Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

so Long so E or zooreen so soo loo --> --- 1- ---> --- -

New York: Har

[graphic]
[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][graphic][graphic][graphic][graphic][graphic][graphic]

CHAPTER XIII.
THE AUSTRALIAN REGION.

THE Australian is the great insular region of the earth. As a whole it is one of the best marked, and has even been considered to be equal in zoological value to all the rest of the globe; but its separate portions are very heterogeneous, and their limits sometimes ill-defined. Its central and most important masses consist of Australia and New Guinea, in which the main features of the region are fully developed. To the north-west it extends to Celebes, in which a large proportion of the Australian characters have disappeared, while Oriental types are mingled with them to such an extent that it is rather difficult to determine where to locate it. To the south-east it includes New Zealand, which is in some respects so peculiar, that it has even been proposed to constitute it a distinct region. On the east it embraces the whole of Oceania to the Marquesas and Sandwich Islands, whose very scanty and often peculiar fauna, must be affiliated to the general Australian type. Australia is the largest tract of land in the region, being several times more extensive than all the other islands combined, and it is here that the greatest variety of peculiar types have been developed. This island-continent, being situated in the track of the southern desert zone, and having no central mountains to condense the vapours from the surrounding ocean, has a large portion of its interior so parched up and barren as to be almost destitute of animal life. The most extensive tract of fertile and well-watered country is on the east and south-east, where a fine range of mountains reaches, in the Colony of Victoria, the limits of perpetual snow. The west coast also possesses mountains of moderate height, but the climate is very dry and hot. The northern portion is entirely tropical, yet it nowhere presents the luxuriance of vegetation characteristic of the great island of New Guinea immediately to the north of it. Taken as a whole, Australia is characterized by an arid climate and a deficiency of water; conditions which have probably long prevailed, and under which its very peculiar fauna and flora have been developed. This fact will account for some of the marked differences between it and the adjacent sub-regions of New Guinea and the Moluccas, where the climate is moist, and the vegetation luxuriant; and these divergent features must never be lost sight of, in comparing the different portions of the Australian region. In Tasmania alone, which is however, essentially a detached portion of Australia, a more uniform and moister climate prevails; but it is too small a tract of land, and has been too recently severed from its parent mass to have developed a special fauna. The Austro-Malay sub-region (of which New Guinea is the central and typical mass) is strikingly contrasted with Australia, being subjected to purely equatorial conditions,—a high, but uniform temperature, excessive moisture, and a luxuriant forest vegetation, exactly similar in general features to that which clothes the Indo-Malay Islands, and the other portions of the great equatorial forest zone. Such a climate and vegetation, being the necessary result of its geographical position, must have existed from remote geological epochs with but little change, and must therefore have profoundly affected all the forms of life which have been developed under their influence. Around New Guinea as a centre are grouped a number of important islands, more or less closely agreeing with it in physical features, climate, vegetation, and forms of life. In most immediate connection we place the Aru Islands, Mysol and Waigiou, with Jobie and the other Islands in Geelvinck Bay, all of which are connected with it by shallow seas; they possess one of its most characteristic groups, the Birds of Paradise, and have no doubt only recently (in

« EelmineJätka »