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hatched by means independent of found a beautiful specimen, soft and themselves. It would be impossible complete, including even the coverfor such a tiny creature to move ing of the eyes-in short, a comabout on the rough ground old plete snake, barring the animal insnakes go over.
Sometimes it side. Indeed, I thought it was a might be to protect them from the snake till it did not move, when I weather, or carry them off in time approached it considerately, and beof danger. The brown snake, fore touching it, carefully examkilled in my presence, could not ined how it could have wriggled have been influenced by fear, for itself so completely out of its skin. there had been none near her when I found that it had caught itself a suddenly approached by myself and little below the head (or shoulders, friend, and particularly as she was if I may so express myself) on a basking, as I have said, on the top knot on the stem of a small but of a low stone wall, where it was stout dry weed of the previous apparently impossible for the young year's growth. I gave it to the perones to get, unless taken there in- son who killed the snake containing side of the mother. In a state of the young ones, on his going to viscaptivity, the snake can have no it his friends in Scotland, to show apparent incentive to take her it to them, and keep for the puryoung inside of her.
Although pose (as he said) of wrapping it the neck of a' snake is narrow, it round any gathering, to bring it to has an immense power of disten-| a head. Although a fine, it was not sion when gradually swallowing its a large specimen. prey, while retaining its powers of I may add by way of P.S., by anbreathing. The female has doubt- other mail, that I yesterday met a less peculiarities given her by na- very intelligent man, long a farmer ture for taking her young down her in Illinois, who, on being asked throat and keeping them alive there. generally,“What about snakes?" Once down, her great distension of informed me very fully in regard to body furnishes them with an excel- them, and exactly as I have written. lent place of safety. It has often He says that he has often seen been observed that snakes of a size them, of various species, swallow not likely to be able to take care of their young, and that it is a very themselves are seldom or never interesting sight. So quickly is it seen.
done, that it somewhat resembles a Some of your readers may not be continuous glistening string passing aware that snakes (some species at into the mother's mouth. least). shed their skins late in the it takes place on the approach of spring or early in the summer, wet weather and danger, and, as he although it is not known that every supposes, when the snake wishes to snake gets a new coat every year. *
.* locomote.” We see in this an On the place on Long Island men- amazing adaptation of means to an tioned, where the brown snakes end, perhaps as wonderful à one were very numerous, I came across as is to be found in natural history. a skin that had been shed appar- For, when the snake goes to where ently the previous year, as it was she deposited her eggs to begin her considerably weather - beaten and maternal duties proper, and, in all dilapidated; but a few days after- probability, at the moment of hatchwards (about the end of May), Iing, she would be absolutely unable
to take care of, perhaps, twenty * All snakes doubtless shed their helpless creatures, emerging from skins once a year; some people say eggs about an inch in length, laid oftener, with some species.
by a snake about three feet long, if
she did not take them inside of her,porarily at least, when confined in for she has no other way of provid- the way described, doubtless by a ing for their safety; but, by the special provision of nature to that mutual instinct of all aboard,” end. Perhaps they are even nourshe can at once proceed on her ished in the same manner, for it travels with her family; for a snake cannot be imagined that a tiny is an animal that lives altogether in creature can be fed in the gross the open, on sometimes very rough way of the old one, which has no ground, and only retires to hidden means for tearing and dividing its places on the approach of cold prey among its progeny. And this weather to hybernate.*
gives rise to the questions, how and In cutting open the black-snake on what new - born and young mentioned, which was fully three snakes are nourished, when not in feet long, I found that the string of a state of captivity ? eggs, say fifteen in number, would It would be singular, indeed, if measure about fifteen inches in all, this peculiarity of snakes is not deand were in a chamber of much scribed in treatises on the natural greater height and width than was history of the animal. I did not necessary to hold them--something see it noticed in the long article in apparently distinct from the stom- the Encyclopædia Britannica, on a ach proper, and doubtless the re- hasty glance I gave it. To people ceptacle for the young after being inclined to doubt the facts given, I hatched outside, and which could would say-how can they find eggs be greatly expanded, according to that are hatched outside of the anithe nature of snakes. Since we mal that laid them, returning to the know that life is originated and inside of the same animal in the maintained in an egg, and in a shape of complete creatures, that womb containing sometimes a doz- can help themselves in any way, en of young, it can be easily im- excepting only what a larger growth agined that the young of a snake would enable them to do, unless can have air supplied to them, tem- I they entered it by the mouth?
