A DANGEROUS DIET





The Scolia's egg is in no way exceptional in shape. It is white,

cylindrical, straight and about four millimetres long by one millimetre

thick. (About .156 x .039 inch.--Translator's Note.) It is fixed, by its

fore-end, upon the median line of the victim's abdomen, well to the rear of

the legs, near the beginning of the brown patch formed by the mass of food

under the skin.



I watch the hatching. The grub, still wearing upon its hinder parts the

delicate pellicle which it has just shed, is fixed to the spot to which the

egg itself adhered by its cephalic extremity. A striking spectacle, that of

the feeble creature, only this moment hatched, boring, for its first

mouthful, into the paunch of its enormous prey, which lies stretched upon

its back. The nascent tooth takes a day over the difficult task. Next

morning the skin has yielded; and I find the new-born larva with its head

plunged into a small, round, bleeding wound.



In size the grub is the same as the egg, whose dimensions I have just

given. Now the Cetonia-larva, to meet the Scolia's requirements, averages

thirty millimetres in length by nine in thickness (1.17 x .35 inch.--

Translator's Note.), whence follows that its bulk is six or seven hundred

times as great as that of the newly-hatched grub of the Scolia. Here

certainly is a quarry which, were it active and capable of wriggling and

biting, would expose the nurseling to terrible attacks. The danger has been

averted by the mother's stiletto; and the fragile grub attacks the

monster's paunch with as little hesitation as though it were sucking the

breast.



Day by day the young Scolia's head penetrates farther into the Cetonia's

belly. To pass through the narrow orifice made in the skin, the fore-part

of the body contracts and lengthens out, as though drawn through a die-

plate. The larva thus assumes a rather strange form. Its hinder half, which

is constantly outside the victim's belly, has the shape and fulness usual

in the larvae of the Digger-wasps, whereas the front half, which, once it

has dived under the skin of the exploited victim, does not come out again

until the time arrives for spinning the cocoon, tapers off suddenly into a

snake-like neck. This front part is moulded, so to speak, by the narrow

entrance-hole made in the skin and henceforth retains its slender

formation. As a matter of fact, a similar configuration recurs, in varying

degrees, in the larvae of the Digger-wasps whose ration consists of a bulky

quarry which takes a long time to consume. These include the Languedocian

Sphex, with her Ephippiger, and the Hairy Ammophila, with her Grey Worm.

There is none of this sudden constriction, dividing the creature into two

disparate halves, when the victuals consist of numerous and comparatively

small items. The larva then retains its usual shape, being obliged to pass,

at brief intervals, from one joint in its larder to the next.



>From the first bite of the mandibles, until the whole head of game is

consumed, the Scolia-larva is never seen to withdraw its head and its long

neck from inside the creature which it is devouring. I suspect the reason

of this persistence in attacking a single point; I even seem to perceive

the need for a special art in the manner of eating. The Cetonia-larva is a

square meal in itself, one large dish, which has to retain a suitable

freshness until the end. The young Scolia, therefore, must attack with

discretion, at the unvarying point chosen by the mother on the ventral

surface, for the entrance-hole is at the exact point where the egg was

fixed. As the nurseling's neck lengthens and dives deeper, the victim's

entrails are nibbled gradually and methodically: first, the least

essential; next, those whose removal leaves yet a remnant of life; lastly,

those whose loss inevitably entails death, followed very soon by

putrefaction.



At the first bites we see the victim's blood oozing through the wound. It

is a highly-elaborated fluid, easy of digestion, and forms a sort of milk-

diet for the new-born grub. The little ogre's teat is the bleeding paunch

of the Cetonia-larva. The latter will not die of the wound, at least not

for some time. The next thing to be tackled is the fatty substance which

wraps the internal organs in its delicate folds. This again is a loss which

the Cetonia can suffer without dying then and there. Now comes the turn of

the muscular layer which lines the skin; now, that of the essential organs;

now, that of the nerve-centres and the trachean network, whereupon the last

gleam of light is extinguished and the Cetonia reduced to a mere bag, empty

but intact, save for the entrance-hole made in the middle of the belly.

