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CHAP. 37. (25.)—THE CROCODILE.

The Nile produces the crocodile also,1 a destructive quadruped, and equally dangerous on land and in the water. This is the only land animal that does not enjoy the use of its tongue,2 and the only one that has the upper jaw moveable, and is capable of biting with it; and terrible is its bite, for the rows of its teeth fit into each other, like those of a comb.3 Its length mostly exceeds eighteen cubits. It produces eggs about the size of those of the goose, and, by a kind of instinctive foresight, always deposits them beyond the limit to which the river Nile rises, when at its greatest height.4 There is no animal that arrives at so great a bulk as this, from so small a beginning.5 It is armed also with claws, and has a skin, that is proof against all blows. It passes the day on land, and the night in the water, in both instances on account of the warmth.6 When it has glutted itself with fish, it goes to sleep on the banks of the river, a portion of the food always remaining in its mouth; upon which, a little bird, which in Egypt is known as the trochilus, and, in Italy, as the king of the birds, for the purpose of obtaining food, invites the crocodile to open its jaws; then, hopping to and fro, it first cleans the outside of its mouth, next the teeth, and then the inside, while the animal opens its jaws as wide as possible, in consequence of the pleasure which it experiences from the titillation.7 It is at these moments that the ichneumon, seeing it fast asleep in consequence of the agreeable sensation thus produced, darts down its throat like an arrow, and eats away its intestines.8

1 Many of the ancients have described the crocodile; of these, the most important, for the correctness of the description, are Herodotus, B. ii. c. 68; Aristotle, Hist. Anim. B. ii. c. 10, et alibi; and Diodorus Siculus, B. i.—B.

2 The tongue of the crocodile is flat, and, as afterwards stated, B. xi. c. 65, adheres to the lower jaw, so as to be incapable of motion.—B.

3 This account was first given by Herodotus, ubi supra; and, from the form of the head and the neighbouring parts, depicts what would naturally occur to the observer; but it is not correct. The actual state of the parts, and their connection with each other, as Cuvier informs us, were first satisfactorily explained by Geoffroi Saint Hilaire.—B.

4 Ælian, Anim. Nat. B. v. c. 52, observes, that this is the case with the tortoise, and similar animals.—B.

5 Cuvier says, that when it leaves the egg, the young animal is only six inches long, and that it ultimately attains a size of from thirty to forty feet.—B.

6 Herodotus says, that it remains all night in the water, as being warmer than the external air. So also Aristotle, Hist. Anim. B. ii. c. 10.—B.

7 The water of the Nile abounds with small leeches, which attach to the throat of the crocodile, and, as it has no means of removing them, it allows a little bird to enter its mouth for this purpose; this is described by Aristotle, Hist. Anim. B. ix. c. 6, and by Julian, Anim. Nat. B. iii. c, 2.—B.

8 Although this account is sanctioned by all the ancient naturalists, it is called in question by Cuvier; Ajasson, vol. vi. p. 441; Lemaire, vol. iii. p. 421.—B.

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    • W. W. How, J. Wells, A Commentary on Herodotus, 2.68
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