The Zoologist/4th series, vol 1 (1897)/Issue 677/Editorial Gleanings

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Editorial Gleanings  (November, 1897) 
editor W.L. Distant

Published in: The Zoologist, 4th series, vol 1, issues 677 (November, 1897), p. 529–536


Through the courtesy of Mr. Basil W. Martin, we have received the 'Fifth Report of the Department of Agriculture of the Province of British Columbia,' 1895–96. Much of interest to the zoologist is found under the heading "Noxious Animals and Animal Pests." At present there appear to be the following sums paid as blood-money:—Panthers (Puma), Felis concolor, 7½ dollars; Wolves, Canis occidentalis, 2 dollars; Coyotes, Canis latrans, 1 dollar. From enquiries made by the Department it seems to be the unanimous opinion that the price put upon the heads of Coyotes should be raised. "In point of fact, instead of their numbers being diminished, they are increasing to an alarming extent, rendering sheep-rearing in the upper country out of the question; calves, pigs, and fowls are also carried off in numbers." Wolves, though troublesome in places, are neither so numerous nor so bold as Coyotes. Panthers are still numerous about the settlements on Vancouver Island, where their depredations on sheep and pigs are severely felt. On the mainland Panthers are comparatively scarce, a few under the name of mountain lions being in the Smilkameen. None are found on Hornby Island, and this absence probably applies to all the Gulf Islands. Wild horses continue to be a source of great loss to the cattle men of the upper country, on account of the damage they do to the ranges. It is greatly to be feared that, owing partly to the depredations of these useless beasts, the ranges of the Upper Fraser were left so bare at the beginning of winter that a great loss will occur amongst the cattle of that section. "Licences to shoot unbranded stallions may be issued by the Government Agent of the district, upon such terms and conditions as such Government Agent may indorse upon such licence."

We read that a great influx of Owls, principally Dusky Horned Owls, Bubo virginianus saturatus, to the settled districts of the islands and Lower Fraser occurred last winter (1895). This curious migration was considered due to the excessively and unusually early cold weather in November, which it is believed drove these birds out of their haunts to the northward. The presence of such a number of Owls was undeniably a source of great loss to poultry keepers. Not only fowls, but rabbits, game, and even cats, fell a prey to their rapacity. " It is quite possible that on an occasion of this kind the harm done was much greater than any good the Owls may have performed." The introduced Pheasants, Phasanius torquatus, have been very numerous on Vancouver Island and on some of the Gulf Islands, and complaints have reached the Department of the mischief wrought by them in grain and potato fields. Other farmers, and in places where Pheasants are most numerous, do not complain, some of them even speaking favourably of them.

The Year Book of the United States Department of Agriculture, 1896, has also been received. As in Canada, bounties are paid for the destruction of noxious animals, and during the last twenty-five years 3,000,000 dollars have been thus expended. In some regions the losses on account of Wolves and Coyotes are so serious as to threaten the success of the Sheep industry. It was estimated in 1892 that in New Mexico, where the Sheep were valued at 4,556,000 dollars, such losses varied from 3 to 7 per cent.; in Nebraska the value of Sheep was about 2,000,000 dollars, while the losses amounted to 5 per cent., or 100,000 dollars; and sheepowners in Central Texas suffered losses on account of wild animals to the extent of 10 to 25 per cent. The larger animals are gradually becoming rare, particularly in the East; but it cannot be said that bounties have brought about the extermination of a single species in any State. Wolves are now almost extinct east of the Mississippi river, except in Florida and a few other States; but their present rarity is due rather to the settlement of the country than to the number killed for rewards.

Mr. F.E.L. Beal has studied the habits and food of the Blue Jay, Cyanocitta cristata, which seems to have hitherto enjoyed a somewhat undeserved bad character. The accusations of eating eggs and young birds are certainly not sustained, while in destroying insects the Jay undoubtedly does much good. "The Blue Jay gathers its fruit from nature's orchard and vineyard, not from man's; corn is the only vegetable food for which the farmer suffers any loss, and here the damage is small. In fact the examination of nearly 300 stomachs shows that the Blue Jay does far more good than harm."

