« PreviousContinue »
the superior action of the wings, as in swallows. There are many species which both walk and swim. Animals also differ in their habits; thus, some are gregarious, others solitary,- -a distinction applicable to them whether they walk, fly, or swim. Some obey a leader, others act independently; cranes and bees are of the former, ants of the latter kind. Some feed on flesh, others on fruits, while others feed indiscriminately; some have homes, others use no covering of this kind, but reside in the open air. Some burrow, as lizards and snakes; others, as the horse and the dog, live above ground. Some animals seek their food at night, others by day; some are tame, others wild; some utter sounds, others are mute, and some sing; all of them, however, sing or cry in some way at the season of pairing.
In this way he proceeds, stating briefly the various circumstances in which animals differ from each other, and in conclusion asserting that man is the only one capable of design; for, says he, although many of them have memory and docility, none but man have the faculty of reflection.
These general propositions or aphorisms are not so simple or so easily attained as one might imagine on reading them inattentively. Let any person who has a tolerably comprehensive idea of the series of animated beings reflect a little, and he will perceive, that such as the following must be derived from the observation of a great number of facts:Those parts which seize the food, and into which it is received, are found in all animals. The sense of touch is the only one common to all. Every living creature has a humour, blood or sanies, the loss of
which produces death. Every species that has wings has also feet.
In this chapter Aristotle divides animals into such as have blood, and such as have it not. Of the former (the red-blooded) some want feet, others have two of these organs, and others four. Of the latter (the white-blooded) many have more than four feet. Of the swimming-animals, which are destitute of feet, some have fins, which are two or four; others none. Of the cartilaginous class, those which are flat have no fins, as the skate. Some of them have feet, as the mollusca. Those which have a hard leathery covering swim with their tail. Again, some animals are viviparous, others produce eggs, some worms. Man, the horse, the seal, and other land-animals, bring forth their young alive; as do the cetacea and sharks. Those which have blow-holes have no gills, as the dolphin and whale. In this department, the observations of the great philosopher are often minute, and generally accurate, although usually too aphoristic and unconnected to be of much use to the student.
Of flying-animals, some, as the eagle and hawk, have wings; others, in place of wings, have membranes, as the bee and the beetle ; others a leathery expansion, as the bat. Those which have feathered or leathery wings are blooded (red-blooded); but those which have membranous wings, as insects, are bloodless (white-blooded). Those which fly with wings or with leathery expansions, either have two feet or none; for, says he, it is reported that there are serpents of this kind in Ethiopia. Of the flying bloodless animals, some have their wings covered by a sheath, as beetles; others have no covering,
and of these some have two, others four wings. Those which are of large size, or bear a sting behind, have four; but the smaller and stingless, two only. Those which have sheaths to their wings, have no sting; but those which have two wings are furnished with a sting in their fore part, as the gnat.
Animals are distinguished from each other, so as to form kinds or families. These, according to our author, are quadrupeds, birds, fishes, cetacea, all which he says have (red) blood. There is another kind, covered with a shell, such as the oyster; and another, protected by a softer shell, such as the crab. Another kind is that of the mollusca, such as the cuttle-fish; and lastly, the family of insects. All these are destitute of (red) blood.
Here, then, we have a general classification of animals, which it is important to notice, as we may have occasion afterwards to compare it with arrangements proposed by other naturalists. It may be reduced to the following form :
QUADRUPEDS, SERPENTS, BIRDS, FISHES, CETACEA.
TESTACEA, CRUSTACEA, MOLLUSCA, INSECTS.
It must, however, be understood, that Aristotle proposes no formal distribution of animals, and that his ideas respecting families, groups, or genera, such as those of our present naturalists, are extremely vague.
His quadrupeds include the mammalia and the quadrupedal reptiles. He divides them into those which are viviparous, and those which are oviparous; the former covered with hair, the latter with
scales. Serpents are also scaly, and, excepting the viper, oviparous. Yet all viviparous animals are not hairy; for some fishes, he remarks, likewise bring forth their young alive. In the great family of viviparous quadrupeds also, he says, there are many species (or genera), as man, the lion, the stag, and the dog. He then mentions, as an example of a natural genus, those which have a mane, as the horse, the ass, the mule, and the wild-ass of Syria, which are severally distinct species, but together constitute a genus or family.
This introduction to the History of Animals the philosopher seems to have intended, less as a summary of his general views respecting their organization and habits, than as a popular exordium, calculated to engage the attention of the reader, and excite him to the study of nature. Whatever errors it may contain, and however much it may be deficient in strictly methodical arrangement, it is yet obviously the result of extensive, and frequently accurate observation. He then proceeds to the description of the different parts of the human body, first treating of what anatomists call the great regions, and the exterior generally, and then passing to the internal organization. His descriptions in general are vague, and often incorrect. As an example, we may translate the passage that refers to the ear.
This organ, he says, is that part of the head by which we hear; but we do not respire by it, for Alcmeon's opinion, that goats respire by the ears, is incorrect. One part of it has no name, the other is called lobos; it consists entirely of cartilage and flesh. The internal region is like a spiral shell, resembling
an auricle at the extremity of the bone, into which as into a vessel the sound passes. Nor is there any passage from it to the brain, but to the palate; and a vein stretches from the brain to it. But the eyes belong to the brain, and each is placed upon a small vein. Every animal that has ears moves them, excepting man; for of those which are furnished with the sense of hearing, some have ears, others none, but an open passage; of which kind are feathered animals, and all that are covered with a scaly skin. But those which are viviparous, the seal, the dolphin, and other cetacea excepted, have external ears, as well as the viviparous cartilaginous animals. The seal has a manifest passage for hearing; but the dolphin, although it hears, yet has no ears. The ears are situated at the same level as the eyes, but not higher, as in certain quadrupeds. The ears of some persons are smooth, of others rough, or partly so; but this furnishes no indication of disposition. They are also large, small, or of moderate size, projecting, or flat, or intermediate. The latter circumstance indicates the best disposition. Large and projecting ears are indicative of a fool and babbler.
From this passage we perceive that Aristotle was acquainted with the Eustachian tube; although his anatomical knowledge of the ear is certainly of the most superficial kind, and his physiognomical notions respecting it sufficiently ludicrous. He divides the body into head, neck, trunk, arms, and legs, much as we do at the present day. The head consists of the calvaria, or part covered with hair, which is divided into three regions, the bregma or fore part, the crown, and the occiput. Under the bregma is the brain; but the back part of the