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SUMMARY OF THE DISTRIBUTION, AND LINES OF MIGRATION, OF
THE SEVERAL CLASSES OF ANIMALS.
HAVING already given summaries of the distribution of the several orders, and of some of the classes of land animals, we propose here to make a few general remarks on the special phenomena presented by the more important groups, and to indicate where possible, the general lines of migration by which they have become dispersed over wide areas.
MAMMALIA. This class is very important, and its past history is much better known than that of most others. We shall therefore briefly summarise the results we have arrived at from our examination of the distribution of extinct and living forms of each order.
Primates.—This order, being pre-eminently a tropical one, became separated into two portions, inhabiting the Eastern and Western Hemispheres respectively, at a very early epoch. In consequence of this separation it has diverged more radically than most other orders, so that the two American families, Cebidæ and Hapalidæ, are widely differentiated from the Apes, Monkeys, and Lemurs of the Old World. The Lemurs were probably still more ancient, but being much lower in organisation, they became extinct in most of the areas where the higher forms of Primates became developed. Remains found in the Eocene formation indicate, that the North American and European Primates had, even at that early epoch, diverged into distinct series, so that we must probably look back to the secondary period for the ancestral form from which the entire order was developed.
Chiroptera.—These are also undoubtedly very ancient. The most generalised forms—the Vespertilionidæ and Noctilionidæare the most widely distributed; while special types have arisen in America, and in the Eastern Hemisphere. Remains found in the Upper Eocene formation of Europe differ little from species still living in the same countries ; so that we can forin no conjecture as to the origin or migration of the group. Their power of fight would, however, enable them rapidly to spread over all the great continents of the globe.
Insectivora.—This very ancient group, now probably verging towards extinction, appears to have originated in the Northern continent, and never to have reached Australia or South America. It may, however, have become extinct in the latter country owing to the competition of the numerous Edentata. The Insectivora now often maintain themselves amidst more highly developed forms, by means of some special protection. Some burrow in the earth,—like the moles; others have a spiny covering,—as the hedgehogs and several of the Centetidæ ; others are aquatic,-as the Potamogale and the desman ; others have a nauseous odour,-as the shrews; while there are several which seem to be preserved by their resemblance to higher forms,—as the elephant-shrews to jerboas, and the tupaias to squirrels. The same need of protection is shown by the numerous Insectivora inhabiting Madagascar, where the competing forms are few; and by one lingering in the Antilles, where there are hardly any other mammalia.
Carnivora.—Although perhaps less ancient than the preceding, this form of mammal is far more highly organised, and from its earliest appearance appears to have become dominant in the world. It would therefore soon spread widely, and diverge into the various specialised types represented by existing families. Most of these appear to have originated in the Eastern Hemisphere, the only Carnivora occurring in North
American Miocene deposits being ancestral forms of Canidæ and Felidæ. It seems probable, therefore, that the order had attained a considerable development before it reached the Western Hemisphere. The Procyonidæ, now confined to America, are not very ancient; and the occurrence of a few allied forms in the Himalayas (Ælurus and Æluropus) render it probable that their common ancestors entered North America from the Palæarctic region during the Miocene period, but being a rather low type they have succumbed under the competition of higher forms in most parts of the Eastern Hemisphere. Bears and Weasels are probably still more recent emigrants to America. The aquatic carnivora (Seals, &c.) are, as might be expected, more widely and uniformly distributed, but there is little evidence to show at what period the type was first developed.
Ungulata.—These are the dominant vegetable-feeders of the great continents, and they have steadily increased in numbers and in specialisation from the oldest Tertiary times to the present day. Being generally of larger size and less active than the Carnivora, they have somewhat more restricted powers of dispersal. We have good evidence that their wide range over the globe is a comparatively recent phenomenon. Tapirs and Llamas have probably not long inhabited South America, while Rhinoceroses and Antelopes were once, perhaps, unknown in Africa, although abounding in Europe and Asia. Swine are one of the most ancient types in both hemispheres; and their great hardiness, their omnivorous diet, and their powers of swimming, have led to their wide distribution. The sheep and goats, on the other hand, are perhaps the most recent development of the Ungulata, and they seem to have arisen in the Palæarctic region at a time when its climate already approximated to that which now prevails. Hence they are pre-eminently a Temperate group, never found within the Tropics except upon a few mountain ranges.
