Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/611

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
595
ANIMAL SELF-DEFENSE.

penetrate the crust of society and reach the fertile subsoil of the lower strata. Before the end of that period the planter of the tree has to fertilize the soil with his own bones; the weary tiller has to yield his plow to other hands. And the noblest plants are of such slow growth that the master of the vineyard appears to discriminate against his worthiest laborers; nothing seems wanting to aggravate the injustice and incongruity of the existing arrangement.

But a minimum life-term of ninety years would reconcile all contradictions: two thirds of it would be enough for the adjudication of every claim, and the remaining third could be devoted to rewards or retributions. The second generation, which now can only reverse and regret the short-sighted judgment of the first, would have a chance to make amends for the injustice. Such men as Kepler, Spinoza, Dante, Milton, Bayle, Rousseau, Mirabeau, Burns, Beethoven, Paine, and Byron, would have survived the influence of their detractors, and Time, the avenger, could have answered their appeal with something better than a monument.

 

ANIMAL SELF-DEFENSE.
By H. L. FAIRCHILD.

A FIERCE and pitiless struggle for life in the animal world is a stern fact. All creatures are beset by dangers. The negative conditions of cold and hunger and the positive influences of nature's elements are more easily resisted than the innumerable voracious foes. Every animal is predestined food for some other animal. But self-preservation is a universal thought, and endless is the variety of ways whereby life is prolonged.

A few external organs of defense are familiar to every one—as horns, claws, teeth, stings, shells, etc. Many animals depend on weapons and muscular power, a still greater number upon keen senses and fleetness—eternal vigilance. Others rely upon intelligence, cunning, simulation, and deceit; while stupidity, against which even the gods are powerless, may be the saving of others. Some are protected by skill in construction, some by unconscious resemblance, and a host by color, armor, and other passive means. A volume would not exhaust the subject, as there is scarcely a species of animal without some peculiarity for self-preservation.

This brief paper will only treat of defense against enemies; and, although the subject permits of no natural classification, an arbitrary division into passive and active defense will be convenient.

A host of animals of all classes and ranks are more or less defended by a hard covering—the result of natural growth. Such defense, like other modes to be described, is strictly involuntary and passive; and,