>From now onwards, these remains may rot if they will: the Scolia, by its

methodical fashion of consuming its victuals, has succeeded in keeping them

fresh to the very last; and now you may see it, replete, shining with

health, withdraw its long neck from the bag of skin and prepare to weave

the cocoon in which its development will be completed.



It is possible that I may not be quite accurate as to the precise order in

which the organs are consumed, for it is not easy to perceive what happens

inside the exploited larva's body. The ruling feature in this scientific

method of eating, which proceeds from the parts less to the parts more

necessary to preserve a remnant of life, is none the less obvious. If

direct observation did not already to some degree confirm it, a mere

examination of the half-eaten larva would do so in the most positive

fashion.



The Cetonia-larva is at first a plump grub. Drained by the Scolia's tooth,

it gradually becomes limp and wrinkled. In a few days' time it resembles a

shrivelled bit of bacon-fat and then a bag whose two sides have fallen in.

Yet this bit of bacon and this bag have the same characteristic look of

fresh meat as had the grub before it was bitten into. Despite the

persistent nibbling of the Scolia, life continues, holding at bay the

inroads of putrefaction until the mandibles have given their last bites.

Does not this remnant of tenacious vitality in itself show that the organs

of primary importance are the last to be attacked? Does it not prove that

there is a progressive dismemberment passing from the less essential to the

indispensable?



Would you like to see what becomes of a Cetonia-larva when the organism is

wounded in its vital centres at the very beginning? The experiment is an

easy one; and I made a point of trying it. A sewing-needle, first softened

and flattened into a blade, then retempered and sharpened, gives me a most

delicate scalpel. With this instrument I make a fine incision, through

which I remove the mass of nerves whose remarkable structure we shall soon

have occasion to study. The thing is done: the wound, which does not look

serious, has left the creature a corpse, a real corpse. I lay my victim on

a bed of moist earth, in a jar with a glass lid; in fact, I establish it in

the same conditions as those of the larvae on which the Scoliae feed. By

the next day, without changing shape, it has turned a repulsive brown;

presently it dissolves into noisome putrescence. On the same bed of earth,

under the same glass cover, in the same moist, warm atmosphere, the larvae

three-quarters eaten by the Scoliae retain, on the contrary, the appearance

of healthy flesh.



If a single stroke of my dagger, fashioned from the point of a needle,

results in immediate death and early putrefaction; if the repeated bites of

the Scolia gut the creature's body and reduce it almost to a skin without

completely killing it, the striking contrast between these two results must

be due to the relative importance of the organs injured. I destroy the

nerve-centres and inevitably kill my larva, which is putrid by the

following day; the Scolia attacks the reserves of fat, the blood, the

muscles and does not kill its victim, which will provide it with wholesome

food until the end. But it is clear that, if the Scolia were to set to work

as I did, there would be nothing left, after the first few bites, but an

actual corpse, discharging fluids which would be fatal to it within twenty-

four hours. The mother, it is true, in order to assure the immobility of

her prey, has injected the poison of her sting into the nerve-centres. Her

operation cannot be compared with mine in any respect. She practises the

method of the skilful physiologist who induces anaesthesia; I go to work

like the butcher who chops, cuts and disembowels. The sting leaves the

nerve-centres intact. Deprived of sensibility by the poison, they have lost

the power of provoking muscular contractions; but who can say that, numbed

as they are, they no longer serve to maintain a faint vitality? The flame

is extinguished, but there is still a glowing speck upon the wick. I, a

rough blunderer, do more than blow out the lamp: I throw away the wick and

all is over. The grub would do the same if it bit straight into the mass of

nerves.



