The Zoologist/4th series, vol 1 (1897)/Issue 670/Editorial Gleanings

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Editorial Gleanings (April, 1897)
editor W.L. Distant
4036899Editorial GleaningsApril, 1897editor W.L. Distant


Those of our readers who are interested in primitive and local names of birds and in Ornithological Folk-Lore generally, may well consult an article written by Dr. Edgar A. Mearns in the last (December) number of the 'American Anthropologist,' entitled "Ornithological Vocabulary of the Moki Indians."

"The Mokis inhabit a region of country in longitude 109°, lying just west of the New Mexico-Arizona boundary, north-eastward from the Little Colorado river, and 65 miles south of the Colorado."

The revision of the zoological vocabulary of the Moki language, of which this paper forms the ornithological portion, was made by the author with the aid of an exceedingly intelligent Indian named Ongwischey, so that mistakes should be few and misinterpretations seldom. It will be observed that some of the Moki names are of Spanish origin: "The fact is, the Moki tongue has become impure from contact with Mexicans and halfbloods from some of the new Mexican pueblos, where Indians and Mexicans live together."

The Mokis show an excellent acquaintance with raptorial birds, and Capt. Bourke is quoted for the fact that "Eagles are still raised in cages in Picuris, San Ildefonso, Santa Clara, Zuñi, Acoma, and the villages of the Moquis farthest to the west."

The specific names with Moki equivalents are given for 230 birds, though of course some margin must be allowed for error; for, as the author cautiously remarks:—"Although more attentive to nature than most whites, it must be remembered that the Mokis are not ornithologists, and cannot be expected to name even all birds that have fallen under their observation, much less such as have never attracted their critical attention, or to discriminate between closely related species, or those which resemble one another in colour or form."

The Rev. H.A. Macpherson has contributed to the 'Annals of Scottish Natural History' an account of "The Distribution of the Red Grouse, Lagopus scoticus, and the Black Grouse, Lyrurus tetrix.[1]" The author writes:—"The Red and Black Grouse are both so plentiful upon the moors of the border counties of England and Scotland, that I have long expected to come across some additional instances of the well-known but rare union between Lagopus scoticus and Lyrurus tetrix. It was therefore with great pleasure that I recently identified no fewer than four birds of this curious cross." These birds were secured at Shalloch, Kirkcudbrightshire—a moor of less than 3000 acres—and included a beautiful female hybrid. Two of these birds, male and female, were exhibited before the British Ornithologists' Club in November of last year, and their identification as hybrids between the Red and Black Grouse was accepted by all the members present.

At the March meeting of the Zoological Society of London Mr. Sclater called attention to the two specimens of Otters now living in the Society's Gardens, which had been received from Co. Down, Ireland, last year, and pointed out that they differed in several respects from the Common Otter. The Irish Otter had been separated specifically from Lutra vulgaris by Ogilby in 1834, under the name of Lutra roensis, and Mr. Sclater thought it was worthy of enquiry whether Ogilby was not right in his views.

At a February meeting of the Zoological Society of London Mr. G.A. Boulenger, F.R.S., read a paper entitled "A Catalogue of the Reptiles and Batrachians of Celebes, with special reference to the collections made by Drs. P. and F. Sarasin in 1893-1896." This memoir gave a complete list (with descriptions) of all the Reptiles and Batrachians, with the exception of the marine species, known to occur in the Celebes. The number of species of Reptiles enumerated was 83, and of Batrachians 21.

In the 'Irish Naturalist' for February, Mr. H. Lyster Jameson has written a paper on the "Bats of Ireland,"[2] giving as far as possible a complete range of the species.

"Seven species of Bats are known to inhabit Ireland, six of which belong to the family Vespertilionidæ, represented by three genera, Plecotus, Vespertilio, and Vesperugo, the seventh to the family Rhinolophidæ."

In the 'Proceedings of the Cotteswold Naturalists' Field Club,' vol. xii. part 1, is an interesting paper, by Mr. E.B. Wethered, on "The Depths of the Sea in Past Epochs."[3] This is not so purely geological as its title might imply, and refers more to the organic life that then ensued and to the remains now found in the then sea bottoms. As the author remarks: —

"Generally speaking, geologists have been content with fossils which could be detected without the aid of the microscope." The preliminary summary of results relates to the Silurian, Carboniferous, and Jurassic limestones:— "The process which went on in the Silurian sea during the formation of the Wenlock limestone was this: the shells and skeletons of the larger marine organisms which existed, collected on the floor of the sea in very small fragments. Whether this condition was due to detrition, or to the fact that the creatures had served as food for large Ganoid fishes," the author has no knowledge. In Carboniferous days microscopic life must have been quite as abundant "as it was in the sea in which the chalk formation took place and in parts of the ocean of to-day." Of the Jurassic period Mr. Wethered refers the formation of the oolitic granules ("roestone") to organic origin.