Asparagus was introduced into America with the early settlers from Europe, and is credited with having been cultivated there for two hundred years before being troubled with insects. Now two beetles destroy the crop, both introduced from Europe—Crioceris asparagi, which arrived about 1856, and C. duodecimpunctata, whose presence was detected in 1881. Fortunately they have found enemies in the land of their adoption. C. asparagi receives the attention of the spotted ladybird, Megilla maculata, whose larvæ appear "to have no other occupation than that of devouring those of asparagus beetles." Two Hemipterons, Podisus spinosus and Stiretrus anchorago, also destroy the larval pests, and some species of wasps and small dragonflies do a similar service. Mr. F.H. Chittenden has contributed the memoir on this subject.

Mr. Ernest Seton Thompson has published in the October number of our American contemporary 'The Auk' a communication on "Directive Coloration of Birds." The main thesis is that birds when sitting are protectively coloured; and when flying, directively. To illustrate this point an example is taken from mammals. "The common jack rabbit when squatting under a sage-bush is simply a sage-grey lump without distinctive colour or form. Its colour in particular is wholly protective, and it is usually accident rather than sharpness of vision which betrays the creature as it squats. But the moment it springs it is wholly changed. It is difficult to realize that this is the same animal. It bounds away with erect ears, showing the black and white markings on their back and under side. The black nape is exposed, the tail is carried straight down, exposing its black upper part surrounded by a region of snowy white; its legs and belly show clear white, and everything that sees it is plainly notified that this is a jack rabbit. The coyote, the fox, the wolf, the badger, &c, realize that it is useless to follow; the cottontail, the jumping rat, the fawn, the prairie dog, &c, that it is needless to flee; the young jack rabbit, that this is its near relative, and the next jack rabbit that this may be its mate. And thus, though incidentally useful to other species at times, the sum total of all this clear labelling is vastly serviceable to the jack rabbit, and saves it much pains to escape from real or imaginary dangers."

Yet another theory on the method of evolution! Mr. Stuart Jenkins has sent us a pamphlet on the "Origin of Vertebrates," reprinted from the 'Medical Age,' and published at Detroit, Michigan. The author commences with an expression of sympathy with Lord Salisbury's well-known utterances at the Oxford meeting of the British Association, and a belief in the fact—never denied—"that Darwin has not said the last word in regard to evolution." He also fortifies his proposition with the equally well-known views of Huxley on non-fertility between hybrids. The new theory, which is of course inevitable, is "that the divergence of the vertebrates from the lower type was caused by the parasitic implantation of one organism of the ganglionic type upon another, the implanted organism giving rise to the cerebro-spinal nerve system and internal skeleton." The brochure evidently requires more study than we have been able to afford to render this proposition clear. We read that "utility has cut but an insignificant part in structural evolution, which has been brought about entirely by modifications of the cerebro-spinal parasite due to variation of nutrition." This theory of Parasitism we must own we fail to adequately understand, and therefore apologise for representing it by a perhaps obscure digest.

Mr. G. Lacy, writing to 'South Africa,' has endeavoured to make a calculation as to how many Elephants have been killed in South Africa by white men. From careful study he has made the following list of those who have killed a hundred or more, but of course there must be others that could be added.:—
H. Hartley 600 Gordon Cumming 109
F. Green 500 A. Ericksson 100
J. Dunn 400 D. Hume 100
G. Wood 400 W. Jennings 100
Jan Viljoen 400 T. Jennings 100
Piet Jacobs 400 R. Lewis 100
C.J. Anderson 350 H. Wahlberg 100
M. Zwartz 300 J. Lee 100
J. Chapman 250 W. Hartley 100
J. Cane 200 T. Hartley 100
S.H. Edwards 200 H. Ogle 100
F.C. Selous 200 J.Todd 100
W.C. Oswell 200 H. Smuts 100
W. Finnaughty 200 J. Gifford 100
H. Larsen 200 H. Fynn 100
P. Zietsman 200 G. Shadwell 100
R. Benningfield 150 R. Dubois 100
J.H. Wilson 150 G.A. Phillips 100
W.C. Baldwin 100 C. Van Royen 100

