Scientific American Supplement, No. 841, February 13, 1892 online

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Scientific American Supplement. Vol. XXXIII, No. 841.

Scientific American established 1845

Scientific American Supplement, $5 a year.

Scientific American and Supplement, $7 a year.

* * * * *


I. ANTHROPOLOGY. - Investigation of a Mound near Jefferson
City, Mo. - By A.S. LOGAN. - Prehistoric remains from the banks
of the Missouri River
II. BIOLOGY. - New Observations on the Language of Animals. - By
M. DE LACAZE DUTHIERS. - A lengthy examination of some facts
in the language of animals, including birds and quadrupeds

III. BOTANY. - Electricity in Agriculture. - By CLARENCE D. WARNER. - The
effect of currents of electricity upon the germination of seeds.
- Interesting experiments detailed, which can be easily repeated

Electricity in Horticulture. - The effect of the electric light on
vegetation, availability it may possess for the gardener

Pentapterygium Serpens. - A Himalayan flowering plant introduced
in England about ten years ago. - 2 illustrations

The Perforation of Flowers. - What insects do to promote the
propagation of plants by perforating the flowers in search of
honey. - 16 illustrations

IV. CHEMISTRY. - A New Laboratory Process for Preparing Hydrobromic
Acid. - By G.S. NEWTH. - Simple synthesis of hydrogen
and bromium

Boron Salts. - Boron sulphides and selenides and silicon selenide

Detection of Peanut Oil in Olive Oil. - A practical laboratory
test for the above adulteration

Hydroxylamine. - Recent preparation of this compound and its

New Boron Compounds. - Compounds of boron, phosphorus, and
iodine recently prepared by M. MOISSAN

Sapotin, a New Glucoside. - By GUSTAVE MICHAUD. - Preparation
of a new glucoside from almonds and other sources

V. CIVIL ENGINEERING. - Completion of the Mersey Tunnel Railway. - The
penetration of the bed of the Mersey River by a tunnel
at the rate of 150 feet per week. - Details of the work

VI. EDUCATIONAL SCIENCE. - Chinese Competitive Examinations.
- Interesting details of the famous examinations of China. - Fatal
consequences to overworked competitors

VII. ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING. - High Speed Engine and Dynamo. - A
high speed compound engine, running at 500 revolutions
per minute, with direct-driven dynamo for electric lighting. - 3

VIII. MEDICINE. - The Treatment of Rattlesnake Bite by Permanganate
of Potassium, Based on Nine Successful Cases. - By
AMOS W. BARBER, M.D. - The use of this powerful disinfectant,
and the proper treatment and mode of applying it.

IX. METEOROLOGY. - Modification of Our Climate. - By JOSEPH
WALLACE. - Climate epochs and the probabilities of the present
climatic era. - Changes within the records of man

The Eruption of Krakatoa. - A graphic description of this catastrophe,
involving the lives of 35,000 people

X. MILITARY ENGINEERING. - The Military Engineer and His
Work. - By Col. W.R. KING. - A Sibley College lecture, treating
of the special problems In fortifications, sieges, and the more
pacific work of surveys and explorations

XI. MINERALOGY. - Natural Sulphide of Gold. - By T.W.T.
ATHERTON. - A probable new occurrence of gold

XII. NATURAL HISTORY. - The Living Jerboa in the Zoological
Garden of Berlin. - A rare rodent from South Africa, one seldom
seen alive in captivity. - 5 illustrations

XIII. NAVAL ENGINEERING. - Twenty-four Knot Steamers. - The possibility of
fast ships for long voyages. - The prospects and difficulties

XIV. RAILROAD ENGINEERING. - A Steam Street Railway Motor. - A
noiseless motor built of steel on trial in Chicago. - 1 illustration

XV. SANITARY ENGINEERING. - Some Means of Purifying
Water. - Different filtering processes and the subsidence treatment
of water

XVI. TECHNOLOGY. - Action of Caustic Soda on Wood. - By M.H.
TAUSS. - Direct experiments on the action of lye on wood at various

Burning Brick with Crude Oil Fuel. - The use of petroleum in
brick kilns. - Its advantages, cleanliness, and cheapness.

