My friend Professor Marsh informs me that, within two years, remains of more than 160 distinct individuals of mammals, belonging to twenty species and nine genera, have been found in a space not larger than the floor of a good-sized room; while beds of the same age have yielded 300 reptiles, varying in size from a length of 60 feet or 80 feet to the dimensions of a rabbit.
The Old Humpey, as it was called, had creepers overgrowing its roof, a nesting-place for frogs, lizards, snakes and Lady Bridget, brave enough for doughty deeds, could never overcome her terror of horned beasts and reptiles.
In this journey the last scraps of provisions were consumed, including their few remaining horses, and they were so pressed by hunger as to eat the leather of their saddles and belts. Little food was yielded by the forest, and such toads, serpents, and other reptiles as they found were greedily devoured.
Yet the interval between them is completely filled, in the mesozoic fauna, by birds which have reptilian characters, on the one side, and reptiles which have ornithic characters, on the other.
They had formerly assured us that our canyon was favoured, like Ireland, with an entire immunity from poisonous reptiles; but, with the perfect inconsequence of the natural man, they were no sooner found out than they went off at score in the contrary direction, and we were told that in no part of the world did rattlesnakes attain to such a monstrous bigness as among the warm, flower-dotted rocks of Silverado.
I could tell you a thousand other particulars about these batrachians if I were to examine them all in succession; for it is a very motley family, in the bosom of which the transition from reptiles to fishes is in some imperceptible manner accomplished; from the frog, which the unanimous consent of mankind has always ranked among reptiles, to the axolotl or siren, who lives in Mexican lakes; and who, feature for feature, is exactly like a carp, with four little feet fastened under him.
Our breakfast and cooking things were quickly packed up; and the second rattlesnake being destroyed, Mike and Reuben followed us into the canoe. Scarcely had we shoved off when three or four more rattlesnakes were seen, and we felt thankful that none of us had been bitten by them. We had literally encamped in the midst of a colony of the venomous reptiles.
"The solitude seems intensified by the strange sounds of reptiles, birds, and insects, and by the absence of larger creatures; of which in the day-time, the only audible signs are the stampede of a herd of kangaroo, or the rustle of a wallabi, or a dingo stirring the grass as it creeps to its lair.
Cabbage palm and gray plum, pisang and scitamine they found in abundance, with wild pineapple, and occasionally small mammals, birds, eggs, reptiles, and insects. The nuts they cracked between their powerful jaws, or, if too hard, broke by pounding between stones.
To complete this brief summary of an interesting subject, it may be added, that birds and reptiles have but one kind of saliva, answering to the viscous in mammalia. M. Vogt, in a communication to the Académie, adds to the proofs that what is called the spontaneous generation of certain worms, is due to natural causes.