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got its name from two Greek words signifying saffron and fear, literally, saffron-fearer. Hence the Egyptians placed saffron near their bee-hives to drive off the Crocodile. "The sovereign power of saffron,” says Fuller, “is plainly proved by the antipathy of Crocodiles thereunto.”
In this paper it is not intended to give the anatomy, physiology, and habits of the Alligator in systematic detail, but to point out some important facts in its history, freed from the trammels of artificial classification, and to correct certain errors, which, for several thousand years, have been accumulating, until the herpetological account of this saurian has, at length, become as fabulous as that of the Griffon itself.
Men who have but one idea—be that calomel, quinine, or venesection, and who, under the pretence of being practical, reject every other inquiry as “stale, flat and unprofitable,” will, no doubt, think that crocodilian investigations are unworthy of their attention. It were easy to show that comparative anatomy, physiology, and pathology, afford an inexhaustible mine of useful knowledge, especially to the practical physician.
Dr. Good, an accomplished scholar and a voluminous medical writer, speaks of " Zoology as something on which we may perpetually dwell with new and glowing delight, and new and growing improvement; a combination of allurements that draw us, and fix us, and facinate us with a sort of paramount and magical captivity.”
The dying moments of Sir Humphrey Davy were devoted to reflections upon the electrical fishes, the electricity of which he supposed to be sui generis. Being unable, then, to test this experimentally, he enjoined upon his brother, Dr. John Davy, to perform experiments with that view, upon the torpedo, the gymnotus, and the silurus electricus. A correspondent of the Western Journal of Medicine for August, 1846, writes from London, that the distinguished Professor Grant is delivering a course of lectures on Zoology in that city, in which he speaks of the habits of the oyster, and the circulation of a lobster, with all the fire of a temperance lecturer.
In modern times, expeditions, at the national expense, have been sent to explore the natural history of different countries-one of the most remarkable of which, was that under Napoleon, in Egypt. That learned and colossal work, Description de L'Egypte, was written, as it were, amid the clang of arms. If that was a sublime thought to which Napoleon gave utterance just before the battle of the Pyramids, when, pointing to the summits of those mysterious monuments, he told the army that forty centuries were then looking down upon them :- -“Songez que du haut de ces monumens quarante siècles vous contemplent !” how much more sublime was the spectacle within the walls of the Egyptian Insti. tute, where the soldier laid down the sword for the pen, and after a hard fought battle, resumed the profoundest studies on the sciences, arts, and natural history of ancient and modern Egypt. It is remarkable that these mammoth folios, descriptive and pictorial, left an unexplored field in which SAMUEL GEORGE MORTON, M. D., of Philadelphia, has gathered
lasting honors—the field of Skulls—the CRANIA ÆGYPTICA, from which is deduced the ethnographic characters of the primitive races of that country, the caucasian and negro, with their varieties.
The invading army under General Taylor, might now accomplish for Mexico,* what the French Expedition did for Egypt, and what the United States Exploring Expedition has done, at the expense of millions of treasure, for the icy continent of eternal sterility in the antarctic ocean, and what the authorities of New York have done, on a scale of surpassing magni. ficence, in the illustration of the geology, and Fauna of that opulent State. Honor to the citizens who authorised, and to the naturalists who executed, this last mentioned work! The other twenty-eight sisters may look upon it with envy, or rather with
emulation. The Fauna of Louisiana is still among the desiderata. Our birds have found an able historian in Mr. Audubon, whose work has shed an imperishable lustre on the nineteenth century. A foreign writer, in alluding to the imperceptible insects, exclaims—"there is not a single species that does not of itself deserve a historian!” Ehrenberg devoted ten years to the Infusoria alone. Is such a study dry? Is it not rather the Pierian spring—the true Helicon? If we admit with one author, that man is to be distinguished
from brutes by his power of laughing or smiling, † has not the author of the Wandering Jew said, "there are so many kinds of smiles, who can discover the false from the real ?”—if with another, that language is the most distinguishing trait—has not Talleyrand said that “ language was given to man to conceal his thoughts ?” Such are not the moral lessons derived from the inferior, or, as they are scornfully called, irrational animals. Their natural language is as sincere as it is
Without entering on questions of orders, genera, and species, I will give, in a desultory manner, descriptions of the Alligator, as taken from five of these animals placed at my disposal, in the months of March and April; or rather, I will, for convenience, restrict myself to the two largest of these, as affording fairer results. They were from ten to eleven feet long, and from three to four feet in circumference, in the thickest part of the body. They corresponded with others, some larger and some smaller, which I have casually examined. The two I allude to, were examined several times daily, with much and prolonged attention. They were kept in cages or boxes, the bottoms and a portion of the sides of which were watertight, the residue being lattice work, or rather bars, which admitted wind, rain, and sun. The animals were sometimes kept partly immersed, and sometimes quite dry, during the periods of examination. During many of the observations on temperature of the gullet, aud on the digestion of food, the mouth was opened, and was retained so by strong levers, in order to facilitate the experiments, and to prevent the crushing of the arm, &c.
