페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

description of these species is furnished us, as their habits are comparatively unknown. The remaining Emys of this volume, the Muhlenbergii, which say called biguttata, is found, our author remarks, "only in New Jersey and East Pennsylvania, and is rare even in these districts."

The next species is the Ameiva sex-lincata, known commonly as the striped lizard, and the familiar representative of the lizard in the United States, as of the true lizards we have none. Its habits are thus described.

“ This is a very lively, active animal, choosing dry and sandy places for its residence, and is frequently met with in the neighbourhood of plantations, or near fences and hedges ; most usually it is seen on the ground in search of insects, but it will take to trees when pursued. Its motions are remarkably quick; it runs with great speed, and climbs with facility ; yet it cannot leap from branch to branch, or from tree to tree, like the Anolius carolinensis. The Ameiva sex-lineata is very timid ; it feeds on insects, and generally seeks its food toward the close of the day, when they may be seen in cornfields far from their usual retreat ; and not unfrequently I have met male and female in company.” – p. 65.

The Anolius Carolinensis, another animal of the lizard kind, and usually called Chameleon, or green lizard, from its delicate green color, we have had an opportunity of seeing alive, and we cannot refrain from expressing our gratification at the faithfulness of the description, and the excellence of the figure. The following account of this species, shows the accurate observation of the author.

“The Anolius Carolinensis is a bold and daring animal, haunting out-bouses and garden fences ; and in new settlements it even enters the houses, walking over the tables and other articles of furniture, in search of flies. It is very active, climbing trees with great rapidity, and leaping with ease from branch to branch, or from tree to tree ; securing itselfeven on the leaves, by means of the oval disks of the fingers and toes ; which enable it also to walk easily on glass, and on the sides and ceilings of rooms. It feeds on insects, and destroys great numbers, seizing them suddenly, and devouring them, unrestrained even by the presence of man. In general, they hybernate later than other animals of the same class, their favorite retreats being gardens and old buildings ; they often retire to green-houses, or conservatories, where they may be frequently seen active, even in winter, but never of that rich yellow green as in the summer season. In the spring season, they are extremely quarrelsome ; two males seldom meet without a furious battle, which frequently results in the loss of part of the tail, or some other injury, to one or both of the combatants. Before the contest, the animal usually remains stationary for a moment, elevates and depresses its head several times, inflates his gular sac, which now becomes of a bright vermilion, and then suddenly springs at his enemy. After the first heats of spring have passed, they become less quarrelsome, and many are seen quietly living together in the same neighbourhood ; they retain at all times the habit of inflating the sac, even when quietly basking in the sun ; and at those times the coloring of the animal has the liquid brilliancy of the emerald.” — pp. 69, 70.

Two species of Bufo had been supposed to be identical. One of these, our common toad, generally called the musicus, is here at the suggestion of Le Conte, described as the Americanus, on account of its extended distribution. From our author's interesting remarks respecting this species, we would extract only a single observation.

• It has been commonly supposed that the humor exuding from the skin and glands is poisonous ; yet no experiments have proved it so, and certainly no injury has ever arisen from handling or examining the animal.” — p. 77.

In the account of the Bufo lentiginosus, the southern species, from which the preceding is separated, we find the following amusing anecdote of its instinct.

“I have seen an individual, kept for a long space of time, which became perfectly tame. During the summer months it would retire to a corner of the room, into a babitation it had prepared for itself, in a small quantity of earth, placed there for its convenience. Towards eveniog it would wander about the room in search of food, seizing greedily whatever insect came in bis way. Some water having been squeezed from a sponge upon his head, one hot day in July, he returned the next to the same spot, and seemed very well pleased with the repetition ; nor did he fail, during the extreme heat of the summer, to repair to it frequently, in search of his shower-bath.” — p. 81.

A singular little Engystoma, a kind of animal very similar to a toad, is here for the first time described, to which the specific name, Carolinense, is given. It is the only species of the genus which has been met with in the United States, and has not as yet been discovered north of Charleston.

A new and very curious genus is next presented us, which our author calls Scaphiopus. It possesses the following characters, showing it to be a sort of connecting link between the toad and frog.

" Body short, thick, swollen ; head short ; minute teeth in the upper jaw and on the palate ; a small, glandular wart behind the ear, from which a watery fluid can be pressed ; posterior extremities short, stout, and muscular ; leg shorter than the thigh ; a spade-like horny process occupies the position of a sixth toe, and is used by the animal in excavating." - p. 85.

The peculiarities of its organization, are at once explained by the habits of the only known species, the solitarius.

