Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 16.djvu/716

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686
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

nent knobs, and from the tip of each knob furrows radiate in every direction. The tail is short and obtuse. The long and hooked claws are attached to paws which are somewhat palmated and of moderate length. The carapace is beveled to give play to the hinder limbs, and the cuirass is narrow and hollowed by a deep furrow in its after part. The upper part of the body is for the most part of a brick-red; the cuirass, not so deeply colored, is marked by blackish marblings. According to M. Spix, who has observed the living animal, the scales of the carapace are of a maroon brown, with radiating streaks, and the lower part of the head and the most of the members are of a greenish yellow pricked with brown. This tortoise is a native of the Guianas, and lives in stagnant waters and half-dried marshes. Except at the time of laying its eggs, it hardly ever goes to the land. Immersed in the mud, which it is not unlike in color, it lies in wait for the creatures which are imprudent enough to swim near it. The ragged membranes, floating in the water like worms, attract fish seeking for food. When a suitable prey passes within reach, the head which has been bent to one side instantly darts out as if it were hurled by a spring, and the victim is quickly buried in the huge throat of the reptile.

This tortoise, described by Barrère as the raparara, has been called by Schneider the Sinibrian tortoise. Bruguibre, in his "Journal d'Histoire Naturel de Paris," has given it the name of matamata, which is generally accepted by modern zoölogists. The only species from which the genus Chelys has been formed lives in the Guianas; and the individual, which is now to be seen in a living state in the museum at Paris, was captured there by the French explorer, M. J. Crevaux.

 
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FROST-PHENOMENA IN SOUTHERN RUSSIA.

SOME few people may perhaps have remarked and remembered an unusual meteorological phenomenon which occurred in London last Christmas night. We had had several weeks of hard frost, and the cold on Christmas morning was rendered more piercing than ever by a bitter east wind, though indications of an approaching thaw were not wanting. About the middle of the day, snow began to fall; but in the evening this changed to rain, which froze as it came down; and by ten o'clock not only were the pavements covered with a sheet of slippery ice, but walls, lamp-posts, railings, etc., were all glazed in like manner. Every object upon which the eye rested glittered and sparkled, looking as if it had received a sudden coating of glass; while from every roof and ledge hung a fringe of icicles, some of them as much as a foot in length. In the morning, the whole fairy-like appearance had vanished.