100 and 50 years ago

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    100 YEARS AGO

    I have frequently observed with interest the erect attitude assumed by the small Agamid lizard Otocryptis bivittata, Wiegm., when running rapidly, and have long suspected that the short front legs were not used at such times. But the rapidity with which the animal runs, and the nature of the ground which it usually frequents, have prevented very close observation. I have, however, recently fully satisfied myself that its action is truly bipedal... On several occasions one of them has crossed a smooth sanded road immediately in front of me. I have thus been able to see clearly that the anterior limbs are carried quite free from the ground, progress being effected solely by the long hind limbs.


    According to a Reuter telegram from Rome, the Italian postal authorities have examined a scheme submitted by an engineer, named Piscicelli, for the establishment of an electric postal service. It is proposed, by means of this system, to transmit letters in aluminium boxes, travelling along overhead wires at the rate of 400 kilometres an hour. A letter could thus be sent from Rome to Naples in twenty-five minutes and from Rome to Paris in five hours.

    From Nature 18 September 1902.

    50 YEARS AGO

    The dusky-footed wood rat (Neotoma fuscipes Baird.) is a medium-sized rodent native to North America... Wood rats are nocturnal and are seldom seen without special search, but the conspicuous houses in which they live, built of sticks above ground, readily show their presence... A wood rat's ability to survive is affected by the conditions that enable it to leave its home and those that affect it away from shelter. A rat that lives in a house providing protection from the weather and predators is exposed to these dangers when away from home. It leaves its house mainly to get food and housebuilding material, to escape from dangerous intruders or intolerant members of its own family, and to find other rats. Many rats contribute to the maintenance of few houses, which last much longer than any single occupant, but the character of each house is dictated by its situation and the available materials; it remains constant in type throughout successive tenancies.

    From Nature 20 September 1952.

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    100 and 50 years ago. Nature 419, 265 (2002) doi:10.1038/419265b

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