Chlorine Gas and Soda by the Electrolytic Process. - The decomposition
of common salt solution into chlorine and caustic soda
on the commercial scale

How Enameled Letters are Made. - The manufacture of separate
enameled letters as conducted in London. - 5 illustrations

How Mechanical Rubber Goods are Made. - Hose, corrugated
matting, packing, and jar rings. - Processes of their production

* * * * *


Like other strangely formed quadrupeds, the jerboas are counted among
the curiosities of the animal kingdom, and as such are described in
natural history; but, nevertheless, there has never been a good
exhibition of them, for the simple reason that live jerboas are seldom
seen in Europe, as they usually die during the journey hither or soon
after their arrival. After some hesitation I decided to purchase a
pair that I happened to find mentioned in the price list of Mr. C.
Reiche, of Alfeld, as one of the most interesting specimens obtained
during his expedition to South Africa the year before; but I, also,
found the sensitiveness and delicacy of the jerboa very trying, for
the short journey from Alfeld to this city caused the death of the
female and reduced her mate to such a condition that when it arrived
there seemed little hope that it could ever be utilized for scientific
research or artistic life studies.


My anticipation and pleasure were changed to vexation and grief. The
most careful nursing - the stiff, weak little legs were dipped into and
rubbed with French brandy - and a warm pen with a dry sanded floor
directly over a heater, did their work. As the new-comer got on his
feet again my hope gained new life, and now our jerboa is my delight.
It is, indeed, a curious animal. One who saw it only in the day time
asleep would scarcely know what he had before him, for he would see
little more than a mass of soft, bright sandy hair. The coming of the
keeper with the dish of food and the unfastening of the door of the
cage bring life to the ball of hair in the corner; a part of it is
unrolled and the long, black-tipped tail with two lines of hair is
laid out on the ground, and then on each side of it a leg is run out
which is nearly as long as the tail and is provided with blunt,
smooth, hoof-life nails; and, finally, the head and body are
distinguishable and the animal stretches out comfortably on its back
in the sand. The fine-skinned, hairless ears still hang limp, the eyes
are half closed and the short fore legs are crossed under the chin.

But now the animal gets on its legs by an elastic swing, and its ears
are raised and its eyes wide open, so that we can see that the latter
are large and dark, with long eyelashes. Then the jerboa raises
himself to his full height and playfully measures his cage by one
bound from corner to corner. Soon after, the fresh food receives due
attention, the animal either jumping toward it in rabbit fashion or
crawling slowly on all fours. When it has reached its goal it again
assumes the upright position, in which it is evidently most
comfortable, and begins to eat it in his own peculiar way; that is,
sitting on his hind legs he quickly seizes a piece of bread, turnip or
other food in his fore paws and conveys it to his mouth, apparently
indifferent to the nature of the food before him. He never takes
anything directly in his mouth; even the grass on a piece of turf that
I had given to him as an experiment was not eaten as it would have
been eaten by other animals, but was first plucked with the fore paws.
If we notice the position of the mouth, far back on the under side of
the head, we will understand that the jerboa could not take his food
in any other way. Besides this, nothing of special interest has been
observed in this nocturnal creature, but he, of course, lives more
regularly and quietly than if his mate had lived.

One who knows anything about the structure of animals' bodies need not
be told that the jerboa is a rodent. One glance at the peculiar shape
of his head would assure him of that. The form of the rest of its
body, especially its long hind and short fore legs, give unmistakable
proof that it is related to the jumping rodents; it belongs, in a wide
sense, to the family of the jumping mouse, the scientific name
(Dipodidea, two-footed) of which is very significant, as the very
short fore legs are usually carried close under the chin and are
scarcely noticeable when the animal is in its normal position, and are
of little use when it moves about. The hind legs are very strong, and
when going at full speed the jerboa takes jumps that measure from
eight to ten yards, according to the unanimous testimony of various