Everything confirms the fact: the Scolia and the other Hunting Wasps whose

provisions consist of bulky heads of game are gifted with a special art of

eating, an exquisitely delicate art which saves a remnant of life in the

prey devoured, until it is all consumed. When the prey is a small one, this

precaution is superfluous. Consider, for instance, the Bembex-grubs in the

midst of their heap of Flies. The prey seized upon is broached on the back,

the belly, the head, the thorax, indifferently. The larva munches a given

spot, which it leaves to munch a second, passing to a third and a fourth,

at the bidding of its changing whims. It seems to taste and select, by

repeated trials, the mouthfuls most to its liking. Thus bitton at several

points, covered with wounds, the Fly is soon a shapeless mass which would

putrefy very quickly if the meagre dish were not devoured at a single meal.

Allow the Scolia-grub the same unlicensed gluttony: it would perish beside

its corpulent victim, which should have kept fresh for a fortnight, but

which almost from the beginning would be no more than a filthy putrescence.



This art of careful eating does not seem easy to practise: at least, the

larva, if ever so little diverted from its usual courses, is no longer able

to apply its talent as a capable trencherman. This will be proved by

experiment. I must begin by observing that, when I spoke of my larva which

turned putrid within twenty-four hours, I adopted an extreme case for the

sake of greater clearness. The Scolia, taking its first bite, does not and

cannot go to such lengths. Nevertheless it behooves us to enquire whether,

in the consumption of the victuals, the initial point of attack is a matter

of indifference and whether the rummaging through the entrails of the

victim entails a determined order, without which success is uncertain or

even impossible. To these delicate questions no one, I think, can reply.

Where science is silent, perhaps the grub will speak. We will try.



I move from its position a Scolia-grub which has attained a quarter or a

third of its full growth. The long neck plunged into the victim's belly is

rather difficult to extract, because of the need of molesting the creature

as little as possible. I succeed, by means of a little patience and

repeated strokes with the tip of a paint-brush. I now turn the Cetonia-

larva over, back uppermost, at the bottom of the little hollow made by

pressing my finger in the layer of mould. Lastly, I place the Scolia on its

victim's back. Here is my grub under the same conditions as just now, with

this difference, that the back and not the belly of its victim is presented

to its mandibles.



I watch it for a whole afternoon. It writhes about; it moves its little

head now in this direction, now in that, frequently laying it on the

Cetonia, but without fixing it anywhere. The day draws to a close; and

still it has accomplished nothing. There are restless movements, nothing

more. Hunger, I tell myself, will eventually induce it to bite. I am wrong.

Next morning I find it more anxious than the day before and still groping

about, without resolving to fix its mandibles anywhere. I leave it alone

for half a day longer without obtaining any result. Yet twenty-four hours

of abstinence must have awakened a good appetite, above all in a creature

which, if left undisturbed, would not have ceased eating.



Excessive hunger cannot induce it to nibble at an unlawful spot. Is this

due to feebleness of the teeth? By no means: the Cetonia's skin is no

tougher on the back than on the belly; moreover, the grub is capable of

perforating the skin when it leaves the egg; a fortiori, it must be more

capable of doing so now that it has attained a sturdy growth. Thus we see

no lack of ability, but an obstinate refusal to nibble at a point which

ought to be respected. Who knows? On this side perhaps the grub's dorsal

vessel would be wounded, its heart, an organ indispensable to life. The

fact remains that my attempts to make the grub tackle its victim from the

back have failed. Does this mean that it entertains the least suspicion of

the danger which it might incur were it to produce putrefaction by

awkwardly carving its victuals from the back? It would be absurd to give

such an idea a moment's consideration. Its refusal is dictated by a

preordained decree which it is bound to obey.



