« EelmineJätka »
Land of the Sun ! where joyous green-robed Spring
SWEET changing Seasons ! Winter cold and stern,
The luxuriance and beauty of Tropical Nature is a well-worn theme, and there is little new to say about it. The traveller and the naturalist have combined to praise, and not unfrequently to exaggerate the charms of tropical life-its heat and light, its superb vegetable forms, its brilliant tints of flower and bird and insect. Each strange and beautiful object has been described in detail; and both the scenery and the natural phenomena of the tropics have been depicted by master hands and with glowing colours. But, so far as I am aware, no one has yet attempted to give a general view of the phenomena which are essentially tropical, or to determine the causes and conditions of those phenomena. The local has not been separated from the general, the accidental from the essential ; and, as a natural result, many erroneous ideas have become current as to what are really the characteristics of the tropical as distinguished from the temperate zones.
In the present volume I have attempted to supply this want; and for my materials have drawn chiefly on my own twelve years' experience of the eastern and western tropics of the equatorial zone, where the characteristic phenomena of tropical life are fully manifested.
So many of the most remarkable forms of life are now restricted to the tropics, and the relations of these to extinct types which once inhabited the temperate zones open up so many interesting questions as to the past history of the earth, that the present inquiry may be considered a necessary preliminary to a study of the problem-how to determine the climates of geologic periods from the character of their organic remains. This part of the subject is however both complex and difficult, and I have only attempted to indicate what seem to me the special physical conditions to which the existing peculiarities of tropical life are mainly due.
The three opening chapters treat the subject under the headings of climate, vegetation, and animal life. The conditions and causes of the equatorial climate are discussed in some detail, and the somewhat complex principles on which it depends are popularly explained. In the chapters on plant and animal life, the general aspects and relations of their several component elements have been dwelt upon ; all botanical and zoological details and nomenclature being excluded, except so far