The jumping mouse of North America, which is somewhat larger than an
ordinary mouse, is, according to Brehm, also as swift as an arrow or a
low-flying bird. This exceptional velocity is not all that reminds us
of a bird, for there is also a strong resemblance in the formation of
certain parts of the bodies of the two creatures; but, after
consideration, this should not seem strange, because in animal
organisms similar means are employed to accomplish similar ends. It is
only natural that there should be peculiarities in the construction of
the limbs and skulls of the Dipodidea with their bird-like movements
and bird-like sharp-sightedness, that are usually found only among
birds. The consistency between the construction of their bodies and
their mode of life is a beautiful example of fitness; only by
extraordinary quickness of movement and sagacity could the little
defenseless plant-eaters maintain the struggle for existence in the
barren steppes and deserts. The formation of the bodies of the
different members of the family varies according to their needs. The
jerboa is the largest member of the family. Very little is known of
his life when free; it being known only that the jerboas are widely
spread over the whole of southern Africa, and are nocturnal burrowers
of the steppes. During the rainy season they remain in a sort of
winter sleep. - _Dr. L. Heck, in the Illustrirte Zeitung_.

* * * * *


By M. DE LACAZE DUTHIERS, of the Institute of France.

I had occasion in a note published several years ago in the _Revue
Scientifique_ to mention a parroquet which I have since continued to
observe, the manifestations of whose intelligence are both interesting
and instructive. Many acts of birds are difficult of interpretation.
To speak only of their songs, the meanings of most of the innumerable
varieties of sounds which they produce, and of their diverse
warblings, escape us completely. It is not possible to find the
meaning of these things except by forming suppositions and hypotheses,
or by catching the connections between cries and acts. But instances
of the latter kind are extremely rare in comparison with the great
majority of the manifestations made by animals.

Thus, to select examples which every one can observe, when a canary
bird is warbling in its cage and becomes deafening, or when a lark
rises straight up in the air and _incantat suum tirile tirile_ - sings
its _tirile tirile_ - as Linnæus picturesquely expresses it; when a
tomtit, leaping from branch to branch of a willow or among the reeds,
repeats its florid warblings; when a raven croaks; when a blackbird
whistles - what significance can we attach to their songs and their
cries? Certainty is impossible, and we can only form more or less
plausible hypotheses concerning the interpretation of them.

The parrot furnishes us one more aid in this matter than other birds,
and this helps us, to a certain extent, in overcoming the difficulty
of interpretation. It has an articulate voice, and when we have taught
it a few words, the meaning which it gives them may be better divined
by us according to the tone and the rapidity or slowness of its
utterance. This permits us to discover the feelings that move it, for
we can better judge from an articulate sound than from one that is
merely musical.

Much has been written on the language of animals. It is neither my
desire nor my intention to repeat here all that may have been said on
this subject. It would take too long and would be of no use. I have
often witnessed facts that may be of interest to those who are
occupied with the mental manifestations of animals. I will simply
relate them; and of such as are already known, I will merely mention
them anew, admitting in advance a priority for others which I do not
demand for myself.

There can be no doubt that animals communicate their impressions by an
inarticulate voice. Common sense and the most superficial observations
are opposed to the negative of this proposition. But when a canary
bird warbles till it stuns us, or a nightingale sings in the shadows
on the fine nights of June, can we follow and discover the
significance of those modulations - now sharply cadenced, now slowly
drawn out, and ending with a trill long and accurate enough to
challenge the most skillful musician?

All the poets of every country have constantly sung of the songs of
Philomela. But their fervent and enthusiastic verses cast little light
on the value of the nightingale's song. It is said that the male sings
for the entertainment of the sitting female, but there is no proof of
the assertion. The note warning of the approach of danger is easier to
recognize. The bird utters a short, hoarse cry, and repeats it with a
succession of _trrre, trrre_, which is impossible to mistake. When we
hear this cry we may be sure that an enemy is near. Music gives way to
a cry of distress and warning, and the female leaves her nest if the
sounds become piercing. What do we know of the gobbling of the turkey,
which the whistling and the cries of children excite? They are
doubtless responses to those challenges; but what do they mean?

