The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms, with observations on their habits


Darwin in his Introduction states the following: "The share which worms have taken in the formation of the layer of vegetable mould, which covers the whole surface of the land in every moderately humid country, is the subject of the present volume... I was led to keep in my study during many months worms in pots filled with earth, I became interested in them, and wished to learn how far they acted consciously, and how much mental power they displayed. I was the more desirous to learn something on this head, as ...
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The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms (Barnes & Noble Digital Library): with Observations on Their Habits

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Darwin in his Introduction states the following: "The share which worms have taken in the formation of the layer of vegetable mould, which covers the whole surface of the land in every moderately humid country, is the subject of the present volume... I was led to keep in my study during many months worms in pots filled with earth, I became interested in them, and wished to learn how far they acted consciously, and how much mental power they displayed. I was the more desirous to learn something on this head, as few observations of this kind have been made, as far as I know, on animals so low in the scale of organization and so poorly provided with sense-organs, as are earth-worms.

Charles Darwin, born on February 12, 1809, was a famous English biologist and the father of evolution, grew up in England and as a young man he earned a reputation among scientists as an amateur naturalist, particularly in the identification of beetles. He started to study medicine but changed his career to study theology at Cambridge. In 1831, at age 22, Darwin was invited to travel as an unpaid naturalist on the voyage of the Beagle, an expedition that lasted for years. Darwin was observant, well read and prepared for such an opportunity. During these five years, he studied the animals, plants, land formations and fossils of many countries and islands, and kept a journal and specimens for future studies. One of the places that Darwin visited during his trip was the Galapagos archipelago. He stayed there for five weeks and studied the flora and fauna of the islands. His first task upon return was to review his journal and organize his collections. By the time he had finished, at the age of 29, he had developed much of his theory on the evolution of species. But Darwin was not ready to publish his theory until he had gathered enough supporting evidence. He spent 20 years on this task, and in 1859 he finally published On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection. When this work was first published, the edition sold out immediately, but the newspapers and scientific journals attacked Darwin's theory.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781103415489
  • Publisher: BiblioBazaar
  • Publication date: 2/11/2009
  • Pages: 340
  • Product dimensions: 8.00 (w) x 5.00 (h) x 0.71 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction 1
Chapter I. Habits of Worms 8
Nature of the sites inhabited
Can live long under water
Wander about at night
Often lie close to the mouths of their burrows, and are thus destroyed in large numbers by birds
Do not possess eyes, but can distinguish between light and darkness
Retreat rapidly when brightly illuminated, not by a reflex action
Power of attention
Sensitive to heat and cold
Completely deaf
Sensitive to vibrations and to touch
Feeble power of smell
Mental qualities
Nature of food
Leaves before being swallowed, moistened with a fluid of the nature of the panereatie secretion
Extra-stomachal digestion
Calciferous glands, structure of
Calcareous concretions formed in the anterior pair of glands
The calcaieous matier primarily an excretion, but secondarily serves to nentralise the acids generated during the digestive process
Chapter II. Habits of Worms 55
Manner in which worms seize objects
Their power of suction
The instinct of plugging up the mouths of their burrows
Stones piled over the burrows
The advantages thus gained
Intelligence shown by worms in their manner of plugging up their burrows
Various kinds of leaves and other objects thus used
Triangles of paper
Summary of reasons for believing that worms exhibit some intelligence
Means by which they excavate their burrows, by pushing away the earth and swallowing it
Earth also swallowed for the nutritious matter which it contains
Depth to which worms burrow, and the construction of their burrows
Burrows lined with castings, and in the upper part with leaves
The lowest part paved with little stones or seeds
Manner in which the castings are ejected
The collapse of old burrows
Distribution of worms
Tower-like castings in Bengal
Gigantic castings on the Nilgiri Mountains
Castings ejected in all countries
Chapter III. The Amount of Fine Earth Brought Up by Worms to the Surface 129
Rate at which various objects strewed on the surface of grass-fields are covered up by the castings of worms
The burial of a paved path
The slow subsidence of great stones left on the surface
The number of worms which live within a given space
The weight of earth ejected from a burrow, and from all the burrows within a given space
The thickness of the layer of mould which the castings on a given space would form within a given time if uniformly spread out
The slow rate at which mould can increase to a great thickness
Chapter IV. The Part Which Worms Have Played in the Burial of Ancient Buildings 176
The accumulation of rubbish on the sites of great cities independent of the action of worms
The burial of a Roman villa at Abinger
The floors and walls penetrated by worms
Subsidence of a modern pavement
The buried pavement at Beaulieu Abbey
Roman villas at Chedworth and Brading
The remains of the Roman town at Silchester
The nature of the debris by which the remains are covered
The penetration of the tesselated floors and walls by worms
Subsidence of the floors
Thickness of the mould
The old Roman city of Wroxeter
Thickness of the mould
Depth of the foundations of some of the buildings
Chapter V. The Action of Worms in the Denudation of the Land 230
Evidence of the amount of denudation which the sand Las undergone
Subaerial denudation
The deposition of dust
Vegetable mould, its dark colour and fine texture largely due to the action of worms
The disintegration of rocks by the humus-acids
Similar acids apparently generated within the bodies of worms
The action of these acids facilitated by the continued movement of the particles of earth
A thick bed of mould checks the disintegration of the underlying soil and rocks
Particles of stone worn or triturated in the gizzards of worms
Swallowed stones serve as millstones
The levigated state of the castings
Fragments of brick in the castings over ancient buildings well rounded. The triturating power of worms not quite insignificant under a geological point of view
Chapter VI. The Denudation of the Land 259
Denudation aided by recently ejected castings flowing down inclined grass-covered surfaces
The amount of earth which annually flows downwards
The effect of tropical rain on worm castings
The finest particles of earth washed completely away from castings
The disintegration of dried castings into pellets, and their rolling down inclined surfaces
The formation of little ledges on hill-sides, in part due to the accumulation of disintegrated castings
Castings blown to leeward over level land
An attempt to estimate the amount thus blown
The degradation of ancient encampments and tumuli
The preservation of the crowns and furrows on land anciently ploughed
The formation and amount of mould over the Chalk formation
Chapter VII. Conclusion 305
Summary of the part which worms have played in the history of the world
Their aid in the disintegration of rocks
In the denudation of the land
In the preservation of ancient remains
In the preparation of the soil for the growth of plants
Mental powers of worms
Index 315
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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2003

    Book is not complete edition

    I haven't gotten too far into this edition of the book yet, but I've already found that this edition excludes any figures that were found in previous editions. I don't know why they left them out, but it's pretty frustrating.

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    Posted October 6, 2010

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