Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/583

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

desirable to preserve certain parts of the natural forest growth and extend it elsewhere—this favorable influence is due to the dense cover of foliage mainly, and to the mechanical obstruction which the trunks and litter of the forest floor offer. Any kind of tree growth would answer this purpose, and all the forest management necessary would be simply to abstain from interference and leave the ground to Nature's kindly action. This was about the idea of the first advocates of forest protection in this country. But would it be rational and would it be necessary to withdraw a large territory from human use in order to secure this beneficial influence? It would be, indeed, in many localities, if the advantage of keeping it under forest could not be secured simultaneously with the employment of the soil for useful production; but rational forest management secures the advantages both of favorable forest conditions and of the reproduction of useful material. Not only is the rational cutting of the forest not antagonistic to favorable forest conditions, but in skillful hands the latter can be improved by the judicious use of the axe. In fact, the demands of forest preservation on the mountains, and the methods of forest management for profit in such localities, are more or less harmonious; thus, the absolute clearing of the forest on steep hill-sides, which is apt to lead to desiccation and washing of the soil, is equally detrimental to a profitable forest management, necessitating, as it does, replanting under difficulties. Forest preservation, then, does not, as seems to be imagined by many, exclude proper forest utilization, but, on the contrary, these may well go hand in hand, preserving forest conditions while securing valuable material; the first requirement only modifies the manner in which the second is satisfied.


The Zebra's Stripes.—It has been shown by several authors that the stripes of the zebra are a means of protection to it in the forests, by producing light effects like those of the limbs of the bushes by which it is surrounded. One can readily see, says a correspondent of Nature, how the shadows of the branches in a tropical forest, falling upon the zebras, would so intermingle with the stripes of the animals as to add enormously to the difficulties of recognition by human eyes, and also by the eyes of their animal foes. This correspondent believes that the stripes have a still deeper meaning and value. At night, when the animal is lying down partly on its side and partly on its belly, and doubles up its legs, the horizontal stripes on them run in the same general direction with the vertical ones of the body and seem to be continuations of them; or, if it rests on its side and stretches out its limbs, the vertical, diagonal, and horizontal stripes would then be more horizontal than anything else, but pointing in different directions, and would so assimilate themselves with the crossed and varying directions of the shadows as to have the same practical effect in hiding the sleeping animal from its foes.


An Ancient Japanese Burial Custom.—Prof. Hitchcock, of the Smithsonian Institution, calling attention, in a paper on Ancient Tombs and Burial Mounds of Japan, to some small clay figures representing human beings, said it was an ancient custom in Japan to bury the retainers of a prince standing upright around his grave. The compassion of the Emperor Suisina (97-30 b. c.) was aroused by the sufferings of the persons who were thus treated when his younger brother died, and he desired to change the custom. When the empress died, the plan was proposed of substituting clay figures of men and horses for the living victims. From the publication of an edict in the year 646 forbidding the burial of living persons, and also the burial of gold, silver brocade, diaper, or any kind of variegated thing, it is inferred that the custom of living burial was kept up to some extent till the seventh century. Specimens of the figures, called tsuchi ningio, introduced to take the places of the living sacrifices, are now very rare, and this fact leads to the supposition that the figures were not buried, but were left exposed on the surface of the ground.


The Lung-fish.—The Ceratodus or lungfish of Queensland, according to Prof. Spencer's account of it in the Australasian Association, lives only in the Burnett and Mary Rivers, in Queensland, and belongs to a small group which may be regarded as intermediate between the fishes and the amphibia.