Page images
PDF
EPUB

may be to some extent due; but there can be little doubt that it is also positively, and not merely relatively, more productive in varied forms of animal life than either of the other sub-regions.

Mammalia.—There seems to be only one genus absolutely peculiar to this sub-region—the very remarkable Condylura, or star-nosed mole, only found from Pennsylvania to Nova Scotia, and as far as about 94° west longitude. It also has opossums (Bidelphys) in common with California, and three out of four species of Scalops, a genus of moles; as well as the skunk (Mephitis), American badger (Taxidea), racoon (Procyon), pouched rat (Geomys), beaver rat (Fiber), jumping mouse (Jacidw), tree porcupine (Erethizon), and other characteristic Nearctic forms.

Birds.—The birds of this sub-region have been carefully studied by American naturalists, and many interesting facts ascertained as to their distribution and migrations. About 120 species of birds are peculiar to the east coast of the United States, but only about 30 of these are residents all the year round in any part of it; the bird population being essentially a migratory one, coming from the north in winter and the south in summer. The largest number of species seems to be congregated in the district of the Alleghany mountains. A considerable proportion of the passerine birds winter in Central America and the West Indian Islands, and go to the Middle States or Canada to breed; so that even the luxuriant Southern States do not possess many birds which may be called permanent residents. Thus, in East Pennsylvania there are only 52, and in the district of Columbia 54 species, found all the year round, out of about 130 which breed in these localities; very much below the number which permanently reside in Great Britain.

This sub-region is well characterised by its almost exclusive possession of Ectopistes, the celebrated passenger pigeon, whose enormous flocks and breeding places have been so often described; and Cupidonia, a remarkable genus of grouse. The only Nearctic parrot, Connrus carolinensis, is found in the Southern States; as well as Crotophaga, a South American genus usually associated with the cuckoos. Helviinthems and Oporornis, genera of wood-warblers, may be considered to be peculiar to this sub-region, since in each case only one of the two species migrates as far as Central America; while two other genera of the same family, Siurus and Setopliaga, as well as the finch genus, Euspiza, do not extend to either of the western sub-regions. Paras, a genus of tits, comes into the district from the north; Otocorys, an alpine lark, and Cotumiculus, an American finch, from the west; and such characteristic Nearctic genera as Antrostomus (the whip-poor-will goatsuckers); Helminthophaga, Bendraca, and Myiodioctes (wood-warblers); Vireo (greenlets); Dolichonyx (rice-bird); Quiscalus (troupial); Meleagris (turkey); and Ortyx (American partridge), are wide-spread and abundant. In Mr. J. A. Allen's elaborate and interesting paper on the birds of eastern North America, he enumerates 32 species which breed only in the more temperate portions of this province, and may therefore be considered to be especially characteristic of it. These belong to the following genera:—Turdus, Galeoscoptes, Harporhynchus, Sialia, Dendrceca, Wilsonia, Pyranga, Vireo, Lanivireo, Lophophanes, Cotumiculus, Ammodromus, Spizella, Euspiza, Hedymeles, Cyanospiza, Pipilo, Cardinalis, Icterus, Corvus, Centurus, Melanerpes, Antrostomus, Coccyzus, Ortyx, and Cupidonia.

Reptiles.—In this class the Eastern States are rich, possessing many peculiar forms not found in other parts of the region. Among snakes it has the genera Farancia and Dimodes belonging to the fresh-water snakes (Homalopsidae); the South American genus Elaps; and 3 genera of rattlesnakes, Cenchris, Crotalophorus, and Crotalus. The following genera of snakes are said to occur in the State of New York :—Coluber, Tropidonotrn, Leptophis, Calamaria, Heterodon, Trigonocephalus, Crotalus, Psammophis, Helicops, Rhinostoma, Pituophis, and Elaps.

Among lizards, Chirotes, forming a peculiar family of Amphisbenians, inhabits Missouri and Mexico; while the remarkable glass-snake, Ophisaurus, belonging to the family Zonuridae, is peculiar to the Southern States; and the South American Sphwrodactylus, one of the gecko family, reaches Florida. Other genera which extend as far north as the State of New York are, Scincus, Tropidolepis, Plestiodon, Lygosoma, Ameiva, and Phrynosoma.

Tortoises, especially the fresh-water kind, are very abundant; and the genera Aromochelys, Chelydra, Terrapene, and Trionyx, are nearly, if not quite, confined to this division of the region.

Amphibia.—Almost all the remarkable forms of Urodela, or tailed batrachians, peculiar to the region are found here only; such as Siren and Pseudobranchus, constituting the family Sirenidse; Menobranclms, allied to the Proteus of Europe; Amphiuma, an eel-like creature with four rudimentary feet, constituting the family Amphiumidae; Notopthalmus, Desmognathus, and Menopoma, belonging to the Salamandridae; together with several other genera of wider range. Of Anura, or tail-less batrachians, there are no peculiar genera, but the Neotropical genus of toads, Engystoma, extends as far as South Carolina.

