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Uriasele patrupede

Text:

The great size of the bones of the Megatheroid animals including the Megatherium, Megalonyx, Scelidotherium, and Mylodon is truly wonderful. The habits of life of these animals were a complete puzzle to naturalists until Proffesor Owen solved the problem with remarkable ingenuity. The teeth indicate, by their simple structure, that these Megatheroid animals lived on vegetable food, and probably on the leaves and small twigs of trees. Their ponderous forms and great strong curved claws seem so little adapted for locomotion that some eminent naturalists have actually believed that, like the sloths, to which they are intimately related, they subsisted by climbing back downwards on trees and feeding on the leaves. It was a bold, not to say preposterous, idea to conceive even antediluvian trees with branches strong enough to bear animals as large as elephants. Professor Owen with far more probability, believes that, insted of climbing on the trees, they pulled the branches down to them and tore up the smaller ones by the roots, and so fed on the leaves.

The colossal breadth and weight of their hinder quarters which can hardly be imagined without having been seen, become on this view, of obvious service instead of being an encumbrance: their apparent clumsiness disappears. With their great tales and their huge heels firmly fixed like a tripod on the ground they could freely exert the full force of their most powerful arms and great claws.

Strongly rooted indeed, most that tree have been , which could have resisted such force!

The Mylodon, moreover, was furnished with a long extensile tongue like that of the giraffe, which by one of those beautiful provisions of nature, thus reaches with the aid of it’s long neck it’s leafy food. I may remark that in Abysinia the elefant according to Bruce, when it cannot reach with it’s proboscis the branches deeply scores with its tusks the trunk of the tree up and down and all around, till it is sufficiently weakend to be broken down.

The beds including the above fossil remains, stand only from fifteen to twenty feet above the level of high water; and hence the elevation of the land has been small (without their has been an intercalated period of subsidence, of which we have no evidence) since the great quadrupeds wandered over the surrounding plains; and the external of the country, must then have been very nearly the same as now.

Traducere

Marimea oaselor animalelor din familia Megateroidelor, incluzand aici Megatherium, Megalonyx, Scleidotherium si Mylodon e cu adevar uimitoare. Obiceiurile acestor animale erau un mister complet pentru naturalisti pana cand profesorul Owen a rezolvat problema cu o ingeniozitate remarcabila. Dintii indicau, prin structura lor simpla ca aceste animale megateroide se hraneau cu vegetale, si probabil cu frunze si mici ramurele. Soliditatea lor si forma curbata a ghearelor parea atat de putin adaptata pentru locomotie, incat unii naturalisti eminenti au crezut ca precum lenesii cu care sunt evident inruditi, se hraneau coborand cu spatele din copaci si hranindu-se cu frunze. A fost o idee indrazneata, ca sa nu zic absurda, sa ne imaginam ca ar fi existat chiar si in vremuri stravechi copaci suficient de puternici incat sa sustina animale la fel de mari ca niste elefanti. Profesorul Owen cu o mare probabilitate considera ca in loc sa se suie in copaci, trageau crengile in jos si rupeau copacii mai mici scotandu-i din radacini.

Greutatea si marimea partii lor dorsale, pe care cu greu ne-o putem inchipui fara sa o fi vazut, primeste o utilitate in loc sa fie o problema, aparenta lor stangacie dispare. Cu cozile imense si tocurile uriase bine fixate in pamant in forma unui tripod puteau folosi forta maxima a bratelor si ghearelor.

Un copac trebuia sa aiba radacini extrem de puternice pentru a resista unei asemenea forte!

Mylodonii aveau o limba extensibila precum cea a girafelor, care cu limba si cu ajutorul gatului prelung ajunge la hrana sa, prin grija minunatei naturi. Conform lui Bruce [probabil un coleg] in Abysinia [fostul nume al Etiopiei] elefantul atunci cand nu ajunge crengile cu trompa, zgarie puternic copacul de jur imprejur si de sus in jos, pana copacul este suficient de slabit pentru a fi pus la pamant.

Locul in care am gasit fosilele este la doar 4-6 metri de nivelul apei, si deci pamantul nu s-a ridicat foarte mult (in afara de cazul in care exista o perioada intermediara de scadere, despre care nu avem dovezi) din perioada in care partrupedepe se plimbau pe campiile imprejmuitaore; iar aspectul tarii trebuie sa fi fost foarte asemanatos cu prezentul.

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