Page images
PDF

tropical America, only one species extending south as far as Chili. 3. Certhidea, a peculiar genus originally classed among the finches, but which Mr. Sclater, who has made South American birds his special study, considers to belong to the Corebida, or sugar-birds, a family which is wholly tropical. Two species of this genus inhabit separate islands. 4. Progne, the American martins (Hirundinidae), is represented by a peculiar species. 5. Geospiza, a peculiar genus of finches, of which no less than eight species occur in the archipelago, but not more than four in any one island. 6. Camarhynchus (6 sp.) and 7. Cactornis (4 sp.) are two other peculiar genera of finches; some of the species of which are confined to single islands, while others inhabit several. 8. Pyrocephalus, a genus of the American family of tyrant-flycatchers (Tyrannidae), has one peculiar species closely allied to T. rubineus, which has a wide range in South America. 9. Myiarchus, another genus of the same family which does not range further south than western Ecuador, has also a representative species found in several of the islands. 10. Zenaida, an American genus of pigeons, has a species in James Island and probably in some of the others, closely allied to a species from the west coast of America. It has been already stated that some of the islands possess peculiar species of birds distinct from the allied forms in other islands, but unfortunately our knowledge of the different islands is so unequal and of some so imperfect, that we can form no useful generalizations as to the distribution of birds among the islands themselves. The largest island is the least known; only one bird being recorded from it, one of the mocking-thrushes found nowhere else. Combining the observations of Mr. Darwin with those of Dr. Habel and Prof. Sundevall, we have species recorded as occurring in seven of the islands. Albemarle island has but one definitely known species; Chatham and Bindloe islands have 11 each ; Abingdon and Charles islands 12 each; Indefatigable island and James island have each 18 species. This shows that birds are very fairly distributed over all the islands, one of the smallest and most remote (Abingdon) furnishing as many as the much larger Chatham Island, which is also the nearest to the mainland. Taking the six islands which seem tolerably explored, we find that two of the species (Dendraeca aureola and Geospiza fortis) occur in all of them; two others (Geospiza strenua and Myiarchus magnirostris) in five; four (Mimus melanotis, Geospiza fuliginosa, G. parvula, and Camarhynchus prosthemelas) in four islands; five (Certhidea olivacca, Cactornis scandens, Pyrocephalus manus), and two of the birds of prey, in three islands; nine (Certhidea fusca, Progne concolor, Geospiza nebulosa, G. magnirostris, Camarhynchus psittaculus, C. variegatus, C. habeli and Asio accipitrinus) in two islands; while the remaining ten species are confined to one island each. These peculiar species are distributed among the islands as follows. James, Charles and Abingdon islands, have 2 each ; Bindloes, Chatham, and Indefatigable, 1 each. The amount of speciality of James Island is perhaps only apparent, owing to our ignorance of the fauna of the adjacent large Albemarle island; the most remote islands north and south, Abingdon and Charles, have no doubt in reality most peculiar species, as they appear to have. The scarcity of peculiar species in Chatham Island is remarkable, it being large, very isolated, and the nearest to the mainland. There is still room for exploration in these islands, especially in Albemarle, Narborough, and Hood's islands of which we know nothing. Reptiles—The few reptiles found in these islands are very interesting. There are two snakes, a species of the American genus Herpetodryas, and another which was at first thought to be a Chilian species (Psammophis Temminckii), but which is now considered to be distinct. Of lizards there are four at least, belonging to as many genera. One is a species of Phyllodactylus, a wide-spread genus of Geckotidae; the rest belong to the American family of the Iguanas, one being a species of the Neotropical genus Leiocephalus, the other two very remarkable forms, Trachycephalus and Oreocephalus (formerly united in the genus Amblyrhynchus). The first is a land, the second a marine, lizard; both are of large size and very abundant on all the islands; and they are quite distinct from any of the very numerous genera of Iguanidae, spread all over the American continent. The last reptile is a land tortoise (Testudo migra) of immense size, and also abundant in all the islands. Its nearest ally is the equally large species of the Mascarene Islands; an unusual development due, in both cases, to the absence of enemies permitting these slow but continually growing animals to attain an immense age. It is believed that each island has a distinct variety or species of tortoise. Insects.-Almost the only insects known from these islands are some Coleoptera, chiefly collected by Mr. Darwin. They consist of a few peculiar species of American or wide-ranging genera, the most important being, a Calosoma, Poecilus, Solenophorus, and Notaphus, among the Carabidae; an Oryctes among the Lamellicornes; two new genera of obscure Heteromera; two Curculionidae of wide-spread genera; a Longicorn of the South American genus Eburia; and two small Phytophaga, a set of species highly suggestive of accidental immigrations at rare and distant intervals. Land-Shells—These consist of small and obscure species, forming two peculiar sub-genera of Bulimulus, a genus greatly developed on the whole West coast of America; and a single species of Buliminus, a genus which ranges over all the world except America. As in the case of the birds, most of the islands have two or three peculiar species. General Conclusions.—These islands are wholly volcanic and surrounded by very deep sea; and Mr. Darwin is of opinion, not only that the islands have never been more nearly connected with the mainland than at present, but that they have never been connected among themselves. They are situated on the Equator, in a sea where gales and storms are almost unknown. The main currents are from the south-west, an extension of the Peruvian drift along the west coast of South America. From their great extent, and their volcanoes being now almost extinct, we may assume that they are of considerable antiquity. These facts exactly harmonize with the theory, that they have been peopled by rare accidental immigrations at very remote intervals. The only peculiar genera consist of birds and lizards, which must therefore have been the earliest WOL. II. D