WHITE OF SELBORNE ON THE VIPER.P
THAT I have said in regard to satisfy some English readers that
snakes having no other in the same peculiarity doubtless obstinct or resource given them by tains with the British viper, unless nature for taking care of their young I said something on what White of than receiving them inside of them, Selborne has recorded on the subwould not perhaps be sufficient to ject.
He advanced little of his own * This is in reference to the black and knowledge, and admitted that he brown striped or garter snakes in Amer was no authority, for he said :ica, and is not intended to apply to all “The reptiles, few as they are, I am snakes, whether of the land or water species. And the same may be said of
not acquainted with so well as I some of the other peculiarities men
could wish, with regard to their tioned.
natural history. There is a degree | Dated December 14th, 1872; printed of dubiousness and obscurity atJanuary 11th, 1873.
tending the propagation of this class
The serpent | wards of seven inches long, and so kind eat, I believe, but once a year, mature in their nature that they, or rather but only just at one sea
with the true viper spirit about son of the year." [!] What he wrote them, showed great alertness as soon
really proved that the viper sis as disengaged from the belly of the duods/ swallow its young, for he said : dam, twisting and wriggling about,
Several intelligent folks assure me setting themselves up, and gaping that they have seen the viper open very wide when touched with a her mouth and admit her helpless stick, and showing manifest tokens
young down her throat on sudden of menace and defiance," to such 5- surprises This is very positive an extent that he compared their testimony of people having no action to а
cock that will apparent motive for imposing on spar at his adversary before his him, nor likely to have been under spurs are grown, and a calf or lamb an illusion themselves. But, in op- that will push with their heads beposition to their evidence, he says : fore their horns are sprouted.”. Yet,
The London viper-catchers insist notwithstanding that several intelon it that no such thing ever hap- ligent people assured him that they pens.” That is, they never saw it had seen a viper admit her young done, perhaps during the season of down her throat, he says :-“There viper-trapping, which really was no was little room to suppose that this testimony at all.
brood had ever been in the open He says that about the 24th of air before, and that they were taken May, 1768, a neighbouring yeoman in for refuge at the mouth of the killed and took out of a viper "a dam when she perceived that danger chain of eleven eggs, about the size was approaching.” And for what of those of a blackbird,” such as I reason? “Because then, probably, took out of an American black- we should have found them somesnake which swallows her young. where in the neck and not in the According to American snakes this abdomen.” That is, we might exwould give about two feet for the pect to find fifteen snakes seven mother, which is said to be seldom inches and a fraction long, or fully found much above that length, and nine feet of snakes, in the neck of the four-and-a-half or five inches for mother, that would be three feet long the young when hatched. Seven at the very most—in the neck, that years thereafter, on the 4th of Au- to the eye or the imagination would gust, 1775, he himself took out of hardly admit a passage for one of the another fifteen young ones, the short- young ones at such short notice as a est of which was fully seven inches sudden surprise would imply ! in length, and about the size of How did these eggs change to such full-grown earth-worms. Here,then, complete, large, and active snakes was a phenomenon for him to solve, before birth? That is, how did a viz.-the same animal (for argu- string of fifteen eggs, lying along the ment's sake) containing a string of back of the animal, become fifteen fifteen eggs about an inch long, snakes, upwards of seven inches lying along her back, after the na- long, so active and wicked before ture of snakes, “none of them ad- they were born, and so filling the vanced so far towards a state of abdomen of the mother that she maturity as to contain any rudi- seemed “very heavy and bloated ?" ments of young" (to the country. The very nature of an egg is to be man's naked eye, for White does laid and hatched by the animal not say that he examined them), laying it, or by the artifice of man, and seventy-two days thereafter ap or by the elements. Yet White says pearing inside of her as snakes up- of vipers :-“Though they are ovi
parous, they are viviparous also, It must therefore be held that the ħatching their young within their viper, like all animals producing bellies, and then bringing them eggs, is really an oviparous one, forth”; perhaps drawing his con- bringing forth her young like other clusion from the phenomenon men- serpents of her kind—that is, lays tioned, and absolutely ignoring the eggs to be hatched by the elements, testimony of people who had seen and discharges her maternal duties vipers swallow their young. It like them by taking them inside of would be a curiosity in nature to her on occasions, unless it can be find an animal that hatched an un- proved otherwise by evidence that laid egg inside of itself ; so great a cannot be controverted. I of course curiosity as at once to be rejected mean when the animal is in her natunless it could be supported by evi-ural state and not in captivity, dence. Assuming, however, that which would probably somewhat the viper did it, we could under- modify her instincts and habits. stand how each of the young was How could it be known that the nourished when inside of its own eggs of vipers are hatched inside egg ; but how would they be fed, or