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ANIMAL LOCOMOTION.

INTRODUCTION.

THE locomotion of animals, as exemplified in walking, swimming, and flying, is a subject of permanent interest to all who seek to trace in the creature proofs of beneficence and design in the Creator. All animals, however insignificant, have a mission to perform—a destiny to fulfil ; and their manner of doing it cannot be a matter of indifference, even to a careless observer. The most exquisite form loses much of its grace if bereft of motion, and the most ungainly animal conceals its want of symmetry in the co-adaptation and exercise of its several parts. The rigidity and stillness of death alone are unnatural. So long as things “live, move, and have a being,” they are agreeable objects in the landscape. They are part and parcel of the great problem of life, and as we are all hastening towards a common goal, it is but natural we should take an interest in the movements of our fellow-travellers. As the locomotion of animals is intimately associated with their habits and modes of life, a wide field is opened up, teeming with incident, instruction, and amusement. No one can see a bee steering its course with admirable precision from flower to flower in search of nectar; or a swallow darting like a flash of light along the lanes in pursuit of insects; or a wolf panting in breathless haste after a deer; or a dolphin rolling like a mill-wheel after a shoal of flying fish, without feeling his interest keenly awakened.

Nor is this love of motion confined to the animal kingdom. We admire a cataract more than a canal; the sea is grander in a hurricane than in a calm ; and the fleecy clouds which constantly flit overhead are more agreeable to the eye than a horizon of tranquil blue, however deep and beautiful. We never tire of sunshine and shadow when together : we readily tire of either by itself. Inorganic changes and movements are scarcely less interesting than organic ones. The disaffected growl of the thunder, and the ghastly lightning flash, scorching and withering whatever it touches, forcibly remind us that everything above, below, and around is in motion. Of absolute rest, as Mr. Grove eloquently puts it, nature gives us no evidence. All matter, whether living or dead, whether solid, liquid, or gaseous, is constantly changing form : in other words, is constantly moving. It is well it is so; for those incessant changes in inorganic matter and living organisms introduce that fascinating variety which palls not upon the eye, the ear, the touch, the taste, or the smell. If an absolute repose everywhere prevailed, and plants and animals ceased to grow; if day ceased to alternate with night and the fountains were dried up or frozen; if the shadows refused to creep, the air and rocks to reverberate, the clouds to drift, and the great race of created beings to move, the world would be no fitting habitation for man. In change he finds his present solace and future hope. The great panorama of life is interesting because it moves. One change involves another, and everything which co-exists, co-depends. This co-existence and inter-dependence causes us not only to study ourselves, but everything around us. By discovering natural laws we are permitted in God's good providence to harness and yoke natural powers, and already the giant Steam drags along at incredible speed the rumbling car and swiftly gliding boat; the quadruped has been literally outraced on the land, and the fish in the sea ; each has been, so to speak, beaten in its own domain. That the tramway of the air may and will be traversed by man's ingenuity at some period or other, is, reasoning from analogy and the nature of things, equally certain. If there were no flying things—if there were no insects, bats, or birds as models, artificial flight (such are the difficulties attending its realization) might well be regarded an impossibility. As, however, the flying creatures are legion, both as regards number, size, and pattern, and as the bodies of all are not only manifestly heavier than the air, but are composed of hard and soft parts, similar in all respects to those composing the bodies of the other members of the animal kingdom, we are challenged to imitate the movements of the insect, bat, and bird in the air, as we have already imitated the movements of the quadruped on the land and the fish in the water. We have made two successful steps, and have only to make a third to complete that wonderfully perfect and very comprehensive system of locomotion which we behold in nature. Until this third step is taken, our artificial appliances for transit can only be considered imperfect and partial. Those authors who regard artificial flight as impracticable sagely remark that the land supports the quadruped and the water the fish. This is quite true, but it is equally true that the air supports the bird, and that the evolutions of the bird on the wing are quite as safe and infinitely more rapid and beautiful than the movements of either the quadruped on the land or the fish in the water. What, in fact, secures the position of the quadruped on the land, the fish in the water, and the bird in the air, is the life; and by this I mean that prime moving or self-governing power which co-ordinates the movements of the travelling surfaces (whether feet, fins, or wings) of all animals, and adapts them to the medium on which they are destined to operate, whether this be the comparatively unyielding earth, the mobile water, or the still more mobile air. Take away this life suddenly

-the quadruped falls downwards, the fish (if it be not specially provided with a swimming bladder) sinks, and the bird gravitates of necessity. There is a sudden subsiding and cessation of motion in either case, but the quadruped and fish have no advantage over the bird in this respect. The savans who oppose this view exclaim not unnaturally that there is no great difficulty in propelling a machine either along the land or the water, seeing that both these media support it. There is, I admit, no great difficulty now, but there were apparently insuperable difficulties before the locomotive and steam-boat were invented. Weight, moreover, instead of being a barrier to,

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