Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 14.djvu/258

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246
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

one of these hairy terrapins, and upon that occasion a correspondent, 'A. B.,' kindly sent me the following note: 'In the "Travels of a Pioneer of Commerce in Pigtail and Petticoats," by T. T. Cooper (London, Murray, 1871, page 459), there is a plate of one of these hairy tortoises from the lakes of Hasu, above Hankow. These curious little animals were about two inches long, and covered on the back with a long confervoid growth resembling hair. The tortoise being a sacred emblem in China, the Chinese make pets of the hairy tortoise, which they keep in basins of water during the summer months, and bury in sand during the winter. A small lake in the province of Kiang-su is

PSM V14 D258 The hairy water tortoise.jpg
The Hairy Water-Tortoise.

famous for these so-called hairy tortoises, and many persons earn a livelihood by the sale of these curious little pets. The figure in Mr. Cooper's book looks like an oval door-mat with a tortoise-head sticking out at one end.’

"I have been to the British Museum to see if I could find anything like this hairy terrapin, but could not do so. I shall take the liberty of forwarding this article to his Excellency the Chinese ambassador, who, I have no doubt, with his usual kindness, will obtain some further information about this great curiosity."

 

Spider-Architecture.—The snare of the basilica spider would form an interesting object of study for the architect. In it he will find many a difficult problem of constructive science happily solved, and it may be derive useful hints to guide him in the construction of more substantial edifices. As described in the "Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences," of Philadelphia, by Rev. H. C. McCook, who has studied Epeïra basilica among the hills of the Colorado River, Texas, the snare of this spider is of composite structure, consisting of a pyramid of web, within which, near its base, is suspended a dome of the same material, and hanging beneath the open bottom of the dome is an horizontal sheet of cobweb. The structure is illustrated in Mr. McCook's paper, and the general effect will be understood if the reader will imagine a pyramidal tent of netting, inclosing a spread umbrella, with a screen of web suspended by cords from the inside of the umbrella and the tips of the ribs. The whole structure is usually suspended from a bush, and thoroughly steadied and its form perfectly preserved by means of silken guys. The meshes of the pyramid are irregular and very open; the sheet under the dome is also of irregular structure, but the dome is constructed of a vast number of radii crossed at regular intervals by concentrics, after the manner of the snare of the common orb-weaving garden-spider. At the bottom of the dome the radii are about one-sixteenth of an inch apart, and the concentrics extend entirely and with equal regularity to the summit, the meshes much resembling those of a fisher's net. The diam-