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were carefully kept in glass-houses. He also made some remarks in support of the recent German theories against the generally received opinions of the igneous origin of granite, and in favour of its aqueous origin.
VII. (1.) Dr John Alex. Sinith exhibited a Specimen of Bloch's Top
krot (?) (Pleuronectes punctatus, Bloch), taken near North Berwick; and of the Æquoreal Pipe-fish (Nerophis æquoreus, Kaup.) from the Coast of the Isle of May.
The specimen of this small fat fish of the genus Rhombus of Yarrell was sent to Edinburgh by Sir Hugh Dalrymple. It was taken in the beginning of August last, near North Berwick. Two species of this genus have been described as closely resembling one another the Rhombus hirtus, or Muller's Top-knot (Yarrell); and the R. punctatus, or Bloch's Top-knot (Yarrell). But, unfortunately, the fins of this fish not being perfect made it difficult to decide to which of these so-called species it belonged.* The upper surface, the left, and brown-coloured side of the fish was very rough, and the under surface was white, and also rough, though in a less degree; with the exception of the under side of the head, which was smooth. Muller's Top-knot was described as being perfectly smooth on the under surface, whereas Bloch's fish was rough; if this was a correct distinction, it would identify the specimen as being not Muller's but Bloch's Top-knot, which, as far as he was aware, had not before been observed in our neighbouring seas. Muller's fish was also rare; but specimens had been obtained at distant intervals in the Firth, especially towards its mouth. This fish measured about eight and a balf inches long, by about five inches across, including the fins.
Dr Smith also exhibited a specimen of the Æquoreal Pipe-fish, Syngnathus or Nerophis æquoreus (Kaup), measuring twenty inches in length. It was taken about three weeks ago among the long weed on the coast of the Isle of May. The dorsal fin, the only fin this species has, was about two and a half inches in length, and terminated nearly in the middle of the length of the fish, the vent being in a line with the beginning of the last fourth of the fin. It is of rare occurrence in our seas. Dr Parnell says, “this fish was first recorded as British by Sir R. Sibbald in 1685, who obtained a specimen in the Firth of Forth. No other instance of its occurrence in that locality has since been noticed. It is one of the rarest of our British fishes.” Dr Kaup says, “ This species has till now been found only on the south-west coast of Scotland, in Ireland, the Isle of Man, at Havre, and in Norway." He was indebted for the fish to Mr John Anderson of the Royal Emporium, George Strect; and he bad the pleasure of presenting it to the Museum of the University. His friend Dr M'Bain had in his possession an imperfect specimen taken from the stomach of a cod, which was purchased in Edinburgh.
(2.) Dr John Alexander Smith exhibited Specimens of the Stoat (Mustela
erminea); the Ruff (Tringa pugnax); the Shoveller (Anas clypeata); and the Young of the Black Scoter (Oidemia nigra).
Messrs John Dickson & Son, gunmakers, Prince's Street, bad sent for exhibition two specimens of the stoat or ermine (Mustela erminea,
* Sir John Richardson since the date of this meeting, has kindly informed Dr J. A. S. that he is “pot convinced of the two species being distinct, and the "Skandinaviens Fiskar' contains a fine figure of an intermediate form : all three are probably slight varieties."
Lin.) got in this neighbourhood. One was killed as early as the 27th of October, but the other not till the beginning of January. They were both nearly pure white, with the point of the tail black; showing the severity of the season.