[ocr errors]

immigrants. We know that small Passerine birds annually reach the Bermudas from America, and the Azores from Europe, the former travelling over 600, the latter over 1000 miles of ocean. These groups of islands are both situated in stormy seas, and the immigrants are so numerous that hardly any specific change in the resident birds has taken place. The Galapagos receive no such annual visitants; hence, when by some rare accident a few individuals of a species did arrive, they remained isolated, probably for thousands of generations, and became gradually modified through natural selection under completely new conditions of existence. Less rare and violent storms would suffice to carry some of these to other islands, and thus the archipelago would in time become stocked. It would appear probable, that those which have undergone most change were the earliest to arrive; so that we might look upon the three peculiar genera of finches, and Certhidea, the peculiar form of Coerebidae, as among the most ancient inhabitants of the islands, since they have become so modified as to have apparently no near allies on the mainland. But other birds may have arrived nearly at the same time, and yet not have been much changed. A species of very wide range, already adapted to live under very varied conditions and to compete with varied forms of life, might not need to become modified so much as a bird of more restricted range, and more specialized constitution. And if, before any considerable change had been effected, a second immigration of the same species occurred, crossing the breed would tend to bring back the original type of form. While, therefore, we may be sure that birds like the finches, which are profoundly modified and adapted to the special conditions of the climate and vegetation, are among the most ancient of the colonists; we cannot be sure that the less modified form of tyrant-flycatcher or mocking-thrush, or even the unchanged but cosmopolitan owl, were not of coeval date; since even if the parent form on the continent has been changed, successive immigrations may have communicated the same change to the colonists. - The reptiles are somewhat more difficult to account for. We know, however, that lizards have some means of dispersal over

[ocr errors]

the sea, because we find existing species with an enormous range. The ancestors of the Amblyrhynchi must have come as early, probably, as the earliest birds; and the same powers of dispersal have spread them over every island. The two American genera of lizards, and the tortoises, are perhaps later immigrants. Latest of all were the snakes, which hardly differ from continental forms; but it is not at all improbable that these latter, as well as the peculiar American mouse, have been early human importations. Snakes are continually found on board native canoes whose cabins are thatched with palm leaves; and a few centuries would probably suffice to produce some modification of a species completely isolated, under conditions widely different from those of its native country. Land-shells, being so few and small, and almost all modifications of one type, are a clear indication of how rare are the conditions which lead to their dispersal over a wide extent of ocean; since two or three individuals, arriving on two or three occasions only during the whole period of the existence of the islands, would suffice to account for the present fauna. Insects have arrived much more frequently; and this is in accordance with their habits, their lower specific gravity, their power of flight, and their capacity for resisting for some time the effects of salt water. We learn, then, from the fauna of these islands, some very important facts. We are taught that tropical land-birds, unless blown out of their usual course by storms, rarely or never venture out to sea, or if they do so, can seldom pass safely over a distance of 500 miles. The immigrants to the Galapagos can hardly have averaged a bird in a thousand years. We learn, that of all reptiles lizards alone have some tolerably effective mode of transmission across the sea; and this is probably by means of currents, and in connection with floating vegetation. Yet their transmission is a far rarer event than that of land-birds; for, whereas three female immigrants will account for the lizard population, at least eight or ten ancestors are required for the birds. Land serpents can pass over still more rarely, as two such transmissions would have sufficed to stock the islands with their snakes; and it is not certain that either of these occurred without the aid of man.

« EelmineJätka »