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importance with extensive groups of islands many times as large as itself; and standing in the very centre of the archipelago, surrounded on every side with islets connecting it with the larger groups, and which seem to afford the greatest facilities for the migration and intercommunication of their respective productions, it yet stands out conspicuous with a character of its own in every department of nature, and presents peculiarities which are, I believe, without a parallel in any similar locality on the globe.
Briefly to summarize these peculiarities, Celebes possesses three genera of mammals (out of the very small number which inhabit it) which are of singular and isolated forms, viz., Cynopithecus, a tailless Ape allied to the Baboons ; Anoa, a straight-horned Antelope of obscure affinities, but quite unlike anything else in the whole archipelago or in India : and Babirusa, an altogether abnormal wild Pig. With a rather limited bird population, Celebes has an immense preponderance of species confined to it, and has also six remarkable genera (Meropogon, Ceycopsis, Streptocitta, Enodes, Scissirostrum, and Megacephalon) entirely restricted to its narrow limits, as well as two others (Prioniturus and Basilornis) which only range to a single island beyond it.
Mr. Smith's elaborate tables of the distribution of Malayan Hymenoptera (see Proc. Linn. Soc.” Zool. vol. vii.) show that out of the large number of 301 species collected in Celebes, 190 (or nearly two-thirds) are absolutely restricted to it, although Borneo on one side, and the various islands of the Moluccas on the other, were equally well explored by me; and no less than twelve of the genera are not found in any other island of the archipelago. I have shown in the present essay that, in the Papilionidæ, it has far more species of its own than any other island, and a greater proportion of peculiar species than many of the large groups of islands in the archipelago—and that it gives to a large number of the species and varieties which inhabit it, 1st, an increase of size, and, 2nd, a peculiar modification in the form of the wings, which stamp upon the most dissimilar insects a mark distinctive of their common birth-place.
What, I would ask, are we to do with phenomena such as these? Are we to rest content with that very simple, but at the same time very unsatisfying explanation, that all these insects and other animals were created exactly as they are, and originally placed exactly where they are, by the inscrutable will of their Creator, and that we have nothing to do but to register the facts and wonder? Was this single island selected for a fantastic display of creative power, merely to excite a childlike and unreasoning admiration? Is all this appearance of gradual modification by the action of natural causes—a modification the successive steps of which we can almost trace—all delusive? Is this harmony between the most diverse groups, all presenting analogous phenomena, and indicating a dependence upon physical changes of which we have independent evidence, all false testimony ? If I could think so, the study of nature would have lost for me its greatest charm. I should feel as would the geologist, if you could convince him that his interpretation of the earth's past history was all a delusion—that strata were never formed in the primeval ocean, and that the fossils he so carefully collects and studies are no true record of a former living world, but were all created just as they now are, and in the rocks where he now finds them.
I must here express my own belief that none of these phenomena, however apparently isolated or insignificant, can ever stand alone—that not the wing of a butterfly can change in form or vary in colour, except in harmony with, and as a part of the grand march of nature. I believe, therefore, that all the curious phenomena I have just recapitulated, are immediately dependent on the last series of changes, organic and inorganic, in these regions; and as the phenomena presented by the island of Celebes differ from those of all the surrounding islands, it can, I conceive, only be because the past history of Celebes has been, to some extent, unique and different from theirs. We must have much more evidence to determine exactly in what that difference has consisted. At present, I only see my way clear to one deduction, viz., that Celebes represents one of the oldest parts of the archipelago ; that it has been formerly more completely isolated both from India and from Australia than it is now, and that amid all the mutations it has undergone, a relic or substratum of the fauna and flora of some more ancient land has been here preserved to us.
It is only since my return home, and since I have been able to compare the productions of Celebes side by side with those of the surrounding islands, that I have been fully impressed with their peculiarity, and the great interest that attaches to them. The plants and the reptiles are still almost unknown; and it is to be hoped that some enterprising naturalist may soon devote himself to their study. The geology of the country would also be well worth exploring, and its newer fossils would be of especial interest as elucidating the changes which have led to its present anomalous condition. This island stands, as it were, upon the boundary-line between two worlds. On one side is that ancient Australian fauna, which preserves to the present day the facies of an early geological epoch ; on the other is the rich and varied fauna of Asia, which seems to contain, in every class and order, the most perfect and highly organised animals. Celebes has relations to both, yet strictly belongs to neither : it possesses characteristics which are altogether its own ; and I am convinced that no single island upon the globe would so well repay a careful and detailed research into its past and present history.
Concluding Remarks. In writing this essay it has been my object to show how much may, under favourable circumstances, be learnt by the study of what may be termed the external physiology of a small group of animals, inhabiting a limited district. This branch of natural history had received little attention till Mr. Darwin showed how important an adjunct it may become towards a true interpretation of the history of organized beings, and attracted towards it some small share of that research which had before been almost exclusively devoted to internal structure and physiology. The nature of species, the laws of variation, the mysterious influence of locality on both form and colour, the phenomena of dimorphism and of mimicry, the modifying influence of sex, the general laws of geographical distribution, and the interpretation of past changes of the earth's surface, have all been more or less fully illustrated by the very limited group of the Malayan Papilionidæ; while, at the same time, the deductions drawn therefrom have been shown to be supported by analogous facts, occurring in other and often widely-separated groups of animals.