Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/291

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

ured young. "The majority of them seemed to feel as much at home here as in any nesting-ground of their own choice, and generally returned whenever they were permitted to migrate in autumn." The progeny of the Canada goose as well as of the other species prospered well and became large. Some of the progeny are still living, and betray in many instances a tendency to revert, as to plumage, but the majority have become completely metamorphosed into barn-yard fowl. No hybrids from different species were obtained, except from crosses between the mallard and the dusky duck. The food of all the ducks was what they ate in the wild state—grains, acorns, etc.; and shoots and roots of aquatic plants for the wood-ducks. All the species experimented with migrated southward, if not maimed, each autumn, and invariably returned with a male mate, which remained till the female began to hatch, when it went away, never to return. The crosses obtained with tame birds retained their original plumage to a greater or less degree, but were of increased size. It appears from the experiments that the majority of our wild ducks are not easily prone to change their wild condition for that of perfect domestication, but that they manifest no aversion to breed freely, even when they are placed under artificial restraints.


Siberian Products.—The following facts indicate that Siberia may be destined to occupy a place of considerable importance in the world's trade: Gold, silver, platinum, lead, copper, and iron are found in the Ural. The gold product of that region (nearly all of it being drift-gold) amounted in 1876 to between 140 and 150 centners; and the whole product of Siberia in 1877 was estimated at about 780 centners. Coal-beds exist in the Ural, in the Kirghiz steppes, on the northern borders of the Altai Mountains, on Lake Baikal, and on the Amoor River. Graphite-beds have long been worked in the Shian Mountains, and other graphite beds are waiting exploitation on the lower Tunguska. Agriculture and cattle-raising do not flourish, notwithstanding some favoring circumstances, on account of the deficiency of outlets and labor. The fur-trade is not so important as it formerly was; for the silver-fox, ermine, and sable have become scarce. The fisheries afford an important article of export, but they are carried on in the most primitive manner. The opening of the Arctic Ocean to navigation and the extension of the railroad that now reaches to Ekaterinburg will be of great advantage to the future of Siberia.


Miracles not out of Date.—Dr. Giordano has reported upon a remarkable epidemic of morbid fanaticism which is prevailing in the village of Alia, in Italy. The place is almost inaccessible, having but little intercourse with the world, and is marked by a barbarous style of living, and by the prevalence of intermarriage, with its usual concomitants of weak-mindedness, morbidness, and idiocy; consequently, superstition flourishes. After a long drought in February, March, and April last, a religious procession was organized to obtain rain. The statue of Saint Francis was carried round, and the declaration of a fanatic that he saw water flowing on the face of the saint was readily taken up by the credulous crowd. The miracle was attributed to the intercession of a girl named Rosalia Giallonbarda, who, having formerly suffered from epilepsy, believed she had been cured by the saint, and was the subject of an excessive mysticism, with hallucinations. Her frenzy was caught by her relatives and neighbors, and spread abroad till the crowds of fanatics coming to visit her and the saint became so formidable that she was arrested. This "sacrilege" only stimulated the popular excitement.


Silk-spinning Spiders.—The spiders, large Epeiridiæ, which produce silk, inhabit the hottest countries. They are represented in our latitudes by a few species of inferior size, the most common of which, the Epeira diadema, is very numerous in gardens in the fall, and may be remarked by the regularly shaped webs which it weaves among the bushes. These delicate gauzes, however, give only an imperfect idea of the webs that are woven by the larger species of tropical regions. In India, the Sunda Islands, Madagascar, Réunion, and Mauritius, the Epeiræ construct webs of extraordinary dimensions, and the traveler has fre-