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Life and Her Children: Glimpses of Animal Life from the Amæba to the Insects

Nature volume 23, page 123 | Download Citation



AFTER light came life, and with that life there came its two great functions—growth and development. With the simplest as with the most complex forms there is the same eager race to be run, to increase in size, to multiply, and thus replenishing this earth, to die. “Life and Her Children” is a praiseworthy and admirable attempt to tell us something of the Children that Life sends forth, and of their history. Its main object is to acquaint young people with the structure and habits of the lower forms of life; but in our deliberate judgment it will do a great deal more. None will read its introductory chapter without advantage, and few will read the volume through without enjoyment. Within its narrow limits of 300 small pages no candid reader would expect to find all the details that might be wished for, or all the illustrations that might be desired. What constitutes the book's chief charm is the marvellously simple yet quite scientific style which runs through it, the food for thought and future study which it affords, and the truly philosophic glow which lights up its every page. The volume gives a general account of Life's Simplest Children, the Protozoa. The word “slime” does not seem to us quite a happy term by which to designate the living protoplasm of these creatures; this word conveys the idea of a something adhesive or glutinous, or of a something thrown off a living organism—a something without a structure (sordies, eluvies)—and there seems somewhat of a “contempt for nature,” a thought certainly never present in the author's mind, in the use of such a word. Jelly would seem a more appropriate word, as conveying the idea of the consistency requisite for life, and would have the sanction of use. Thus the Noctiluca?, called in this volume “tiny bags of slime,” were described, if we mistake not, by their discoverer as “tiny spherical gelatinous bodies,” and Prof. Huxley says, “Noctiluca may be described as a gelatinous transparent body about the one-sixtieth of an inch in diameter.”

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