Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 17.djvu/736

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

of the tree and bore them to the nest. This work was not given to the smaller castes. The leaves principally gathered were those of the live-oak. The ants seemed to prefer trees with a smooth leaf, were severe upon grapes, peaches, the China tree, and radishes, took many other garden vegetables and plants, and loved sugar, grain, and tobacco. The interior of the formicary, as carefully examined by Mr. McCook, seemed to consist of an irregular arrangement of caverns of various sizes, communicating with the surface and with each other by tubular galleries. Within the chambers were masses of very light, delicate leaf paper, wrought into a honeycomb-like fabric, hemispherical, columnar, or hanging, composed of cells of various sizes, generally hexagonal in shape, the material of which crumbled under even delicate handling. Large numbers of ants, chiefly of the smaller castes, were found in these cells. Ten distinct castes or sizes of ants were measured, the largest being seven eighths and the smallest one sixteenth of an inch long. Several holes in the vicinity of Austin were visited, out of which nests of ants had been dug. They were nearly as large as a cellar for a small house, one measuring twelve feet in diameter and fifteen feet deep, and the main cavity being as large as a flour-barrel.

The Aborigines of Botel Tobago.—Dr. Charles A. Siegfried, of the United States Navy, in a letter which has been read before the Philadelphia Academy of Sciences, describes a visit he made in December, 1878, to an island called Botel Tobago, about eighty miles east of the south cape of Formosa. He found there a race of aborigines, supposed to be from Malay stock, who knew nothing of money, rum, or tobacco, but who gave goats and pigs for tin pots and brass buttons, and would hang around the ship all day in their canoes, waiting for a chance to dive for something thrown overboard. They wore clouts only, and lived mainly on taro and yams, though they had also pigs, goats, chickens, fish, and cocoanuts. Their thatch houses were low, with overhanging roofs, and surrounded by stone walls strongly made of laid stone to protect them from monsoons. They were peaceful and timid, did not mark the body or deform the face or teeth, and seemed happy enough in their condition, and fairly healthy. They wore their hair naturally, the men partly clipping theirs, and adorned their necks with the beards of goats and small shells. They had axes, spears, and knives, but all of common iron, and their axe was inserted in the handle, instead of the handle being inserted in the axe, as with us. Their canoes were beautiful, made without nails, and usually ornamented with geometrical lines.

Asphalte and Amber in the Mud of New Jersey.—The "Proceedings" of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia contain a description of a mass of asphaltum, weighing about a hundred pounds, which was found near Vincenttown, New Jersey, in the ash-mud, a layer above the green-sand proper, about sixteen feet below the surface. It is the first specimen of this peculiar kind of hydrocarbon that is known to have been observed in New Jersey. . It is very brittle, black, with a resinous luster, uneven fracture, inclined to conchoidal, melts easily, and burns with a yellow, smoky flame, leaving a voluminous coal and but little ash. It is soluble in chloroform and oil of turpentine, in ether with difficulty; insoluble in alcohol, water, and solution of caustic potassa. Oil of vitriol dissolves it into a black liquor, of which a part is retained in solution in water, a part subsides as a dark colored powder. Nitric acid reacts upon it at an elevated temperature, forming with it soluble products of oxidation. Near the pit from which the asphaltum was obtained, a specimen was found of a yellow mineral resin, which occurs frequently, but not regularly, in the mud of the cretaceous formation. It is usually called amber, or succinite, but differs from the typical amber of the Baltic in being lighter than water, fusing into a very fluid, mobile liquid, and in having a less strong cohesion, qualities which indicate its analogy to the variety of succinite called krantzite. It burns easily, with a yellowish, strongly smoking flame, leaving but little coal; it may be vaporized into a gray cloud of strongly penetrating odor, which condenses into an oily liquid, and some crystals. It is freely soluble in chloroform, bisulphide of carbon, and oil of turpentine,