A male and female ruff (Tringa puugnax), shot in the neighbourhood of Carnwath in the beginning of September, were exhibited ; and a young male shoveller (Anas clypeata), shot near Aberdour in the end of December; the keeper who killed it had never seen the bird before. Macgillivray, in his “ British Birds," mentions that “ in Scotland no authentic instance of its occurrence, at any season, has come to my knowledge." It has, however, been observed once or twice since his time. Dr Smith also exhibited two large ducks, one killed in November last, on the coast of Mull, the other near Prestonpans, some weeks ago. Their unusual appearance had attracted attention, and gave rise to some correspondence in “The Field," one of the London sporting newspapers, as to the species to wbich they belonged. The birds, Dr Smith said, were undoubtedly young females of the black scoter (Oidemia nigra, Flem.), the least common of our two scoters; and, in this immature plumage, rather puzzling birds to a young naturalist. Their general plumage was of a dusky brown; the top of the head, from base of bill and along back of neck, brownish black; sides of head below eye, of throat, and neck, grayish white; the abdomen of a dull grayish brown, the brown feathers being edged with white ; under tail coverts dark brown, no enlargement on bill, which, as well as the feet, was of a dusky brown colour. In one of the birds the bill was of a lighter colour at the nostrils. One of these birds was sent by Mr Sanderson, birdstuffer, and the other by Mr Small, birdstuffer, George Street. Through the kindness of Professor Allınan, he was able to exhibit another immature specimen of this bird from the valuable collection in the Museum of the University. The occasional appearance of Oidemia nigra in this immature plumage has led, it is believed by naturalists, to the introduction, by mistake, of the Oidemia leucocephala (Steph.) among the list of British birds. Jenyns says, there is no good authority for considering the 0. leucocephala as British. It is a bird of eastern Europe.
Wednesday, February 22, 1860.—T. STRETHILL WRIGHT, M.D., .
President, in the chair. M. Edouard Claparède of Geneva was elected a foreign member of the Society.
The following donations to the library were laid on the table, and thanks were voted to the donors:
Large Map of Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.-From Lieutenant-Colonel J. D. Graham, U.S. Topographical Engineers. Transactions of the Zoological Society of London, Vol. IV., Part VI., 1859. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, Parts XXV. (1857), XXVI. (1858), and Parts I. and II., 1859.From the Society. The Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London, Vol. XV. Part III. No. 69, August 1859.–From the Society. The Journal of the Royal Dublin Society, No. XV., October 1859.–From the Society. Journal of Geological Society of Dublin, Vol. VIII. Part II., 1859.- From the Society.
The Communications read were as follows:
1. Notice of various Osteological Remains found in a “ Pict's House" in
the Island of Harris. By James M.Bain, M.D., R.N. (The specimens were exhibited.)
Dr M Bain said, that the fragments of bone which he exhibited were brought from the Island of Harris, by Captain Thomas, of Her Majesty's surveying vessel Woodlark. They were found during last summer in one of those interesting buildings commonly called “ Picts' Houses,” which was opened at a place named Nisibost, in the Island of Harris, for the purpose of extending former observations made by Captain Thomas upon these ancient structures. The fragments of bone had been put into the hands of Dr M Bain, in order to determine to what species of animals they belonged. And as there is historical evidence that the antiquity of " Picts' Houses” extends at least beyond a thousand years, he thought the remains of animals preserved in these buildings worthy of being considered zoologically, in reference to the extinction or extirpation of species. An anatomical description of the bone fragments, fifteen in number, was given. They belonged to the following species of animals :-The dog ; the common seal; the red deer (part of the antlers of which had been cut and fashioned by a sharp instrument); the “ Bos longifrons," character. ised by the form of the cancellous horn-core, which formed one of the specimens; the sheep, of small size; and the right middle metacarpal or cannon bone of a small horse, rather larger than that in the skeleton of a Shetland pony in the Barcleian Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. These fragments of bone were found on the clay floor of a " Pict's House," buried under a mass of drift sand ten feet thick ; and in an adjacent cell, a stone querne or hand-mill