Page images
PDF
EPUB

Tasmania, both tropical and temperate, but for the most part arid, yet abounding in peculiar forms in all the classes of animals; then come the Polynesian Islands, another luxuriant region of tropical vegetation, yet excessively poor in most of the higher groups of animals as well as in some of the lower; and lastly, we have New Zealand, a pair of temperate forest-clad islands far in the southern ocean, with a very limited yet strange and almost wholly peculiar fauna. We have now to consider the general features and internal relations of the faunas of each of these sub-regions, together with any external relations which have not been discussed while treating the region as a whole.

I. Austro-Malayan Sub-region.

The central mass on which almost every part of this subregion is clearly dependent, is the great island of New Guinea, inhabited by the Papuan race of mankind; and this, with the surrounding islands, which are separated from it by shallow seas and possess its most marked zoological features, are termed Papua. A little further away lie the important groups of the Moluccas on one side and the Eastern Papuan Islands on the other, which possess a fauna mainly derivative from New Guinea, yet wanting many of its distinctive types; and, in the case of the Moluccas possessing many groups which are not Australian, but derived from the adjacent Qriental region. To the south of these we have the Timor group, whose fauna is clearly derivative, from Australia, from Java, and from the Moluccas. Lastly comes Celebes, whose fauna is most complex and puzzling, and, so far as we can judge, not fundamentally derivative from any of the surrounding islands.

Papua, or the New Guinea Group.–New Guinea is very deficient in Mammalia as compared with Australia, though this apparent poverty may, in part, depend on our very scanty knowledge. As yet only four of the Australian families of Marsupials are known to inhabit it, with nine genera, several of which are peculiar. It also possesses a peculiar form of wild pig; but as yet no other non-marsupial terrestrial mammal has been

discovered, except a rat, described by Dr. Gray as Uromys Wol. I.-28

aruensis, but about the locality of which there seems some doubt.' Omitting bats, of which our knowledge is very imperfect, the Papuan Mammals are as follows:–

Family. Genus. Species. *
Suidae ... ... Sus 1 Eastern limit of the genus.
Muridae ... ... Uromys 1 Aru Islands (?)
Dasyuridae ... Phascogale 1 Australian genus.

xx ... Antechinus 1 ** xx

» ... Dactylopsila 1 To North Australia only.

» ... Myoictis 1 Aru islands only. Peramelidae ... Perameles 1 New Guinea only. Macropodidae... Dendrolagus 2 New Guinea only.

** ... Dorcopsis 2 Papua only. Phalangistidae... Cuscus 7 Celebes to New Guinea.

xx ... Belideus 1 Australia and Moluccas.

We have here no sign of any approach to the Mammalian fauna of the Oriental region, for though Sus has appeared, the Muridae (rats and mice) seem to be wanting.

In Birds the case is very different, since we at once meet with important groups, either wholly, or almost peculiar to the Papuan fauna. According to a careful estimate, embodying the recent discoveries of Meyer and D'Albertis, there are 350 species of Papuan land-birds comprised in 136 genera. About 300 of the species are absolutely peculiar to the district, while 39 of the genera are exclusively Papuan or just extend into the Moluccas, or into North Australia where it closely approaches New Guinea. In analysing the genera we may set aside 31 as having a wide range, and being of no significance in distribution; such are most of the birds of prey, with the genera Hirundo, Caprimulgus, Zosterops; and others widely spread in both the Oriental and Australian regions, as Dicaeum, Munia, Eudynamis, &c. Of the remainder, as above stated, about 39 are peculiar to the Papuan fauna, 50 are characteristic Australian genera; 9 are more especially Malayan, and as much Australian as Oriental; while 7 only, appear to be typically Oriental with a discontinuous distribution, none of them occurring in the Moluccas.

* See Ann. Nat. Hist., 1873, p. 418, where the species is said to inhabit

the Aru Islands and Celebes, which renders it not improbable that it may have been carried to the former islands from the latter.

This Papuan fauna is so interesting and remarkable, that it seems advisable to give lists of these several classes of generic

types.

I. Genera occurring in the Papuan Islands which are characteristic of the Australian region (89).

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

The chief points of interest here are the richness and specialization of the parrots, pigeons, and kingfishers; the wonderful paradise-birds; the honeysuckers; and some remarkable flycatchers.