Fishes.—Owing to its possession of the Mississippi and the great lakes, almost all the peculiar forms of North American fishes are confined to this sub-region. Such are Perca, Pileoma, Huro, Bryttus, and Pomotis (Percidse); the families Aphredoderidse and Percopsidse; several genera of Cyprinodontidee and Cyprinidse; and the family Polydontidae.

Islands of the Alleghany Sub-region.

The Bermudas.—These islands, situated in the Atlantic, about 700 miles from the coast of Carolina, are chiefly interesting for the proof they afford of the power of a great variety of birds to cross so wide an extent of ocean. There are only 6 or 8 species of birds which are permanent residents on the islands, all common North American species; while no less than 140 species have been recorded as visiting them. Most of these are stragglers, many only noticed once; others appear frequently and in great numbers, but very few, perhaps not a dozen, come every year, and can be considered regular migrants. The permanent residents are, a greenlet (Vireo noveboracensis), the catbird (Galeoscoptes carolinensis), the blue bird (Sialia sialis), the cardinal {Cardinalis virginianus), the American crow (Corvus americanus), and the ground dove (Chammpelia passerina). The most regular visitants are a kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon), the woodwagtail (Siurus noveboracensis), the rice-bird (Bolichonyx oryzivoi'us), and a moorhen (Gallinula galeata). Besides the American species, four European birds have been taken at the Bermudas: Scuricola ananthe, Alauda arvensis (perhaps introduced), Crex pratensis,. and Scolopax gallinago.

A common American lizard, Plestiodon longirostris, is the only land reptile found on the islands.

IV. The Sub-Arctic or Canadian Sub-region.

This sub-region serves to connect together the othe*r three, since they all merge gradually into it; while to the north it passes into the circumpolar zone which is common to the Palsearctic and Nearctic regions. The greater portion of it is an extensive forest-district, mostly of coniferae; and where these cease towards the north, barren wastes extend to the polar ocean. It possesses several northern or arctic forms of Mammalia, such as the glutton, lemming, reindeer, and elk, which barely enter the more southern sub-regions; as well as the polar bear and arctic fox; but it also has some peculiar forms, and many of the most characteristic Nearctic types. The remarkable musk-sheep (Ovibos) is confined to this sub-region, ranging over a considerable extent of country north of the forests, as well as Greenland. It has been extinct in Europe and Asia since the Post-pliocene epoch. Such purely Nearctic genera as Procyon, Latax, Erethizon, Jaculus, Fiber, Thomomys, and Hesperomys, abound, many of them ranging to the shores of Hudson's Bay and the barren wastes of northern Labrador. Others, such as Blarina, Condylura, and Mephitis, are found only in Nova Scotia and various parts of Canada. About 20 species of Mammalia seem to be peculiar to this sub-region.

Plate XX. Illustrating the Zoology of Canada.—We have here a group of Mammalia characteristic of Canada and the colder parts of the United States. Conspicuous in the foreground is the skunk (Mephitis mephitica), belonging to a genus of the weasel family found only in America. Tnis animal is

Vou TI.—10

celebrated for its power of ejectiug a terribly offensive liquid, the odour of which is almost intolerable. The skunks are nocturnal animals, and are generally marked, as iu the species represented, with conspicuous bands and patches of white. This enables them to be easily seen at night, and thus serves to warn larger animals not to attack them. To the left is the curious little jumping mouse (Jaculus hudsonius), the American representative of the Palsearctic jerboa. Climbing up a tree on the left is the tree porcupine (Erdhizon dorsatus), belonging to the family Cercolabidse, which represents, on the American continent, the porcupines of the Old World. In the background is the elk or moose {Alecs americanus), perhaps identical with the European elk, and the most striking inhabitant of the northern forests of America, as the bison is of the prairies.

Birds.—Although the Canadian sub-region possesses very few resident birds, the numbers which breed in it are perhaps greater than in the other sub-regions, because a large number of circumpolar species are found here exclusively. From a comparison of Mr. Allen's tables it appears, that more than 200 species are regular migrants to Canada in the breeding season, and nearly half of these are land-birds. Among them are to be found a considerable number of genera of the American families Tyrannidse and Mniotiltidse, as well as the American genera Sialia, Progne, Vireo, Cistothorus, Junco, Pipilo, Zonotrichia, Spizdla, Mdospiza, Molothrus, Agelccus, Cyanura, Sphyrapicus, and many others; so that the ornithology of these northern regions is still mainly NearctiC'in character. Besides these, it has such specially northern forms as Surnia (Strigidse); Picoides (Picidae); Pinicola (Fringillidse); as well as Leucostide, Plectrophanes, Perisorem, and Lagopus, which extend further south, especially in the middle sub-region. No less than 212 species of birds have been collected in the new United States territory of Alaska (formerly Eussian America), where a humming-bird (Sdasphorus rufus) breeds. The great majority of these are typically American, including such forms as Colaptes, Hdminthcphaga, Siurus, Dendrceca, Myiodioctes, Passerculus, Zonotrichia, Junco, Spizdla, Melospizpa, Passerdla, Scoleophagas, Pediocetes, and Bonasa;

« EelmineJätka »