Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/95

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85
ORGANIC REMAINS IN METEORIC STONES.

to offer a mineralogical determination of these minute structures, partitions, and holes, which are already visible under a microscope magnifying two hundred times, but which may even still be traced up to four hundred and eighty times. It is, therefore, perfectly evident that the objects in question are organic remains, and, in fact, those of a class nearly related to our favosite corals.

Unfortunately, most of the laminæ are cut parallel to the length of the polypary tubes, because the huge meteoric stones had to be broken up in order to obtain these shavings, whereby they generally split with the length of the coral-branches. Only one remarkably fine lamina, a perfect unicorn, in the whole collection, and also a part of the fall at Knyahinya, affords a full view from the top of the branch into the calyx of the polyparium and into the arrangement of the cups themselves. This specimen alone must bring conviction to every connoisseur of corals. It is represented on Plate X, Figs. 3 and 4, of Dr. Hahn's book, but the yellowish tint of the lamina prevented the object from coming out as clearly on the photograph as it can be seen on the original under a good microscope.

This object is evidently a complete small coral-branch of roundish shape, which stands with a broad base on another coral formation. The whole network of the calyx can here be seen with the greatest clearness. The cups are quite dark in the center, being filled with a black substance; then follows a whitish filling around this dark center, and then, plainly visible, the wall of each tube always as a sharply defined line, which is already visible with a low magnifying power. This network of lines, separating the single cups from each other, presents a variety of sizes and forms of the calyx, which, just like those of a great number of our corals, and especially of those of the Devonian favosites polymorphus, are very irregular, often larger or smaller than the average, with rounded or straight side-walls or smaller cups formed by the partition of one larger one. This ex-terrestrial coral has been named by Dr. Weinland, in honor of its discoverer, Hahnia meteoritica. All these coral structures in the meteorites are petrified, having taken the form of silicates of magnesia.

Another very notable peculiarity of these ex-terrestrial corals is their extreme smallness, for, in comparison with those of the earth's fauna, they represent a veritable pygmy animal kingdom. The just-described coral-branch of Hahnia meteoritica is but a white dot in the meteoric shaving, barely visible to the naked eye. Its greatest diameter measures but 0·90 millimetre, and the single cups average but 0·05 millimetre. These are dimensions quite unknown in any terrestrial corals, where a calyx of one millimetre diameter may already be called small. But we must still be prepared for yet quite different things in these ex-terrestrial organisms, for it is very possible that there may yet be found formations for which we can absolutely find no place in our systems of zoölogy. In fact, it is rather startling that the