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THE DISTRIBUTION OF ANIMALS AS INDICATING GEOGRAPHICAL CHANGES.
Old Opinions on Continental Changes—Theory of Oceanic Islands - Present
and Past Distribution of Land and Sea – Zoological Regions-The Palxarctic Region - The Ethiopian Region, The Oriental Region-Past C'hanges of the Great Eastern ('ontinent-Regions of the New World Past History of the American Continents – The Australian RegionSummary and Conclusion.
Tuere is a curious old book entitled Restitution of Decayed Intelligence in antiquities Concerning the Most Noble and Renowned English Nution, written in 1605, by R. Verstegen. The fourth chapter treats “Of the Isles of Albion, and how it is showed to have been continent or firm land with Gallia, now named France, since the Flood of Noe;” and after referring to several ancient writers who had held this opinion but without giving any reasons for it, the author proceeds to argue the point, referring to the narrowness of the straits, their extreme shallowness, the similarity of the opposite coasts both in height and character, the meaning of the word “cliff”
This is one of the Lectures on Scientific Cicography delivered before the Royal Geographical Society, but the introiluctory portion has been rewritten. The original Lecture appeared in the Procecilings of the Society for September, 1877, under the title : "On the Comparative Antiquity of C'ontinents, as indicated by the Distribution of Living and Extinct Animals.”
as being that which is cleft asunder, and other matters; after which comes this quaint and interesting passage :
“ Another reason there is that this separation hath been made since the flood, which is also very considerable, and that is the patriarch Noe, having had with him in the Ark all sorts of beasts, these then, after the flood, being put forth of the ark to increase and multiply, did afterward in time disperse themselves over all parts of the continent or main land; but long after it could not be before the ravenous wolf had made his kind nature known to man, and therefore no man unless he were mad, would ever transport of that race out of the continent into the isles, no more than men will ever carry foxes (though they be less damageable) out of our continent into the Isle of Wight. But our Isle, as is aforesaid, continuing since the food fastened by nature unto the Great Continent, those wicked beasts did of themselves pass over. And if any should object that England hath no wolves on it they may be answered that Scotland, being therewith conjoined, hath very many, and so England itself sometime also had, until such time as King Edgar took order for the destroying of these throughout the whole realm.”
The preservation of foxes for sporting purposes was evidently quite out of the range of thought at this not very distant epoch, and our author, in consequence, made a little mistake as to what men "ever" would do in the case of these noxious animals; but his general argument is sound, and it becomes much strengthened when we take into consideration the smaller vermin, such as stoats, weasels, moles, hedgehogs, fieldmice, vipers, toads, and newts, which would certainly not all have been
brought over by uncivilised man, even if any one of them might have been. But there is another reason why they were not so brought over. For on that supposition we should discover remains of fewer and fewer species as we go back into past times till at last when we reached the time of the first occupation of the country by man we should find none at all. But the actual facts are the very reverse of this. For the further we go back the more species of noxious and dangerous animals we discover, till in the time of the palæolithic (or oldest) prehistoric men, we find remains not only of almost every animal now living, but of many others still less likely to have been introduced by man's
Such are the mammotlıs, rhinoceroses, lions, horses, bears, gluttons, and many others; and it is equally impossible that these could all have swum across an arm of the sea, which although only about twenty miles wide in its narrowest past, is yet so influenced by strong tiles and currents that it becomes as effective a barrier as many straits of double the width.
Owing, however, to the want of all definite ideas as to the mode by which the earth became stocked with animals and plants, the existence of identical species in countries separated by arms of the sea attracted very little attention till quite recent times. It is probable that Mr. Darwin was really the first person to see the full importance of the principle, for in his Naturalist's Voyage Round the World, he remarks, that “the South American character of the West Indian mammals seems to indicate that this archipelago was formerly united to the southern continent.” Some years later, in 1845, Mr. George Wind:or Earl called special attention to the
subject by pointing out that the great Malay Archipelago may be divided in two portions, all the islands in the Western half being united to each other and to the continent of Asia by a very shallow sea, and all having very similar productions, while many large animals, such as the elephant, rhinoceros, wild cattle, and tigers, range over most of them. We then come to a profoundly deep sea, and the islands of the eastern half of the archipelago are either surrounded by a deep sea or are connected by a shallow sea to Australia ; and in this half the productions resemble those of Australia, marsupials being found in all the islands while the large quadrupeds of Asia are almost wholly unknown.
Theory of Oceanic Islands.--In 1859 the Origin of Species was published, and in the thirteenth chapter of this celebrated work Mr. Darwin put forth his views on occanic islands or such as are situated far away from any continent and are surrounded by deep oceans. It had been up to this time believed that in most cases these islands were fragments of ancient continents; as an example of which we may refer to the Azores, Madeira, and the other Atlantic islands, which were thought to support the notion of an Atlantic or western extension of the European continent. In order to ascertain what was the condition of these islands when first discovered, Jr. Darwin searched through all the oldest voyages, and found that in none of them was a single native mammal known to exist, while in almost all of them frogs and toads were also absent. All the Atlantic isles from the Azores to St. Helena; Mauritius, Bourbon, and the other isles of the Indian Ocean ; and the Pacific islands, east of the Fijis, as far as the Galapagos and Juan
Fernandez are thus deficient. They all of them, however, possess birds, and most of them bats; and whenever small mammalia, such as goats, pigs, rabbits, and mice have been introduced they have run wild and often increased enormously, proving that the only reason why such animals were not originally found there was the impossibility of them crossing the sea ; while such as could fly over-birds, bats, and insects-existed in greater or less abundance. If, on the other hand, they had once formed part of the continent, it is impossible to believe that some of the smaller mammalia, as well as frogs, would not have continued to exist in the islands to the present day.
If we compare the productions of different islands, we meet with peculiarities which throw much light on the subject of distribution. In the Galapagos islands, between 500 and 600 miles from the west coast of South America, there are thirty-two species of land-birds, all but two or three being peculiar to the group.
In Madeira, about 400 miles from the coast of Morocco, there are nearly twice as many land-birds as in the Galapagos, but only two of these are peculiar to the island, the rest being South European or N. African species. The Azores are 1,000 miles west of Portugal, and they contain twenty-two species of land-birds, every one of which is European except one bullfinch which is slightly different and forms a peculiar species. This remarkable difference in the proportion of peculiar species between the Galapagos and the Atlantic islands, is well explained by the theory that land-birds rarely fly directly out to sea, except when carried against their will by storms and gales of wind. Now the