Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/610

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594
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
INDUSTRIES OF ANIMALS.[1]

By FRÉDÉRIC HOUSSAY.

WE find among animals not only hunting and fishing but the art of storing in barns, of domesticating various species, of harvesting and reaping — the rudiments of the chief human industries. Certain animals in order to shelter themselves take advantage of natural caverns in the same way as many races of primitive men. Others, like the fox and the rodents, dig out dwellings in the earth; even to-day there are regions where man does not act otherwise, preparing himself a lodging by excavations in the chalk or the tufa. Woven dwellings, constructed with materials entangled in one another, like the nests of birds, proceed from the same method of manufacture as the woolen stuffs of which nomad tribes make their tents. The termites who construct vast dwellings of clay, the beavers who build huts of wood and of mud, have in this industry reached the same point as man. They do not build so well, no doubt, nor in so complex a fashion as modern architects and engineers, but they work in the same way. All these ingenious artisans operate without organs specially adapted to accomplish the effect which they reach. It is with such genuine industries that we have to deal, for the most part neglecting other productions, more marvelous in certain ways, which are formed by particular organs, or are elaborated within the organism, and are not the result of the intelligent effort of the individual. To this category belong the threads which the spider stretches, and the cocoon with which the caterpillar surrounds himself to shelter his metamorphosis.

Struggles of the Chase. — It is not always sufficient for the hunter to find game and to reach it. If the game is of large size it may be able to hold its own, and the pursuit may end in a violent struggle, in which both skill and cunning are necessary to obtain conquest.

The bird which displays the most remarkable qualities in this struggle which terminates the chase, exhibiting indeed a real fencing match, is the secretary bird {Gypogeranus reptilivorus. Fig. 1). He is the more interested in striking without being himself struck, since the fangs with which his prey, the snake, is generally armed might at the first blow give him a mortal wound. In South Africa he pursues every snake, even the most venomous. Warned by instinct of the terrible enemy he has met, the reptile at first seeks safety in flight; the secretary follows him on foot,

  1. An abstract from the author's book under this title in The Contemporary Science Series. Imported by Messrs. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York