The microscope has thus fresh fields to conquer; not only the unseen life of the present epoch, but the remains of the minute organisms of a long past.

The following note on the breeding of the Caracal or Desert Lynx is taken from our contemporary 'The Field':—"About eighteen months ago (August, 1896), I purchased here a pair of 'Red Cat' kittens, which must then have been about four or five months old. By 'Red Cat,' as we call it out here, I mean the African Lynx, or Caracal. On December 10th last the cat had one kitten, which unfortunately died on the second day after its birth. No one out here seems to have heard of 'Red Cats' breeding in captivity, and so it may be of interest to record it. I am told that they have two kittens at a birth; on this occasion only one was born, which may be accounted for, perhaps, by its being the first litter. The mother is now expecting for the second time, and I hope in a few weeks to report the successful rearing of her second family.—J.W. Jones (Vryburg, Bechuanaland, February 1st)."

This note evidently refers to Felis caracal—"Rooi Kat" of the Dutch. Nicolls and Eglington, in their 'Sportsman in South Africa,' well observe that "when its size is taken into consideration, it is justly reputed to be, without exception, the most savage and intractable of the Felidæ. Even when obtained quite young and brought up by hand, it gradually develops a character, so to speak, of pure 'cussedness,' that any attempts to tame it have invariably proved unsuccessful."

In the Report of the Superintendent of the National Zoological Park, Washington (Ann. Rept. Smith. Iustit. to July, 1894), published in 1896, and just received, we read that a young Black Bear was "born on Feb. 5, 1894. There are but few opportunities for observing the growth of these animals, as they are rarely born in captivity. The little creature was very small at birth, not larger than a good-sized rat, weighing but nine ounces, and it was thirty-nine days before it opened its eyes. It has been very vigorous and healthy from the first, and its development was evidently normal."

In the Annual Report of the Royal Zoological Society of Ireland for 1896 we read that "the most interesting event which has occurred in the Gardens for many years took place early in the year. On the 6th of January, the female Cape Hunting Dog, Lycaon pictus, presented the Society with a litter of four cubs. It is very rare for these valuable and interesting animals to breed in captivity, although one or perhaps two litters are known to have been born in the Zoological Gardens in Amsterdam. In no case, however, has the mother reared her offspring. Two or three days after birth they have died through excessive anxiety for their welfare on the part of the mother during the nursing period. The slightest noise alarms her, and, seizing the pups in her mouth, she careers round the cage seeking a place where she can conceal her progeny. Unfortunately the litter born in the Dublin Gardens met the same fate. The puppies stood this treatment for three days and then they succumbed."

In the 'Cape Times,' under date of Jan. 20th, a summary of Government Notice, No. 4, of 1897, is given, which relates to the general close or fence season for game in the various divisions of the Colony. The interest to zoologists is found in the list of animals which have been specially protected, for here we can read decrease and possible extinction on the wall.

In mammals, as restricted to various districts, and whose slaughter is prohibited for periods expiring in 1897, 1898, 1899, and even 1900, we find enumerated Aardvaark or Ant-eater, Rietbok, Eland, Klipspringer, Klipbok, Duiker, Grysbok, Bushbuck Ewes, Rhebok, Oribi, Steinbuck, Hartebeest, Wildebeest, Gemsbok, Koodoo, Blesbok, Bontebok, Giraffe.

In birds: Paauw, Plovers and Larks, Quail, Knorhaan, "Partridges," "Pheasants," and Guinea Fowls.

Insectivorous and other birds, in Albany and Uitenhage, to Dec. 23rd, 1899; all kinds of birds in Beaufort West Dam, to May 31st, 1898; and in Mossel Bay Municipal Commonage, to June 30th, 1897.

Great and Small Locust Bird, throughout the whole Colony to Jan. 22nd, 1899. This no doubt to increase the destruction of locusts.

According to a Reuter's telegram from Blantyre, dated Jan. 12th, Mr. Poulett Weatherley, said to be the only British sportsman at the time in the interior, and who had circumnavigated Bangweolo and Chifunanti, bears witness to the ravages of the rinderpest among the wild game of South and East Africa:—"The rinderpest has killed off all Antelope nearly the whole length of my journey. I saw very few Roan, a good many intensely shy Oribi, and a few ditto Senegal Hartebeest, One Buffalo was seen, but not by me. I saw two Zebra; beyond that, nil."