He also believes that quite a hundred have killed between 50 and 100—say 7000 Elephants; and if 5000 are added for men who have shot less than 50 each, we arrive at about 20,000 Elephants. Except in the last item, this is not so much mere guesswork as some might suppose, for, though bags, whether fur, feather, or fish, are always to be received with caution, yet the above is considered fairly accurate for one reason, that, except in the cases of Selous, Cumming, and Baldwin, they do not rest on the testimony of the men themselves. One Matabele hunter, who shall be nameless, told the writer that he had shot 400, when to his certain knowledge 40 would cover his bag. Cane, Ogle, and Fynn date back to 1825–35, and Hume to 1830–40, but all the rest from 1850 to 1880, when Elephant hunting was practically over as a business. Mr. Lacy doubts if any one man has killed a hundred since that date, though perhaps numbers make the claim.

We heartily welcome the first number—published this month—of Mr. Howard Saunders's second edition, revised, of his 'Illustrated Manual of British Birds.' Both book and author are sufficiently well known to require no further comment, and we hope to notice the whole work at the completion of its twentieth number.

Mr. Symington Grieve has written a "Supplementary Note on the Great Auk or Garefowl (Alca impennis, Linn.)." These notes, we read, are written up to 31st July, 1897. A summary of existing remains of this bird is given. Number of birds represented by the following remains:—
Skins 79 or 80
Skeletons (more or less complete) 23 or 24
Detached bones 850 or 861
Physiological preparations 2 or 3
Eggs 70 or 72

Five reproductions from photographs of preserved specimens of the Great Auk are given as plates. This pamphlet is reprinted from the 'Transactions of the Edinburgh Field Naturalists' and Microscopical Society,' and published by W. Blackwood & Sons, Edinburgh.

Mr. Reginald Heber Horne, Jun., writes in the 'Auk' on the subject of "Birds' Tongues in Pictures."[1] He has satisfied himself "that from a distance of a few feet, with a strong opera-glass, a bird's tongue cannot be seen between the open mandibles when singing. In almost all drawings or paintings of singing birds one will find the elevated tongue shown clearly. The musical instrument of a bird is not its tongue, as almost everyone knows; the sounds and modifications are produced in the throat, and therefore why should the tongue be expected to show (except perhaps as a modulator)? To cut the tongue out of a picture of a singing bird detracts from it, and looks exceedingly strange, solely because we are used to seeing it so in likenesses, but not in life; but the portrait nevertheless becomes true to nature."

In this month's 'Entomologist's Monthly Magazine,' Mr. Edward Saunders concludes a series of papers entitled "Hints on collecting Aculeate Hymenoptera." The information given is, however, far more than the title conveys, and is, in fact, quite an unique account of the habits and times of appearance of these interesting insects, and based on personal experience and observation. It is a real contribution to the Natural History of Insects.

In September, Prof. Drechsel, of Leipzig, was seized with apoplexy whilst sitting at his working table at the Zoological Station of Naples, and, in spite of prompt assistance, died within twenty minutes of the moment of seizure. Prof. Drechsel was fifty-four years old, and was for some time Director of the Chemical Section of the Leipzig Physiological Institute. At the time of his death he was Professor of Physiological Chemistry at the Berne University. He was distinguished for many important discoveries, and was engaged in the systematic study of the presence of iodine and bromine in marine animals, in the pursuance of which he had come to Naples, where the material needed was abundant and easy to obtain. On the 23rd his remains were interred in the English cemetery at Naples, the staff of the Zoological Station, many students, and visitors to Naples attending the funeral.

