[Three Hundred Animals Contents]
THIS word is derived from the Greek Zoos, an animal, and Phyton, a plant, and signifies a body of organized matter, partaking of the nature of both an animal and a vegetable being.
To this order belong all those creatures which may be propagated by cutting the body asunder, and if the body be divided in two or more parts every one supplies out of it what is wanted to form a complete animal. Of these animal-plants we must distinguish two different species, and make this general division; those which like the polypus, can move from place to place, and those that, like the coral and madrepore, hold to the ground by an appearently vegetable root. The first division seems united to the crustaceous families by the curious property of reproducing a limb instead of one that has been lost, as do the lobsters, crabbs, &c. The others are next to those plants which are furnished with tendrils, in order to crawl or climb around any body that can serve them as a support: such is the vine, the peas, and several others seemingly endowed with the faculty of feeling, smelling, or seeing the circumstanding objects. Struck with this resemblance between the zoophytes and plants, a modern naturalist has conceived and published this ingenious hypothesis, that vegetables might be, like the coral, a curious aggregate of animalcules, working in common for the completion of a plant; and that the seeds are swarms, which, issuing from the flower, as the bees do from the hive, emigrate to another spot, and begin there the works which they are destined to perform; but it is easily seen that this imaginary fabric is void of probability, and, indeed, we do not think that Bernardin de St. Pierre was ever serious when he made his system public.