* Ulva. l. 407. Clandestine marriage. This kind of sea-weed is buoyed up by bladders of air, which are formed in the duplicatures of its leaves; and forms immense float∣ing fields of vegetation; the young ones, branching out from the larger ones, and borne on similar little air-vessels. It is also found in the warm baths of Patavia; where the leaves are formed into curious cells or labyrinths for the purpose of floating on the water. See ulva labyrinthi-formis Lin. Spec. Plant. The air contained in these cells was found by Dr. Priestley to be sometimes purer than common air, and sometimes less pure; the air-bladders of fish seem to be similar organs, and serve to render them buoyant in the water. In some of these, as in the Cod and Haddock, a red membrane, consisting of a great number of leaves or duplicatures, is sound within the air-bag, which probably secretes this air from the blood of the animal. (Monro. Physiol. of Fish. p. 28.) To determine whether this air, when first separated from the blood of the animal or plant, be dephlogisticated air, is worthy inquiry. The bladder-sena (Colutea), and bladder-nut (Staphylaea), have their seed-vessels distended with air; the Ketmia has the upper joint of the stem immediately under the receptacle of the flower much distended with air; these seem to be analogous to the air-vessel at the broad end of the egg, and may probably become less pure as the seed ripens: some, which I tried, had the purity of the surround∣ing atmosphere. The air at the broad end of the egg is probably an organ serving the purpose-of respiration to the young chick, some of whose vessels are spread upon it like a placenta, or permeate it. Many are of opinion that even the placenta of the human setus, and cotyledons of quadropeds, are respiratory organs rather than nutritious ones.

The air in the hollow stems of grasses, and of some umbelliserous plants, bears analogy to the air in the quills, and in some of the bones of birds; supplying the place of the pith, which shrivels up after it has performed its office of protruding the young stem or feather. Some of these cavities of the bones are said to communicate with the lungs in birds. Phil. Trans.

The air-bladders of fish are nicely adapted to their intended purpose; for though they render them buoyant near the surface without the labour of using their fins, yet, when they rest at greater depths, they are no inconvenience, as the increased pressure of the water condenses the air which they contain into less space. Thus, if a cork or bladder of air was immersed a very great depth in the ocean, it would be so much compressed, as to become specially as heavy as the water, and would remain there. It is probable the unfortunate Mr. Day, who was drowned in a diving-ship of his own construction, milcarried from not attending to this circumstance; it is probable the quantity of air he took down with him, if he descended much lower than he expected, was condensed into so small a space as not to render the ship buoyant when he endeavoured to ascend.

 [ return to text ]