As a result of a lecture on Wolmer Forest by their President, Mr. T. Whitburn, the Guildford Natural History Society have decided to present a petition to the Commissioners of Woods and Forests, praying that Wolmer Forest may be reserved as a sanctuary for wild birds, in which they, their nests and eggs, may remain unmolested throughout the year; that it may not be let at any time for game preserving, or for any purpose inimical to bird life; and that it may remain in perpetuity as a national memorial to the greatest outdoor naturalist England has produced—Gilbert White, of Selborne. Such a recognition, it is said, would show that the admiration of Gilbert White in the nineteenth century was not verbiage merely, but that it took such a practical shape as to be of value to the naturalist and the English speaking race for all succeeding time. The Society have no desire to attempt to interfere with the use of the Forest by the War Office for the purpose of military manoeuvres.

The local angling club at St. Ives (Hunts) two seasons ago placed some Barbel in the Great Ouse, with a view of acclimatising them to that river, where they had hitherto been unknown. The fish came from the Thames, and the experiment looks as though it had been successful, for several tiny Barbel about 3 in. or 4 in. in length have just been caught in a cast or bait net. The Barbel turned in were from 3 lb. to 6 lb. each, and they are evidently thriving and breeding in the river, which by some authorities is considered to be a very suitable water for them.

"Notes on Larval Cestode Parasites of Fishes" is the title of a memoir by Prof. Edwin Linton in a recent issue of the 'Proceedings of the United States National Museum.' The material on which these notes are based consists of collections in about six hundred bottles and vials referable for the larger part to entozoa of fish. The author well observes "that the finding of a larval cestode parasite encysted in the tissues of a fish is not always proof that the fish is a true intermediate host. This goes without saying when the host of the encysted parasite is a large Shark. Beneden invented the term xenosite, i.e. stranger, for this condition of parasitism."

Eighteen parasites with their hosts are not only fully described, but illustrated by eight plates.

In the 'Essex Naturalist,' Mr. Wilfred Mark Webb concludes his contribution on the "Non-Marine Molluscs of Essex." This is an excellent addition to our county faunas, and the summarized tabulation is as follows: —


The general classification is according to Lang's 'Text-book of Comparative Anatomy,' the families are those given by Fischer in his 'Manuel de Conchyliologie,' and the generic names used are those adopted by Pilsbry in his 4 Guide to the Study of the Helices.'

Mr. Horatio R. Fillmer is the author, and Messrs. Betts & Sons, Lim., the publishers, of an unpretending brochure on 'Waxbills, Grassfinches, and Mannikins; a Hand-book for Beginners in Aviculture.' The author in his preface remarks:—"I should like to accentuate the fact that this is a hand-book for beginners. It does not pretend to contain much that is new, and experienced aviculturists will learn little or nothing from it. For this reason it treats more fully of the cheaper and commoner species, and rare birds are either unnoticed or dealt with very briefly." It will doubtless prove useful to the now fast increasing numbers of bird-lovers who with living specimens study the habits of their pets in captivity.

Mr. Elias Louis Hett, of Springfield, Brigg, has communicated with us on the subject of a proposed Dictionary of the Call-notes of British Birds. He writes:—"A short time ago I heard a bird-call which I did not recognize, beyond remembering that I had read of it a few days previously. I searched the volume without success, and the identity of the bird remained undecided. It then occurred to me that an alphabetical list of recorded bird-calls would prevent the recurrence of a similar experience. Acting on this idea, I have now collected from the works of Messrs. Bechstein, Dixon, Kearny, Morris, Robinson, Swann, and Dr. Emerson the call of two hundred birds, or rather more than half of those which are accepted as British. I am very desirous that my list should be as complete and perfect as possible, and shall greatly esteem any co-operation which you can give me; either in checking calls already recorded, or supplying those of other birds, more particularly of any bird or birds which you may have had favourable opportunities of observing.

"You will doubtless note that I have frequently retained two or more spellings of a single call. This appears to be unavoidable, as our language is not phonetic, and many bird-calls may be spelt in different ways with equal approximation to correctness. I have also retained some very free renderings of calls which approximate to English sentences. Although the call-bird portion is complete as far as I have the materials, I have as yet only had the first page set up. If my appeal for co-operation meets with the response for which I hope, I shall at once finish the compilation, and see it through the press."

  1. "Birds' Tongues in Pictures". Auk 14 (4): 413. 1897.  (Wikisource-ed.)