Page images
PDF
EPUB

found, contrary to my expectation, that they could give a severe bite with them, and that it was difficult to withdraw the jaws from the skin again.

One day when watching a small column of these ants, I placed a little stone on one of them to secure it. The next that approached, as soon as it discovered its situation, ran backwards in an agitated manner, and soon communicated the intelligence to the others. They rushed to the rescue, some bit at the stone and tried to move it, others seized the prisoner by the legs, and tugged with such force that I thought the legs would be pulled off, but they persevered until they got the captive free. I next covered one up with a piece of clay, leaving only the ends of its antennæ projecting. It was soon discovered by its fellows, which set to work immediately, and by biting off pieces of the clay, soon liberated it. Another time I found a very few of them passing along at intervals. I confined one of these under a piece of clay, at a little distance from the line, with his head projecting. Several ants passed it, but at last one discovered it and tried to pull it out, but could not. It immediately set off at a great rate, and I thought it had deserted its comrade, but it had only gone for assistance, for in a short time about a dozen ants came hurrying up, evidently fully informed of the circumstances of the case, for they made directly for their imprisoned comrade, and soon set him free. I do not see how this action could be instinctive. It was sympathetic help, such as man only among the higher mammalia shows. The cxcitement and ardour with which they carried on their unflagging exertions for the rescue of their comrade could not have been greater if they had

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

been human beings, and this to meet a danger that can be only of the rarest occurrence. Amongst the ants of Central America I place the Eciton as the first in intelligence, and as such at the head of the Articulata. Wasps and bees come next, and then others of the Hymenoptera. Between ants and the lower forms of insects there is a greater difference in reasoning powers than there is between man and the lowest mammalian. A recent writer has augured that of all animals ants approach nearest to man in their social condition.* Perhaps if we could learn their wonderful language we should find that even in their mental condition they also rank next to humanity.

I shall relate two more instances of the use of a reasoning faculty in these ants. I once saw a wide column trying to pass along a crumbling, nearly perpendicular, slope. They would have got very slowly over it, and many of them would have fallen, but a number having secured their hold, and reaching to each other, remained stationary, and over them the main column passed. Another time they were crossing a water-course along a small branch, not thicker than a goose-quill. They widened this natural bridge to three times its width by a number of ants clinging to it and to each other on each side, over which the column passed three or four deep; whereas excepting for this expedient they would have had to pass over in single file, and treble the time would have been consumed. Can it be contended that such insects are not able to determine by reasoning powers which is the best way of

* Houzeau-Etudes sur les Facultés mentales des Animaux comparées à celles de l'Homme.

doing a thing, or that their actions are not guided by thought and reflection? This view is much strengthened by the fact that the cerebral ganglia in ants are more developed than in any other insect, and that in all the Hymenoptera, at the head of which they stand, “ they are many times larger than in the less intelligent orders, such as beetles.”*

The Hymenoptera standing at the head of the Articulata, and the Mammalia at the head of the Vertebrata, it is curious to mark how in zoological history the appearance and development of these two orders (culminating in the one in the Ants, and in the other in the Primates) run parallel. The Hymenoptera and the Mammalia both make their first appearance early in the secondary period, and it is not until the commencement of the tertiary epoch that ants and monkeys appear upon the scene. There the parallel ends : no one species of ant has attained any great superiority above all its fellows, whilst man is very far in advance of all the other Primates.

When we see these intelligent insects dwelling together in orderly communities of many thousands of individuals, their social instincts developed to a high degree of perfection, making their marches with the regularity of disciplined troops, showing ingenuity in the crossing of difficult places, assisting each in danger, defending their nests at the risk of their own lives, communicating information rapidly to a great distance, making a regular division of work, the whole community taking charge of the rearing of the young, and all imbued with the stronger sense of industry, cach individual labouring

* Darwin-Descent of Man, vol. i. p. 145.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

not for itself alone but for all its fellows — we may imagine that Sir Thomas More's description of Utopia might have been applied with greater justice to such a community than to any human society. “But in Utopia, where every man has a right to everything, they do all know that if care is taken to keep the public stores full, no private man can want anything; for among them there is no unequal distribution, so that no man is poor, nor in any necessity, and though no man has anything, yet they are all rich ; for what can make a man so rich as to lead a serene and cheerful life, free from anxieties, neither apprehending want himself, nor vexed with the endless complaints of his wife ? He is not afraid of the misery of his children, nor is he con. triving how to raise a portion for his daughters, but is secure in this, that both he and his wife, his children and grandchildren, to as many generations as he can fancy, will all live both plentifully and happily."

CHAPTER III.

Journey up River continued—Wild Pigs and Jaguar—Bungos“

Reach Machuca—Castillo-Capture of Castillo by NelsonIndia-rubber Trade-Rubber-men-Method of making Indiarubber -- Congo Monkeys- Macaws - The Savallo River--Endurance of the Boatmen- San Carlos-Interoceanic CanalAdvantages of the Nicaraguan Route-The Rio Frio-Stories about the Wild Indians, Indian Captive Children-Expeditions up the Rio Frio-American River Steamboats.

AFTER breakfast we again continued our voyage up the river, and passed the mouth of the San Carlos, another large stream running down from the interior of Costa Rica. Soon after we heard some wild pigs (Dicoteles tajacu) or Wari, as they are called by the natives, striking their teeth together in the wood, and one of the boatmen leaping on shore soon shot one, which he brought on board after cutting out a gland on its back that emits a musky odour, and we afterwards had it cooked for our dinner. These Wari go in herds of from fifty to one hundred. They are said to assist each other against the attacks of the jaguar, but that wary animal is too intelligent for them. He sits quietly upon a branch of a tree until the Wari come underneath; then jumping down kills one by breaking its neck; leaps up into the tree again and waits there until the herd depart, when he comes down and feeds on the slaughtered Wari in quietness. We shortly afterwards passed one of the

« EelmineJätka »