This section is from "Scientific American Supplement Volumes 275, 286, 288, 299, 303, 312, 315, 324, 344 and 358". Also available from Amazon: Scientific American Reference Book.
But what is the physiological relationship of the plants and animal thus so curiously and intimately associated? Every one knows that all the colorless cells of a plant share the starch formed by the green cells; and it seems impossible to doubt that the endoderm cell or the Radiolarian, which actually incloses the vegetable cell, must similarly profit by its labors. In other words, when the vegetable cell dissolves its own starch, some must needs pass out by osmose into the surrounding animal cell; nor must it be forgotten that the latter possesses abundance of amylolytic ferment. Then, too, the Philozoon is subservient in another way to the nutritive function of the animal, for after its short life it dies and is digested; the yellow bodies supposed by various observers to be developing cells being nothing but dead algæ in progress of solution and disappearance.
Again, the animal cell is constantly producing carbonic acid and nitrogenous waste, but these are the first necessities of life to our alga, which removes them, so performing an intracellular renal function, and of course reaping an abundant reward, as its rapid rate of multiplication shows.
Nor do the services of the Philozoon end here; for during sunlight it is constantly evolving nascent oxygen directly into the surrounding animal protoplasm, and thus we have actually foreign chlorophyl performing the respiratory function of native hæmoglobin! And the resemblance becomes closer when we bear in mind that hæmoglobin sometimes lies as a stationary deposit in certain tissues, like the tongue muscles of certain mollusks, or the nerve cord of Aphrodite and Nemerteans.
The importance of this respiratory function is best seen by comparing as specimens the common red and white Gorgonia, which are usually considered as being mere varieties of the same species, G. verrucosa. The red variety is absolutely free from Philozoon, which could not exist in such deeply colored light, while the white variety, which I am inclined to think is usually the larger and better grown of the two, is perfectly crammed. Just as with the anemones above referred to, the red variety evolves no oxygen in sunlight, while the white yields an abundance, and we have thus two widely contrasted physiological varieties, as I may call them, without the least morphological difference. The white specimen, placed in spirit, yields a strong solution of chlorophyl; the red, again, yields a red solution, which was at once recognized as being tetronerythrin by my friend M. Merejkowsky, who was at the same time investigating the distribution and properties of that remarkable pigment, so widely distributed in the animal kingdom. This substance, which was first discovered in the red spots which decorate the heads of certain birds, has recently been shown by Krukenberg to be one of the most important of the coloring matter of sponges, while Merejkowsky now finds it in fishes and in almost all classes of invertebrate animals. It has been strongly suspected to be an oxygen-carrying pigment, an idea to which the present observation seems to me to yield considerable support. It is moreover readily bleached by light, another analogy to chlorophyl, as we know from Pringsheim's researches.
When one exposes an aquarium full of Anthea to sunlight, the creatures, hitherto almost motionless, begin to wave their arms, as if pleasantly stimulated by the oxygen which is being developed in their tissues. Specimens which I kept exposed to direct sunshine for days together in a shallow vessel placed on a white slab, soon acquired a dark, unhealthy hue, as if being oxygenated too rapidly, although I protected them from any undue rise of temperature by keeping up a flow of cold water. So, too, I found that Radiolarians were killed by a day's exposure to sunshine, even in cool water, and it is to the need for escaping this too rapid oxidation that I ascribe their remarkable habit of leaving the surface and sinking into deep water early in the day.
It is easy, too, to obtain direct proof of this absorption of a great part of the evolved oxygen by the animal tissues through which it has to pass. The gas evolved by a green alga (Ulva) in sunlight may contain as much as 70 per cent. of oxygen, that evolved by brown algae (Haliseris) 45 per cent., that from diatoms about 42 per cent.; that, however, obtained from the animals containing Philozoon yielded a very much lower percentage of oxygen, e.g. Velella 24 per cent., white Gorgonia 24 per cent., Ceriactis 21 per cent., while Anthea, which contains most algæ, gave from 32 to 38 per cent. This difference is naturally to be accounted for by the avidity for oxygen of the animal cells.
Thus, then, for a vegetable cell no more ideal existence can be imagined than that within the body of an animal cell of sufficient active vitality to manure it with carbonic acid and nitrogen waste, yet of sufficient transparency to allow the free entrance of the necessary light. And conversely, for an animal cell there can be no more ideal existence than to contain a vegetable cell, constantly removing its waste products, supplying it with oxygen and starch, and being digestible after death. For our present knowledge of the power of intracellular digestion possessed by the endoderm cells of the lower invertebrates removes all difficulties both as to the mode of entrance of the algæ, and its fate when dead. In short, we have here the relation of the animal and the vegetable world reduced to the simplest and closest conceivable form.
It must be by this time sufficiently obvious that this remarkable association of plant and animal is by no means to be termed a case of parasitism. If so, the animals so infested would be weakened, whereas their exceptional success in the struggle for existence is evident. Anthea cereus, which contains most algæ, probably far outnumbers all the other species of sea-anemones put together, and the Radiolarians which contain yellow cells are far more abundant than those which are destitute of them. So, too, the young gonophores of Velella, which bud off from the parent colony and start in life with a provision of Philozoon (far better than a yolk-sac) survive a fortnight or more in a small bottle--far longer than the other small pelagic animals. Such instances, which might easily be multiplied, show that the association is beneficial to the animals concerned.
The nearest analogue to this remarkable partnership is to be found in the vegetable kingdom, where, as the researches of Schwendener, Bornet, and Stahl have shown, we have certain algæ and fungi associating themselves into the colonies we are accustomed to call lichens, so that we may not unfairly call our agricultural Radiolarians and anemones animal lichens. And if there be any parasitism in the matter, it is by no means of the alga upon the animal, but of the animal, like the fungus, upon the alga. Such an association is far more complex than that of the fungus and alga in the lichen, and indeed stands unique in physiology as the highest development, not of parasitism, but of the reciprocity between the animal and vegetable kingdoms. Thus, then, the list of supposed chlorophyl containing animals with which we started, breaks up into three categories; first those which do not contain chlorophyl at all, but green pigments of unknown function (Bonelia<, Idotea, etc.); secondly, those vegetating by their own intrinsic chlorophyl (Convoluta, Hydra, Spongilia); thirdly, those vegetating by proxy, if one may so speak, rearing copious algae in their own tissues, and profiting in every way by the vital activities of these.