Page images

know they have in the north. Perhaps a more important consideration is, that Didelphys is a family type unknown in Australia; and this implies that the point of common origin is very remote in geological time. But the most conclusive fact is that in the Eocene and Miocene periods this very family, Didelphyidae, existed in Europe, while it only appeared in America in the Post-pliocene or perhaps the Pliocene period; so that it is really an Old-World group, which, though long since extinct in its birthplace, has survived in America, to which country it is a comparatively recent emigrant. Primeval forms of marsupials we know abounded in Europe during much of the Secondary epoch, and no doubt supplied Australia with the ancestors of the present fauna. It is clear, therefore, that in this case there is not a particle of evidence for any former union between Australia and South America; while it is almost demonstrated that both derived their marsupials from a common source in the northern hemisphere. Birds offer us more numerous but less clearly defined cases of this kind. Among Passeres, the wonderful lyre bird (Menura) is believed by some ornithologists to be decidedly allied to the South American Pteroptochidae, while others maintain that it is altogether peculiar, and has no such affinity. The Australian Pachycephalidae have also been supposed to find their nearest allies in the American Vireonidae, but this is, perhaps, equally problematical. That the mound-makers (Megapodiidae) of the Australian region are more nearly allied to the South American curassows (Cracidae) than to any other family, is perhaps better established; but if proved, it is probably due, as in the case of the marsupials, to the survival of an ancient and once wide-spread type, and thus lends no support to the theory of a land connection between the two regions. A recent author, Professor Garrod, classes Phaps and other Australian genera of pigeons along with Zenaida and allied South American forms; but here again the affinity, if it exists, is so remote that the explanation already given will suffice to account for it. There remain only the penguins of the genus Eudyptes; and these have almost certainly passed from one region to the other, but

[ocr errors]

