the celebrated Reaumur, who published an account of them, illustrated by figures, in the "Mémoires de l'Académie des Sciences," for 1712. It burrows in sand near low-water mark, spring-tides, to the depth of from a foot and a half to two feet. The Solens lie in their holes nearly vertical, and their places are marked by perforations shaped like keyholes, corresponding to the form of the extremities of their united siphons. They are nearly vertical, and do not remain quiet, but rise up and down, now and then shifting themselves partly above the sand, as if to learn what is going on in the world above. When the tide goes out they sink deeper. The fishermen then endeavour to tempt them out as little boys would catch birds if they could—by putting salt on their tails. The salt penetrating the perforation, reaches and irritates the extremities of the siphons, and the Solen, annoyed and pained, rises suddenly to clear itself of the nuisance. His vigilant human enemy watches the moment, and seizes the opportunity—and the Solen, if he can catch it; but unless very quick in his motions, those of the Solen may be quicker, and once aware of the danger impending, the sensible shell-fish will not rise again, but submits patiently to the indignity of being salted alive, rather than run the risk of being caught and roasted, or else cut up for bait. But if it be not touched, a second dose of salt will cause it again to rise, which shows that knowledge and recollection of the danger is the impediment to its reappearance in the former case. Fishermen in England have a queerly absurd fancy that when