History : Jun-Jul 2015
1CETACEANS: THE MAMMALS THAT LIVE IN THE SEA Aristotle was not only the first to consider cetaceans as mammals but he also differentiated between fish with bones and those with cartilage. At the beginning of The History of Animals, Aristotle says that “some animals are viviparous, others oviparous, and still others larviparous,” terminology still in use today. He explained that viviparous animals include “cetaceans, such ORONOZ/ALBUM 2 THE SURPRISING WAY IN WHICH OCTOPUSES REPRODUCE Aristotle noted a peculiar feature of cephalopod reproduction that was not rediscovered until more than 2,000 years later, in the 19th century. After describing how octopuses copulate, “they join at the mouth, intertwining tentacle by tentacle,” Aristotle added, “there are those who say the male has a kind of virile mem- ber on one of his tentacles . . . and that this member is a kind of tendon stuck right into the tentacle, up to half its length, with which he penetrates the fe- male’s nose.” And he was right: This member does exist: it is the hectocotylus, a modi- fied tentacle that cepha- lopods like the octopus use to transfer sper- matophores, or sperm packets, into the female. KAMARES CERAMIC POT WITH AN OCTOPUS, CRETE, CIRCA 2000-1700 B.C . 5 THE CHICKEN’S EGG, OR HOW A LIVING BEING IS FORMED We are indebted to Aristotle for the first study of embryology, which gives a detailed and systematic description of the development of a chicken embryo . After careful observation he wrote: “With the common hen, after three days and three nights there is the first indication of the embryo: the yolk comes into being, rising toward the sharp end, where . . . the egg gets hatched; and the heart appears, like CERAMIC ASKOS (WINE VESSEL) IN THE SHAPE OF A ROOSTER, FROM APULIA a speck of blood, in the white of the egg. This point beats and moves as though endowed with life.” He explained that “the life-element of the chick is in the white of the egg, and the nutriment comes through the navel-string out of the yolk.” FASCINATED BY NATURE: THE FIRST BIOLOGIST Beyond politics and philosophy, one of Aristotle’s many interests was zoology, as can be seen in his lengthy treatise The History of Animals. In this context “history” means “research,” and that is what this extraordinary work contains. It is the first known research into animal anatomy, reproduction, and behavior and was compiled by Aristotle based on reading, observation, and reports from fishermen and hunters. Some key aspects of his pioneering research are set out on these pages. AKG/ALBUMDEA/ALBUM HERCULES HUNTING BIRDS INASCENEONAN ATTIC VASE.