Imágenes de página

at what they anciently wondered at; viz. that this bird should be alway seen flying with a great attendance of others : for we see the same thing happen to an owl flying by day; or to a parrot that has quitted the cage.

A parrot has certainly been known to live sixty years in England; but how old he was when brought over is uncertain : a bird that feeds promiscuously, that masticates his meat, and casts the beak; being likewise bold, stubborn, and black of flesh.

A peacock lives to twenty; but has not his argus eyes till three years old: a bird of stately step, and whitish flesh.

The dung-hill cock isa salacious, martial, shortlived bird; exceeding brisk, and white of flesh.

The turkey cock somewhat out-lives the dungbill cock: an irascible bird, and of very white flesh.

The ring-dove is a long liver, and sometimes lasts till fifty: a bird of the air, that sits and builds high; but doves and turtles are short livers, and scarce exceed eight years.

Pheasants and partridges may live to sixteen years; being great breeders, but of more dusky flesh than the pullet kind.

The black-bird is said to be the longest lived of all small birds : a bold bird, and loud of voice.

The sparrow is observed to be very short lived; which is attributed to salacity in the cock : but the linnet, a bird no bigger in body, is observed to live twenty years.

Of the ostrich we have no certain account; those bred amongst us have not been found to live long: and as to the Ibis, she is only recorded for a long liver, without mentioning her time.

The lives of fish are known with more uncertainty than those of land animals; as being less observed on account of their living under water: most of them are without respiration; whence their vital spirit is more pent in; and therefore, though they refresh themselves by their gills, yet that kind of cooling is not so constant as by breathing.

As they live in water, they escape the dryness and depredation caused by the external air; but, no doubt, the surrounding water which enters, and is received into the pores of their bodies, proves more prejudicial than air.

Their blood is said to have very little heat; some of them are very voracious, and prey even upon their own species: their flesh is softer, and less tenacious than of land animals; but they fatten in an extraordinary manner, so that an incredible quantity of oil is afforded by the whale kind.

Dolphins are reported to live about thirty years; the experiment having been tried by cutting off the tails of some of them, and they continue growing till ten.

They report a strange thing of some fish, that after a certain age their bodies waste greatly, while their heads and tails remain of the former size.

The muræna was observed, in Cæsar's fishponds, to live sixty years; and by long use this kind of fish was made so tame, that Crassus, the orator, bewailed the loss of one of them.

The pike is found much the longest liver of all fresh-water fish, sometimes continuing for forty years : a voracious fish of prey, whose flesh is firm and dry.

But the carp, the bream, the tench, the eel, &c. are not thought to live above ten years.

The salmon is quick of growth, but short lived; so is the trout; but the perch grows slow, and lives longer.

As to the life of whales, and the like fish of vast bulk, we have no certain account; nor of the sea-calf, the sea-hog, and innumerable other kinds of fish.

The crocodile is reported to be very long lived, and also to have an extraordinary period of growth, insomuch that this is held the only

animal which grows as long as it lives : it is an oviparous creature, voracious, cruel, and well defended against the water. But for any kind of shell-fish, we find no certain account of their length of life. *

LARGER OBSERVATIONS. It is difficult to discover any rule of the length and shortness of life in anímals, as well through a neglect of observations, as the complications of causes.

There are more birds than quadrupeds found to be long lived, as the eagle, the vulture, the kite, &c. though they attain their full growth in one year, and are less of body. Doubtless their plumage is an excellent covering against the inclemency of the seasons; and as they chiefly live in free air, they are like the inhabitants of clear mountains, who prove long lived. Their motion also, in their flight is less fatiguing, less shaking, and more wholesome. Nor do the first rudiments of birds suffer any compression or want of aliment in the uterus of the female. But the principal reason seems to be, that birds are ra

* If it were essential to the present enquiry, it might be possible to procure a somewhat more exact and particular account of the several creatures above mentioned, as also of several others omitted.

ther formed of the substance of the female than the male, whence their spirit is not so hot and fretting.

It may well be supposed, that the animals made more of the substance of the female than the male are longest lived; and that such as are longest gone with, will participate more of the substance of the female than the male, and are therefore longer lived: whence, in conformity with some observations of our own, we judge, even among men, that those children which resemble the mother live the longest; and so again, the children of old men, begotten upon young wives, provided the father was sound or no way distempered.

The beginnings of all things lie most open both to injury and assistance ; so that a less degree of compression, and a larger supply of nourishment to the fætus in the uterus, must naturally conduce much to the prolongation of life; and this happens either when the young is excluded at different times, as in birds which are oviparous, or when the birth is single, as in animals that have only one young at once.

A long continuance in the uterus contributes three ways to the prolongation of life. First, as the fætus hence receives more of the substance of the female. Secondly, as it comes forth more strengthened and confirmed. And thirdly, as it

« AnteriorContinuar »