* It is now nearly half a century, since the learned Humboldt cast a scientific glance over Mexico; and, although much of his account, statistical, social, political, and scientific, is now obsolete, it is, nevertheless, for general reference, the best that can be found. Messrs. Stephens and Norman, have explored some portions of the Mexican territories. As it regards antiquities and ruins, their discoveries have thrown their cotemporaries in the back ground. Palmyra and the Pyramids, are probably destined to become secondary objects, if we may judge from the presageful glimpses of these researches. Mr. Kendall's interesting sketches of another portion of that Republic, present views of the domestic and social condition of a population, in which little more than the prestige of civilization actually exists. The country has been immortalized historically, by the pen of Mr. Prescott. But where is its Flora, its Fauna, its mineralogy, its geology ? Mexico, in those respects, needs an exploring expedition more than even Louisiana, for which, neither Royal nor Republican masters, have, as yet, done any thing worth mentioning.
+ Milton seems to have adopted this theory :
6 Smiles from reason flow, To brutes denied.”
The upper jaw is wider than the under, which it overlaps. The latter has forty teeth, none of which are grinders, as asserted by Professor Owen--none are cutting or incisor teeth, as they are described to be by Goldsmith. The teeth of the upper jaw are similar in number and structure.
The Cuvierian classification is based on the teeth, which this author says, “are for the Alligator, thirteen on each side of the upper jaw. The fourth tooth, on each side of the under jaw, enters a hole in the upper.”
Professor Edwards, of Paris, in his work on Zoology, (p. 367) char. acterises the Nilotic Crocodile by its dental organization, but in the very same page, gives these identical characteristics, by which to distinguish the Alligator. Both are recognised by the fourth tooth, one on each side of the lower jaw, as entering sockets in the upper; an excellent example of a distinction without a difference, not unlike Shakspeare's two lovers :
“ Two distincts, division none.
Professor Owen, of London, is quoted in the British and Foreign Medical Review, for January, 1846, as maintaining, in his recent work on Odontography, that “ the Crocodile has as many as four generations of molar teeth.” Buffon's account of the teeth agrees with Cuvier's. Geoffroy St. Hilaire, naturalist to the Egyptian Expedition, enumerates 36 in the upper, and 30 in the lower jaw, all of which, according to his engraving, (pl. 2, croc. vulg.) are long and conical. Now, the facts are these : in both jaws there are 80 teeth, nearly half of these, that is 36 or 38, are short blunt teeth, rising but little above the gum, wholly different from grinders-never being worn-occupying the interspaces between the long conical teeth, which latter amount to 42 or 44, and are round, white, polished, tapering, salient, and project from the gum nearly an inch, usually exceeding a quarter of an inch in diameter. As the lower jaw is less expanded than the upper, its long teeth, 20 to 22 in number, are received, not only within the dental range of the upper jaw, but fit into as many holes in the latter. Instead, therefore, of two long teeth fitting into two sockets, there are never less than 20 long teeth fitting into as many sockets in the roof of the mouth-an arrangement which totally
prevents the possibility of using grinders, did any really exist. More. over the teeth of the two jaws are not opposite each other. Hence, grinders would be wholly useless. It is evident that these, as well as all the other naturalists whose works I have seen, are wrong in every essential particular relating to the dental apparatus.
Both sets of long, pointed teeth, penetrate plank and wood of all kinds, unless extremely hard. The crushing power of the jaws is vertical, not lateral or grinding. Both jaws present, along their dental or alveolar margins, an undulating or curving line, which, in the Nilotic Crocodile, seems more salient, if I may judge from the engravings of St. Hilaire, and a few others. The teeth correspond to this undulation, as does one jaw to the other. The general bearing of this line is several degrees above the horizon, commencing at the muzzle, and running backward to the posterior angle of the mouth. The form and situation of the dental organs, together with the osteological configuration of the jaws, render grinding operations quite impossible. The animals found in the stomachs of Alligators, examples of which will be given, show that their prey is killed by penetrating bayonet-like wounds, and are swallowed without mastication. The crushing and prehensory power of the jaws and teeth, is as remarkable as it is unquestionable.
