Sketches of Natural History of Ceylon eBook

J. Emerson Tennent
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 472 pages of information about Sketches of Natural History of Ceylon.

The remaining orders, including the corals, madrepores, and other polypi, have yet to find a naturalist to undertake their investigation, but in all probability the new species are not very numerous.

* * * * *

NOTE.

TRITONIA ARBORESCENS.

The following is the letter of Dr. Grant, referred to at page 385:—­

Sir,—­I have perused, with much interest, your remarkable communication received yesterday, respecting the musical sounds which you heard proceeding from under water, on the east coast of Ceylon.  I cannot parallel the phenomenon you witnessed at Batticaloa, as produced by marine animals, with anything with which my past experience has made me acquainted in marine zoology.  Excepting the faint clink of the Tritonia arborescens, repeated only once every minute or two, and apparently produced by the mouth armed with two dense horny laminae, I am not aware of any sounds produced in the sea by branchiated invertebrata.  It is to be regretted that in the memorandum you have not mentioned your observations on the living specimens brought you by the sailors as the animals which produced the sounds.  Your authentication of the hitherto unknown fact, would probably lead to the discovery of the same phenomenon in other common accessible paludinae, and other allied branchiated animals, and to the solution of a problem, which is still to me a mystery, even regarding the tritonia.

My two living tritonia, contained in a large clear colourless glass cylinder, filled with pure sea water, and placed on the central table of the Wernerian Natural History Society of Edinburgh, around which many members were sitting, continued to clink audibly within the distance of twelve feet during the whole meeting.  These small animals were individually not half the size of the last joint of my little finger.  What effect the mellow sounds of millions of these, covering the shallow bottom of a tranquil estuary, in the silence of night, might produce, I can scarcely conjecture.

In the absence of your authentication, and of all geological explanation of the continuous sounds, and of all source of fallacy from the hum and buzz of living creatures in the air or on the land, or swimming on the waters, I must say that I should be inclined to seek for the source of sounds so audible as those you describe rather among the pulmonated vertebrata, which swarm in the depths of these seas—­as fishes, serpents (of which my friend Dr. Cantor has described about twelve species he found in the Bay of Bengal), turtles, palmated birds, pinnipedous and cetaceous mammalia, &c.

The publication of your memorandum in its present form, though not quite satisfactory, will, I think, be eminently calculated to excite useful inquiry into a neglected and curious part of the economy of nature.

I remain, Sir,

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