[ocr errors]

Those marked with an

The most prominent deficiencies, as compared with Australia, are in Sylviidae, Timaliidae, Ploceidae, Platycercidae,and Falconidae. II. The genera which are characteristic of the whole Malay Archipelago are the following (10):—

1. Erythrura ... (Ploceidae) 6. Loriculus ... (Psittacidae) 2. Pitta... ... (Pittidae) 7. Macropygia ... (Columbidae) 3. Ceyr ... ... (Alcedinidae) 8. Chalcophaps ... -> 4. Calao ... (Bucerotidae) 9. Calaenas --- xx 5. Dendrochelidon (Cypselidae) 10. Baza ... ... (Falconidae)

III. The curious set of genera apparently of Indo-Malayan origin, but unknown in the Moluccas, are as follows:—

1. Eupetes ... (Cinclidae) 4. Arachnothera (Nectariniidae) 2. Alcippe ... (Timaliidae) 5. Prionochilus... (Dicaeidae) 3. Pomatorhinus xx 6. Eulales ... (Sturnidae)

The above six birds are very important as indicating past changes in the Austro-Malay Islands, and we must say a few words about each. (1) Eupetes is very remarkable, since the New Guinea birds resemble in all important characters that which is confined to Malacca and Sumatra. They are probably the survivors of a once wide-spread Malayan group. (2) Alcippe or Drymocataphus (for in which genus the birds should be placed is doubtful) seems another clear case of a typical Indo-Malayan form occurring in New Guinea and Java, but in no intervening island. (3) Pomatorhinus is a most characteristic Himalayan and Indo-Malayan genus, occurring again in New Guinea and also in Australia, but in no intermediate island. The New Guinea bird seems as nearly related to Oriental as Australian species. (4) Arachnothera is exactly parallel to Alcippe, occurring nowhere east of Borneo except in New Guinea. (5) Prionochilus, a small black bird, sometimes classed as a distinct genus, but evidently allied to the Prionochili of the Indo-Malay Islands. (6) Eulabes, the genus which contains the well known Mynahs of India, extends east of Java as far as Flores, but is not found in Celebes or the Moluccas. The two New Guinea species are sometimes classed in different genera, but they are undoubtedly allied to the Mynahs of India and Malaya.

We find then, that while the ornithology of New Guinea is

preeminently Australian in character and possesses many peculiar developments of Australian types, it has also—as might be expected from its geographical position, its climate, and its vegetation—received an infusion of Malayan forms. But while one group of these is spread over the whole Archipelago, and occasionally beyond it, there is another group which presents the unusual and interesting feature of discontinuous distribution, jumping over a thousand miles of island-studded sea from Java and Borneo to New Guinea itself. It is a parallel case to that of Java in the Oriental region, which we have already discussed, but the suggested explanation in that case is more difficult to apply here. The recent soundings by the Challenger show us, that although the several islands of the Moluccas are surrounded by water from 1,200 to 2,800 fathoms deep, yet these seas form inclosed basins with rims not more than from 400 to 900 fathoms deep, suggesting the idea of great lakes or inland seas which have sunk down bodily with the surrounding land, or that enormous local and restricted elevations and subsidences have here occurred. We have also the numerous small islands and coral banks south of Celebes and eastward towards Timor-Laut and the Aru Islands, indicating great subsidence; and it is possible that there was an extension of Papua to the west, approaching sufficiently near to Java to receive occasional straggling birds of IndoMalay type, altogether independent of the Moluccas to the north. Bright Colours and Ornamental Plumage of New Guinea Birds. —One of the most striking features of Papuan ornithology is the large proportion which the handsome and bright-coloured birds bear to the more obscure species. That this is really the case has been ascertained by going over my own collections, made at Aru and New Guinea, and comparing them with my collection made at Malacca—a district remarkable for the number of handsome birds it produces. Using, as nearly as possible, the same standard of beauty, about one-third of the Malacca birds may be classed as handsome," while in Papua the proportion comes out exactly one-half. This is due, in part to the great abundance of

* I also find about this proportion in my Amazonian collections, even counting all the humming-birds, parrots, and toucans as handsome birds.

« EelmineJätka »