The crowing of the cock, recurring regularly at fixed hours, has some
signification, but we cannot comprehend it. If on a fine afternoon in
autumn the cock crows, and repeats his strain between two and four
o'clock, the countrymen in some places will say there will be a fog on
the morrow, and they are generally not mistaken. Hens do not mistake
his notes either; when a leader of the troop, coming upon a spot rich
in food, utters his peculiar chuckle, they run from all around to
share the find with him. It is evident that the cock has called them
and they have understood him. These facts indicate that there is some
definite sense in this inarticulate language; and examples of it,
taken from other groups, might be multiplied.

The dog, intelligent animal as he is, manifests his affection on
meeting his master, with peculiar cries which vary with the intensity
of his joy. No one could confound these notes of pleasure with those
which he utters when he is angrily driving away a beggar, or when he
meets another dog of unpleasant appearance and puts himself in the
position of attack.

An interesting study of the voice of the dog on guard may be made in
the country at night. If another dog barks in the distance, the house
dog answers in a peculiar manner. He gives a few growls, stops, seems
to listen, begins again, very often getting answers; and, after two or
three interruptions, he terminates his barking with abrupt yelps, loud
at the beginning and long drawn out, and gradually dying away. This
ending of his cries is habitually accompanied by his raising his head
and throwing it back. I have often, when within the house, on hearing
the watch dog bark in this way, opened the window to assure myself on
the subject, and distinguished, as I could not do with the windows
closed, the voice of another watch dog barking in the same way in the
distance - the barkings of the two dogs alternating, one answering the
other. There is in such cases an evident communication of impressions.
One of the dogs, having had his attention aroused by some unusual
noise, has transmitted his impression to the other, as sentinels
posted at intervals call out theft warnings one to another. I have
often repeated this observation during the long evenings of winter.

Another example, little known in thickly populated countries, is drawn
from a curious scene which I witnessed during a winter passed in
Perigord Noir. We had remarked that for several nights the three watch
dogs, a young and an old male and a bitch, howled often toward
midnight, but in a peculiar way. One night in particular, during their
tedious concert, just as we had got to sleep, they mingled with their
cries howlings like those they would have uttered if they had been
beaten, with a shading hard to define, but which we perceived plainly;
and we remarked that, leaving their kennel in the avenue that led up
to the lodge, they had come to close quarters with one another at the
gate, with alternating howlings and plaintive cries. Inquiring in the
morning for the cause of these singular cries, the peasants told me
that a wolf had passed, and predicted that it would return. They said,
too, that a neighbor's hunting bitch had disappeared, and its bones
had been found in the fields near a wood. We were awakened again about
midnight by the cries of the dogs, and the scene was renewed. Informed
as we now were of the nature of what was going on, we ran to one of
the windows, whence we could see, in the clear light of the moon, all
that passed. The three dogs were cowering against the gate, the oldest
one howling by the side of the others, while the younger one and the
bitch were exposed at intervals to the attacks of another animal,
browner than they, and of about their size, without defending
themselves, but moaning as if they were undergoing a vigorous

Frightened, doubtless, by the opening of the blinds of the first story
above him, the strange animal had gone away and was sitting in the
middle of the road. We could only see that he had straight ears. While
we were going down to get a gun the visitor came back to his charge on
the dogs, which had begun howling after he left them, and resumed the
cries significant of chastisement when they were attacked again. For
some reason, perhaps because he heard the click of the gun, the foe
drew back and sat down in a garden walk, concealed by a bunch of
shrubbery. The three dogs, notwithstanding our reiterated urging, were
no more disposed to pursue him than before. If the assailant had been
a dog they would have rushed upon him, but they stayed cowering at the
gate and howled distressfully. The bitch was most affected, and they
all seemed paralyzed by fear. It is said in the country that bitches
are especially liable to be attacked by wolves. It was so here. The
most certain feature in the matter was the terror of the animals. They
were capable of resisting the attack three times over. The young dog
was a savage one, and passers-by were afraid of the bitch; but that
night they were terrorized, and all incapable of defending themselves.
Their cries were therefore due to the same cause as in the preceding
night - the presence and attacks of the wolf. I could not have realized
their meaning if I had not been a witness of the scene - that is, I
could not have correlated the cries and the acts.

