Falling in Love eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 388 pages of information about Falling in Love.

In the oldest secondary rocks of Britain and elsewhere there occur in abundance the teeth of a genus of ganoid fishes known as the Ceratodi.  (I apologise for ganoid, though it is not a swear-word).  These teeth reappear from time to time in several subsequent formations, but at last slowly die out altogether; and of course all naturalists naturally concluded that the creature to which they belonged had died out also, and was long since numbered with the dodo and the mastodon.  The idea that a Ceratodus could still be living, far less that it formed an important link in the development of all the higher animals, could never for a moment have occurred to anybody.  As well expect to find a palaeolithic man quietly chipping flints on a Pacific atoll, or to discover the ancestor of all horses on the isolated and crag-encircled summit of Roraima, as to unearth a real live Ceratodus from a modern estuary.  In 1870, however, Mr. Krefft took away the breath of scientific Europe by informing it that he had found the extinct ganoid swimming about as large as life, and six feet long, without the faintest consciousness of its own scientific importance, in a river in Queensland at the present day.  The unsophisticated aborigines knew it as barramunda; the almost equally ignorant white settlers called it with irreverent and unfilial contempt the flat-head.  On further examination, however, the despised barramunda proved to be a connecting link of primary rank between the oldest surviving group of fishes and the lowest air-breathing animals like the frogs and salamanders.  Though a true fish, it leaves its native streams at night, and sets out on a foraging expedition after vegetable food in the neighbouring woodlands.  There it browses on myrtle leaves and grasses, and otherwise behaves itself in a manner wholly unbecoming its piscine antecedents and aquatic education.  To fit it for this strange amphibious life, the barramunda has both lungs and gills; it can breathe either air or water at will, or, if it chooses, the two together.  Though covered with scales, and most fish-like in outline, it presents points of anatomical resemblance both to salamanders and lizards; and, as a connecting bond between the North American mud-fish on the one hand and the wonderful lepidosiren on the other, it forms a true member of the long series by which the higher animals generally trace their descent from a remote race of marine ancestors.  It is very interesting, therefore, to find that this living fossil link between fish and reptiles should have survived only in the fossil continent, Australia.  Everywhere else it has long since been beaten out of the field by its own more developed amphibian descendants; in Australia alone it still drags on a lonely existence as the last relic of an otherwise long-forgotten and extinct family.


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Falling in Love from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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