Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

The process of the vapour-bath is completed by a plentiful supply of towels, with which we gradually dry the surface, while we are well rubbed down by an assistant.

We then resumed our dress, and retired to a coffee-room, where there was a plentiful supply of newspapers, and had a cup of good coffee for twopence Sterling. As I have already stated, the baths were free to the naturforscher ; but I ascertained that the whole expense of the bath and its accompaniments is not more than one marc, or sixteenpence English, and for twopence more the bather is entitled to a cup of coffee, and to read the newspapers in a handsome apartment.

I received from the liberal owner permission to examine his splendid establishment of vapour and shower baths devoted to females.

The vapour-bath resembles that already described, but is much neater.

The variety of shower-baths surprised me. They are of every conceivable form, from the powerful stream to the minute drizzing of water from orifices as fine as a needle, which jet tiny streams of warm or cold water, at the option of the bather, in every possible direction on her person. By means of polished brass arms, curved so as to enclose the body, moveable by universal joints, connected with a cistern, and perforated with innumerable minute holes, a cross-fire of jets (if I may be allowed the expression) is kept up on any part of the body. If the bather inclines to sit, a perforated seat is placed on a large flat trough, which collects and carries off the water, jets of water play from the various moveable arms from each side, from above, and from below, so that every part of the surface is bedewed. A general stopcock commands the whole flow of wa. ter, while each brazen-rod is under the control of one appropriate to itself. These are at the disposal of the bather ; and each trough or bath is surrounded by curtains to skreen the person from the eyes of the assistant.

Similar shower-baths are appropriated to gentlemen. The whole forms one of the most elegant and perfect establishments of the kind I have ever seen, and is a source of emolument to the spirited proprietor.

I inquired anxiously into the medical efficacy of the Russian

vapour-bath, and found that in chronic rheumatism, in the stiffness of limbs consequent on gout, and other long continued inflammations, in some cases of palsy, in various cutaneous diseases, it is a most powerful and valuable remedy. While in the establishment I saw an invalid enter, who informed me, that, after severe acute rheumatism, of several months' duration, he was so lame that he had been carried by two persons into the bath ; but that, after five or six times undergoing the discipline I have described, he could walk alone as well as I saw him (he had walked, aided by a stick, from his house to the bath), and appeared confident that in a little time he should entirely recover the power and flexibility of his limbs.

From all I could learn in Hamburgh, I am inclined to consider the Russian vapour-bath as a most valuable remedy in some chronic diseases, and regret that we have not a similar establishment in

any

of our medical charitable institutions. February 31. 1832.

[ocr errors]

On the Breeding Spots of Birds. By FREDERICK Faber.* The learned editor of the interesting Travels of M. Boie in Norway, considers it as indispensable, for the complete development of the eggs, that they come in contact with the external skin of the bird. This is certainly the case; but I doubt very much if it is the reason of their plucking the feathers off their belly. Some water-birds, as the different species of Colymbus, preserve the same dense mass of feathers on their belly during breeding, as at other seasons. Most birds, however, at this period have a much thinner covering on their abdomen than usual, and this is produced, in my opinion, partly by the friction of hatching, partly by the excess of animal warmth which is concentrated in that region. The female of the Iceland grous, and of many wading birds, have the breast and belly nearly quite bare while breeding. But this falling out of the feathers is a consequence of hatching, and belongs to the next period. An entirely different relation takes place among some of the boreal aquatic and wading birds. These pluck off a number

* These observations are taken from Faber's very interesting work on the Habits and Manners of Boreal Birds, of which a translation, now finished, will, we trust, soon be published

of feathers from one or more spots of the belly on the development of the pairing impulse, and before they have laid any eggs, or have begun to hatch. This gives rise to certain naked spots, which I call Breeding spots. The utility of this arrangement is various. There is generally so thick a layer of feathers upon the belly of most aquatic birds, that without some process of this kind, the eggs would hardly ever be brought directly in contact with the skin of the mother. In the second place, most aquatic birds have no nest, or other means of furnishing warmth to their eggs, even in the coldest climates. The breeding spots thus form as it were a nest on the body of the parents, as they collect with their bills all the eggs into this artificial cavity, so that they are quite surrounded by the feathers.

