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THE GYMNOTUS, OR ELECTRICAL EEL.
little fishes in the same net with gymnoti, that the fishes are found dead, and the crocodile expiring. The Indians, in such cases, say that the young crocodile had not time to tear the net, because the gymnotus had paralysed and put him hors du combut. These terrible fishes, although carnivorous and of an aspect hideous as the serpent, are nevertheless in some measure docile, and naturally of a peaceable disposition. Much less active than our eels, they readily accustom themselves to their new prison ; they eat everything that is offered them, but without manifesting a great voracity. They do not discharge their violent shocks unless irritated; and then especially if tickled along the under part of the body, at the transparent part of the electric organs, at the pectoral fin, the lips, the eyes, and especially if the skin be touched near the gill-cover. All these parts seem to be the most sensible, for here the skin is thinnest and least loaded with fat.
Fishes and reptiles which have never before felt the shocks of a gymnotus, do not seem to be warned of their danger by any particular instinct. Although its form and size are rather imposing, a little tortoise which we put into the same tub approached it with confidence; it wanted to hide itself under the eel's belly; but scarcely had it touched it with the end of one of its feet, when it received a shock, too feeble, indeed, to kill it, but strong enough to make it retire as far away as possible. From that moment the tortoise would no longer remain in the vicinity of the torpedo. And so, in all the pools or streamlets which it inhabits, one finds very few fishes of any other species. The gymnotus often kills without devouring its victim. It instinctively regards as an enemy everything that approaches it. Like a cloud surcharged with the electric fluid, he comes upon the fish he means to destroy; when at a short distance from it, he rests for a few seconds, necessary perhaps to prepare the storm that is to burst, and then hurls his thunder against his devoted enemy.” - From the Voyage of Humbolt and Bonpland.
[The remainder of these observations, with the mode of taking the gymnotus by the natives, will be given in a future Number].
To the Editor of the Zoological Magazine. Sir,
Liverpool, December 4, 1832. ABOUT the middle of July 1829 I got possession of a young cuckoo, about half-fledged; and on account of its insatiable
appetite I could never give it sufficient food, and my ears were incessantly dinned with its call. Very few days afterwards a young cock thrush came into my hands; and it being soon able to feed itself, for the sake of convenience I put the birds together into one large cage. They were not long together before the cuckoo scrambled up to the thrush and began its call, and continued it for several hours. I observed the thrush take a piece of meat towards its companion; and the idea occurred to me that if I left them alone, the thrush would feed it. I left the door of the room a little
and did not wait watching long before I saw the young thrush feed the cuckoo. From this time I never had any more trouble; the cuckoo grew fat and healthy, and the thrush seemed quite satisfied with its state of servitude. Afterwards I determined to try if the cuckoo required all the help it received, and removed the thrush. In a few minutes I observed the cuckoo (apparently without any difficulty,) helping itself. In about a week I again replaced the thrush, and the cuckoo found its voice again and forgot how to take care of itself. The thrush did not relish its occupation; and it was not until after it had received a severe beating, and one of its eyes nearly torn out of its head, that it would feed the cuckoo again, The injury that the thrush received in its eye was the cause of its death a few weeks after. Since this experiment, I have been anxious to know what birds will attend to the cuckoo's cry; and I found the lark would sometimes do so, but more frequently beat it, and the cuckoo died of ill usage. A linnet which I placed with another cuckoo did its duty well for some time, but at last let the cuckoo die of neglect.—Perhaps some of your readers will follow up these experiments with me, that we may compare notes.
About the middle of September I was awakened by the constant fluttering the cuckoo made in its cage, which at night I always placed in my bed-room. After repeated watching at night, I found that from shortly after sun-set to a little before sun-rise, this bird for nearly a month continued to wave its wings as if in flight; and sometimes, as if forgetting that it was confined, it would hit its head against the top of the cage. I have no doubt it was instinct teaching it to quit our country, as during the period of its would-be emigration it was very quiet all day, but as soon as it was over, it became as lively, active, and noisy as ever.
Can any of your readers inform me where the cuckoo goes to ? I find there are three kinds at the Cape of Good Hope during the summer, one very similar to that which
ZOOLOGIST'S CALENDAR FOR JANUARY.
QUADRUPEDS.—Those of our indigenous quadrupeds which exhibit the remarkable phænomenon of torpidity, as the Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris), and more especially the Hedgehog (Erinaceus Europæus), and Dormouse (Myoxus avellanarius), are at this dreary season sunk in their deep repose, defended from the inclemency of the weather in retreats well lined with dry leaves and moss, and other non-conductors of heat. The dormouse commonly selects a cleft in a hazelbush or black-thorn, about three or four feet from the ground, and carefully closes the aperture to its domicile when it has taken up its final abode. Hedgehogs make a snug retreat for themselves, where, imbedded in leaves and moss, they remain concealed for the winter.
Birds.—The Blackbird (Merula vulgaris), Thrush(Turdus musicus), Redbreast (Sylvia rubecula), Wren (Anorthura communis), Tomtit (Parus cæruleus), Hedgesparrow (Sylvia modularis), Skylark (Alauda arvensis), Woodlark (Alauda arborea), and Chaffinch (Fringilla spiza), begin to sing occasionally.
Those birds which in summer frequent woods and solitary places, now approach our dwellings. Several species of seafowl and water-birds may be met with on our rivers. Larks begin to congregate. The Missel Thrush (Turdus viscivorus) begins to build ; and towards the end of the month the Redbreast (Sylvia rubecula), and Housesparrow (Fringilla domestica), commence their nests. The smallest of British birds, the Golden-crested Wren (Sylvia regulus), may now be seen in thick hedges near the house.
Some birds are accused of destroying the buds of trees at this season; but the truth is, that it is the insects frequenting the buds, and not the buds themselves, of which the birds are in search.
INSECTS swarm under hedges on sunny days. Gnats play about; spiders make their webs; bees appear.
The following may be occasionally met with during this month. The Peacock Butterfly (Vanessa Io), the Early Moth (Cheimatobia rupicapraria), the Bay Shoulder Moth (Peronea spadiceana), the Hearth Cricket (Acheta domesticus), the Dung Beetle (Geotrupes stercorarius), and the Chain Beetle, (Carabus catenulatus).
Notwithstanding the severe cold usual at this season, the eggs of many caterpillars which were deposited in autumn survive, and are hatched in the course of the spring.
Many small insects may also be found amongst mosses.