[Three Hundred Animals Contents]
LIKE the oyster, the Muscle inhabits a bivalve shell, to which he adheres, as others of that species, by a strong cartilaginous tye. His name means in Latin a small rat, from the shape of the fish. The shells of several muscles are beautiful; some of them, chiefly those of the chama family, decorated with rays of red or yellow, diverging from the point where the shells unite and spreading themselves to the edges. The muscle possesses the property of loco-motion, which he performs with that member called the tongue of the muscle; by this tongue he gets hold of the rock, and by moving it along, is enabled to change his situation; he has also the property of emitting some kind of threads, which fixing at the sides of the shell upon the ground, answer the purpose of cables to keep the body of the fish steady. The chama, which is a sort of muscle, was used by the ancients to engrave various figures upon, from which circumstance, those small bass-reliefs, so valued now, have obtained among the Italians and collectors the name of Cameos.
A SHELL of the class of the Volutæ, is called so for its uncommon beauty. The inhabitant of it is a slug, or snail, as most of those of the univalve kind. If Nature has taken a delight in painting the wings of birds, the skins of quadrupeds and the scales of fishes, she seems not to have been less pleased in pencilling the shells of these inhabitants of the deep. The variety, brightness, and versatility of the colouring, has been for a long space of time the deserving object of man’s admiration, and in several places we cannot help being astonished at the richness which a cabinet of well-selected shells presents to the eye.
The manner of preparing the shells and of bringing out their beautiful colours is simple, and yet requires great attention. The crust must be rubbed gently with spirit of salt, and soon washed with clear water; this process will cleanse the shell and display the wonderful brilliancy which was hid under the first coat.