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Ch. VII.)

GIGANTIC ANTS.

115

a radius of four miles, having on one side the savannahs near Pital, on the other the ranges around Santo Domingo. Some run and fly only in the daytime, others towards evening and in the short twilight; but the great majority issue from their hiding-places only in the nighttime, and during the day lie concealed in withered leaves, beneath fallen logs, under bark, and in crevices amongst the moss growing on the trunks of trees, or even against the bare trunk, protected from observation by their mottled brown, grey, and greenish tints—assimilating in colour and appearance to the bark of the tree. Up and down the fallen timber would stalk gigantic black ants, one inch in length, provided with most formidable stings, and disdaining to run away from danger. They are slow and stately in their movements, seeming to prey solely on the slow-moving wood-borers, which they take at a great disadvantage when half buried in their burrows, and bear off in their great jaws. They appear to use their sting only as a defensive weapon ; but other smaller species that hunt singly, and are very agile, use their stings to paralyse their prey. I once saw one of these on the banks of the Artígua chasing a wood-louse (Oniscus), very like our common English species, on a nearly perpendicular slope. The wood-louse, when the ant got near it, made convulsive springs, throwing itself down the slope, whilst the ant followed, coursing from side to side, and examining the ground with its vibrating antennæ. The actions of the wood-louse resembled that of the hunted hare trying to throw the dog off its scent, and the ant was like the dog in its movements to recover the trail. At last the wood-louse reached the bottom of the slope, and concealed itself amongst some leaves; but the ant soon discovered it, paralysed it with a sting, and was running away with it, turned back downwards, beneath itself, when I secured the hunter for my collection. All these ants that hunt singly, have the eyes well developed, and thus differ greatly from the Ecitons, or army ants.

The road, continuing down the Artígua, crosses it again, winds away from it, then comes to it again, at a beautiful rocky spot overhung by trees; the banks covered with plants and shrubs, and the rocks with a great variety of ferns, whilst a babbling, clear brook comes down from the ranges to the right. Some damp spots near the river are covered with a carpet of a beautiful variegated, velvety-leaved plant (Cyrtodeira chontalensis) with a flower like an achimenes, whilst the dryer slopes bear melastomæ and a great variety of dwarf palms, amongst which the Sweetie (Geonoma sp.), used for thatching houses, is the most abundant. About here grows a species of cacao (Herrania purpurea) differing from the cultivated species (Theobroma cacao). Amongst the larger trees is the “ côrtess," having a wood as hard as ebony, and at the end of March entirely covered with brilliant yellow flowers, unrelieved by any green, the tree casting its leaves before flowering. The great yellow domes may be distinguished amongst the dark green forest at the distance of five or six miles. Near at hand they are absolutely dazzling when the sun is shining on them; and when they shed their flowers, the ground below is carpeted as with gold. Another valuable timber tree, the “nispera” (Achras sapota), is also common, growing on the dryer ridges. It attains to a great size, and its timber is almost in

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destructible, so that we used it in the construction of all our permanent works. White ants do not eat it, nor, ežcepting when first cut, and before it is barked, do any of the wood-boring beetles. It bears a round fruit about the size of an apple, hard and heavy when green, and at this time is much frequented by the large yellowish-brown spider-monkeys (Ateles), which roam over the tops of the trees in bands of from ten to twenty. Sometimes they lay quiet until I was passing underneath, and then shaking a branch of the nispera tree, they would send down a shower of the hard round fruit. Fortunately I was never struck by them. As soon as I looked up, they would commence yelping and barking, and putting on the most threatening gestures, breaking off pieces of branches and letting them fall, and shaking off more fruit, but never throwing anything, simply letting it fall. Often, when on lower trees, they would hang from the branches two or three together, holding on to each other and to the branch with their fore feet and long tail, whilst their hind feet hung down, all the time making threatening gestures and cries. Occasionally a female would be seen carrying a young one on its back, to which it clung with legs and tail, the mother making its way along the branches, and leaping from tree to tree, apparently but little encumbered with its baby. A large black and white eagle is said to prey upon them, but I never witnessed this, although I was constantly falling in with troops of the monkeys. Don Francisco Velasquez, one of our officers, told me that one day he heard a monkey crying out in the forest for more than two hours, and at last, going to see what was the matter, he saw one on a branch and an eagle beside it trying to frighten it to turn its back, when it would have seized it. The monkey, however, kept its face to its foe, and the eagle did not care to engage with it in this position, but probably would have tired it out. Velasquez fired at the eagle, and frightened it away. I think it likely from what I have seen of the habits of the spider-monkeys that they defend themselves from this peril by keeping two or three together, thus assisting each other, and that it is only when the eagle finds one separated from its companions that it dares to attack it.

Sometimes, but more rarely, we would fall in with a troop of the white-faced cebus monkey, rapidly running away, throwing themselves from tree to tree. This monkey feeds also partly on fruit, but is incessantly on the look-out for insects, examining the crevices in trees and withered leaves, seizing the largest beetles and munching them up with great relish. It is also very fond of eggs and young birds, and must play havoc amongst the nestlings. Probably owing to its carnivorous habits, its flesh is not considered so good by monkey - eaters as that of the fruit-feeding spidermonkey, but I never myself tried either. It is a very intelligent and mischievous animal. I kept one for a long time as a pet, and was much amused with its antics. At first, I had it fastened with a light chain; but it managed to open the links and escape several times, and then made straight for the fowls' nests, breaking every egg it could get hold of. Generally, after being a day or two loose, it would allow itself to be caught again. I tried tying it up with a cord, and afterwards with a raw-hide thong, but had to nail the end, as it could loosen any knot in a few minutes. It would

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sometimes entangle itself round a pole to which it was fastened, and then unwind the coils again with great discernment. Its chain allowed it to swing down below the verandah, but it could not reach to the ground. Sometimes, when there were broods of young ducks about, it would hold out a piece of bread in one hand, and, when it had tempted a duckling within reach, seize it by the other, and kill it with a bite in the breast. There was such an uproar amongst the fowls on these occasions, that we soon knew what was the matter, and would rush out and punish Mickey (as we called him) with a switch which ultimately cured him of his poultrykilling propensities. Once, when whipping him, I held up the dead duckling in front of him, and at each blow of the light switch told him to take hold of it, and at last, much to my surprise, he did so, taking it and holding it tremblingly in one hand. He would draw things towards him with a stick, and even use a swing for the same purpose. It had been put up for the children, and could be reached by Mickey, who now and then indulged himself with a swing on it. One day, I had put down some bird-skins on a chair to dry, far beyond, as I thought, Mickey's reach ; but, fertile in expedients, he took the swing and launched it towards the chair, and actually managed to knock the skins off in the return of the swing, so as to bring them within his reach. He also procured some jelly that was set out to cool in the same way. Mickey's actions were very human-like. When any one came near to fondle him, he never neglected the opportunity of pocketpicking. He would pull out letters, and quickly take them from their envelopes. Anything eatable disap

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