- This is a strange animal,- an odd mixture of toad and frog, having the teeth of the one and the rudimental posttympanal glands of the other ; it approaches, however, nearest the toad in its form and habits, as it never ventures in water except at the breeding season ; it lives in small holes about six inches deep, excavated by itself in the earth, which for a long time I took for holes of insects ; here it resides like the ant-lion, seizing upon such unwary insects as may enter its dwelling. It never leaves its hole, except in the evening or after long-continued rains. It shows great dexterity in making this dwelling ; sometimes using the nates, and fastening itself by the spade-like process ; at others it uses the legs with these processes, like a shovel, and will in this way conceal itself with great rapidity. In progression its motions are not very lively, and its powers of leaping but feebly developed. It appears early in March, after the first heavy rains of spring, and at once seeks its mate.” — p. 87.

The descriptions of the frogs, halecina, palustris, and sylvatica, our common species, are all that the student could desire. Without the excellent plates, the author would have been perfectly intelligible.

A striking instance of the limited distribution of some reptiles is shown in the Rana ornata, a pretty species of frog, made known to naturalists by our author, who observes ;

“ This animal has hitherto been found only in South Carolina, and as yet only in one locality, about four miles from Charleston, between the Cooper and Ashley rivers, where it abounds.” — p. 98.

Our common and beautiful tree toad, the Hyla versicolor, is here, for the first time, figured. The plate is well done, and the observations relating to its habits are very accurate.

When speaking of the Hyla squirella, our author remarks,

that it has not been found further north than the thirty-fourth degree of latitude, and therefore that must be considered its most northern limit. During the last season we received one from Roxbury, within three miles of Boston. So that it will probably be found to extend as far north as the preceding species.

Descriptions of five beautifully delineated species of Coluber terminate the first volume.

The coach-uhip snake, flagelliformis, of which we have a fine figure, is so rare, even in those Southern states in which it is found, that our author says, “During a seven years' search I have never seen but one living specimen." .

A beautiful new species, five feet three inches in length, from the Alleghany mountains, is called Alleghaniensis. And another, four feet five inches in length, receives the name of abacurus.

The plates are extremely well executed, preserving so well the appearance of nature, that no one would suspect for a moment, that they were drawn from preserved or distorted specimens. The attitudes, in many instances, of the species are strikingly faithful. Of those which have fallen under our notice alive, we can speak more decidedly, and would therefore point to the figures of the Anolius Carolinensis, Bufo Americanus, Rana halecina, palustris and sylvatica, Hyla versicolor and squirella, as being exceedingly correct.

The second volume of the work contains descriptions and figures of twenty-eight species, four of which are new to science. Nearly one half of the volume is composed of descriptions of nine species of Emydæ, fresh water tortoises. No little confusion had previously existed among several of these species. One of our first herpetologists has said, he could not distinguish the specific characters of five of them. Our author has settled their distinctions with the utmost clearness ; and his descriptions of the serrata, reticulata, rubriventris, and Floridana are illustrated with plates which require neither the eye of the naturalist to distinguish, nor of the artist to admire. To a fine large species, fifteen inches in length, common around Mobile, but previously undescribed, our author gives the name of Mobilensis. Three species of Salamander are presented us ; two of which, the dorsalis and symmetrica, are common in New England.

If, in the pages we have passed over, no errors have been referred to, it is because none have been perceived of sufficient importance to demand notice. We should have been better pleased, it is true, to have seen, instead of the bronzed carapace (upper shell) of the Emys gultata (our common and beautiful speckled tortoise), its natural color. But our author, in his description of this species, says, “ the whole upper surface of this animal, the head as well as the extremities, is black,” &c. &c., showing conclusively his own accuracy, and that the fault is that of the artist. But the same motive, which has excited us thus freely to speak of the beauties and value of the work before us, prompts us to point out what appears inaccurate. In the description of the Salamander dorsalis, the color is thus spoken of.

“ The whole superior surface of the Salamander dorsalis, neck, head, and body, as well as the tail and extremities, is of an olive color, with a strong tinge of green, &c.”—Vol. 11. p. 58.

And the coloring of the plate corresponds with the description. The dorsalis, as seen in Massachusetts, has its whole upper as well as its under surface sprinkled with innumerable black dots. A defect appears in the lower figure of the plate, owing to the right anterior extremity being placed further back on the body than the left. The figures of the symmetrica also are unnatural, on account of the disproportion between the anterior and posterior extremities. The remaining salamander is a new and singularly marked species, which is appropriately called gutto-lineata.

The habits of the dreaded Trigonocephalus piscivorus, the water moccasin, are thus illustrated.

“It is found about damp, swampy places, or in water, — far from which it is never observed. In summer, numbers of these serpents are seen resting on the low branches of such trees as overhang the water, into which they plunge on the slightest alarm. Catesby thinks they select these places to watch for their prey. They merely choose them in order to bask in the sun; for in situations deprived of trees, as the ditches of ricefields, their lurking-places are often on dry banks. They are the terror of the negroes that labor about rice plantations, where they are more dreaded than the rattlesnake, which only bites when irritated or in self-defence, or to secure its prey ; the water moccasin, on the contrary, attacks everything that comes within its reach, erecting its head and opening its mouth for some seconds before it strikes. I have placed in a cage with the water moccasin several of the harmless snakes, as

« 이전계속 »