Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/266

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

pauper whom the investigator has never known, nothing can be learned. It is otherwise with dogs, where the brain and the mind of the same individual are at our disposal. It is worthy of remark that Dr. Wilder is no believer in the localization of faculties in different portions of the brain, and is inclined rather to think that a cerebral hemisphere acts as a unit either singly or with its fellow.

 

Relics of Man in the Miocene.—In our June number appeared a note by Sir John Lubbock about the discovery, near the Dardanelles, of an engraved fossil bone, dating from Miocene times, and supposed to furnish evidence of man's existence at a very early geological period. A paper was presented to the American Association, at its late meeting, by Mr. George Washburn, of Constantinople, wherein reasons were given for questioning the value of these remains as evidence of the high antiquity of man. The fragment of mastodon-bone, so called, is described by Mr. Washburn as having 50 marks, more than half of which are grouped in the centre. Taken individually, they are peculiar and puzzling; but, taken together, they can hardly represent the figure of an animal, or show any evidence of design. They may have been produced by worms when the bone was soft. The smooth upper surface of the stratum of limestone on which the bone was found is covered with exactly similar marks, many groups of which make more striking pictures than those found on the bone. One specimen in particular is so marked that a vivid imagination might distinguish the picture of a wildboar with a spear in his side, with the Greek letter n most clearly cut by the side of it. As for the split bones found in the same stratum, and the flint fragments, the author satisfactorily accounts for the shapes assumed by these, without supposing the intervention of man.

 

The Octopus and its Prey.—Mr. Henry Lee, of the Brighton (England) Zoological Gardens, wishing to view the seizure of a crab by an octopus, recently fastened one to a string and had it lowered into the aquarium close to the glass, while he watched the operation in front. The crab had hardly descended to the depth of two feet when an octopus shot out like a rocket from one side of the tank, opened its membranous umbrella, shut up the crab in it, and darted back to its hiding-place. As the animal could not be well observed in this situation, the attempt was made to pull the bait away from him, so as to draw him out of his retreat. But, as soon as the octopus felt the pull, he took a firm grasp of the rock with all the suckers of seven of his arms, and, stretching the eighth aloft, coiled it round the tautened line. Noticing several jerks on the string, Mr. Lee told his assistant not to use too much force. But the man assured him that the jerking was done by the octopus, and that the creature would soon break the line if he did not let it go. "Hold on, then, and let him break it," said Mr. Lee. In three tugs more the line broke, though it was pretty strong twine.

But Mr. Lee's object was to study particularly the animal's mode of seizing and disposing of its prey. Accordingly, a second crab was so fastened that the string could be withdrawn if desired, and was lowered near to the great male octopus. The crab was seized precisely as the observer desired, viz., caught between the octopus and the glass plate. In an instant the prey was completely pinioned. Not a movement, not a struggle was visible or possible—each leg, each claw, was grasped all over by suckers, enfolded in them, stretched out to its full extent by them. The back of the carapace was covered all over with the tenacious vacuum-disks, brought together by the adaptable contraction of the limb, and ranged in close order, shoulder to shoulder, touching each other; while, between others which dragged the abdominal plates toward the mouth, the black tip of the hard, horny beak was seen for a single instant protruding from the circular orifice of the radiation of the arms, and the next had crunched through the shell, and was buried deep in the flesh of the victim. The action of an octopus when seizing its prey for its necessary food is very like that of a cat pouncing on a mouse, and holding it down beneath its paws. The movement is as sudden, the scuffle as brief, and the escape of the victim even less probable. "The fate of the crab," adds Mr. Lee, "is not really more