To classify the crocodilian family by its dental organization, is altogether erroneous, so long as the shape, situation, arrangement and number of the teeth are not as yet ascertained. Scarcely any two authors agree in so simple a matter as the number of the teeth. Goldsmith says there are 27 in the upper and 15 in the lower jaw, and the authors already quoted, all give different aggregates.
As this animal has no lips, its teeth, especially in the upper jaw, are naked and salient, even when the mouth is shut, contributing much to its hideous physiognomy, and have probably prejudiced naturalists against its character.
Herodotus, Pliny, Aristotle, and many more modern savans, including certain French academicians, assert that the upper jaw moves independently of the head, though both are known to constitute a continuous mass of bone, without any flexible articulation. I have for hours forced the jaws asunder by levers, elevating the upper jaw, and with it the head. The cranium, and the superior maxillary bone, constitute a con. tinuous pyramidal mass of osseous matter, the base of which is the skull, and the
the muzzle. Here a digression becomes necessary, the propriety of which can hardly be called in question, by any one who may do me the honor to read the same with attention. My crocodilian researches have led me to attribute most of the errors (so servilely copied for twenty-two centuries), to Herodotus, whom Cicero so justly calls the Father of History. From what this author has said concerning the ears of the Crocodile, I infer that he never saw one of these animals. His account is very brief, and
may be found in Euterpe, a name which his second book received in a manner so flattering to himself, and so honorable to the discrimination of the Greeks, who, having heard his nine books read at the Olympic games, named them by acclamation after the nine Muses. In the huge folios of Natural History, produced by the French expe. dition into Egypt, there is an elaborate history of the Crocodile, and which might be entitled, A DEFENCE OF The Errors of HERODOTUS; by Geoffroy St. Hilaire, naturalist to the expedition. It is doubtful whether any of the savans of the expedition saw or examined a Crocodile in Egypt. Certain it is that they have added nothing original to its natural history. St. Hilaire appears to have picked up all his information at the fisheries, from people more likely to deceive him than otherwise.
This able physiologist, lately numbered with the mighty dead, may have excelled his predecessors in certain branches of natural history, especially that portion so peculiarly his own, relating to Monstrosity, or the deviations of nature in the animal kingdom, which he has reduced, in a great degree, to order, regularity and harmony. With all his reverence for Herodotus, he sometimes differs from the old Greek, but never when the latter is wrong, and nearly always when he is right. Herodotus says, the Crocodile is truly amphibious; no, says St. Hilaire, not “ un véritable amphibie.” And how does the French Herodotus prove this? Answer, ye who import facts, philosophy, and logic from Paris--the modern Athens! The Crocodile is not a true amphibium. Hence, says he, it is in a false position among animals! It is unsuited by nature either to live in the air or in the water! Hence, it is never satisfied, and is always restless; and this, says the great naturalist of the expedition, is the reason why the Crocodile is always ferocious, always cruel! And this is the argument of one of the principal savans, whose works, otherwise very learned and valuable, have on the title pages the follow. ing words : “ Publié par les ordres de sa Majesté L'Empereur Napoleon, Le Grand."
Herodotus satisfied St. Hilaire, and St. Hilaire has satisfied the later naturalists, who continue to copy the blunders of the former and the latter, occasionally adding some on their own account, as will be seen hereafter. These errors have increased, are increasing, and ought to be checked, or rather, consigned to oblivion.
Herodotus declared the Crocodile could move the upper jaw only. Pliny copied the statement. “The Crocodile only moveth the upper jaw or mandible, wherewith he biteth hard. (Holland's Pliny b. VIII.) St. Hilaire is much embarrassed with this statement, which he does not fully admit, and which he tries to explain in a very unsatisfactory way.
Herodotus denied a tongue to the Crocodile. Pliny says, 66 the river Nilus nourishes the Crocodile, a venomous creature, as dangerous upon water as upon land. This beast alone, of all that keep the land, hath no use of a tongue--unum hoc animal terrestre linguæ usu caret. (Lib. VIII). Scarcely dissenting from Herodotus, St. Hilaire says that the Crocodile seems to have no tongue. The Professor of Natural History to the Royal College of Henry IV, H. Milne Edwards, in his new work Eléméns de la Zoologie, says that the tongue is indistinct-" peu distincte !"
The tongue at its tip, including its outer third with its frenum is pale, thin, flabhy, wrinkled and adherent underneath, along its whole width, appearing to have but little motion. It is truly tongue-tied. The middle third becomes massive, and begins to assume a roseate hue. The base or inner third is enormously developed, being thick, wide and strong, filling the mouth, and being moveable upward and backward. When