for grinding corn was discovered, made of hornblende slate, but too much decomposed for preservation. Dr M.Bain stated that “ Picts' Houses" had been divided into two classes—the superficial, or those which are built upon the natural surface of the soil; and the subterranean, or those which are excavated to a greater or less extent beneath the surface. That examples of each class existed in the Orkney Islands, where several “ Picts' Houses" had been explored. They had generally been found to contain the bones of domestic animals, such as the sheep, ox, and horse, along with abundance of shells of the edible species of mollusca. In the ruins of a “ Pict's House” near Skaill, on the mainland of Orkney, the tusk of a wild boar was discovered, “its presence," as it had been remarked, “ taking us back to a very early period.” In a subterranean “ Pict's House" opened at Savrock, near Kirkwall, in 1848, the head and part of the horns of the red deer were found, along with the bones of sheep, cattle, horses, and a large bone of a whale. The red deer must soon have become extinct in
islands, although the contrary seemed to be indicated by the fact that a headland and a barbour still retained the names of Deerness and Deersound. Reference was then made to a collection of bone fragments in the Antiquarian Museum of Edinburgh, presented by A. H. Rhind, Esq. of Sibster, obtained from a “ Pict's House" at Kettleburn, in the county of Caithness. This collection contains the bones of the goat, pig, rat, and fish, besides those belonging to the same species of animals as the fragments from Nisibost. Dr M Bain concluded by saying, that the investigation of “ Picts' Houses,” Pictish broughs or castles, tumuli, and other structures supposed to be of contemporaneous age, had hitherto been undertaken chiefly upon archæological and ethnographical considerations. That the primitive construction of these buildings, especially in
respect to the form of the arch, the absence of mortar and lime for cement, and other indications of a low state of architecture, carried us back to a remote period of barbarism, perhaps not far in advance of the time when the Bos primigenius, with other extinct or extirpated animals, roamed over the wild parts of Britain. That considerable attention had been paid to the preservation of implements, weapons, ornaments, and other relics of human art, disinterred from these ancient dwellings; but it did not appear that much care had been bestowed upon the animal remains, which were at least of equal importance. That the object of his communication was to show that these had a special zoological bearing, and that much information of a definite character might be obtained if the subject were to engage a more general interest, and if every one having an opportunity were careful in collecting and preserving the remains of animals found in these primitive habitations of our Celtic ancestors.
II. On the Structure of Pearl. By ALEXANDER Bryson, Esq. (Numerous
illustrative specimens were exhibited.) The author commenced by stating that the first mention of pearls being ased as ornaments by mankind was found in the ancient writings of the Chinese. So early as twenty-two and a half centuries before the Christian era, pearls are enumerated as tribute or tax. In the Rh-ya, & dictionary compiled one thousand years before Christ, pearls are mentioned among the most precious products of the empire. Grill, a Swede, long resident in China, was the first who published an account of the Chinese method of forming artificial pearls. This interesting paper is published in the Transactions of the Royal Swedish Academy for 1772. He says-When the shells (the Unio plicatus) rise to the surface of the water to sun themselves, they open their valves. The Chinese, watching their opportunity, insert between the mantle and the shell a string of coarse, ill-coloured pearls, placed at intervals on a cord or wire. When these are inserted, the shells sink to the bottom of the pond, where they are allowed to remain for one year, when they are fished up and opened; the coarse rough pearls are now found coated with a fine covering of Dacre. In the joss shells are placed clay images of Buddha, which, when sufficiently covered with nacre, are skilfully sawn out by the Chinese, and worn and worshipped by them as the emblem of the creative power. Linnæus, probably unaware of what had been done in China so many hundred years before our era, endeavoured to produce artificial pearls by piercing the nacreous shells from without, and inserting foreign bodies; but his success was not so great as his patron, King Frederick Adolphus, had anticipated. So sanguine was his Swedish Majesty that that discovery would enrich his country and decorate