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from another by some external violence, it might be reclasped with sufficient facility and expedition*.
In the ostrich, this apparatus of crotchets and fibres, of hooks and teeth, is wanting: and we see the consequence of the want. The filaments hang loose and separate from one another, forming only a kind of down; which constitution of the feathers, however it may fit them for the flowing honours of a lady's headdress, may be reckoned an imperfection in the bird, inasmuch as wings, composed of these feathers, although they may greatly assist it in running, do not serve for flight.
But under the present division of our subject, our business with feathers is, as they are the covering of the bird. And herein a singular circumstance occurs. In the small order of birds which winter with us, from a snipe downwards, let the external colour of the feathers be what it will, their Creator has universally given them a bed of black down next their bodies. Black, we know, is the warmest colour: and the purpose here is, to keep-in the heat, arising from the heart and circulation of the blood. It is farther likewise remarkable, that this is not found in larger birds; for which there is also a reason :-small birds are much more exposed to the cold than large ones; furasmuch as they present, in proportion to their bulk, a much larger surface to the air. If a turkey were divided into a number of wrens (supposing the shape of the turkey and the wren to be similar), the surface of all the wrens would exceed the surface of the turkey, in the proportion of the length, breadth (or, of any ho
The above account is taken from Memoirs for a Natural History of Animals, by the Royal Academy of Paris, published in 1701, p. 219.
mologous line), of a turkey to that of a wren ; which would be, perhaps, a proportion of ten to one. necessary therefore that small birds should be more warmly clad than large ones : and this seems to be the expedient by which that exigency is provided for.
II. In comparing different animals, I know no part of their structure which exhibits greater variety, or, in that variety, a nicer accommodation to their respective conveniency, than that which is seen in the different formations of their mouths. Whether the purpose be the reception of aliment merely, or the catching of prey, the picking up of seeds, the cropping of herbage, the extraction of juices, the suction of liquids, the breaking and grinding of food, the taste of that food, together with the respiration of air, and, in conjunction with it, the utterance of sound; these various offices are assigned to this one part, and, in different species, provided for, as they are wanted, by its different constitution. In the human species, forasmuch as there are hands to convey the food to the mouth, the mouth is flat, and by reason of its flatness, fitted only for reception; whereas the projecting jaws, the wide rictus, the pointed teeth of the dog and his affinities, enable them to apply their mouths to snatch and seize the objects of their pursuit. The full lips, the rough tongue, the corrugated cartilaginous palate, the broad cutting teeth of the ox, the deer, the horse, and the sheep, qualify this tribe for browsing upon their pas. ture; either gathering large mouthfuls at once, where the grass is long, which is the case with the ox in particular; or biting close, where it is short, which the horse and the sheep are able to do, in a degree that one could hardly expect. The retired under-jaw of a swine works in the ground, after the protruding snout, like a prong or plough-share, has made its way
to the roots upon which it feeds. A conformation so happy, was not the gift of chance.
In birds, this organ assumes a new character ; new both in substance and in form: but in both, wonderfully adapted to the wants and uses of a distinct mode of existence. We have no longer the fleshy lips, the teeth of enamelled bone: but we have, in the place of these two parts, and to perform the office of both, a hard substance (of the same nature with that which composes the nails, claws, and hoofs of quadrupeds), cut out into proper shapes, and mechanically suited to the actions which are wanted. The sharp edge and tempered point of the sparrow's bill picks almost every kind of seed from its concealment in the plant; and not only so, but hulls the grain, breaks and shatters the coats of the seed, in order to get at the kernel. The hooked beak of the hawk-tribe separates the flesh from the bones of the animals which it feeds upon, almost with the cleanness and precision of a dissector's knife. The butcher-bird transfixes its prey upon
the spike of a thorn, whilst it picks its bones. In some birds of this class, we have the cross-bill, i. e. both the upper and lower bill hooked, and their tips crossing. The spoon-bill enables the goose to graze, to collect its food from the bottom of pools, or to seek it amidst the soft or liquid substances with which it is mixed. The tong tapering bill of the snipe and woodcock, penetrates still deeper into moist earth, which is the bed in which the food of that species is lodged. This is exactly the instrument which the animal wanted. It did not want strength in its bill, which was inconsistent with the slender form of the animal's neck, as well as unnecessary for the kind of aliment upon which it subsists; but it wanted length to reach its object.
But the species of bill which belongs to the birds that live by suction, deserves to be described in its
relation to that office. They are what naturalists call serrated or dentated bills; the inside of them, towards the edge, being thickly set with parallel or concentric rows of short, strong, sharp-pointed prickles. These, though they should be called teeth, are not for the purpose of mastication, like the teeth of quadrupeds ; nor yet, as in fish, for the seizing and retaining of their prey ; but for a quite different use. They form a filtre. The duck by means of them discusses the mud; examining with great accuracy the puddle, the brake, every mixture which is likely to contain her food. The operation is thus carried on :-The liquid or semi-liquid substances, in which the animal has plunged her bill, she draws, by the action of her lungs, through the narrow interstices which lie between these teeth ; catching, as the stream passes across her beak, whatever it may happen to bring along with it, that proves agreeable to her choice, and easily dismissing all the rest. Now, suppose the purpose to have been, out of a mass of confused and heterogeneous substances, to separate for the use of the animal, or rather to enable the animal to separate for its own, those few particles which suited its taste and digestion; what more artificial, or more commodious, instrument of selection, could have been given to it, than this natural filtre ? It has been observed also, (what must enable the bird to choose and distinguish with greater acuteness, as well, probably, as what greatly increases its luxury,) that the bills of this species are furnished with large nerves,--that they are covered with a skin, and that the nerves run down to the very extremity. In the curlew, woodcock, and snipe, there are three pairs of nerves, equal almost to the optic nerve, in thickness, which pass first along the roof of the mouth, and then along the upper chap down to the point of the bill, long as the bill is.
But to return to the train of our observations. The similitude between the bills of birds and the mouths of quadrupeds is exactly such, as, for the sake of the argument, might be wished for. It is near enough to show the continuation of the same plan : it is remote enough to exclude the supposition of the difference being produced by action or use. A more prominent -contour, or a wider gap, might be resolved into the effect of continued efforts, on the part of the species, to thrust out the mouth, or open it to the stretch. But by what course of action, or exercise, or endea. vour, shall we get rid of the lips, the gums, the teeth; and acquire, in the place of them, pincers of horn ? By what habit shall we so completely change, not only the shape of the part, but the substance of which it is composed? The truth is, if we had seen no other than the mouths of quadrupeds, we should have thought no other could have been formed : little could we have supposed that all the purposes of a mouth, furnished with lips, and armed with teeth, could be answered by an instrument which had none of these; could be supplied, and that with many additional advantages, by the hardness, and sharpness, and figure of the bills of birds. Every thing about the animal mouth is mechanical. The teeth of fish have their points turned backward, like the teeth of a wool or cotton card. The teeth of lobster's work one against another, like the sides of a pair of shears. In many insects, the mouth is converted into a pump or sucker, fitted at the end sometimes with a wimble, sometimes with a forceps; by which double provision, viz. of the tube and the penetrating form of the point, the insect first bores through the integuments of its prey, and then extracts the juices. And, what is most extraordinary of all, one sort of mouth, as the occasion requires, shall