« EelmineJätka »
tropical light and heat can in no sense be considered as the cause of colour, there remains to be explained the undoubted fact that all the more intense and gorgeous tints are manifested by the animal life of the tropics ; while in some groups, such as butterflies and birds, there is a marked preponderance of highly-coloured species. This is probably due to a variety of causes, some of which we can indicate, while others remain to be discovered. The luxuriant vegetation of the tropics throughout the entire year affords so much concealment, that colour may there be safely developed to a much greater extent than in climates where the trees are bare in winter, during which season the struggle for existence is most severe, and even thic slightest disadvantage may prove fatal. Equally important, probably, has been the permanence of favourable conditions in the tropics, allowing certain groups to continue dominant for long periods, and thus to carry out in one unbroken line whatever developments of plumage or colour may once have acquired an ascendency. Changes of climatal conditions, and pre-eminently the glacial epoch, probably led to the extinction of a host of highly-developed and finelycoloured insects and birds in temperate zones; just as we know that it led to the extinction of the larger and more powerful mammalia which formerly characterised the temperate zone in both hemispheres; and this view is supported by the fact that it is amongst those groups only which are now exclusively tropical that all the more extraordinary developments of ornament and colour are found. The obscure local causes of colour to which we have referred will also have acted most efficiently in regions where the clinatal condition remained constant, and where migration was unnecessary; while whatever direct effect may be produced by light or heat, will necessarily have acted more powerfully within the tropics. And lastly, all these causes have been in action over an actually greater area in tropical than in temperate zones; while estimated potentially, in proportion to its life-sustaining power, the lands which enjoy a practically tropical climate (extending as they do considerably beyond the geographical tropics) are very much larger than the temperate regions of the earth.
Combining the effects of all these various causes we are quite able to understand the superiority of the tropical parts of the globe, not only in the abundance and variety of their forms of life, but also as regards the ornamental appendages and vivid coloration which these forms present.
THE COLOURS OF PLANTS AND TIIE ORIGIN
OF TIIE COLOUR-SENSE.
Source of Colouring matter in Plants--- Protective Coloration and Mimicry
among Plants - Attractive Colours of Fruits-Protective Colours of Fruits--Attractive Colours of Flowers-Attractive Odours in Flowers Attractive grouping of Flowers-Why Alpine Flowers are so BeautifulWhy allied species of Flowers diller in Size and Beauty- Absence of Colours in Wind-fertilized Flowers—The same Theory of Colour applicable to Animals and Plants-Relation of the Colours of Flowers and their Geographical Distribution--Recent Views as to the Direct Action of Light on the Colours of Flowers and Fruits-- On the Origin of the Coloursense --Supposed increase of Colour-perception within the Historical Period-Concluding Remarks on the Colour-sense.
The colouring of plants is neither so varied nor so complex as that of animals, and its explanation accordingly offers fewer difficulties. The colours of foliage are, comparatively, little varied, and can be traced in almost all cases to a special pigment termed chlorophyll, to which is due the general green colour of leaves ; but the recent investigations of Mr. Sorby and others have shown that chlorophyll is not a simple green pigment, but that it really consists of at least seven distinct substances, varying in colour from Llue to yellow and orange. These differ in their proportions in the chlorophyll of different plants; they have different chemical reactions; they are differently affected by light; and they give distinct spcctra. Mr. Sorby further states that scores of different colouring matters are found in the leaves and flowers of plants, to some of which appropriate names have been given, as erythrophyll which is red, and phaiophyll which is brown; and many of these differ greatly from cach other in their chemical composition. These inquiries are at present in their infancy, but as the original term chlorophyll seems scarcely applicable under the present aspect of the subject, it would perhaps be better to introduce the analogous word Chromophyll, as a general term for the colouring matters of the vegetable kingilom.
Light has a much more decided action on plants than on animals. The green colour of leaves is almost wholly dependent on it ; and although some flowers will become fully coloured in the dark, others are decidedly affected by the absence of light, even when the foliage is fully exposed to it. Looking therefore at the numerous colouring matters which are developed in the tissues of plants, the sensitiveness of these pigments to light, the changes they undergo during growth and development, and the facility with which new chemical combinations are effected by the physiological processes of plants as shown by the endless variety in the chemical constitution of vegetable products, we have no difficulty in comprehending the general causes which aid in producing the colours of the vegetable world, or the extreme variability of tiose colours. We may therefore here confine ourselves to an inquiry into the various uses of colour in the cconomy of plants; and this will generally enable us to understand how it has become fixed and
specialised in the several genera and species of the vegetable kingdom.
Protective Coloration and Mimicry in Plants.-In animals, as we have seen, colour is greatly influenced by the need of protection from, or of warning to, their numerous enemies, and by the necessity for identification and casy recognition. Plants rarely nece to be concealed,
on cither by their spines, their hardness, their hairy covering, or their poisonous secretions. A very few cases of what seem to be true protective colouring do, however, exist; the most remarkable being that of the “stone mesembryanthemum,” of the Cape of Good IIope, which, in form and colour closely resembles the stones among which it grows; and Dr. Burchell, who first discovered it, believes that the juicy little plant thus generally escapes the notice of cattle and wild herbivorous animals. Jr. J. P. Mansel Weale also noticed that many plants growing in the stony Karoo have their tuberous roots above the soil; and these so perfectly resemble the stones among which they grow that, when not in leaf, it is almost impossible to distinguish them (Nuture, vol. iii. p. 507). A few cases of what seems to be protective mimicry have also been noted ; the most curious being that of three very rare British fungi, found by Mr. Worthington Smith, each in company with common species which they so closely resembled that only a minute examination could detect the difference. One of the common species is stated in botanical works to be “ bitter and nauseous,” so that it is not improbable that the rare kind may escape being caten by being mistaken for an uneatable species, though itself palatable. Mr. Mansel Wcale also mentions a laviate plant, the Ajuga