About the animals that don’t have spiracles from which to purge what they eat or digest, but instead do so from the mouth with which they feed.

Translated by Paola Castañeda ’22

Pliny wrote a chapter in his Natural History[1] on the animals that don’t have another way of purging besides their mouth, which they use to feed and nourish themselves. He says that this is a particular animal that digs its head into blood and gorges itself until it bursts; he says that such animals are bred by oxen and dogs. Because of these traits I believe these are ticks, which I briefly mentioned in chapter III above; but from what I have seen there is another animal with the same property. They are red leeches that are small and thin, but if someone drinks them in water they stick to the throat and become as thick as a finger. Some are even in the habit of using them to bleed themselves, and they put them on their arms or legs wherever they please; there they become big and thick and long as a finger, not having been as long as a fingernail and as thick as a thread at first. This is something that is seen every day and can be proven. I have witnessed this in a nobleman friend of mine; he was not feeling well, and since he was accustomed to drawing blood with leeches, in my presence he put two of them on his arms, and in less than an hour and a half they were as thick and as long as a finger, filled with blood; he removed those and attached others until he drew as much blood as he saw fit; afterward he dressed the puncture wounds with linen bandages, as one does when bloodletting. Moreover, having done this, that same day, as he was doing business in the villa, a bandage came undone, and he didn’t feel it until the sleeve of his shirt and even the doublet were covered in a lot of blood, leaving him lightheaded. I saw this bleeding by these leeches (of which here there are also ones that are not red), but this animal was mentioned here because, like the tick, it also does not have an exit for purging what it has ingested. Many times I thought this nobleman mad, bleeding himself the way he did with leeches; but long after I found it mentioned in Pliny’s writings.[2] He says that these leeches are as beneficial as cupping and that they are medicinal, relieving the body of blood; it is however inconvenient, because every year the same medicine or bloodletting must be done again. He also says that sometimes they leave their heads in the puncture and the wound becomes incurable, killing many, as was the case with Messalinno, patrician and consulate, who had them placed on his knees. And therefore, it is feared that they not be red, and so this author says it is good to cut them with scissors, etc. According to some writers there is another animal that also doesn’t have a spiracle in its inferior or convenient part for purging, and this is the crocodile. Let us continue to the other animals.

[1] Pliny, Book XI, Chapter 34. [GFO]

[2] Pliny, Book XXXII, Chapter 6. [GFO]