My Scolia-grubs would die of starvation if I left them on their victim's

back. I therefore restore matters as they were, with the Cetonia-larva

belly uppermost and the young Scolia on top. I might utilise the subjects

of my previous experiments; but, as I have to take precautions against the

disturbance which may have been caused by the test already undergone, I

prefer to operate on new patients, a luxury in which the richness of my

menagerie allows me to indulge. I move the Scolia from its position,

extract its head from the entrails of the Cetonia-larva and leave it to its

own resources on its victim's belly. Betraying every symptom of uneasiness,

the grub gropes, hesitates, casts about and does not insert its mandibles

anywhere, though it is now the ventral surface which it is exploring. It

would not display greater hesitation if placed on the back of the larva. I

repeat, who knows? On this side it might perhaps injure the nervous plexus,

which is even more essential than the dorsal vessel. The inexperienced grub

must not drive in its mandibles at random; its future is jeopardized if it

gives a single ill-judged bite. If it gnaws at the spot where I myself

operated with my needle wrought into a scalpel, its victuals will very soon

turn putrid. Once more, then, we witness an absolute refusal to perforate

the skin of the victim elsewhere than at the very point where the egg was

fixed.



The mother selects this point, which is undoubtedly that most favourable to

the future prosperity of the larva, though I am not able clearly to discern

the reasons for her choice; she fixes the egg to it; and the place where

the opening is to be made is henceforth determined. It is here that the

grub must bite: only here, never elsewhere. Its invincible refusal to

tackle the Cetonia in any other part, even though it should die of

starvation, shews us how rigorous is the rule of conduct with which its

instinct is inspired.



As it gropes about, the grub laid on the victim's ventral surface sooner or

later rediscovers the gaping wound from which I have removed it. If this

takes too long for my patience, I can myself guide its head to the place

with the point of a paint-brush. The grub then recognizes the hole of its

own making, slips its neck into it and little by little dives into the

Cetonia's belly, so that the original state of affairs appears to be

exactly restored. And yet its successful rearing is henceforth highly

problematical. It is possible that the larva will prosper, complete its

development and spin its cocoon; it is also possible--and the case is not

unusual--that the Cetonia-larva will soon turn brown and putrid. We then

see the Scolia itself turn brown, distended as it is with putrescent

foodstuffs, and then cease all movement, without attempting to withdraw

from the sanies. It dies on the spot, poisoned by its excessively high

game.



What can be the meaning of this sudden corruption of the victuals, followed

by the death of the Scolia, when everything appeared to have returned to

its normal condition? I see only one explanation. Disturbed in its

activities and diverted from its usual courses by my interference, the

grub, when replaced on the wound from which I extracted it, was unable to

rediscover the lode at which it was working a few minutes earlier; it

thrust its way at random into the victim's entrails; and a few untimely

bites extinguished the last sparks of vitality. Its confusion rendered it

clumsy; and the mistake cost it its life. It dies poisoned by the rich food

which, if consumed according to the rules, should have made it grow plump

and lusty.



I was anxious to observe the deadly effects of a disturbed meal in another

fashion. This time the victim itself shall disorder the grub's activities.

The Cetonia-larva, as served up to the young Scolia by its mother, is

profoundly paralysed. Its inertia is complete and so striking that it

constitutes one of the leading features of this narrative. But we will not

anticipate. For the moment, the thing is to substitute for this inert larva

a similar larva, but one not paralysed, one very much alive. To ensure that

it shall not double up and crush the grub, I confine myself to reducing it

to helplessness, leaving it otherwise just as I extracted it from its

burrow. I must also be careful of its legs and mandibles, the least touch

of which would rip open the nurseling. With a few turns of the finest wire

I fix it to a little slab of cork, with its belly in the air. Next, to

provide the grub with a ready-made hole, knowing that it will refuse to

make one for itself, I contrive a slight incision in the skin, at the point

where the Scolia lays her egg. I now place the grub upon the larva, with

its head touching the bleeding wound, and lay the whole on a bed of mould

in a transparent beaker protected by a pane of glass.