The discovery of this peculiar phenomenon in the history of the boreal birds is entirely my own. Only occasionally do we find former writers directing our attention to these breeding spots, but none seem to have recognised their real importance. Being only found in the boreal birds, the discovery was reserved for a naturalist who had an opportunity of spending the summer in their native haunts. Gunnerus remarks of the Procellaria glacialis *, that he had found no such cavity, but that the medical student Martin had observed t them to possess a hole under the crop beneath the large feathers, which he thought might perhaps serve for the hatching of eggs. Fabricius remarks, also of this bird 1, that he had found this hollow; his words are, Aream deplumem sub abdomine etiam reperi. M. Boie has observed, in his Travels (p. 192), which were written at the same time with my Prodromus, with respect to the Lestris parasitica, that this bird lays only two eggs, and shews that the two parents, which sit alternately, have on both sides of the belly a naked spot, of the size of one of the eggs, and the editor hazards the conjecture that these naked spots may be found in many others of the aquatic and wading tribes,

The true uses of these spots I shall now endeavour to unfoldBirds seldom pluck off their feathers in order to lay them in the nest. Those which are most naked of all during the breeding season, either build no nest, or have no feathers in it. Only the Anas and Sula tear out their feathers to line their nests. Therefore, we do not find in the nest the feathers which have been taken off the body of the bird. It is

* Mem. of the Drontheim Soc. i. 198. + Transact. of the Royal Acad. of Sciences of Sweden for 1759.

Fauna Groenlandica, p. 86.

necessary

that

a portion of the great mass which covers the abdomen be removed, in order that the eggs come into immediate contact with the epidermis. This is the first use of the breeding spots. It cannot, however, be their only use, because they are wanting in many of the aquatic birds of the compound monogamy, whose coat of feathers, as just mentioned, is no thinner, as in the Sula and Carbo. They must, therefore, be intended to envelope and furnish the eggs with warmth.

I have found these breeding spots only in the boreal aquatic birds, and confined to those species which belong to the perfect or compound monogamy. It would be extremely interesting if their existence could be established in the aquatic birds of other zones *. They are never found in the genera Colymbus and Podiceps, which belong to the partial monogamy. They are equally wanting in those simply monogamous, as the Mergus, Anas, Anser, Cygnus. But all these birds have the habit of plucking out their feathers for the purpose of lining their nests, which does not exist in those birds which belong to the perfect monogamy, such as the Phalaropus, Uria, Alca, Mormon, Carbo, Puffinus, Sula, Sterna, Larus, Lestris, and Procellaria. Breeding spots are found in all these genera, with the exception of the Sula and Carbo.

As both male and female of these species share the labours of hatching, the breeding-spots are found in both sexes, with the remarkable exception, however, of the Phalaropus, where they exist only in the male +. Among the many hundred individuals

* Since the above was written, I have had an opportunity of ascertaining the existence of these breeding-spots in the Danish gulls and sea-swallows, during a zoological excursion in the summer of 1824- They exist both in the male and female of the Larus argentatus, L. ridibundus, Sterna arctica, caspia, nigra, and minuta. Their position and number is the same as in the northern individuals of these species. In some wading birds, of both sexes, as the Charadrius hiaticula and albifrons, I found a spot in the middle of the abdomen, besides a thinner cover of feathers on the breast, which they have in common with most land birds, and the other wading birds, at the breeding

season.

† M. Holbol has since assured me that, in Greenland, he has not only found the breeding-spots solely in the male of the genus, but that he never saw a female at the breeding-place. But I have found both mates together at the nest in Iceland, but the male only sitting on the young. Can we infer of these species which I have examined at the breeding season, I have not seen a single instance of these being wanting, or of their varying in position and number in the individuals of the same species. For they are not a consequence of an unusual deficiency of feathers in these birds, but they follow the most precise rules both in regard to position and number, and furnish a sure specific character of the different boreal aquatic birds.

Their number is only two; in my prodromus (p. 90.) it is indeed stated that the Larus tridactylus has from three to four, But I had before me at the time specimens which were only commencing the process of the removal of feathers from the belly ; and I do not doubt, but that, as in the other northern gulls, these different patches would have united into a single one in the centre of the abdomen, when it had assumed its finished form. The Phalaropus, Uria grylle and alle, Alca torda, Mormon fratercula, Lestris, have two breeding spots. The Uria brunnichii and troile, Puffinus arcticus, Sterna arctica, Larus tridactylus, glaucus, marinus, and the Procellaria glacialis, have but one spot. One of the most important distinctions between the Alca torda and Uria troile auctorum is, that the former has two and the latter but one breeding spot.

In regard to position, they are always on the belly, never on the breast; and when one only is present, it is constantly in the middle of the belly; when two exist, they are symmetrically on each side. Their form is circular and proportioned to the size and number of the eggs which they have to cover. A central spot is always larger than each of a pair.

Their number occasionally corresponds to that of the eggs, but sometimes there are more eggs than spots, as in the Larus ; in the Alca torda, and Mormon fratercula, the spots exceed the eggs

in number. When a bird has more eggs than spots, these are generally large, and capable of including more than a single egg. When the spots are more numerous than the

1

eggs,

these change their position.

from the deficiency of the breeding-spots in the Phalaropus, a similar defect in the breeding impulse ? This genus would then be a solitary exception, of one individual laying the eggs, and another hatching them. It must, however, be observed in general, that we can always infer the breeding impulse to be present when breeding-spots exist, but not vice versa ; as, for example, neither sex of the Sula or Carbo has breeding spots, although both hatch.

« AnteriorContinuar »