« PoprzedniaDalej »
with his tail; as observed by Plutarch, in his book, *De Industria Animalium,' and also so cunning as to nibble, or pull off the worm close to the hook, and yet avoid letting the hook come into his mouth."
And how wonderful is the construction of the Flying-fish; how admirably adapted to its dissimilar localities, the air and water, though differing essentially from almost every other species! It is furnished with an enormous swimming bladder, which contains three cubic inches and a half, and engrosses a large proportion of the animal frame. As this extraordinary appendage contributes greatly to diminish the specific gravity, we may naturally infer, that it is even more adapted to promote the action of flying, than of swimming. The pectoral fins are also obviously designed for this purpose. They are nearly the length of the whole body; they present a surface
to the air of thirty-seven square inches, and bear a considerable similarity to wings. In order to aid this rapid movement, the nine branches of nerves which extend to the twelve rays, are generally three times the size of those belonging to the ventral ones, and these, when excited by galvanic electricity, extend with five times the degree of force that is perceptible in the others, when galvanised by the same metal. Hence the Flying-fish can dart to the distance of twenty feet before re-touching the water with the extremity of its fins, by a movement similar to that of a flat stone, which, on being thrown horizontally, bounds one or two feet above the surface. And yet, notwithstanding the extreme rapidity with which the Volitans performs its flight, it beats the air alternately, extending, and then closing its pectoral fins. The same motion is observable in the Flying Scorpaena of the rivers of Japan.
This species is also provided with a large air bladder; an appendage unnecessary, and therefore not found in such of its coinpanions as are not endowed with the faculty of darting from the water.
The Volitans, in common with its congena, enjoys the privilege of equal respiration for a long time, both in its native and assumed element, by aid of the same organs; that is, by extracting the oxygen from the atmosphere, as well as from the water with which it is combined. These agile creatures spend a con
siderable portion of their time in the air. They move by thousands in a straight line, and follow the heated waters of the Gulf-stream, when they flow towards the north. In the tropical regions, the sea is sometimes covered with them as far as the eye can reach; they throw themselves into the air to the height of twelve, fifteen, or even cighteen feet, whence they descend with considerable force, and often strike against the astonished mariner. This velocity of movement is, no doubt, to them a considerable source of happiness. To pursue the thought still further; as rapid motion generally excites in ourselves a lively consciousness of existence, and we have much in common with the lower orders of creation, so it is extremely probable that Flying-fish are susceptible of a high degree of enjoyment, when springing from the sparkling waves, feeling the gladdening influence of the sun, and breathing the soft summer breezes that play around. It is true, that in springing from the water to escape the voracity of the Dolphin, they have frequently to encounter men-of-war, birds, albatrosses, and other ærial persecutors; as on the banks of the Orinoca, herds of Cavies, that rush from the water to avoid the crocodile, become the prey of the jaquars that await their arrival,
Thus it appears that rapid motion, which is to them the surest means of escape, becomes also a source of animal enjoyment. Some drawbacks un
doubtedly there are, for evils to a certain extent are inseparable from existence. They surround the children of mortality, whether endowed with reason or with instinct; and yet so much of positive happiness is blended with the condition of each; that in one, to multiply enjoyments ; in the other, to promote progressive virtue, is evidently the design of Providence. There is still another, and far more interesting association connected with the Volitans, thus beautifully embodied by the poet of the Sacred Melodies.
When I have seen thy snowy wing
Oh! it has made me proudly feel,
But when I see that wing so bright,
Oh Virtue! when thy clime I seek,
And when I leave the grosser throng,
The Volitans abounds from the twenty-second degree of latitude, under those skies where Humboldt first observed the southern Cross on the night of the fourth, or fifth of July. It was considerably inclined, and appeared from time to time between large masses of floating clouds, that, furrowed with lightning, reflected a silvery light. A magnificent time-piece placed on high, to point out to the different nations that live beyond the tropics, or in the southern hemisphere, the hour of midnight. “How often," says this enlightened traveller, “when crossing the vast savannas of the New World, or in the deserts extending from Lima to Truxillo, have we heard the guide exclaim, Midnight is past, the Cross begins to bend.'"