no actual land connection is required for birds which can cross considerable arms of the sea. Reptiles again seem to offer no more support to the view than do mammalia or birds. Among snakes there are no families in common that have not a very wide distribution. Among lizards the Gymnopthalmidae are the only family that favour the notion, since they are found in Australia and South America, but not in the Oriental region. Yet they occur in both the Palaearctic and Ethiopian regions, and their distribution is altogether too erratic to be of any value in a case of this kind; and the same remarks apply to the tortoises of the family Chelydidae. The Amphibia, however, furnish us with some more decided facts. We have first the family of tree-frogs, Pelodryade, confined to the two regions, Litoria, a genus of the family Hylidae peculiar to Australia, but with one species in Paraguay; and in the family Discoglossidae, the Australian genus Chiroleptes has its nearest ally in the Chilian genus Calyptocephalus. Fresh-water fishes give yet clearer evidence. Three groups are exclusively found in these two regions; Aphritis, a fresh-water genus of Trachinidae, has one species in Tasmania and two others in Patagonia; the Haplochitonidae inhabit only Terra del Fuego, the Falkland Islands and South Australia; while the genus Galacias (forming the family Galaxidae) is confined to South Temperate America, Australia, and New Zealand. We have also the genus Osteoglossum confined to the tropical rivers of Eastern South America, the Indo-Malay Islands and Australia. It is important here to notice that the heat-loving Reptilia afford hardly any indications of close affinity between the two regions, while the cold-enduring amphibia and fresh-water fish, offer them in abundance. Taking this fact in connection with the absence of all indications of close affinity among the mammalia and terrestrial birds, the conclusion seems inevitable that there has been no land-connection between the two regions within the period of existing species, genera, or families. Yet some interchange of amphibia and fresh-water fishes, as of plants and insects, has undoubtedly occurred, but this has been effected by other means. If we look at a globe we see at once how this interchange may have taken place. Immediately south of Cape Horn we have the South Shetland Islands and Graham's land, which is not improbably continuous, or nearly so, with South Victoria land immediately to the south of New Zealand. The intervening space is partly occupied by the Auckland, Campbell, and Macquaries' Islands, which, there is reason to believe are the relics of a great southern extension of New Zealand. At all events they form points which would aid the transmission of many organisms; and the farthest of the Macquaries' group, Emerald Island, is only 600 miles from the outlying islets of Victoria land. The ova of fish will survive a considerable time in the air, and the successful transmission of salmon ova to New Zealand packed in ice, shows how far they might travel on icebergs. Now there is evidently some means by which ova or young fishes are carried moderate distances, from the fact that remote alpine lakes and distinct river systems often have the same species. Glaciers and icebergs generally have pools of fresh water on their surfaces; and whatever cause transmits fish to an isolated pond might occasionally stock these pools, and by this means introduce the fishes of one southern island into another. Batrachians, which are equally patient of cold, might be transported by similar means; while, as Mr. Darwin has so well shown, (Origin of Species, 6th Ed. p. 345) there are various known modes by which plants might be transmitted, and we need not therefore be surprised that botanists find a much greater similarity between the production of the several Southern lands and islands, than do zoologists. It is important to notice that, however this intercommunication was effected, it has continued down to the epoch of existing species; for Dr. Günther finds the same species of fresh-water fish (Galacias attenuatus) inhabiting Tasmania, New Zealand, the Falkland Islands, and Temperate South America; while another species is common to New Zealand and the Auckland Islands. We cannot believe that a land connection has existed between all these remote lands within the period of existence of this one species of fish, not only on account of what we know of the permanence of continents and deep oceans, but because such a connection must have led to much more numerous and important cases of similarity of natural productions than we actually find. And if within the life of species such interchange may have taken place across seas of greater or less extent, still more easy is it to understand, how, within the life of genera and families, a number of such interchanges may have occurred; yet always limited to those groups whose conditions of life render transmission possible. Had an actual land connection existed within the temperate zone, or during a period of warmth in the Antarctic regions, there would have been no such strict limitations to the inter-migration of animals. It may be held to support the view that floating ice has had some share in the transmission of fish and amphibia, when we find that in the case of the narrow tropical sea dividing Borneo from Celebes and the Moluccas, no proportionate amount of transmission has taken place, but numerous species, genera, and whole families, terminate abruptly at what we have other reasons for believing to be the furthest limits of an ancient continent. We can hardly suppose, however, that this mode of transmission would have sufficed for such groups as tree-frogs, which are inhabitants of the more temperate or even warm portions of the two southern lands. Some of these cases may perhaps be explained by the supposition of a considerable extent of land in the South-Temperate and Antarctic regions now submerged, and by a warm or temperate climate analogous to that which prevailed in the Arctic regions during some part of the Miocene epoch; while others may be due to cases of survival in the two areas of once wide-spread groups, a view supported in the case of the Amphibia by the erratic manner in which many of the groups are spread over the globe. From an examination of the facts presented by the various classes of vertebrates, we are, then, led to the conclusion, that there is no evidence of a former land-connection be. tween the Australian and Neotropical regions; but that the various scattered resemblances in their natural productions that undoubtedly occur, are probably due to three distinct Causes. First, we have the American Didelphyidae, among Mammals, and the Cracidae, among birds, allied respectively to the Marsupials and the Megapodiidae of Australia. This is probably more a coincidence than an affinity, due to the preservation of ancient wide-spread types in two remote areas, each cut off from the great northern continental masses, in which higher forms were evolved leading to the extinction of the lower types. In each of these southern isolated lands the original type would undergo a special development; in the one case suited to an arboreal existence, in the other to a life among arid plains. The second case is that of the tree-frogs, and the genus Osteoglossum among fishes; and is most likely due to the extension and approximation of the two southern continents, and the existence of some intermediate lands, during a warm period when facilities would be afforded for the transmission of a few organisms by the causes which have led to the exceptional diffusion of fresh-water productions in all parts of the world. As however Osteoglossum occurs also in the Sunda Islands, this may be a case of survival of a once wide-spread group. The third case is that of the same genera and even species of fish, and perhaps of frogs, in the two countries; which may be due to transmission from island to island by the aid of floating ice, with or without the assistance of more intervening lands than now exist. Having arrived at these conclusions from a consideration of the vertebrata, we shall be in a position to examine how far the same causes will explain, or agree with, the distribution of the invertebrate groups, or elucidate any special difficulties we may meet with in the relations of the sub-regions.


The insects of the Australian region are as varied, and in some respects as peculiar as its higher forms of life. As we have already indicated in our sketch of the Oriental region, a vast number of forms inhabit the Austro-Malay sub-region

« EelmineJätka »