Unable to move, to wriggle, to scratch with its legs or snap with its

mandibles, the Cetonia-larva, a new Prometheus bound, offers its

defenceless flanks to the little Vulture destined to devour its entrails.

Without too much hesitation, the young Scolia settles down to the wound

made by my scalpel, which to the grub represents the wound whence I have

just removed it. It thrusts its neck into the belly of its prey; and for a

couple of days all seems to go well. Then, lo and behold, the Cetonia turns

putrid and the Scolia dies, poisoned by the ptomaines of the decomposing

game! As before, I see it turn brown and die on the spot, still half inside

the toxic corpse.



The fatal issue of my experiment is easily explained. The Cetonia-larva is

alive in every sense. True, I have, by means of bonds, suppressed its

outward movements, in order to provide the nurseling with a quiet meal,

devoid of danger; but it was not in my power to subdue its internal

movements, the quivering of the viscera and muscles irritated by its forced

immobility and by the Scolia's bites. The victim is in possession of its

full power of sensation; and it expresses the pain experienced as best it

may, by contractions. Embarrassed by these tremors, these twitches of

suffering flesh, incommoded at every mouthful, the grub chews away at

random and kills the larva almost as soon as it has started on it. In a

victim paralysed by the regulation sting, the conditions would be very

different. There are no external movements, nor any internal movements

either, when the mandibles bite, because the victim is insensible. The

grub, undisturbed in any way, is then able, with an unfaltering tooth, to

pursue its scientific method of eating.



These marvellous results interested me too much not to inspire me with

fresh devices when I pursued my investigations. Earlier enquiries had

taught me that the larvae of the Digger-wasps are fairly indifferent to the

nature of the game, though the mother always supplies them with the same

diet. I had succeeded in rearing them on a great variety of prey, without

paying regard to their normal fare. I shall return to this subject later,

when I hope to demonstrate its great philosophical significance. Let us

profit by these data and try to discover what happens when we give the

Scolia food which is not properly its own.



I select from my heap of garden-mould, that inexhaustible mine, two larvae

of the Rhinoceros Beetle, Oryctes nasicornis, about one-third full-grown,

so that their size may not be out of proportion to the Scolia's. It is in

fact almost identical with the size of the Cetonia. I paralyse one of them

by giving an injection of ammonia in the nerve-centres. I make a fine

incision in its belly and I place the Scolia on the opening. The dish

pleases my charge; and it would be strange indeed if this were not so,

considering that another Scolia-grub, the larva of the Garden Scolia, feeds

on the Oryctes. The dish suits it, for before long it has burrowed half-way

into the succulent paunch. This time all goes well. Will the rearing be

successful? Not a bit of it! On the third day, the Oryctes decomposes and

the Scolia dies. Which shall we hold responsible for the failure, myself or

the grub? Myself who, perhaps too unskilfully, administered the injection

of ammonia, or the grub which, a novice at dissecting a prey differing from

its own, did not know how to practise its craft upon a changed victim and

began to bite before the proper time?



In my uncertainty, I try again. This time I shall not interfere, so that my

clumsiness cannot be to blame. As I described when speaking of the Cetonia-

larva, the Oryctes-larva now lies bound, quite alive, on a strip of cork.

As usual, I make a small opening in the belly, to entice the grub by means

of a bleeding wound and facilitate its access. I obtain the same negative

result. In a little while, the Oryctes is a noisome mass on which the

nurseling lies poisoned. The failure was foreseen: to the difficulties

presented by a prey unknown to my charge was added the commotion caused by

the wriggling of an unparalysed animal.



We will try once more, this time with a victim paralysed not by me, an

unskilled operator, but by an adept whose ability ranks so high that it is

beyond discussion. Chance favours me to perfection: yesterday, in a warm

sheltered corner, at the foot of a sandy bank, I discovered three cells of

the Languedocian Sphex, each with its Ephippiger and the recently laid egg.

