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History of Animals   


octopuses in the late summer or beginning of autumn, it is seldom that
a large-sized octopus is visible, whereas a little before this time of
year the creature is at its largest. After the eggs are laid, they say
that both the male and the female grow so old and feeble that they are
preyed upon by little fish, and with ease dragged from their holes;
and that this could not have been done previously; they say also
that this is not the case with the small and young octopus, but that
the young creature is much stronger than the grown-up one. Neither
does the sepia live into a second year. The octopus is the only
mollusc that ventures on to dry land; it walks by preference on
rough ground; it is firm all over when you squeeze it, excepting in
the neck. So much for the mollusca.
It is also said that they make a thin rough shell about them
like a hard sheath, and that this is made larger and larger as the
animal grows larger, and that it comes out of the sheath as though out
of a den or dwelling place.
The nautilus (or argonaut) is a poulpe or octopus, but one
peculiar both in its nature and its habits. It rises up from deep
water and swims on the surface; it rises with its shell down-turned in
order that it may rise the more easily and swim with it empty, but
after reaching the surface it shifts the position of the shell. In
between its feelers it has a certain amount of web-growth,
resembling the substance between the toes of web-footed birds; only
that with these latter the substance is thick, while with the nautilus
it is thin and like a spider's web. It uses this structure, when a
breeze is blowing, for a sail, and lets down some of its feelers
alongside as rudder-oars. If it be frightened it fills its shell
with water and sinks. With regard to the mode of generation and the
growth of the shell knowledge from observation is not yet
satisfactory; the shell, however, does not appear to be there from the
beginning, but to grow in their cases as in that of other
shell-fish; neither is it ascertained for certain whether the animal
can live when stripped of the shell.
38

Of all insects, one may also say of all living creatures, the most
industrious are the ant, the bee, the hornet, the wasp, and in point
of fact all creatures akin to these; of spiders some are more
skilful and more resourceful than others. The way in which ants work
is open to ordinary observation; how they all march one after the
other when they are engaged in putting away and storing up their food;
all this may be seen, for they carry on their work even during
bright moonlight nights.
39

Of spiders and phalangia there are many species. Of the venomous
phalangia there are two; one that resembles the so-called wolf-spider,
small, speckled, and tapering to a point; it moves with leaps, from
which habit it is nicknamed 'the flea': the other kind is large, black
in colour, with long front legs; it is heavy in its movements, walks
slowly, is not very strong, and never leaps. (Of all the other species
wherewith poison-vendors supply themselves, some give a weak bite, and
others never bite at all. There is another kind, comprising the
so-called wolf-spiders.) Of these spiders the small one weaves no web,
and the large weaves a rude and poorly built one on the ground or on
dry stone walls. It always builds its web over hollow places inside of
which it keeps a watch on the end-threads, until some creature gets
into the web and begins to struggle, when out the spider pounces.
The speckled kind makes a little shabby web under trees.
There is a third species of this animal, preeminently clever and
artistic. It first weaves a thread stretching to all the exterior ends
of the future web; then from the centre, which it hits upon with great
accuracy, it stretches the warp; on the warp it puts what
corresponds to the woof, and then weaves the whole together. It sleeps

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