Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/883

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861
POPULAR MISCELLANY.

If we looked at it from the front instead of in section, its natural curvature would strike every eye. M. Flammarion upheld his electrical theory at the succeeding meeting of the Academy, maintaining that no solution of continuity had ever been remarked upon any comet. The tail has always appeared homogeneous, plane, still, like a beam of electric light. He acknowledged that his interpretation was hypothetical, but claimed that his hypothesis was very probable. Might not the electrical illumination, he said, very intense in the nucleus, more feeble in the immediate surrounding, be prolonged into space, impelled by the contrary electrization of the sun? The phenomena of those long, imponderable, and transparent tails, hitherto unexplained, would then be a simple luminous excitation of the ether.

 

New Carboniferous Fossils.—A considerable addition to the fauna of the Lower Carboniferous period has been made by the recent discovery in the shales of Eskdale and Liddesdale on the river Esk, in Scotland, of the fossils of a larger number of new organisms than have been obtained from the entire Carboniferous system of Scotland for years past. The remains are in an excel lent state of preservation, and in some instances are so admirably wrapped up in thin matrices as to retain structures which have never before been recognized in a fossil state. Among them are twenty new species, adding to science five new genera, of ganoid fishes. One of the genera, Tarrasius, is so peculiar that no place can be found for it in any known famliy. Two specimens have been found in such conditions as to leave in doubt some important parts of their structure. Associated with the skeletons of the fishes are some new phyllopod and decapod crustaceans, one of them having its intestinal canal distended with food. Several new maerurous decapods occur that differ in no essential respect from their living representatives. Numerous and often admirably preserved specimens of scorpions have been found, of forms that do not differ essentially, so far as regards external organs, from the living scorpion. Mr. Peach, who describes them, has recognized in them every structure of the recent form, down even to hairs and hooks on the feet. The sting alone has not been observed, but the poison gland has been found. The chief difference lies in the larger proportion of their mesial eyes to the lateral ones, and to the whole animal, than in the living form. These fossils afford no more help in tracing the pedigree of the scorpion than is furnished by the living form, for they make it obvious that the animal has remained with hardly any change since Carboniferous times. It appears to be the most ancient type of arachnid. Some species must have included individuals eight or ten inches in length.

 

Animal Retribution.—The Boston papers tell a curious story of the retribution which recently came upon a buck, which, by virtue of his superior strength and sagacity, had exercised a tyrannous lordship over the herd of deer on the Common, and had thereby excited the hatred of the younger bucks. The time came when he had to shed his horns. The other bucks gained knowledge of the fact with a marvelous quickness, gathered around him, made a concerted attack upon him and speedily disabled him, despite the gallant resistance he tried to make. He was knocked down, butted and kicked till his head and sides streamed with blood, shoved this way and that, with all the fury accompanying each action that the pent-up spite of years could render itself capable of, and, finally, was reluctantly compelled to give up the ghost. Several of the men employed on the Common and public grounds witnessed the affray, and attempts were made to drive off the old fellow's assailants, but it was of no use. Each attempt was resented by the infuriated deer, and every man who entered the inclosure with pacific intentions was obliged to flee for his life. The murder having been consummated, the fury of the animals became appeased, and the dead carcass was removed from the arena.

 

Permanence of Vegetable Structures.—Dr. Karl Müller has recently observed a very noteworthy instance of the permanence of vegetable tissues in the case of specimens of mosses that were taken from the ancient viking ship which we described in our May number as having been found last year on the coast of Norway. The mosses had