Proboscidea.—These huge animals (the Elephants and Mastodons) appear to have originated in the warmer parts of the Palæarctic region, but they soon spread over all the great
continents, even reaching the southern extremity of America. Their extinction has probably depended more on physical than on organic changes, and we can clearly trace their almost total disappearance to the effects of the Glacial epoch.
Rodentia.-Rodents are a very dominant group, and a very ancient one. Owing to their small size and rapid powers of increase, they soon spread over almost every part of the globe, whence has resulted a great specialisation of family types in the South American continent which remained so long isolated. They are capable of living wherever there is any kind of vegetable food, hence their range will be determined rather by organic than by physical conditions; and the occupation of a country by enemies or by competing forms, is probably the chief cause which has prevented many of the families from acquiring a wide range. The occurrence of isolated species of the South American families, Octodontidæ and Echimyidæ in the Ethiopian and Palæarctic regions, is an indication that the range of many of the families has recently become less extensive.
Edentata.—These singular and lowly-organised animals appear to have become almost restricted to the two great Southern lands—South Africa and South America—at an early period; and, being there free from the competition of higher forms, developed a number of remarkable types often of huge size, of which the Megatherium is one of the best known. The incursion of the highly-organised Ungulates and Carnivora into Africa during the Miocene epoch, probably exterminated most of them in that continent; but in America they continued in full force down to the Post-Pliocene period ; and even now, the comparatively diminutive Sloths, Ant-eaters, and Armadillos, form a large and important portion of the fauna.
Marsupialia and Monotremata.—These are probably the representatives of the most ancient and lowly-organised types of mammal. They once existed in the northern continents, whence they spread into Australia; and being isolated, and preserved from the competition of the higher forms which soon ‘arose in other parts of the world, they have developed into a variety of types, which, however, still preserve a general
uniformity of organisation. One family, which continued to exist in Europe till the latter part of the Miocene period, reached America, and has there been preserved to our day.
Lines of Migration of the Mammalia.-The whole series of phenomena presented by the distribution of the Mammalia, looked at broadly, are in harmony with the view that the great continents and oceans of our own epoch have been in existence, with comparatively small changes, during all Tertiary times. Each one of them has, no doubt, undergone considerable modifications in its area, its altitude, and in its connection with other lands. Yet some considerable portion of each continent has, probably, long existed in its present position, while the great oceans seem to have occupied the same depressions of the earth's crust (varied, perhaps, by local elevations and subsidences) during all this vast period of time. Hence, allowing for the changes of which we have more or less satisfactory evidence, the migrations of the chief mammalian types can be pretty clearly traced. Some, owing to their small size and great vitality, have spread to almost all the chief land masses ; but the majority of the orders have a more restricted range. All the evidence at our command points to the Northern Hemisphere as the birth-place of the class, and probably of all the orders. At a very early period the land communication with Australia was cut off, and has never been renewed; so that we have here preserved for us a sample of one or more of the most ancient forms of mammal. Somewhat later the union with South America and South Africa was severed; and in both these countries we have samples of a somewhat more advanced stage of mammalian development. Later still, the union by a northern route between the Eastern and Western Hemispheres appears to have been broken, partly by a physical separation, but almost as effectually by a lowering of temperature. About the same period the separation of the Palæarctic region from the Oriental was effected, by the rise of the Himalayas and the increasing contrast of climate; while the formation of the great desert-belts of the Sahara, Arabia; Persia, and Central Asia, helped to complete the separation of