1902 Encyclopedia > Africa > African Reptiles. African Fish. African Insects.

(Part 12)


African Reptiles

Though Africa is not exempt from the scourge of venomous or dangerous reptiles, still it has comparatively fewer than other tropical countries, owing to the dryness of the climate. The reptiles harboured by the desert regions consists chiefly of harmless lizards serpents of a small size, though often venomous. The frog and tortoise tribes are represented in but few species and numbers.

The most important among the reptiles is the crocodile, which inhabits nearly all the large rivers and lakes within the tropics, and is still abundant in the Nile below the first cataract.

The chameleon is common in Africa. Among the venomous species of snakes are the purple naja, the cerastes or horned viper, the ringed naja, and the darting viper.

African Fish

Edible fish are found almost everywhere in great variety and quantity. The fresh waters of Egypt produce the gigantic bishir, the coffres, and numerous species of the pimelodes. Many varieties of fish exist in the great interior lakes; five large species found in the Tanganyika are described by Burton. The greater number of the fish of the Red Sea resemble the saxatiles of the warm seas of Asia. On the west coasts are found the fish belonging to equatorial latitudes, while the shores of the Mediterranean produce those of France and Spain. The seas of the southern extremity possess the species common to the latitudes of the Antarctic, south of the three great capes. The fish of the east coast are the same as those of the Indian Sea.

African Insects

Of the insect tribes Africa also contains many thousand different kinds. The locust has been, from time immemorial, the proverbial scourge of the whole continent; scorpions, scarcely less to be dreaded than noxious serpents, are everywhere abundant; and the zebub, or fly, one of the instruments employed by the Almighty top punish the Egyptians of old, is still the plague of the low and cultivated districts. In the interior of Africa a venomous fly occurs in certain regions of the south and east, which is fatal to nearly all domestic animals. It is called tsetse (Glossina morsitans), and its size is almost that of the common blue fly which settles on meat; but the wings are larger. On the absence of this insect greatly depended the success of recent explorers in that quarter, as, where it appeared, their cattle infallibly fell victims to its bite. There are large tribes which cannot keep either cattle or sheep, because the tsetse abounds in their country. Its bite is not, however, dangerous to man; wild animals likewise are undisturbed by it. The termites or white ants are likewise a scourge to the country where they occur in great numbers. This destructive creature devours everything in the shape of wood, leather, cloth, &c., that falls in its way; and they march together in such swarms, that the devastation they commit is almost incredible.

Of the class of zoophytes, the brilliant polypi of every variety, and madrepores, abound on the coasts of Africa. The shores of the Mediterranean produce the finest coral, and those of the Red Sea bristle with extensive reefs of the same mollusca.

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