This is the game I want, a corpulent prey, of a size suited to the Scolia

and, what is more, in splendid condition, artistically paralysed according

to rule by a master among masters.



As usual, I install my three Ephippigers in a glass jar, on a bed of mould;

I remove the egg of the Sphex and on each victim, after slightly incising

the skin of the belly, I place a young Scolia-grub. For three or four days

my charges feed upon this game, so novel to them, without any sign of

repugnance or hesitation. By the fluctuations of the digestive canal I

perceive that the work of nutrition is proceeding as it should; things are

happening just as if the dish were a Cetonia-larva. The change of diet,

complete though it is, has in no way affected the appetite of the Scolia-

grubs. But this prosperous condition does not last long. About the fourth

day, a little sooner in one case, a little later in another, the three

Ephippigers become putrid and the Scoliae die at the same time.



This result is eloquent. Had I left the egg of the Sphex to hatch, the

larva coming out of it would have fed upon the Ephippiger; and for the

hundredth time I should have witnessed an incomprehensible spectacle, that

of an animal which, devoured piecemeal for nearly a fortnight, grows thin

and empty, shrivels up and yet retains to the very end the freshness

peculiar to living flesh. Substitute for this Sphex-larva a Scolia-larva of

almost the same size; let the dish be the same though the guest is

different; and healthy live flesh is promptly replaced by pestilent rotten

flesh. That which under the mandibles of the Sphex would for a long while

have remained wholesome food promptly becomes a poisonous liquescence under

the mandibles of the Scolia.



It is impossible to explain the preservation of the victuals until finally

consumed by supposing that the venom injected by the Wasp when she delivers

her paralysing stings possesses antiseptic properties. The three

Ephippigers were operated on by the Sphex. Able to keep fresh under the

mandibles of the Sphex-larvae, why did they promptly go bad under the

mandibles of the Scolia-larvae? Any idea of an antiseptic must needs be

rejected: a liquid preservative which would act in the first case could not

fail to act in the second, as its virtues would not depend on the teeth of

the consumer.



Those of you who are versed in the knowledge attaching to this problem,

investigate, I beg you, search, sift, see if you can discover the reason

why the victuals keep fresh when consumed by a Sphex, whereas they promptly

become putrid when consumed by a Scolia. For me, I see only one reason; and

I very much doubt whether any one can suggest another.



Both larvae practise a special art of eating, which is determined by the

nature of the game. The Sphex, when sitting down to an Ephippiger, the food

that has fallen to its lot, knows thoroughly how to consume it and how to

preserve, to the very end, the glimmer of life which keeps it fresh; but,

if it has to browse upon a Cetonia-grub, whose different structure would

confuse its talents as a dissector, it would soon have nothing before it

but a heap of putrescence. The Scolia, in its turn, is familiar with the

method of eating the Cetonia-grub, its invariable portion; but it does not

understand the art of eating the Ephippiger, though the dish is to its

taste. Unable to dissect this unknown species of game, its mandibles slash

away at random, killing the creature outright as soon as they take their

first bites of the deeper tissues of the victim. That is the whole secret.



One more word, on which I shall enlarge in another chapter. I observe that

the Scoliae to which I give Ephippigers paralysed by the Sphex keep in

excellent condition, despite the change of diet, so long as the provisions

retain their freshness. They languish when the game goes high; and they die

when putridity supervenes. Their death, therefore, is due not to an

unaccustomed diet, but to poisoning by one or other of those terrible

toxins which are engendered by animal corruption and which chemistry calls

by the name of ptomaines. Therefore, notwithstanding the fatal outcome of

my three attempts, I remain persuaded that the unfamiliar method of rearing

would have been perfectly successful had the Ephippigers not gone bad, that

is, if the Scoliae had known how to eat them according to the rules.



