From Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library

 

Aristotle

De generatione animalium

[On the generation of animals]

 

 

Book III, Ch. 11

 

   Having spoken of the generation of all insects, we must now speak of the testacea. Here also the facts of generation are partly like and partly unlike those in the other classes. And this is what might be expected. For compared with animals they resemble plants, compared with plants they resemble animals, so that in a sense they appear to come into being from semen, but in another sense not so, and in one way they are spontaneously generated but in another from their own kind, or some of them in the latter way, others in the former. Because their

 

 

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nature answers to that of plants, therefore few or no kinds of testacea come into being on land, e.g. the snails and any others, few as they are, that resemble them; but in the sea and similar waters there are many of all kinds of forms. But the class of plants has but few and one may say practically no representatives in the sea and such places, all such growing on the land. For plants and testacea are analogous; and in proportion as liquid has more quickening power than solid, water than earth, so much does the nature of testacea differ from that of plants, since the object of testacea is to be in such a relation to water as plants are to earth, as if plants were, so to say, land-oysters, oysters water-plants.

 

   For such a reason also the testacea in the water vary more in form than those on the land. For the nature of liquid is more plastic than that of earth and yet not much less material, and this is especially true of the inhabitants of the sea, for fresh water, though sweet and nutritious, is cold and less material. Wherefore animals having no blood and not of a hot nature are not produced in lakes nor in the fresher among brackish waters, but only exceptionally, but it is in estuaries and at the mouths of rivers that they come into being, as testacea and cephalopoda and crustacea, all these being bloodless and of a cold nature. For they seek at the same time the warmth of the sun and food; now the sea is not only water but much more material than fresh water and hot in its nature; it has a share in all the parts of the universe, water and air and earth, so that it also has a share in all living things which are produced in connexion with each of these elements. Plants may be assigned to land, the aquatic

 

 

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animals to water, the land animals to air, but variations of quantity and distance make a great and wonderful difference. The fourth class must not be sought in these regions, though there certainly ought to be some animal corresponding to the element of fire, for this is counted in as the fourth of the elementary bodies. But the form which fire assumes never appears to be peculiar to it, but it always exists in some other of the elements, for that which is ignited appears to be either air or smoke or earth. Such a kind of animal must be sought in the moon, for this appears to participate in the element removed in the third degree from earth. The discussion of these things however belongs to another subject.

 

   To return to testacea, some of them are formed spontaneously, some emit a sort of generative substance from themselves, but these also often come into being from a spontaneous formation. To understand this we must grasp the different methods of generation in plants; some of these are produced from seed, some from slips, planted out, some by budding off alongside, as the class of onions. In the last way produced mussels, for smaller ones are always growing off alongside the original, but the whelks, the purple-fish, and those which are said to 'spawn'

 

 

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emit masses of a liquid slime as if originated by something of a seminal nature. We must not, however, consider that anything of the sort is real semen, but that these creatures participate in the resemblance to plants in the manner stated above. Hence when once one such creature has been produced, then is produced a number of them. For all these creatures are liable to be even spontaneously generated, and so to be formed still more plentifully in proportion if some are already existing. For it is natural that each should have some superfluous residue attached to it from the original, and from this buds off each of the creatures growing alongside of it. Again, since the nutriment and its residue possess a like power, it is likely that the product of those testacea which 'spawn' should resemble the original formation, and so it is natural that a new animal of the same kind should come into being from this also.

 

   All those which do not bud off or 'spawn' are spontaneously generated. Now all things formed in this way, whether in earth or water, manifestly come into being in connexion with putrefaction and an admixture of rain-water. For as the sweet is separated off into the matter which is forming, the residue of the mixture takes such a form. Nothing comes into being by putrefying, but by concocting; putrefaction and the thing putrefied is only a residue of that which is concocted. For nothing comes into being out of the whole of anything, any more

 

 

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than in the products of art; if it did art would have nothing to do, but as it is in the one case art removes the useless material, in the other Nature does so. Animals and plants come into being in earth and in liquid because there is water in earth, and air in water, and in all air is vital heat so that in a sense all things are full of soul. Therefore living things form quickly whenever this air and vital heat are enclosed in anything. When they are so enclosed, the corporeal liquids being heated, there arises as it were a frothy bubble. Whether what is forming is to be more or less honourable in kind depends on the embracing of the psychical principle; this again depends on the medium in which the generation takes place and the material which is included. Now in the sea the earthy matter is present in large quantities, and consequently the testaceous animals are formed from a concretion of this kind, the earthy matter hardening round them and solidifying in the same manner as bones and horns(for these cannot be melted by fire), and the matter(or body)which contains the life being included within it.

