Imagini ale paginilor




AMONG the most beautiful, as well as the most common, of the marine animals which are to be met with upon our coasts are the jelly-fish and the starfish. Scarcely any one is so devoid of the instincts either of the artist or of the naturalist as not to have watched these animals with blended emotions of the aesthetic and the scientific-feeling the beauty while wondering at the organization. How many of us who live for most of the year in the fog and dust of large towns enjoy with the greater zest our summer's holiday at the seaside ? And in the memories of most of us is there not associated with the picture of breaking waves and sea-birds floating indifferently in the blue sky or on the water still more blue, the thoughts of many a ramble among the weedy rocks and living pools, where for the time being we all become naturalists, and where those who least know what they are likely to find


in their search are most likely to approach the keen happiness of childhood ? If so, the image of the red sea-stars bespangling a mile of shining sand, or decorating the darkness of a thousand grottoes, must be joined with the image, no less vivid, of those crystal globes pulsating with life and gleaming with all the colours of the rainbow, which are perhaps the most strange, and certainly in my estimation the most delicately lovely creatures in the world.

It is with these two kinds of creatures that the present work is concerned, and if it seems almost impious to lay the “forced fingers rude” of science upon living things of such exquisite beauty, let it be remembered that our human nature is not so much out of joint that the rational desire to know is incompatible with the emotional impulse to admire. Speaking for myself, I can testify that my admiration of the extreme beauty of these animals has been greatly enhanced —or rather I should say that this extreme beauty has been, so to speak, revealed-by the continuous and close observation which many of my experiments required : both with the unassisted eye and with the microscope numberless points of detail, unnoticed before, became familiar to the mind; the forms as a whole were impressed upon the memory; and, by constantly watching their movements and changes of appearance, I have grown, like an artist studying a face or a landscape, to appreciate a fulness of beauty, the esse of which is only rendered possible by the per cipi of such attention as is demanded by scientific research. Moreover, association, if not the sole creator, is at least a most important factor of the beautiful; and therefore the sight of one of these animals is now much more to me, in the respects which we are considering, than it can be to any one in whose memory it is not connected with many days of that purest form of enjoyment which can only be experienced in the pursuit of science.

And here I may observe that the worker in marine zoology has one great advantage over his other scientific brethren. Apart from the intrinsic beauty of most of the creatures with which he has to deal, all the accompaniments of his work are æsthetic, and removed from those more or less offensive features which are so often necessarily incidental to the study of anatomy and physiology in the higher animals. When, for instance, I contrast my own work in a town laboratory on vertebrated animals with that which I am now about to describe upon the invertebrated in a laboratory set up upon the sea-beach, it is impossible not to feel that the contrast in point of enjoyment is considerable. In the latter case, a summer's work resembles the pleasure-making of a picnic prolonged for months, with the sense of feeling all the while that no time is being profitlessly spent. Whether one is sailing about upon the sunny sea, fishing with muslin nets for the surface fauna, or steaming away far from shore to dredge for other material, or, again, carrying on observations in the cool sea-water tanks and bell-jars of a neat

little wooden workshop thrown open to the seabreezes, it alike requires some effort to persuade one's self that the occupation is really something more than that of finding amusement.

It is now twelve years since I first took to this kind of summer recreation, and during that time most of my attention while at the seaside has been devoted to the two classes of animals already mentioned-viz. the jelly-fish and star-fish, or, as naturalists have named them, the Medusæ and Echinodermata. The present volume contains a tolerably full account of the results which during six of these summers I have succeeded in obtaining. If any of my readers should think that the harvest appears to be a small one in relation to the time and labour spent in gathering it, I shall feel pretty confident that those readers are not themselves working physiologists, and, therefore, that they are really ignorant of the time and labour required to devise and execute even apparently simple experiments, to hunt down a physiological question to its only possible answer, and to verify each step in the process of an experimental proof. Moreover,

, the difficulties in all these respects are increased tenfold in a seaside laboratory without adequate equipments or attendance, and where, in consequence, more time is usually lost in devising makeshifts for apparatus, and teaching unskilled hands how to help, than is consumed in all other parts of a research. From the picnic point of view, however, there is no real loss in this; such incidental difficulties add to the enjoyment (else why choose to

« ÎnapoiContinuați »