What a delicate and dangerous thing is the art of eating in these

carnivorous larvae supplied with a single victim, which they have to spend

a fortnight in consuming, on the express condition of not killing it until

the very end! Could our physiological science, of which, with good reason,



we are so proud, describe, without blundering, the method to be followed in

the successive mouthfuls? How has a miserable grub learnt what our

knowledge cannot tell us? By habit, the Darwinians will reply, who see in

instinct an acquired habit.



Before deciding this serious matter, I will ask you to reflect that the

first Wasp, of whatever kind, that thought of feeding her progeny on a

Cetonia-grub or on any other large piece of game demanding long

preservation could necessarily have left no descendants unless the art of

consuming food without causing putrescence had been practised, with all its

scrupulous caution, from the first generation onwards. Having as yet learnt

nothing by habit or by atavistic transmission, since it was making a first

beginning, the nurseling would bite into its provender at random. It would

be starving, it would have no respect for its prey. It would carve its

joint at random; and we have just seen the fatal consequence of an ill-

directed bite. It would perish--I have just proved this in the most

positive manner--it would perish, poisoned by its victim, already dead and

putrid.



To prosper, it would have, although a novice, to know what was permitted

and what forbidden in ransacking the creature's entrails; nor would it be

enough for the larva to be approximately in possession of this difficult

secret: it would be indispensable that it should possess the secret

completely, for a single bite, if delivered before the right moment, would

inevitably involve its own demise. The Scoliae of my experiments are not

novices, far from it: they are the descendants of carvers that have

practised their art since Scoliae first came into the world; nevertheless

they all perish from the decomposition of the rations supplied, when I try

to feed them on Ephippigers paralysed by the Sphex. Very expert in the

method of attacking the Cetonia, they do not know how to set about the

business of discreetly consuming a species of game new to them. All that

escapes them is a few details, for the trade of an ogre fed on live flesh

is familiar to them in its general features; and these unheeded details are

enough to turn their food into poison. What, then, happened in the

beginning, when the larva bit for the first time into a luscious victim?

The inexperienced creature perished; of that there is not a shadow of

doubt, unless we admit an absurdity and imagine the larva of antiquity

feeding upon those terrible ptomaines which so swiftly kill its descendants

to-day.



Nothing will ever make me admit and no unprejudiced mind can admit that

what was once food has become a horrible poison. What the larva of

antiquity ate was live flesh and not putrescence. Nor can it be admitted

that the chances of fortune can have led at the first trial to success in a

system of nourishment so full of pit-falls: fortuitous results are

preposterous amid so many complications. Either the feeding is strictly

methodical at the beginning, in conformity with the organic exigencies of

the prey devoured, and the Wasp established her race; or else it was

hesitating, without determined rules, and the Wasp left no successor. In

the first case we behold innate instinct; in the second acquired habit.



A strange acquisition, truly! An acquisition presumed to be made by an

impossible creature; an acquisition supposed to develop in no less

impossible successors! Though the snow-ball, slowly rolling, at last

becomes an enormous sphere, it is still necessary that the starting-point

shall not have been NIL. The big ball implies the little ball, as small as

you please. Now, in harking back to the origin of these acquired habits, if

I interrogate the possibilities I obtain zero as the only answer. If the

animal does not know its trade thoroughly, if it has to acquire something,

all the more if it has to acquire everything, it perishes: that is

inevitable; without the little snow-ball the big snow-ball cannot be

rolled. If it has nothing to acquire, if it knows all that it needs to

know, it flourishes and leaves descendants behind it. But then it possesses

innate instinct, the instinct which learns nothing and forgets nothing, the

instinct which is steadfast throughout time.



The building up of theories has never appealed to me: I suspect them one

and all. To argue nebulously upon dubious premises likes me no better. I

observe, I experiment and I let the facts speak for themselves. We have

just heard these facts. Let each now decide for himself whether instinct is

an innate faculty or an acquired habit.





A Clever Little Brown Ant A DIG AT THE EVOLUTIONISTS facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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