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Curious Experiments With A Viper

Many natural philosophers, in their eagerness to display the powers of
science, have overlooked one of the first duties of life, humanity;
and, with this view, have tortured and killed many harmless animals,
to exemplify the amazing effects of the air-pump. We, however, will
not stain the pages of this little work by recommending any such
species of cruelty, which in many instances can merely gratify
curiosity; but as our readers might like to read the effect on
animals, we extract from the learned Boyle an account of his
experiment with a viper.

He took a newly-caught viper, and, shutting it up in a small receiver,
extracted the air. At first, upon the air being drawn away, the viper
began to swell; a short time after it gasped and opened its jaws; it
then resumed its former lankness, and began to move up and down within
the receiver, as if to seek for air. After a while, it foamed a
little, leaving the foam sticking to the inside of the glass; soon
after, the body and neck became prodigiously swelled, and a blister
appeared on its back. Within an hour and a half from the time the
receiver was exhausted, the distended viper moved, being yet alive,
though its jaws remained quite stretched; its black tongue reached
beyond the mouth, which had also become black in the inside: in this
situation it continued for three hours; but on the air being
re-admitted, the viper's mouth was presently closed, and soon after
opened again; and these motions continued some time, as if there were
still some remains of life.

It is thus with animals of every kind; even minute microscopical
insects cannot live without air.

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