unless noticed at the time of birth, even kept alive, after leaving the when the young and the substance eggs and entering and perhaps run- that covered them emerged toning about the abdomen at large? gether, or the one (and which one?) And why should snakes at least before the other, and in the same seven inches long, emerging from direction ? And how could it be eggs one-seventh that length, be learned that the eggs increase in found unborn when they proved maturity inside unless various vithemselves so knowing on being pers containing eggs are killed durforced to the light of day? Do un- ing the season, and a comparison be born animals of any kind act in that made as to their respective conway? And how did eggs that would ditions? We would have then to yield snakes four-and-a-half or five ascertain where the bursting of the inches long when hatched, produce egg takes place—that is, inside or ones from two-and-a-half to three outside of the animal. If it takes inches longer before being born? place outside, no matter how shortly And if they were born inside, what after the egg is laid, then is the vihad become of the shells or rather per an oviparous animal; and in coverings of the eggs? If they had that case how could we find vipers been voided, why should not the inside like those described by White, young which they contained have and as can be found any summer in followed in the same direction, and England ? Let a viper containing at the same time? White, by his young, as described by White, be own admission, knew little or noth- killed and submitted to properly ing of the matter, and paid no re- qualified scientific men for inspecgard to what others testified to of|tion, and they would doubtless soon their own knowledge as to the swal settle the question whether the lowing of the young. He had most young were unborn or had entered probably seen the snake that con- the mother by the mouth. If they tained the eggs and killed the one found the young and the coverings himself containing the young, and of the eggs, they could say that concluded that therefore these young they had been hatched inside; but must have been hatched inside.* if they found the young only, how
* It is surprising that White should as being inside of the mother. This have commented on this subject so circumstance goes a very long way tu superficially and unsatisfactorily, after prove that he was not a scientific natucontemplating the eggs and the young ralist.
could they say that they had been them forth by the same power that
I will now both alike, what reason could they explain how it might be tried in the have for saying that the viper did person of a living one. Let some not, and could not, swallow her one procure a pregnant viper (but young, like the American serpents, distinguishing the appearance from whether the bursting of the egg that of having swallowed an animal took place at the time of birth, or much thicker than herself), and before it, or after it had been laid ? | confine her in an open space suitBeing both snakes, and conceiving able to her natural disposition, but eggs in the same way, with the from which she could not escape, young more or less developed in and watch results. If she is pregthem when laid (as laid they must nant with eggs she will either debe), it must be held, as I have just posit them like American snakes, said, that vipers are not only ovi- or retain them, according to White's parous, but “swallowers," unless it theory, to be hatched inside of her. can be proved that they are neither, If she lays the eggs she will return which would be an exceedingly dif- to her natural size, and continue so ficult if not impossible matter to do, till the eggs are hatched and the for the most that could be said young ones require her care, when would be that it was not known, they will either be seen with her or which would only prove ignorance found inside of her, which will in regard to the subject.
manifest itself in her second pregSo far from its being even plaus nancy, causing her to become more ible to say of White's vipers that “heavy and bloated” as they inthere was
little room to suppose crease in size. If she is caught that the brood had ever been in the when pregnant with young, there open air before, there is every rea- will be times that they will be seen, son for saying that they had been in causing a corresponding diminution the world for such time as enabled in her size, and times when they them to add perhaps two inches to will not be seen, causing her again their length, and gain considerable to appear pregnant from having experience, which would account swallowed them. If she was pregfor their being so exceedingly ac- nant with eggs, and brings forth active, like their American relations. cording to White, it would not be They had simply been swallowed, possible, in her comparative freebut not from fear, at least immedi- dom, to have a midwife present to ate fear, for the mother was enjoy- ascertain whether the eggs were ing herself by lying in the grass and hatched inside or outside of the basking in the sun when killed (like animal, or what became of the the American snake on the top of a shells, that is, whether young and dry stone wall), having no fear for shells were voided at the same time, her young inside of her while she or which first. If, however, she herself was safe. That is done in came in pregnant, and suddenly America for no apparent reason; produced young after remaining in perhaps merely to gratify the natu- her original state night and day for ral instinct of the mother, however a considerable time (which fact she might feel in the event of her never could be ascertained), then family quarrelling, when, I presume, White's theory, to a certain extent, she would be only too glad to drive I would appear correct as to the hatch