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tract of land; but, contrary to the nature of every other forest tree, they require a soil which is continually overflowed. The shores of Terra Firma are therefore covered with them in many parts, and they even extend far inland. Shallow and rapid rivers also are often concealed from the eye by their thickly-interwoven branches, some of which spread almost horizontally, while others rise to the height of eighteen or twenty feet, and so closely are they entwined, and so firm a footing is made by their interlacing boughs, that were it possible to force a way between them, a traveller might safely step from branch to branch across the stream. It is curious to watch the progress of a mangrove forest, the citadel of innumerable monkeys. No sooner does a tree appear above the ground, than knotty and distorted branches rapidly spring forth, and from each knot arises a multitude of others, which form an impenetrable thicket. Nor is it possible, long to discern the shoots belonging to the principal branches, for those of the fifth and sixth production are equal in magnitude to those of the first, each of which are generally an inch and a half, or two inches in diameter, and so closely are they often entwined, that the only method of severing them is by means of some edged tool. The bark is tough and thick, and the leaves of a pale green; but the wood is solid, and so heavy that it sinks in water, and when used for building ships is extremely durable.
Armadilloes belong to the southern regions of America, to Brazil, Paraguay, and Guiana. D’Azara mentions eight species of this extraordinary family;
he tells us, that most of these dig burrows in the earth, and that they excavate these in order to make war on the ants.
Some of the species walk abroad only in the night, and look fearfully around them, if observed. Others quit their retreats equally in the day, and these are said not to be so fleet and agile as their nocturnal brethren; some dwell in forests; others prefer the open plain. Each clan exhibits some peculiar characteristic, but there is no real break in the whole circle; they are distinguished by the scaly cuirass which enwraps them, from every other creature.
Armadilloes were once supposed to feed entirely on vegetable diet. They are, however, decidedly insectivorous, and even, occasionally, carnivorous. The direction of their burrows evinces, as we have just remarked, that they destroy the ants, and these industrious insects quickly disappear, wherever an Armadillo fixes his abode. The restricted limits of the genus (which belongs exclusively to South America) are remarkable, more especially when we consider, that from the facility with which they endure removal to our latitudes, there is every reason to conclude that they would be easily reconciled to countries very different from their own. Yet such is not the case. Wherever placed there they contentedly reside. The Armadillo of the mountain, never intrudes upon his neighbour of the plain.
The different species, too, seem confined to certain parts of America. The Twelve-banded (Dasypus tatouy), inhabits the vicinity of Buenos Ayres;
the Hairy (D. villosus), extends from thirty-six degrees of south latitude, to Patagonia; the Giant Armadillo (D. giganteus), seldom quits the forests of northern Paraguay. And, as one animal is consigned to the hill, another to the valley, a third to marshy places, a fourth to sterile regions, so the nature of the Armadillo is to burrow in sand-hills, like the rabbit. Much time is required to dig him out, and, therefore, the Indians carefully examine the mouth of the hole which is supposed to contain him, and then thrust down a stick. If a number of musquitoes immediately come forth, they know that it contains an Armadillo; but if there are no musquitoes, the hole is empty.
When this is ascertained, the Indians introduce a long and slender wand into the opening, observe the direction in which it
and remove the sand. They then push the stick still further, throw out more sand, and thus proceed till they come up with the inhabitant, which has, meanwhile, been exerting all its strength to make a new passage in the sand, and is often found in an exhausted state. Three-quarters of a day is frequently employed in digging out one Armadillo, and half-adozen pits are sometimes opened, before the inmate can be dislodged. Yet, however exhausted, he never forgets to defend his liberty. Those who attack his citadel, must take care how they come in contact with his sharp claws, as with them he can inflict a severe wound, in self-defence. But, when unmolested, he is harmless, and like the hare in Gay's Fables,
His care is never to offend,
It is worthy of remark, that only the back and shoulders of the Armadillo are guarded by a shelly covering. Why is this? Because the harmless and retiring creature has few enemies to dread, and rather requires a defence from stones, and the roots of trees, when excavating his subterraneous dwelling, than for purposes of warfare. His cuirass, therefore, is a partial one. It is formed partly of irregular pieces, which cover the back and shoulders, and partly of regular hands lying between them, each of which are so beautifully composed of bone and muscle, and so curiously wrought together, that the animal can either roll into a ball, or run at full length, or compress himself into the smallest space consistent with his size. Unlike the lobster, which bears about with him a complete suit of armour, or the tortoise, which never ventures from beneath his shelly pent-house, the Armadillo has his back only defended, but when attacked, he rolls himself into a ball, like the pengalen, and is invulnerable. His armour for the back, answers, therefore, a two-fold purpose; it guards him from injury in pursuing his subterraneous labours, and wraps him round when he inclines to roll into a ball. His claws are also admirably adapted for the mode of life to which he is destined; they are large and strong, and he is thus enabled, not only to shovel out both sand and gravel, but even to break off tough roots, and to remove stones of a considerable size.
The Giant Armadillo rarely quits the wooded portions of Paraguay. Amid the thick forests of that region is found the plain of the Volcanitos de
Turbaao, celebrated for its volcanic cones. These cones, from eighteen to twenty in number, are of a darkish clay, with a small crater on each summit, filled with water. They emit, from time to time, a loud dull sound, which is followed, in less than a minute, by the explosion of a quantity of air, and the force with which this air is propelled above the surface of the water, renders it probable that a heavy pressure occurs within the earth.
Five explosions generally succeed one the other in about two minutes, and are uniformly accompanied by a shower of mud.
The Indians say, that these cones have not undergone any change during the memory of man, but that the force and frequency of the explosions vary