Page images
PDF
EPUB

Ch. II.]

REASONING IN ANTS.

27

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 to ants, 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 argued 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 watercourse, along a small branch, not thicker than a goosequill. 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. Except for this expedient they would have had to pass over in single file, and treble the time would have been consumed. Can it not be contended that such insects are able to determine by reasoning powers which is the best way of doing a thing, and that

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

their actions are 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 geological history, the appearance and development of these two orders (culminating, one in the Ants; 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 other 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 strongest sense of industry, each individual labouring not for itself alone but also for its

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

Ch. II.] ATTAINMENT OF UTOPIA BY ANTS.

29 fellows—we mayimagine 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 contriving 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 Nelson-India-rubber trade-Rubber-men-Method of making india-rubber-Congo monkeys—Macaws—The Savallo river-Endurance of the boatmen-San Carlos-Interoceanic canal-Advantages of the Nicaraguan route—The Rio Frio–Stories about the wild IndiansIndian 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 tajaçu) 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

Ch. III.]

BOAT JOURNEY CONTINUED.

31

of the large boats called bungos, that carry down to Greytown the produce of the country and take up merchandise and flour. This one was laden with cattle and india-rubber. The bungos are flat-bottomed boats, about forty feet long and nine feet wide. There is generally a little cabin, roofed over at the stern, in which the wife of the captain lives. The bungo is poled along by twelve bungo-men, who have usually only one suit of clothes each, which they do not wear during the day, but keep stowed away under the cargo that it may be dry to put on at night. Their bronzed, glistening, naked bodies, as they ply their long poles together in unison, and chant some Spanish boat-song, is one of the things that linger in the memory of the traveller up the San Juan. Our boatmen paddled and poled until eleven at night, when we reached Machuca, a settlement consisting of a single house, just below the rapids of the same name, seventy-seven miles above Greytown.

We breakfasted at Machuca before starting next morning, and I walked up round the rapids and met the canoe above them. About five o'clock, after paddling all day, we came in sight of Castillo, where there is an old ruined Spanish fort perched on the top of a hill overlooking the little town, which lies along the foot of the steep hill; hemmed in between it and the river, so that there is only room for one narrow street. It was near Castillo that Nelson lost his eye. He took the fort by landing about half a mile lower down the river, and dragging his guns round to a hill behind it by which it was commanded. This hill is now cleared of timber and covered with grass, supporting a few cows and a great many goats. In front of the town run the

« EelmineJätka »