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been continually going on, and whenever any of the higher groups have become nearly or quite extinct, the lower forms which have better resisted the modified physical conditions have served as the antitypes on which to found the new races. In this manner alone, it is believed, can the representative groups at successive periods, and the risings and fallings in the scale of organization, be in every case explained.
Objections to Forbes’ Theory of Polarity.
The hypothesis of polarity, recently put forward by Professor Edward Forbes to account for the abundance of generic forms at a very early period and at present, while in the intermediate epochs there is a gradual diminution and impoverishment, till the minimum occurred at the confines of the Palaeozoic and Secondary epochs, appears to us quite unnecessary, as the facts may be readily accounted for on the principles already laid down. Between the Palaeozoic and Neozoic periods of Professor Forbes, there is scarcely a species in common, and the greater part of the genera and families also disappear to be replaced by new ones. It is almost universally admitted that such a change in the organic world must have occupied a vast period of time. Of this interval we have no record; probably because the whole area of the early formations now exposed to our researches was elevated at the end of the Palaeozoic period, and remained so through the interval required for the organic changes which
resulted in the fauna and flora of the Secondary period. The records of this interval are buried beneath the ocean which covers three-fourths of the globe. Now it appears highly probable that a long period of quiescence or stability in the physical conditions of a district would be most favourable to the existence of organic life in the greatest abundance, both as regards individuals and also as to variety of species and generic group, just as we now find that the places best adapted to the rapid growth and increase of individuals also contain the greatest profusion of species and the greatest variety of forms, —the tropics in comparison with the temperate and arctic regions. On the other hand, it seems no less probable that a change in the physical conditions of a district, even small in amount if rapid, or even gradual if to a great amount, would be highly unfavourable to the existence of individuals, might cause the extinction of many species, and would probably be equally unfavourable to the creation of new ones. In this too we may find an analogy with the present state of our earth, for it has been shown to be the violent extremes and rapid changes of physical conditions, rather than the actual mean state in the temperate and frigid zones, which renders them less prolific than the tropical regions, as exemplified by the great distance beyond the tropics to which tropical forms penetrate when the climate is equable, and also by the richness in species and forms of tropical mountain regions which principally differ from the temperate zone in the uniformity of their climate. However this may be, it seems a fair assumption that during a period of geological repose the new species which we know to have been created would have appeared, that the creations would then exceed in number the extinctions, and therefore the number of species would increase. In a period of geological activity, on the other hand, it seems probable that the extinctions might exceed the creations, and the number of species consequently diminish. That such effects did take place in connexion with the causes to which we have imputed them, is shown in the case of the Coal formation, the faults and contortions of which show a period of great activity and violent convulsions, and it is in the formation immediately succeeding this that the poverty of forms of life is most apparent. We have then only to suppose a long period of somewhat similar action during the vast unknown interval at the termination of the Palaeozoic period, and then a decreasing violence or rapidity through the Secondary period, to allow for the gradual repopulation of the earth with varied forms, and the whole of the facts are explained.* We thus have a clue to the increase of the forms of life during certain periods, and their decrease during others, without recourse
* Professor Ramsay has since shown that a glacial epoch probably occurred at the time of the Permian formation, which will more satisfactorily account for the comparative poverty of species.
to any causes but those we know to have existed, and to effects fairly deducible from them. The precise manner in which the geological changes of the early formations were effected is so extremely obscure, that when we can explain important facts by a retardation at one time and an acceleration at another of a process which we know from its nature and from observation to have been unequal,—a cause so simple may surely be preferred to one so obscure and hypothetical as polarity. I would also venture to suggest some reasons against the very nature of the theory of Professor Forbes. Our knowledge of the organic world during any geological epoch is necessarily very imperfect. Tooking at the vast numbers of species and groups that have been discovered by geologists, this may be doubted; but we should compare their numbers not merely with those that now exist upon the earth, but with a far larger amount. We have no reason for believing that the number of species on the earth at any former period was much less than at present; at all events the aquatic portion, with which geologists have most acquaintance, was probably often as great or greater. Now we know that there have been many complete changes of species; new sets of organisms have many times been introduced in place of old ones which have become extinct, so that the total amount which have existed on the earth from the earliest geological period must have borne about the same proportion to those now living, as the whole human race who have lived and died upon the earth, to the population at the present time. Again, at each epoch, the whole earth was no doubt, as now, more or less the theatre of life, and as the successive generations of each species died, their exuviae and preservable parts would be deposited over every portion of the then existing seas and oceans, which we have reason for supposing to have been more, rather than less, extensive than at present. In order then to understand our possible knowledge of the early world and its inhabitants, we must compare, not the area of the whole field of our geological researches with the earth's surface, but the area of the examined portion of each formation separately with the whole earth. For example, during the Silurian period all the earth was Silurian, and animals were living and dying, and depositing their remains more or less over the whole area of the globe, and they were probably (the species at least) nearly as varied in different latitudes and longitudes as at present. What proportion do the Silurian districts bear to the whole surface of the globe, land and sea (for far more extensive Silurian districts probably exist beneath the ocean than above it), and what portion of the known Silurian districts has been actually examined for fossils 2 Would the area of rock actually laid open to the eye be the thousandth or the ten-thousandth part of the earth's surface? Ask the same question with regard to the Oolite or the Chalk, or even to particular beds of these when