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[Footnote: Abstract of a paper "On the Nature and Functions of the 'Yellow Cells' of Radiolarians and Coelenterates," read to the Royal Society of Edinburgh, on January 14, 1882, and published by permission of the Council.--Nature.]
It is now nearly forty years since the presence of chlorophyl in certain species of planarian worms was recognized by Schultze. Later observers concluded that the green color of certain infusorians, of the common fresh water hydra and of the fresh water sponge, was due to the same pigment, but little more attention was paid to the subject until 1870, when Ray Lankester applied the spectroscope to its investigation. He thus considerably extended the list of chlorophyl containing animals, and his results are summarized in Sachs' Botany (Eng. ed.). His list includes, besides the animals already mentioned, two species of Radiolarians, the common green sea anemone (Anthea cereus, var. Smaragdina), the remarkable Gephyrean, Bonellia viridis, a Polychæte worm, Chætoperus, and even a Crustacean, Idotea viridis.
The main interest of the question of course lies in its bearing on the long-disputed relations between plants and animals; for, since neither locomotion nor irritability is peculiar to animals; since many insectivorous plants habitually digest solid food; since cellulose, that most characteristic of vegetable products, is practically identical with the tunicin of Ascidians, it becomes of the greatest interest to know whether the chlorophyl of animals preserves its ordinary vegetable function of effecting or aiding the decomposition of carbonic anhydride and the synthetic production of starch. For although it had long been known that Euglena evolved oxygen in sunlight, the animal nature of such an organism was merely thereby rendered more doubtful than ever. In 1878 I had the good fortune to find at Roscoff the material for the solution of the problem in the grass-green planarian, Convoluta schultzii, of which multitudes are to be found in certain localities on the coast, lying on the sand, covered only by an inch or two of water, and apparently basking in the sun. It was only necessary to expose a quantity of these animals to direct sunlight to observe the rapid evolution of bubbles of gas, which, when collected and analyzed, yielded from 45 to 55 per cent. of oxygen. Both chemical and histological observations showed the abundant presence of starch in the green cells, and thus these planarians, and presumably also Hydra spongilla, etc., were proved to be truly "vegetating animals."
Being at Naples early in the spring of 1879, I exposed to sunlight some of the reputedly chlorophyl containing animals to be obtained there, namely, Bonellia viridis and Idotea viridis, while Krukenberg had meanwhile been making the same experiment with Bonellia and Anthea at Trieste. Our results were totally negative, but so far as Bonellia was concerned this was not to be wondered at since the later spectroscopic investigations of Sorby and Schenk had fully confirmed the opinion of Lacaze-Duthiers as to the complete distinctness of its pigment from chlorophyl. Krukenberg, too, who follows these investigators in terming it bonellein, has recently figured the spectra of Anthea-green, and this also seems to differ considerably from chlorophyl, while I am strongly of the opinion that the pigment of the green crustaceans is, if possible, even more distinct, having not improbably a merely protective resemblance.
It is now necessary to pass to the discussion of a widely distinct subject--the long outstanding enigma of the nature and functions of the "yellow cells" of Radiolarians. These bodies were first so called by Huxley in his description of Thallassicolla, and are small bodies of distinctly cellular nature, with a cell wall, well defined nucleus, and protoplasmic contents saturated by a yellow pigment. They multiply rapidly by transverse division, and are present in almost all Radiolarians, but in very variable number. Johnnes Muller at first supposed them to be concerned with reproduction, but afterward gave up this view. In his famous monograph of the Radiolarians, Haeckel suggests that they are probably secreting cells or digestive glands in the simplest form, and compares them to the liver-cells of Amphioxus, and the "liver-cells" described by Vogt in Velella and Porpita. Later he made the remarkable discovery that starch was present in notable quantity in these yellow cells, and considered this as confirming his view that these cells were in some way related to the function of nutrition. In 1871 a very remarkable contribution to our knowledge of the Radiolarians was published by Cienkowski, who strongly expressed the opinion that these yellow cells were parasitic algæ, pointing out that our only evidence of their Radiolarian nature was furnished by their constant occurrence in most members of the group. He showed that they were capable not only of surviving the death of the Radiolarian, but even of multipying, and of passing through an encysted and an amoeboid state, and urged their mode of development and the great variability of their numbers within the same species as further evidence of his view.
The next important work was that of Richard Hertwig, who inclined to think that these cells sometimes developed from the protoplasm of the Radiolarian, and failing to verify the observations of Cienkowski, maintained the opinion of Haeckel that the yellow cells "fur den Stoffwechsel der Radiolarien von Bedeutung sind." In a later publication (1879) he, however, hesitates to decide as to the nature of the yellow cells, but suggests two considerations as favoring the view of their parasitic nature--first, that yellow cells are to be found in Radiolarians which possess only a single nucleus, and secondly, that they are absent in a good many species altogether.
A later investigator, Dr. Brandt, of Berlin, although failing to confirm Haeckel's observations as to the presence of starch, has completely corroborated the main discovery of Cienkowski, since he finds the yellow cells to survive for no less than two months after the death of the Radiolarian, and even to continue to live in the gelatinous investment from which the protoplasm had long departed in the form of swarm-spores. He sum up the evidence strongly in favor of their parasitic nature.