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for the great number of brilliant birds, insects, and flowers, which are found between the tropics.
But before proceeding to discuss this supposed explanation of the colours of living things we must ask the preliminary question,—whether it is really the fact that colour is more developed in tropical than in temperate climates, in proportion to the whole number of species ; and even if we find this to be so, we have to inquire whether there are not so many and such striking exceptions to the rule, as to indicate some other causes at work than the direct influence of solar light and heat. As this is a most important branch of the inquiry, we must
into it somewhat fully. It is undoubtedly the case that there are an immensely greater number of richly-coloured birds and insects in tropical than in temperate and cold countries, but it is by no means so certain that the proportion of coloured to obscure species is much or any greater. Naturalists and collectors well know that the majority of tropical birds are dull-coloured; and there are whole families, comprising hundreds of species, not one of which exhibits a particle of bright colour. Such are, for example, the Timaliidæ, or babbling thrushes of the Eastern, and the Dendrocolaptidæ, or tree-creepers of the Western hemispheres. Again, many groups of birds, which are universally distributed, are no more adorned with colour in the tropical than in the temperate zones ; such are the thrushes, wrens, goatsuckers, hawks, grouse, plovers, and snipe ; and if tropical light and heat have any direct colouring effect, it is certainly most extraordinary that in groups so varied in form, structure, and habits as those just mentioned, the tropical should be in no wise
distinguished in this respect, from the temperate species.
It is true that brilliant tropical birds mostly belong to groups which are wholly tropical—as the chatterers, toucans, trogons, and pittas; but as there are perhaps an equal number of groups which are wholly dullcoloured, while others contain dull and bright-coloured species in nearly equal proportions, the evidence is by no means strong that tropical light and heat have anything to do with the matter. But there are other groups in which the cold and temperate zones produce finercoloured species than the tropics. Thus the arctic ducks and divers are handsomer than those of the tropical zone ; while the king-duck of temperate America and the mandarin-duck of North China are the most beautifully coloured of the whole family. In the pheasant family we have the gorgeous gold and silver pheasants in North China and Mongolia ; and the superb Impeyan pheasant in the temperate North-Western Himalayas, as against the peacock and fire-backed pheasants of tropical Asia. Then we have the curious fact that most of the bright-coloured birds of the tropics are denizens of the forests, where they are shaded from the direct light of the sun, and that they abound near the equator where cloudy skies are very prevalent; while, on the other hand, places where light and heat are at a maximum have often dull-coloured birds. Such are the Sahara and other deserts, where almost all the living things are sand-coloured ; but the most curious case is that of the Galapagos islands, situated under the equator, and not far from South America where the most gorgeous colours abound, but which are yet characterized by prevailing
dull and sombre tints in birds, insects, and flowers, so that they reminded Mr. Darwin of the cold and barren plains of Patagonia rather than of any tropical country. Insects are wonderfully brilliant in tropical countries generally ; and any one looking over a collection of South American or Malayan butterflies would scout the idea of their being no more gaily-coloured than the average of European species, and in this he would be undoubtedly right. But on examination we should find that all the more brilliantly-coloured groups were exclusively tropical, and that, where a genus has a wide range, there is little difference in coloration between the species of cold and warm countries. Thus the European Vanessides, including the beautiful “ peacock,” “Camberwell beauty," and “red admiral” butterflies, are quite up to the average of tropical colour in the same group; and the remark will equally apply to the little “blues” and
coppers ; ” while the alpine “apollo" butterflies have a delicate beauty that can hardly be surpassed. In other insects, which are less directly dependent on climate and vegetation, we find even greater anomalies. In the immense family of the Carabidæ or predaceous ground-beetles, the northern forms fully equal, if they do not surpass, all that the tropics can produce. Everywhere, too, in hot countries, there are thousands of obscure species of insects which, if they were all collected, would not improbably bring down the average of colour to much about the same level as that of temperate zones.
But it is when we come to the vegetable world that the greatest misconception on this subject prevails. In abundance and variety of floral colour the tropics are
almost universally believed to be pre-eminent, not only absolutely, but relatively to the whole mass of vegetation and the total number of species. Twelve years of observation among the vegetation of the eastern and western tropics has, however, convinced me that this notion is entirely erroneous, and that, in proportion to the whole number of species of plants, those having gaily-coloured flowers are actually more abundant in the temperate zones than between the tropics. This will be found to be not so extravagant an assertion as it may at first
if we consider how many of the choicest adornments of our greenhouses and flowershows are really temperate as opposed to tropical plants. The masses of colour produced by our Rhododendrons, Azaleas, and Camellias, our Pelargoniums, Calceolarias, and Cinerarias,-all strictly temperate plants--can certainly not be surpassed, if they can be equalled, by any productions of the tropics.
It may be objected that most of the plants named are choice cultivated varieties, far surpassing in colour the original stock, while the tropical plants are mostly unvaried wild species. But this does not really much affect the question at issue. For our florists' gorgeous varieties have all been produced under the influence of our cloudy skies, and with even a still further deficiency of light, owing to the necessity of protecting them under glass from our sudden changes of temperature ; so that they are themselves an additional proof that tropical light and heat are not needed for the production of intense and varied colour. Another important consideration is, that these cultivated varieties in many cases displace a number of wild species which are
hardly, if at all, cultivated. Thus there are scores of species of wild hollyhocks varying in colour almost as much as the cultivated varieties, and the same may be said of the pentstemons, rhododendrons, and many other flowers; and if these were all brought together in well-grown specimens, they would produce a grand effect. But it is far easier, and more profitable for our nurserymen to grow varieties of one or two species, which all require a similar culture, rather than fifty distinct species, most of which would require special treatment; the result being that the varied beauty of the temperate flora is even now hardly known, except to botanists and to a few amateurs.
But we may go further, and say that the hardy plants of our cold temperate zone equal, if they do not surpass, the productions of the tropics. Let us only remember such gorgeous tribes of flowers as the Roses, Pæonies, Hollyhocks, and Antirrhinums; the Laburnum, Wistaria, and Lilac; the Lilies, Irises, and Tulips; the Hyacinths, Anemones, Gentians, and Poppies; and even our humble Gorse, Broom, and Heather; and we may defy any tropical country to produce masses of floral colour in greater abundance and variety. It may be true that individual tropical shrubs and flowers do surpass everything in the rest of the world ; but that is to be expected, because the tropical zone comprises a much greater land area than the two temperate zones, while, owing to its more favourable climate, it produces a still larger proportion of species of plants, and a greater number of peculiar natural orders.
Direct observation in tropical forests, plains, and mountains, fully supports this view. Occasionally we