A third experiment of the same kind gave: [page 91]

"Quantity of fibrin digested in four hours by 10 cub. cent. of the liquid:--

"Hydrochloric acid 0.2915 Propionic acid 0.1490 Butyric acid 0.1044 Valerianic acid 0.0520

"Comparing, as before, the three last numbers with the first taken as 100, the digestive power of propionic acid is represented by 16.8; that of butyric acid by 35.8; and that of valerianic by 17.8.

"The mean of these three sets of observations (hydrochloric acid being taken as 100) gives for

"Propionic acid 15.8 Butyric acid 32.0 Valerianic acid 21.4

"7. A further experiment was made to ascertain whether the digestive activity of butyric acid (which was selected as being apparently the most efficacious) was relatively greater at ordinary temperatures than at the temperature of the body. It was found that whereas 10 cub. cent. of a liquid containing the ordinary proportion of hydrochloric acid digested 0.1311 gramme, a similar liquid prepared with butyric acid digested 0.0455 gramme of fibrin.

"Hence, taking the quantities digested with hydrochloric acid at the temperature of the body as 100, we have the digestive power of hydrochloric acid at the temperature of 16o to 18oCent. represented by 44.9; that of butyric acid at the same temperature being 15.6."

We here see that at the lower of these two temperatures, hydrochloric acid with pepsin digests, within the same time, rather less than half the quantity of fibrin compared with what it digests at the higher temperature; and the power of butyric acid is reduced in the same proportion under similar conditions and temperatures. We have also seen that butyric acid, which is much more efficacious than propionic or valerianic acids, digests with pepsin at the higher temperature less than a third of the fibrin which is digested at the same temperature by hydrochloric acid.] [page 92]

I will now give in detail my experiments on the digestive power of the secretion of Drosera, dividing the substances tried into two series, namely those which are digested more or less completely, and those which are not digested. We shall presently see that all these substances are acted on by the gastric juice of the higher animals in the same manner. I beg leave to call attention to the experiments under the head albumen, showing that the secretion loses its power when neutralised by an alkali, and recovers it when an acid is added.

Substances which are completely or partially digested by the Secretion of Drosera.

Albumen.--After having tried various substances, Dr. Burdon Sanderson suggested to me the use of cubes of coagulated albumen or hard-boiled egg. I may premise that five cubes of the same size as those used in the following experiments were placed for the sake of comparison at the same time on wet moss close to the plants of Drosera. The weather was hot, and after four days some of the cubes were discoloured and mouldy, with their angles a little rounded; but they were not surrounded by a zone of transparent fluid as in the case of those undergoing digestion. Other cubes retained their angles and white colour. After eight days all were somewhat reduced in size, discoloured, with their angles much rounded. Nevertheless in four out of the five specimens, the central parts were still white and opaque. So that their state differed widely, as we shall see, from that of the cubes subjected to the action of the secretion.

[Experiment 1.

Rather large cubes of albumen were first tried; the tentacles were well inflected in 24 hrs.; after an [page 93] additional day the angles of the cubes were dissolved and rounded;* but the cubes were too large, so that the leaves were injured, and after seven days one died and the others were dying. Albumen which has been kept for four or five days, and which, it may be presumed, has begun to decay slightly, seems to act more quickly than freshly boiled eggs. As the latter were generally used, I often moistened them with a little saliva, to make the tentacles close more quickly.

Insectivorous Plants Page 47

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Charles Darwin

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