Page:The fairy tales of science.djvu/165

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135
ANIMATED FLOWERS.

manner round a low centre. We have informed the reader that the interior of an anemone is divided into numerous chambers by perpendicular veils of membrane. If he will now imagine that every one of these membranes is turned into stone, he will understand the formation of the madrepore's skeleton, and its relation to the soft investing flesh.

Mr. Gosse, the naturalist, to whom we are indebted for many striking facts relating to the beautiful inhabitants of the sea, has given a charming description of the living madrepore in one of his pleasant books. "Let it," he says, "after being torn from the rock, recover its equanimity; then you will see a pellucid gelatinous flesh emerging from between the plates, and little exquisitely formed and coloured tentacles, with white clubbed tips fringing the sides of the cup-shaped cavity in the centre, across which stretches the oval disc, marked with a star of some rich and brilliant colour, surrounding the central mouth, a slit with white crenated lips, like the orifice of one of those elegant cowry-shells which we put upon our mantle-pieces. The mouth is always more or less prominent, and can be protruded and expanded to an astonishing extent. The space surrounding the lips is commonly fawn-colour or rich chesnut brown; the star, or vandyked circle, rich red, pale vermilion, and sometimes the most brilliant emerald green, as brilliant as the gorget of a humming-bird."

The madrepores are quite as greedy as their