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pounds, a few thousand more or less costing nothing. Pondering during that weary night over the purpose of creation, he startled me about one in the morning with the question, “ Mr. Belt, sir, can you tell me what is the use of mosquitoes ?” “ To enjoy themselves and be happy, Jacob.”
Ah, sir! if I was only a mosquito!” said Jacob, as he came down with another fruitless whack.
At the first cock-crow we were up, and as the cheerful dawn lighted up the east, we were in our saddles, and the miseries of the night were but the jests of the morning. The mules even seemed to be eager to leave that dismal swamp, where malaria hung in the air, and mosquitoes did their best to drive mankind away. The dry savannahs were before us, our hearts were young as the morning, the tormenting spirits of the night had flown away with the darkness, and jest and banter enlivened the road. We reached Acoyapo at nine o'clock; my good friend Don Dolores Bermudez lent me a fresh mule, and riding all day, I reached Santo Domingo in the evening.
I have little more of interest to relate. Years had sped on at Santo Domingo ; and the time approached when I should be set free from the worries and responsibilities attending the supervision of gold-mines, the products of which were just at that tantalising point, on the verge between profit and loss, that made their superintendence a most irksome and anxious duty. The difficulty of the task was vastly increased by the capital of the company having been originally wasted in the erection of machinery that proved to be useless ; so that financial questions constantly retarded the completion of the works. This book has not been written, however, to tell the story of the struggles of a mining engineer; and I turn aside with pleasure from this slight digression to say what little more I have to tell of my natural-history experiences.
I did not, until near the conclusion of my stay, commence collecting the skins of birds, contenting myself with watching and noting their habits. I obtained the skins of ninety-two species only; but small as this collection was, it proved an important addition to the knowledge of the bird-fauna of Nicaragua. The eminent ornithologist, Mr. Osbert Salvin, published in the Ibis for July 1872 a list of seventy-three species that I had up to that time sent to England. Altogether, only one hundred and fifty species, including those that I had collected, were known from Nicaragua. Fragmentary as our knowledge is, it is sufficient, in Mr. Salvin's opinion, to indicate, with tolerable accuracy, to which of the two sub-provinces of the Central American fauna the forest region of Chontales belongs. The birds I sent to England proved nearly conclusively that the Costa-Rican sub-province included Chontales in Nicaragua, and that the boundary between it and the subprovince of Southern Mexico and Guatemala must be sought for more to the north-west.
Of the southern species, which in Chontales find their northern limit, so far as is known, there are in my small collection thirty-two species, whilst belonging to the northern sub-province, and not known to range further south, there are only seven species ; showing that the connection with Costa Rica and the south is much closer than that with Guatemala and the north, and that the boundary between the two sub-provinces is not found, as was supposed, in the depression of the isthmus occupied by the great lakes and their outlet the San Juan river, but must exist further towards, if not in, Honduras. Mr. Salvin says,
Mr. Salvin says, “What I suspect to be the case, though I cannot as yet bring evidence to prove it, is, that the forests of Chontales spread uninterruptedly into Costa Rica, but that towards the north and north-west a decided break occurs, and that this break determines the range of the prevalent Costa Rican and Guatemalan forest forms.”* I can confirm Mr. Salvin's supposition. The San Juan river forms no greater break in the forest than a dozen other rivers that run through it and fall into the Atlantic. But a decided interruption does occur to the north-west. It is found in the valleys of Humuya and Goascoran in Honduras, which, along with the central plain of Comayagua, constitute a great transverse valley running north and south from sea to sea, and cutting completely through the chain of the Cordilleras.t The highest point of this pass is 2850 feet above the sea, and the country around is composed of undulating savannahs and plains covered with grass. The Gulf of Honduras, cutting deeply into the continent, also plays an important part in preventing the intermingling of the faunas of the two sub-provinces, but the principal barrier is the termination of the great Atlantic forest north-westward, which even at Cape Gracias begins to give place to plains and savannahs next the coast.
* The Ibis, July 1872, p. 312. + Squier, ".States of Central America,” p. 681.
My entomological collections were much more complete than my collections of birds, especially those of the butterflies and beetles. Mr. W. C. Hewitson has described 25 new species, but no list of the whole of the butterflies known from Nicaragua has yet been published. In Coleoptera I made large collections, but the extensive families of the Elateridæ, Lamellicorns, and others are still uncatalogued, and very many species remain to be described. The only beetles that have been catalogued as yet with sufficient completeness to warrant any general conclusions are the Longicorns. I collected about 300 different species, and Mr. H. W. Bates has enumerated 242 of these in a paper
« On the Longicorn Coleoptera of Chontales, Nicaragua,” published in the “Transactions of the Entomological Society for 1872." In an interesting summary of the results he gives the following analysis of the range of the species :Peculiar to Chontales
133 species. Common to Chontales and Mexico Do. and the West India Islands
5 Do, and the United States
5 Do, and New Grenada or Venezuela
Do, and South Brazil
Omitting the peculiar species and those generally distributed in Tropical America, we have thus fortythree that are found in Chontales and in Mexico or the United States, and sixty-one that are found in Chontales and countries lying to the southward. The pre
ponderance of southern forms is not so great as in the birds, but when we reflect on the large number of peculiar species, and that the Longicorns of the Atlantic slope of Costa Rica are yet scarcely known, it appears likely that many of the Chontales species will be found ranging southward across the San Juan river, and that the Insect fauna will be shown to have the same relations as the Bird fauna ; for, as the Atlantic forest continues unbroken much further southward than northward, so will the insects peculiar to the forest region have a greater range in that direction.
Mr. Hollick has beautifully drawn on wood a few of the characteristic Longicorns of Chontales, all of them, with one exception (Polyraphis Fabricii), being as yet only known from that province, but probably extending into Costa Rica.
One of these, the lovely little Cosmisoma Titania, No. 7 in Plate, has been appropriately named after the Queen of the Fairies by Mr. Bates. It was first found by Mr. Janson, junior, who came out to Chontales purposely to collect insects; and I afterwards obtained it in great numbers. The use of the curious brushes on the antennæ is not known. Another longicorn, about the same size (Coremia hirtipes), has its two hindmost legs greatly lengthened, and furnished with brushes : one I saw on a branch was flourishing these in the air, and I thought at first they were two black flies hovering over the branch, my attention being taken from the body of the beetle by the movement of the brushes.
Another fine longicorn, figured in Plate, Deliathis nivea, looks as if made of pure white porcelain spotted with black. It is a rare beetle, one or two specimens