Naturalists will be pleased to learn that Mr. Edward Dodson is about to leave, or has left England for Morocco, with the object of investigating the fauna of the country around the Atlas range. This will be Mr. Dodson 's third visit to Africa, his previous journeys being in connection with Professor Elliott's expedition to Somaliland and Mr. Donaldson Smith's scientific mission to British East Africa.

Mr. J.E.S. Moore has reached England on his return from Central Africa, which he visited to investigate the fresh-water fauna of Lake Tanganyika. In conversation with a representative of Reuter's Agency, Mr. Moore said:—"I found the fauna of Tanganyika to be unique—unlike anything else anywhere—and as limited as peculiar. The Jelly-fish and Shrimps were certainly of a marine type, while the geology of the district precluded the possibility of any connection with the sea in recent times. The water, which Livingstone found to be brackish, is now quite drinkable. All this seems to prove that the Tanganyika part of the great Rift Valley running through this part of Africa at one time had access to the sea, while it is perfectly clear that Lake Nyassa—some 246 miles to the south-east—apparently never had any marine connection. It is also a matter of interest that the fauna of Tanganyika is not only marine, but of a very peculiar and primitive type, and it is quite reasonable to suppose that the characteristics of the fauna are connected with the remote geological connection of the lake with the sea."

Prof. Anton Fritsch, of Prague, in the March number of 'Natural Science,' discusses the very important question of "Fresh-water Biological Stations." This investigation has already been commenced in America, Bohemia, Germany, and Russia, and it is quite time England joined that scientific concert. Last summer Prof. Fritsch lectured on more than thirty kinds of life-groups "of Bohemian fresh waters, each with its own special fauna and flora: springs, mountain brooks, mountain rivers, rivers of the plain, backwaters of large rivers, ponds, lakes, bogs, small pools with Apus, snow-tarns with Branchipus, &c. Each of these kinds of water varies in its own fauna with the season of the year, and also from year to year according as rain and sunshine also vary. Here is work for a century."

This work in Bohemia is done on admirable method, especially in these days of poor endowments. It is open to question whether poverty is not often the handmaid of research, though the crying shame is that it is so often allowed to be considered as the proper atmosphere in which zoological scientific workers should be reared, and their investigations conducted. Prof. Fritsch's station consists of a movable building, which was presented to the Committee by a friend, and cost £70. "With its internal fittings, it now has a value of £200; yet everything is very humble, and the want of better instruments strongly felt. The annual working expenses of three investigators amount to £40, their work itself being given freely." Nevertheless they have just finished the examination of two lakes in the Böhmerwald, and the station has been transferred to Podiebrad, in the middle of Bohemia, for the investigation of the river Elbe.

It is to be hoped, as the Professor remarks, that it may soon be known that our "wealthy country has done her duty for fresh-water biology."

A series of bibliographies of representative American naturalists was long ago commenced in the Bulletins of the United States National Museum. The series was naturally limited to the work of naturalists living and working in America, but one exception has been made in favour of Dr. P.L. Sclater, "the Secretary of the Zoological Society of London, who has confined his work for the most part to American ornithology, and whose contributions to the systematic ornithology of the American Continent have far exceeded in extent those of anyone working in this country." Thus writes Mr. G. Brown Goode in the introduction to "The Published Writings of Philip Lutley Sclater, 1844-1896," issued at Washington, 1896. This small volume contains a portrait, biographical sketch, and a chronological catalogue of all papers and notes published. There are 1287 bibliographical references.

We have received the Sixty-third Annual Report of the York School Natural History, Literary, and Polytechnic Society for 1896. This institution seems to be in a fairly flourishing condition, and one of the most interesting items in the Report is the following:—"Last spring a number of boys kept fresh-water aquaria in the botanical room. In these the habits of newts, snails, fishes, and minute crustaceans were studied, some of the latter being drawn as viewed through the microscope." This is the training for the naturalists of the next generation—to observe the habits of live animals is as important as dissecting the bodies of dead ones; both studies are necessary, but there seems sometimes a danger of the first being somewhat neglected.

  1. * Macpherson, H.A. (1897). "On the Interbreeding of the Red Grouse (Lagopus Scoticus) and the Black Grouse (Lyrurus tetrix)". The Annals of Scottish Natural History 6 (21): 15–17.  (external scan) (Wikisource-ed.)
  2. digital copy (Wikisource-ed.)
  3. digital copy (Wikisource-ed.)