his court, that he conferred a pension and a patent of nobility on the great naturalist. Had this honour been conferred on Linnæus for his “ Systema Naturæ," the monarch would have been more honoured, and the conferred title of Von Linné perhaps respected by posterity. Unfortunately for the monarch, his empty title is forgotten, and Linnæus, not Von Linné, remembered with veneration by all true lovers of nature. · Mr Bryson remarked that, though the French are now by far the most successful producers of artificial pearls, he had failed to obtain the slightest hint of the method employed, no paper having appeared, as far as he was aware, on the subject. The only notice of the formation of the coques de perles of the French wbich he had obtained was by Von Siebold, who has given, in his “ Zeitschrift für Wissenschaft. liche Zoologie," a description of the process. It differs very little from that followed by the Chinese. A piece of nacre is sawn from a shell
of the required form, and placed between the mantle and the shell of a nacre-producing mollusc; when sufficiently coated, it is filled with mastic, and a small plate of mother-of-pearl placed at the back. In regard to British pearls, the author stated that the first notice of the gem was by Tacitus in his “Life of Agricola;" and that the pearls were the product of the fresh-water mussel of our rivers (Unio margaritafera), was evident from the description, that they were not very orient, but pale and wan.” To the theory advanced by Arnoldi in 1696, anew by Sir Everard Home in 1818, and also by Kellart in 1858, that pearls, or rather their nuclei, were due to the sterile ova of the inolluscs which produced them, the author gave his decided opposition, as, from all the facts which he had observed, pearls were entirely due to a secretion from the mantle of the animal. To illustrate the structure of pearls, Mr Bryson exhibited a large series of sections which he had prepared, and by which he showed that by the microscope he could at once determine what shell had produced them. He also explained the rationale of the irridescence of mother-of-pearl,-a discovery due to Sir David Brewster, who proved that it was due to the diffraction of the rays of light, caused by the outcropping edges of the laminæ, and in some cases to the minute plication of a single lamina. This phenomenon was also shown by Barton's patent buttons, where the irridescence was produced by thousands of minute lines, so near each other as to require a high magnifying power to resolve them. By taking an impression with black wax under considerable pressure, the author succeeded in obtaining the same irridescence as exhibited by the button itself. This experiment Sir David Brewster had tried with success in 1815, by taking an impression in wax from a mother-ofpearl button, and by which he demonstrated the cause of the phenomenon. The commercial value of pearls, the author stated, was still as high as in the days of Cleopatra. A good Scottish pearl, with fine lustre, of the size of a pea, fetches from L.3 to L.4. The famous wager between Antony and Cleopatra gives us an insight into the value of pearls. The two pearls which that luxurious queen resolved to dissolve in vinegar, and serve up at the costly banquet, were valued at ten million of sesterces, about L.76,000 sterling. The pearl in the possession of Mr Hope, M.P., the largest of modern times, is not worth a fourth of that sum. The weight of this pearl is 3 oz.; it is 44 inches in circumference, and 2 inches in length. Notwithstanding the great value of the pearls, the shells of the animals yield now a far more profitable return than the jewels. In 1856, the total value of the pearls imported into this country was L.56,162, whereas the imports of 2102 tons of mother-of-pearl shells were valued at L.76,544. Mr Bryson suggested that trials should be made to produce artificial pearls from the Iridina, a nacreous shell, having a much higher lustre than any hitherto found. It inhabits the Nile and Senegal rivers.
III. Notes from the neighbourhood of Stranraer-on the Chough or Red
legged Crow (Fregilus graculus); on the Migration of the Swift (Cypselus apus, Flem.); and on the Effects of the severe Gale on the 9th September last. By the Rev. Thomas B. BELL, Leswalt, Wigtonshire. Communicated in a letter to Dr J. A. Suitu.
The Rev. T. B. Bell, in his communication, says, "The chough is common all along our rocky shores, building on cliff's and in caves along with his mischievous companion the jackdaw, and sometimes in the same cave with the rock pigeon. He annoys the farmers by digging up the sprouting wheat, and tearing up the roofs of their stacks. He is not by half so wary as either the rook or jackdaw, and consequently falls a fre