Popular Science Monthly/Volume 32/November 1887/Correspondence

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[SOME weeks ago Messrs. O. R. Glover and Charles H. Lawrence, of Chicago, favored us with a living specimen of joint- or glass-snake, which had been captured on a farm owned by them in Starke County, Indiana. With a view of obtaining, if possible, any facts in addition to what was published in the Correspondence department of the "Monthly" for February and April, and in the Popular Miscellany department for the latter month, the creature was sent for examination to Dr. W. A. Conklin, Director of the Central Park Menagerie, New York, who has kindly furnished the following report. — Ed.]

Editor Popular Science Monthly:

Sir: I delayed sending you any report on the chain-snake (ophibolus) for the following reason: Shortly after reaching the menagerie the snake laid a number of eggs, and, as I had some curiosity to see if they would be hatched, I decided not to disturb it for a few days. It remained six days coiled around the eggs, leaving them for a short time each morning to drink water. On the seventh day it was found dead. The theory that a full-fledged vertebrate animal such as this should possess power of unjointing and rejointing itself seems hardly worthy of discussion. I sent the specimen to Dr. W. S. Gottheil for dissection, and he writes me as follows: "There is a vertebral column, running the entire length of the animal, the individual segments of which are accurately fitted together, bound to each other by a complicated and firm system of ligaments, and containing continuous nerve-structures; here are muscles running from bone to bone, long internal organs, intestinal canal, liver, etc., and covering the whole is a perfectly continuous and very tough dermal envelope. There is no more possibility for it to unjoint than for a person to unjoint his head from his trunk. One peculiarity only is noticeable: the cloaca is very high up at the junction of the anterior and middle thirds of the animal's length, and the tail-piece is thus relatively very long."

I believe that in some of these animals the terminal segments of the body are neither so firmly attached nor so highly vitalized as the rest, and can be detached by a comparatively slight amount of violence, and without entailing any disability upon the animal. The tail being exceptionally long here, it may be that a comparatively large section of the body may become detached by a blow. The animal could not break into several pieces, and it certainly could not unite if it could do so.

W. A. Conklin,

Director of Central Park Menagerie.


Editor Popular Science Monthly:

Sir: I note the letter of Anne M. Johnson, in the September number, on the astronomical mistake in "King Solomon's Mines." She is quite right in saying that others, besides Mr. Haggard, may make errors in regard to the moon. Here is an instance from so careful a writer as Andrew Lang: In his "Letters to Dead Authors," he tells Theocritus, "Thou wouldst see the dawn awake in rose and saffron across the waters, an Etna, gray and pale against the sky, and the setting crescent would dip strangely in the glow on her way to the sea." This is the reverse of the mistake made by Mr. Haggard and Anna Bowman Dodd. Edward King, in his recently-published poem, "A Venetian Lover," also says (line sixteen), "The young moon pales before approaching dawn." Many other similar instances might be quoted, some from rather unexpected sources.

But Mr. Haggard excels all competitors in that his error of making the crescent moon rise soon after sunset is only one of a series. By referring to the book, it will be seen that the very next night "the full moon rose in splendor about ten," without any explanation of the change from "crescent" to "full" in some twenty-four hours, or of a full moon rising so late in a country which seems somewhere near the tropic of Capricorn. Following the narrative a little further, we find that, on the succeeding day, there is an eclipse of the sun, with total darkness for nearly half an hour. As it is hardly necessary to mention, an eclipse of the sun can take place only at new moon, and the total obscuration never lasts more than a very few minutes — four, if I remember rightly. It will be seen that Mr. Haggard has made the most of his opportunities for blundering.

Edward H. Beebe,

Chicago, August 31, 1887.


Editor Popular Science Monthly:

Sir: To the illustrated letter of E. W. B. Canning, in your September number entitled "An Anomaly in Plant-Growth," I would add this description of a case observed at "Harmon's Bottom," in Bedford County, Pennsylvania, twenty years ago. Two sugar-maples had been united by the natural grafting of the branch of one of them upon the trunk of the other, about six feet away, and at ten feet above the ground. The tree-trunks were both intact, with their roots, but the trunk of the second tree was strikingly smaller below the graft than above it, and one might consider this due to retardation of the circulation below, as well as increased flow of sap above. In your correspondent's illustration, the trunk below, being severed from its roots, became an appendage to the rest of the circulating system. It has been speculated that there is circulation downward in plants, the roots discharging to as well as eliminating from the soil, and that this action unfits a soil as much for repetition of crops as does exhaustion of nourishing constituents. The preference for change in kinds of trees that spring up after forest-clearing — a natural rotation of crops — has been very generally remarked.

F. Z. Schellenberg.

Irwin, Pennsylvania, September 3, 1887.


Editor Popular Science Monthly:

Sir: A friendly, well-meaning, and timely correction is never amiss. When the error to be rectified is such as is likely to arouse feelings of regretful remonstrance in a community, the correction is the more pardonable; when it is likely to color the opinion of a nation, the correction becomes imperative.

The correction which the writer, one of a "community" supposed above, would most humbly beg leave to make, is to an error that the writer of a most able and interesting article in the July issue of "The Popular Science Monthly," entitled "The North American Lakes," has doubtless unwittingly been guilty of. I do not presume to say that he was led to the commission of the error by any ignorance of his subject, but rather by a want of a sufficient knowledge of the local nomenclature of Louisiana.

To quote the author's words — "Lake Borgne and Lake Pontchartrain have been captured from the Gulf by the delta of the Mississippi, while numerous small lakes, called bayous," etc. We will say nothing of the derivation of the word, which, of itself, can not be construed to mean a lake, for, alas! local usages frequently defy all attempts at classification, and are by no means fair criteria for the true meaning and application of a terra; but, as a Louisianian, we will say that the term "bayou," in the article cited, has been used under some misapprehension.

If the author will procure for himself an authentic map of Louisiana, he will find the lower part of the State to be covered with almost a network of small water-courses, although they scarcely deserve the name, varying in size from the smallest "creek" to channels just navigable by small vessels, all exceedingly sinuous and very river-like. These are what, in Louisiana, are called "bayous." Whatever may be the geological origin and nature of these bodies, the fact still remains that the term "bayou," in Louisiana, is applied to nothing at all resembling a "lake." Respectfully yours,

C. M. Williams.

Carrollton. Louisiana, September 5, 1887.