 

   The class of snails is the only class of such creatures that has been seen uniting, but it has never yet been sufficiently observed whether their generation is the result of the union or not.

   It may be asked, if we wish to follow the right line of investigation, what it is in such animals the formation of which corresponds to the material principle. For in the females this is a residual secretion of the animal, potentially such as that from which it came, by imparting motion to which the principle derived from the male perfects the animal. But here what must be said to

 

 

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correspond to this, and whence comes or what is the moving principle which corresponds to the male? We must understand that even in animals which generate it is from the incoming nourishment that the heat in the animal makes the residue, the beginning of the conception, by secretion and concoction. The like is the case also in plants, except that in these(and also in some animals)there is no further need of the male principle, because they have it mingled with the female principle within themselves, whereas the residual secretion in most animals does need it. The nourishment again of some is earth and water, of others the more complicated combinations of these, so that what the heat in animals produces from their nutriment, this does the heat of the warm season in the environment put together and combine by concoction out of the sea-water on the earth. And the portion of the psychical principle which is either included along with it or separated off in the air makes an embryo and puts motion into it. Now in plants which are spontaneously generated the method of formation is uniform; they arise from a part of something, and while some of it is the starting-point of the plant, some is the first nourishment of the young shoots.... Other animals are produced in the form of a scolex, not only those bloodless animals which are not generated from parents but even some sanguinea, as a kind of mullet and some other river fishes and also the eel kind. For all of these, though they have

 

 

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but little blood by nature, are nevertheless sanguinea, and have a heart with blood in it as the origin of the parts; and the so-called 'entrails of earth', in which comes into being the body of the eel, have the nature of a scolex.

 

   Hence one might suppose, in connexion with the origin of men and quadrupeds, that, if ever they were really 'earth-born' as some say, they came into being in one of two ways; that either it was by the formation of a scolex at first or else it was out of eggs. For either they must have had in themselves the nutriment for growth(and such a conception is a scolex)or they must have got it from elsewhere, and that either from the mother or from part of the conception. If then the former is impossible(I mean that nourishment should flow to them from the earth as it does in animals from the mother),then they must have got it from some part of the conception, and such generation we say is from an egg.

   It is plain then that, if there really was any such beginning of the generation of all animals, it is reasonable to suppose to have been one of these two, scolex or egg. But it is less reasonable to suppose that it was from eggs,

 

 

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for we do not see such generation occurring with any animal, but we do see the other both in the sanguinea above mentioned and in the bloodless animals. Such are some of the insects and such are the testacea which we are discussing; for they do not develop out of a part of something(as do animals from eggs),and they grow like a scolex. For the scolex grows towards the upper part and the first principle, since in the lower part is the nourishment for the upper. And this resembles the development of animals from eggs, except that these latter consume the whole egg, whereas in the scolex, when the upper part has grown by taking up into itself part of the substance in the lower part, the lower part is then differentiated out of the rest. The reason is that in later life also the nourishment is absorbed by all animals in the part below the hypozoma.

 

   That the scolex grows in this way is plain in the case of bees and the like, for at first the lower part is large in them and the upper is smaller. The details of growth in the testacea are similar. This is plain in the whorls of the turbinata, for always as the animal grows the whorls become larger towards the front and what is called the head of the creature.

   We have now pretty well described the manner of the development of these and the other spontaneously generated animals. That all the testacea are formed spontaneously is clear from such facts as these. They come into being on the side of boats when the frothy mud putrefies. In many places where previously nothing of

 

 

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the kind existed, the so-called limnostrea, a kind of oyster, have come into being when the spot turned muddy through want of water; thus when a naval armament cast anchor at Rhodes a number of clay vessels were thrown out into the sea, and after some time, when mud had collected round them, oysters used to be found in them. Here is another proof that such animals do not emit any generative substance from themselves; when certain Chians carried some live oysters over from Pyrrha in Lesbos and placed them in narrow straits of the sea where tides clash, they became no more numerous as time passed, but increased greatly in size. The so-called eggs contribute to generation but are only a condition, like fat in the sanguinea, and therefore the oysters are savoury at these periods. A proof that this substance is not really eggs is the fact that such 'eggs' are always found in some testacea, as in pinnae, whelks, and purple-fish; only they are sometimes larger and sometimes smaller; in others as pectens, mussels, and the so-called limnostrea, they are not always present but only in the spring; as the season advances they dwindle and at last disappear altogether; the reason being that the spring is favourable to their being in good condition. In others again, as the ascidians, nothing of the sort is visible.(The details concerning these last, and the places in which they come into being, must be learnt from the Enquiry.)