66 - of Pine-trees, consisting of two needles arising from a common base ... ... 100 Petioles of a Clematis, somewhat pointed at the apex, and blunt at the base 76 ... 24 - of the Ash, the thick basal end often drawn in to serve as food 48.5 ... 51.5 - of Robinia, extremely thin, especially towards the apex, so as to be ill-fitted for plugging up the burrows 44 ... 56 Triangles of paper, of the two sizes 62 15 23 - of the broad ones alone 59 25 16 - of the narrow ones alone 65 14 21

If we consider these several cases, we can hardly escape from the conclusion that worms show some degree of intelligence in their manner of plugging up their burrows. Each particular object is seized in too uniform a manner, and from causes which we can generally understand, for the result to be attributed to mere chance. That every object has not been drawn in by its pointed end, may be accounted for by labour having been saved through some being inserted by their broader or thicker ends. No doubt worms are led by instinct to plug up their burrows; and it might have been expected that they would have been led by instinct how best to act in each particular case, independently of intelligence. We see how difficult it is to judge whether intelligence comes into play, for even plants might sometimes be thought to be thus directed; for instance when displaced leaves re-direct their upper surfaces towards the light by extremely complicated movements and by the shortest course. With animals, actions appearing due to intelligence may be performed through inherited habit without any intelligence, although aboriginally thus acquired. Or the habit may have been acquired through the preservation and inheritance of beneficial variations of some other habit; and in this case the new habit will have been acquired independently of intelligence throughout the whole course of its development. There is no a priori improbability in worms having acquired special instincts through either of these two latter means. Nevertheless it is incredible that instincts should have been developed in reference to objects, such as the leaves of petioles of foreign plants, wholly unknown to the progenitors of the worms which act in the described manner. Nor are their actions so unvarying or inevitable as are most true instincts.

As worms are not guided by special instincts in each particular case, though possessing a general instinct to plug up their burrows, and as chance is excluded, the next most probable conclusion seems to be that they try in many different ways to draw in objects, and at last succeed in some one way. But it is surprising that an animal so low in the scale as a worm should have the capacity for acting in this manner, as many higher animals have no such capacity. For instance, ants may be seen vainly trying to drag an object transversely to their course, which could be easily drawn longitudinally; though after a time they generally act in a wiser manner, M. Fabre states {33} that a Sphex--an insect belonging to the same highly-endowed order with ants--stocks its nest with paralysed grass-hoppers, which are invariably dragged into the burrow by their antennae. When these were cut off close to the head, the Sphex seized the palpi; but when these were likewise cut off, the attempt to drag its prey into the burrow was given up in despair. The Sphex had not intelligence enough to seize one of the six legs or the ovipositor of the grasshopper, which, as M. Fabre remarks, would have served equally well. So again, if the paralysed prey with an egg attached to it be taken out of the cell, the Sphex after entering and finding the cell empty, nevertheless closes it up in the usual elaborate manner. Bees will try to escape and go on buzzing for hours on a window, one half of which has been left open. Even a pike continued during three months to dash and bruise itself against the glass sides of an aquarium, in the vain attempt to seize minnows on the opposite side. {34} A cobra-snake was seen by Mr. Layard {35} to act much more wisely than either the pike or the Sphex; it had swallowed a toad lying within a hole, and could not withdraw its head; the toad was disgorged, and began to crawl away; it was again swallowed and again disgorged; and now the snake had learnt by experience, for it seized the toad by one of its legs and drew it out of the hole. The instincts of even the higher animals are often followed in a senseless or purposeless manner: the weaver-bird will perseveringly wind threads through the bars of its cage, as if building a nest: a squirrel will pat nuts on a wooden floor, as if he had just buried them in the ground: a beaver will cut up logs of wood and drag them about, though there is no water to dam up; and so in many other cases.

Mr. Romanes, who has specially studied the minds of animals, believes that we can safely infer intelligence, only when we see an individual profiting by its own experience.

The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms Page 21

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

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