« AnteriorContinuar »
formerly termed oviparous, or egg-producing quadrupeds, as tortoises, lizards, &c. The following are the general characters of the mammalia. They have warm and red blood. Their skeleton, as well as their internal organs, resemble, in a great degree, those of man. Their outward covering consists, in general, of hair, but, in some few, the animal matter or substance takes the form of distinct spines or quills, as in the porcupine and hedgehog tribe. In other mammalia, the same substance is expanded into the appearance of very strong and broad scales, as in the quadrupeds of the genus manis or pangolin. In the armadillos, instead of hair, we meet with strong bony zones or bands, forming a regular suit of armour, and securing the animal from all common injuries.
The feet, in the mammalia, are generally four in number, and furnished with separate toes or divisions, guarded by claws more or less strong in the different tribes. In the monkeys, the feet have the appearance of hands; and the claws often bear a great resemblance to the human nails. In some tribes of mammalia, the feet are armed or shod with strong hoofs, either quite entire, or cloven or divided. In the bat tribe, the fore feet are drawn out into slender fingers of an immoderate length, and united by a common membrane or web. In seals, both the hind and fore feet are very strongly or widely webbed ; and in the whales, there are in reality only two feet, the bones of which are inclosed in what are commonly called the fins, while the lobes of the tail, in some degree, answer the purpose of a pair of hind feet, but consist merely of strong muscles and tendons, without any internal joints or bones. The arms, or offensive and defensive weapons of the mammalia, besides the claws and teeth, are principally the horns, which are either perennial, or during the animal's life, or annual. The teeth are of three kinds. (1.) Front or cutting teeth, of a broad, compressed structure, designed for cutting their food. (2.) Sharp, lengthened, or ca
malia, quite en feet are dia, and with the
nine teeth, situated on each side the cutting teeth, and calculated for tearing and dividing the food. (3.) Grinders, with broad angular tops, for comminuting or grinding the food. They are situated, as in the human subject, on each side the jaws. The teeth afford a principal character in forming the tribes and genera, or particular sets of quadrupeds: for in some, the canine teeth are wanting; in others, the front teeth; and some few are totally destitute of any teeth. The tail, in quadrupeds, is formed by a continuation of the vertebræ or joints of the back-bone; and is in some of great length, and covered with very long hair; in others very short; and in some few entirely wanting, as in the real or genuine apes.
The senses of the mammalia consist, as in man, of the organs of sight, hearing, tasting, and smelling, and the power of feeling; and, in many of these animals, the organs are of greater acuteness or sensibility than in man. The eyes, in some quadrupeds, are furnished with what is called a nictitating membrane, or semi-transparent guard, situated between the eyelids; and which can, at pleasure, be drawn over the ball of the eye for additional defence. The nose, or organ of smelling, is more or less compressed and lengthened. In the elephant, it is extended in a most wonderful manner into a long and tubular proboscis, or trunk, at the top of which are placed the nostrils. The tongue is usually of a flattened and lengthened shape; sometimes, as in the cat or lion tribe, beset on its upper surface with small reversed spines. In some few, as in the ant-eater, it is of a cylindric shape, and lengthened into the form of a worm, and can be extended at the pleasure of the animal. The teats, or mammæ, are found in all these animals, and, as before observed, gave rise to the Linnæan title of the whole class. The mammalia are divided into the seven following orders: primates, bruta, feræ, glires, pecora, belluce, and cete.
ORDER 1. PRIMATES. This is so entitled, as containing the chiefs of the creation. Its characters are, four front or cutting teeth above and below; and one canine or sharpened tooth on each side these. The feet are formed with a resemblance of hands, and the nails are more or less oval in shape. Most of the orders feed chiefly on vegetable substances. To this order belong the following generą :-1. Simia, oran-otan, apes, monkeys, baboons. 2. Lemur, macauco. 3. Vespertilio, bat.
ORDER II. "BRUTA is characterized by a want of front or cutting teeth, both in the upper and lower jaw. The feet are armed with strong claws: the pace is, in general, somewhat slow, and their food is principally vegetable. The genera are, 1. Bradypus, sloth.” 2. Dasypus, armadillo. 3. Manis, pangolin. 4. Myrmecophaga, ant-eater. 5. Flatypus, ornithorynchus, or duckbill. All the animals belonging to these genera are totally destitute of front teeth, and some are destitute of all teeth. The platypus exhibits
the bill of a duck engrafted upon the head of a qua· druped. The whole animal is thickly covered with strong, but soft and glossy, hair, and has four webbed feet furnished with sharp claws. This dubious quadruped is a native of Australasia, or New Holland, and is supposed to feed on worms, water-insects, and weeds. It is obliged to rise every now and then to the surface in order to breathe, and at this juncture it is principally taken, by transfixing it with a small harpoon.
ORDER III. FERÆ contains the predacious quadrupeds or animals of prey, and consists of several genera, all agreeing in having teeth evidently calcuJated for feeding on flesh. The front teeth, which are usually six both above and below, approach to a conic or pointed figure; the canine teeth are long ; and the grinders not flattened at the top, but are of a sharpened form : the claws also, with which the feet are furnished, are sharp, and more or less curyed in
the different species. The genera are, 1. Canis, dog, wolf, hyæna, fox *, and jackal. 2. Felis, catt, lion, tiger, leopard, lynx, panther, &c. 3. Viverra, weasel, ferret, polecat, civet. 4. Ursus, bear. 5. Didelphis, opossum. 6. Macropus, kangaroo. 7. Talpa, mole. 8. Sarex, shrew. 9. Erinaceus, hedgehog.
Those terrible enemies of mankind, the tiger and the bear, are thus characterized by the poets :
As a tiger, who by chance hath spyed
There thro’ the piny forest half absorpt,
THOMSON. ORDER IV. Glires or sleepers, from the Latin word glis, signifying an animal of the dormouse tribe. The principal character of the animals composing
* In clear warm weather, the fox sometimes comes to bask in the sunshine, lying stretched out on some dry place, or near the stump of a tree. He is in motion, the whole night, in search of his prey :- .
Stealing around and list’ning as he goes,
An everlasting foe, with watchful eye
this order, consists in a pair of very conspicuous, strong, and lengthened teeth, placed close together in the front of both jaws. They have no canine teeth, but are furnished with grinders on each side. The genera are, 1. Hystrix, porcupine. 2. Castor, beaver. 3. Mus, mouse and rát. 4. Cavia, guineapig. 5. Arctomys, marmot. 6. Lepus, hare *. 7. Sciyfus, squirrel, 8. Myoxus, dormouse. 9. Dipus, jerboa. 10. Hyrax, Cape and Syrian rabbit.
Armed at all points, in Nature's guardian mail,
Himself at once the quiver, dart, and bow, Marmots live in societies from five to fourteen in number, in burrows which have several passages constructed with great art. They inhabit the Alps and Pyrenean mountains, and remain in a torpid state from the end of September to the beginning of April, A boiled marmot is not an uncommon dish in Switzerland. Some of the peculiar habits of the marmot are well described in the following lines :
Who taught the Marmot softly to bestrew
Z. ORDER v. PECORA. The leading character in
* She runs, She flies, and leaps, and bounces to deceive The scent-inhaling foes, who urge the chase And toil tu catch a booty not their own. The dales, the lawns, she crosses back in vain, Till fainting-breathlessa-spent-at last she drops On some fresh verdant turf or thymy bank, Once the fair scene of her nocturnal sports.