Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/771

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THE PAST AND PRESENT OF THE CUTTLE-FISHES.[1]

By Dr. ANDREW WILSON.

FEW groups of the animal kingdom possess a greater interest, either for the zoologist or for the general investigator, than that selected as the subject of the present article. From the earliest ages in which human curiosity concerning external nature began to develop into scientific observation, the cuttle-fishes have formed subject-matter of remark. In the writings of the classic naturalists they receive a due meed of attention. Their peculiarities of form and habits attracted the notice of Aristotle and Pliny; and even their development, in its more readily observed phases, was studied in the days when biology was but an infantile science. Tracing the lines of cuttle-fish lore onward through the centuries of growing culture, we discern the mediaeval spirit of exaggeration and myth seizing upon the group as a likely subject for enlargement and discussion. In the fabulous

PSM V21 D771 Cuttle fishes swimming.jpg

Fig. 1. Cuttle-fishes swimming.

history and "folk-lore" of zoölogy, the cuttle-fishes have over and over again played a more than prominent part. In the days of their mythical history they have swallowed whole fleets of ships; they have been credited more than once with the destruction of even an armored navy; and on more than one occasion there can be little doubt that they have played the parts of Sindbad's floating island, and of the "great unknown," the sea-serpent itself. To the modern zoölogist, however, eager in his search after the causes which have wrought out the existing order of animal nature, the cuttle-fishes present themselves as an unusually interesting group.

  1. Abridged from "Belgravia."