A shot at the animal behind the bushes was followed by a hoarse cry.
He was hit, and ran; but, in spite of our urgings, the dogs stayed at
the gate and only stopped howling. Under any other conditions, upon
the signal of the shot they would all have started in pursuit of the
wounded animal.

A wolf came to the farm during the last winter (1890-91) and attacked
the same bitch. He would have carried her off, for he had seized her
by the throat, if we could judge from the stifled cries she uttered;
but this time he found with her a new watch dog - a mountain bitch from
the Pyrenees - of a breed that attacks the wolf and the bear. The wolf
would have been caught if he had not run away. He did not return, for
he had been attacked, and learned what he had to deal with.

The Pyrenean breed furnishes excellent watch dogs. I knew one of
remarkable traits. At evening he would go round the house, giving two
or three growls at each door. With his head raised he seemed to listen
to his fine voice, then he would start again and go to another door.
He seemed desirous to show those who were observing him that he was
attending to his post as guardian. He then went away in silence along
the walk, through a dark, rising hedgerow, leaping the slight hillock,
yelping toward the wood. He listened, yelped again, and went in. There
was never any failure in this performance, but every evening as night
was coming on he began his round, which no one had taught him. It was
all done in his function as a guard. It would be hard to determine
what his yelps meant, but there were in them an inflection, a
sonorousness, and a continuance quite different from those he uttered
when pursuing a passer-by or when going to meet a person coming toward
the house. Every one who has a watch dog is able to tell by the sound
of his barking when a person is coming up, and usually what sort of a
visitor it is.

The peasants' dogs of the southwest of France dislike the country
millers, because of the long whips which they are always carrying and
snapping, and with which the dogs, running after them, are often
struck. From as far off as the snapping of the whip can be heard, the
dogs come to wait for the millers and pursue them; and it is easy to
recognize when the millers are passing, by the behavior of the dogs.
There is in this also a significance, at once aggressive and
defensive, in the cries which one can, by giving a little attention,
soon learn to distinguish.

Another example of the reality of the various meanings of the cries of
the dog under different circumstances is afforded by the companies
that collect around a female in heat.

I have a very intelligent and experienced brach hound, the same which
with the bitch had to face the attack of the wolf. He amuses me much
at my country lunches. Hunting dogs which have been much with their
masters at lunch do not like to have the drinking glass offered them.
This dog was much afraid of the glass, and I had only to present it to
him at lunch time to make him keep his distance. I used to keep my
door open at lunch, for the amusement of observing how I could make
him stop exactly at the threshold without stepping over it. If he had
passed over it I could always send him back by casting toward him a
few drops of water from the bottom of the glass after drinking.
Sitting, as was his habit, on the sill of the door, with the tip of
his muzzle never extending beyond the plane of the panels, he would
follow my motions with the closest attention, reminding me, if I
failed to give him a sign of attention, by a discreet, plaintive cry,
that he was there. But if I touched my glass, he would spring up at
once; if I filled it, he would put himself on guard, utter a kind of
sigh, sneeze, lick his lips, yawn, and, shaking his ears briskly, make
little stifled cries. Then he would grow impatient, and more and more
watchful and nervous. When I lifted my glass to my lips he would draw
back, working gradually nearer to the farther door, and at last
disappear and hide. One who was looking at him without seeing me could
tell by his wails and his attitude the level and position of my glass.
When the glass was horizontal, I could see only about half of his
head, with one eye regarding me fixedly, for that was usually the
critical moment - the one, also, when the wails and restraints were
most demonstrative of the anxious fear of my poor animal.

When we dine in the kitchen, which is on the ground floor, the dogs
are usually all put out. There are four of them, three young and not
experienced, and this old, sagacious brach hound. He insists on coming
in, and, to gain his purpose, tries to have the door opened. Although

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Online LibraryVariousScientific American Supplement, No. 841, February 13, 1892 → online text (page 1 of 11)