Young Folks' Library, Volume XI (of 20) eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 296 pages of information about Young Folks' Library, Volume XI (of 20).

The removal of worm-castings by the above means leads to results which are far from insignificant.  It has been shown that a layer of earth,.2 of an inch in thickness, is in many places annually brought to the surface per acre; and if a small part of this amount flows, or rolls, or is washed, even for a short distance, down every inclined surface, or is repeatedly blown in one direction, a great effect will be produced in the course of ages.  It was found by measurements and calculations that on a surface with a mean inclination of 9 deg. 26’, 2.4 cubic inches of earth which had been ejected by worms crossed, in the course of a year, a horizontal line one yard in length; so that two hundred and forty cubic inches would cross a line one hundred yards in length.  This latter amount in a damp state would weigh eleven and one-half pounds.  Thus, a considerable weight of earth is continually moving down each side of every valley, and will in time reach its bed.  Finally, this earth will be transported by the streams flowing in the valleys into the ocean, the great receptacle for all matter denuded from the land.  It is known from the amount of sediment annually delivered into the sea by the Mississippi, that its enormous drainage-area must on an average be lowered.00263 of an inch each year; and this would suffice in four and a half million years to lower the whole drainage-area to the level of the seashore.  So that if a small fraction of the layer of fine earth,.2 of an inch in thickness, which is annually brought to the surface by worms, is carried away, a great result cannot fail to be produced within a period which no geologist considers extremely long.

[Illustration:  SECTION THROUGH ONE OF THE DRUIDICAL STONES AT STONEHENGE, SHOWING HOW MUCH IT HAD SUNK INTO THE GROUND.

(Scale, 1/2 inch to 1 foot.)]

Archaeologists ought to be grateful to worms, as they protect and preserve for an indefinitely long period every object, not liable to decay, which is dropped on the surface of the land, by burying it beneath their castings.  Thus, also, many elegant and curious tesselated pavements and other ancient remains have been preserved; though no doubt the worms have in these cases been largely aided by earth washed and blown from the adjoining land, especially when cultivated.  The old tesselated pavements have, however, often suffered by having subsided unequally from being unequally undermined by the worms.  Even old massive walls may be undermined and subside; and no building is in this respect safe, unless the foundations lie six or seven feet beneath the surface, at a depth at which worms cannot work.  It is probable that many monoliths and some old walls have fallen down from having been undermined by worms.

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Young Folks' Library, Volume XI (of 20) from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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