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THE ETHIOPIAN REGION.
This is one of the best defined of the great zoological regions, consisting of tropical and South Africa, to which must be added tropical Arabia, Madagascar, and a few other islands, all popularly known as African. Some naturalists would extend the region northwards to the Atlas Mountains and include the whole of the Sahara; but the animal life of the northern part of that great desert seems more akin to the Palæarctic fauna of North Africa. The Sahara is really a debatable land which has been peopled from both regions; and until we know more of the natural history of the great plateaus which rise like islands in the waste of sand, it will be safer to make the provisional boundary line at or near the tropic, thus giving the northern half to the Palæarctic, the southern to the Ethiopian region. The same line may be continued across Arabia.
With our present imperfect knowledge of the interior of Africa, only three great continental sub-regions can be well defined. The open pasture lands of interior tropical Africa are wonderfully uniform in their productions; a great number of species ranging from Senegal to Abyssinia and thence to the Zambesi, while almost all the commoner African genera extend over the whole of this area. Almost all this extensive tract of country is a moderately elevated plateau, with a hot and dry climate, and characterised by a grassy vegetation interspersed with patches of forest. This forms our first or East African sub-region. The whole of the west coast from the south side of the Gambia River to about 10° or 12° south latitude, is a very
different kind of country ; being almost wholly dense forests where not cleared by man, and having the hot moist uniform climate, and perennial luxuriance of vegetation, which characterise the great equatorial belt of forest all round the globe. This forest country extends to an unknown distance inland, but it was found, with its features well marked, by Dr. Schweinfurth directly he crossed the south-western watershed of the Nile; and far to the south we find it again unmistakably indicated, in the excessively moist forest country about the head waters of the Congo, where the heroic Livingstone met his death. In this forest district many of the more remarkable African types are alone found, and its productions occasionally present us with curious similarities to those of the far removed South American or Malayan forests. This is our second or West African subregion.
Extra-tropical South Africa possesses features of its own, quite distinct from those of both the preceding regions (although it has also much in common with the first). Its vegetation is known to be one of the richest, most peculiar, and most remarkable on the globe; and in its zoology it has a speciality, similar in kind but less in degree, which renders it both natural and convenient to separate it as our third, or South African sub-region. Its limits are not very clearly ascertained, but it is probably bounded by the Kalahari desert on the north-west, and by the Limpopo Valley, or the mountain range beyond, on the north-east, although some of its peculiar forms extend to Mozambique. There remains the great Island of Madagascar, one of the most isolated and most interesting on the globe, as regards its animal productions; and to this must be added, the smaller islands of Bourbon, Mauritius and Rodriguez, the Seychelles and the Comoro Islands, forming together the Mascarene Islands,—the whole constituting our fourth sub-region.
Zoological Characteristics of the Ethiopian Region. We have now to consider briefly, what are the peculiarities and characteristics of the Ethiopian Region as a whole,—those which give it its distinctive features and broadly separate it from the other primary zoological regions.
Mammalia.—This region has 9 peculiar families of mammalia. Chiromyidæ (containing the aye-aye); Potamogalidæ and Chrysochloridæ (Insectivora); Cryptoproctidæ and Protelidæ (Carnivora); Hippopotamidæ and Camelopardalidæ (Ungulata); and Orycteropodidæ (Edentata). Besides these it possesses 7 peculiar genera of apes, Troglodytes, Colobus, Myiopithecus Cercopithecus, Cercocebus, Theropithecus, and Cynocephalus; 2 subfamilies of lemurs containing 6 genera, confined to Madagascar, with 3 genera of two other sub-families confined to the continent; of Insectivora a family, Centetidæ, with 5 genera, peculiar to Madagascar, and the genera Petrodromus and Rhynchocyon belonging to the Macroscelididæ, or elephant-shrews, restricted to the continent; numerous peculiar genera or subgenera of civets; Lycaon and Megalotis, remarkable genera of Canidæ; Ictonyx, the zorilla, a genus allied to the weasels; 13 peculiar genera of Muridæ ; Pectinator, a genus of the South American family Octodontidæ; and 2 genera of the South American Echimyidæ or spiny rats. Of abundant and characteristic groups it possesses Macroscelides, Felis, Hyæna, Hyrac, Rhinoceros, and Elephas, as well as several species of zebra and a great variety of antelopes.
The great speciality indicated by these numerous peculiar families and genera, is still farther increased by the absence of certain groups dominant in the Old-World continent, an absence which we can only account for by the persistence, through long epochs, of barriers isolating the greater part of Africa from the rest of the world. These groups are, Ursidæ, the bears ; Talpidæ the moles; Camelidæ, the camels; Cervidæ, the deer; Caprinæ, the goats and sheep; and the genera Bos (wild ox); and Sus (wild boar). Combining these striking deficiencies, with the no less striking peculiarities above enumerated, it seems hardly possible to have a region more sharply divided from the rest of the globe than this is, by its whole assemblage of mammalia.
Birds.-In birds the Ethiopian region is by no means so strikingly peculiar, many of these having been able to pass the ancient barriers which so long limited the range of mainmalia.