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Mr. Sclater in his Lectures on Geographical Distribution at the Zoological Gardens in May 1874), because it is absolutely without indigenous mammalia and very poor in all forms of life, and therefore by no means prominent or important enough to form a primary region of the earth. It may be as well here to notice what appears to be a serious objection to making New Zealand, or any similar isolated district, one of the great zoological regions, comparable to South America, Australia, or Ethiopia; which is, that its claim to that distinction rests on grounds which are liable to fail. It is because New Zealand, in addition to its negative merits, possesses three families of birds (Apterygidae living, Dinornithidae and Palapterygidae extinct), and a peculiar lizard-like reptile, Hatteria, which has to be classed in a distinct order, Rhynchocephalina, that the rank of a Region is claimed for it. But supposing, what is not at all improbable, that other Rhynchocephalina should be discovered in the interior of Australia or in New Guinea, and that Apterygidae or Palapterygidae should be found to have inhabited Australia in Post-Pliocene times, (as Dinornithidae have already been proved to have done) the claims of New Zealand would entirely fail, and it would be universally acknowledged to be a part of the great Australian region. No such reversal can take place in the case of the other regions; because they rest, not upon one or two, but upon a large number of peculiarities, of such a nature that there is no room upon the globe for discoveries that can seriously modify them. Even if one or two peculiar types, like Apterygidae or Hatteria, should permanently remain characteristic of New Zealand alone, we can account for these by the extreme isolation of the country, and the absence of enemies, which have enabled these defenceless birds and reptiles to continue their existence; just as the isolation and protection of the caverns of Carniola have enabled the Proteus to survive in Europe. But supposing that the Proteus was the sole representative of an order of Batrachia, and that two or three other equally curious and isolated forms occurred with it, no one would propose that these caverns or the district containing them, should form one of the
primary divisions of the earth. Neither can much stress be
the antipodes of each other, would be most inconvenient, even if there were not such difference of opinion about them. There can be little doubt, for example, that the most radical zoological division of the earth is made by separating the Australian region from the rest; but although it is something. useful and definite to know that a group of animals is peculiar to Australia, it is exceedingly vague and unsatisfactory to say of any other group merely that it is extra-Australian. Neither can it be said that, from any point of view, these two divisions are of equal importance. The next great natural division that can be made is the separation of the Neotropical Region of Mr. Sclater from the rest of the world. We thus have three primary divisions, which Professor Huxley seems inclined to consider as of tolerably equal zoological importance. But a consideration of all the facts, zoological and palaeontological, indicates, that the great northern division (Arctogaea) is fully as much more important than either Australia or South America, as its four component parts are less important; and if so, convenience requires us to adopt the smaller rather than the larger divisions. This question, of comparative importance or equivalence of value, is very difficult to determine. It may be considered from the point of view of speciality or isolation, or from that of richness and variety of animal forms. In isolation and speciality, determined by what they want as well as what they possess, the Australian and Neotropical regions are undoubtedly each comparable with the rest of the earth (Arctogaea). But in richness and variety of forms, they are both very much inferior, and are much more nearly comparable with the separate regions which compose it. Taking the families of mammalia as established by the best authors, and leaving out the Cetacea and the Bats, which are almost universally distributed, and about whose classification there is much uncertainty, the number of families represented in each of Mr. Sclater's regions is as follows:
We see, then, that even the exceedingly rich and isolated Neotropical region is less rich and diversified in its forms of mammalian life than the very much smaller area of the Indian region, or the temperate Palaearctic, and very much less so than the Ethiopian region; while even the comparatively poor Nearctic region, is nearly equal to it in the number of its family types. If these were united they would possess fifty-five families, a number very disproportionate to those of the remaining two. Another consideration is, that although the absence of certain forms of life makes a region more isolated, it does not make it zoologically more important; for we have only to suppose some five or six families, now common to both, to become extinct either in the Ethiopian or the Indian regions, and they would become as strongly differentiated from all other regions as South America, while still remaining as rich in family types. In birds exactly the same phenomenon recurs, the family types being less numerous in South America than in either of the other tropical regions of the earth, but a larger proportion of them are restricted to it. It will be shown further on, that the Ethiopian and Indian, (or, as I propose to call it in this work, Oriental) regions, are sufficiently differentiated by very important groups of animals peculiar to each; and that, on strict zoological principles they are entitled to rank as regions of equal value with the Neotropical and Australian. It is perhaps less clear whether the Palaearctic should be separated from the Oriental region, with which it has undoubtedly much in common; but there are many and powerful reasons for keeping it distinct. There is an unmistakably different facies in the animal forms of the two regions; and although no families of mammalia or birds, and not many genera, are wholly confined to the Palaearctic region, a very considerable number of both have their metropolis in it, and are very richly represented. The distinction between the characteristic forms of life in tropical and cold countries is, on the whole, very strongly marked in the northern hemisphere; and to refuse to recognise this in a subdivision of the earth which is established for the very purpose of expressing such contrasts more clearly and concisely than by ordinary geographical terminology, would be both illogical and inconvenient. The one question then remains, whether the Nearctic region should be kept separate, or whether it should form part of the Palaearctic or of the Neotropical regions. Professor Huxley and Mr. Blyth advocate the former course; Mr. Andrew Murray (for mammalia) and Professor Newton (for birds) think the latter would be more natural. No doubt much is to be said for both views, but both cannot be right; and it will be shown in the latter part of this chapter that the Nearctic region is, on the whole, fully as well defined as the Palaearctic, by positive characters which differentiate it from both the adjacent regions. More evidence in the same direction will be found in the Second Part of this work, in which the extinct faunas of the several regions are discussed.
A confirmation of the general views here set forth, as to the distinctness and approximate equivalence of the six regions, is to be found in the fact, that if any two or more of them are combined they themselves become divisions of the next lower rank, or “sub-regions;”—and these will be very much more important, both zoologically and geographically, than the subdivisions of the remaining regions. It is admitted then that these six regions are by no means of precisely equal rank, and that some of them are far more isolated and better characterized than others; but it is maintained that, looked at from every point of view, they are more equal in rank than any others that can be formed; while in geographical equality, compactness of area, and facility of definition, they are beyond all comparison better than any others that have yet been proposed for the purpose of facilitating the study of geographical distribution. They may be arranged and grouped as follows, so as to exhibit their various relations and affinities.
Neogea (NEotropical ... , Austral zone......... Notogaea.
The above table shows the regions placed in the order followed in the Fourth Part of this work, and the reasons for which are