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- More Letters of Charles Darwin Volume II - 4/133 -
the Ethiopian Region.) The facts do not seem to me many and strong enough to justify so immense a change of level. Moreover, Mauritius and the other islands appear to me oceanic in character. But do not suppose that I place my judgment on this subject on a level with yours. A wonderfully good paper was published about a year ago on India, in the "Geological Journal," I think by Blanford. (391/4. H.F. Blanford "On the Age and Correlations of the Plant-bearing Series of India and the Former Existence of an Indo- Oceanic Continent" ("Quart. Journ. Geol. Soc." XXXI., 1875, page 519). The name Gondwana-Land was subsequently suggested by Professor Suess for this Indo-Oceanic continent. Since the publication of Blanford's paper, much literature has appeared dealing with the evidence furnished by fossil plants, etc., in favour of the existence of a vast southern continent.) Ramsay agreed with me that it was one of the best published for a long time. The author shows that India has been a continent with enormous fresh-water lakes, from the Permian period to the present day. If I remember right, he believes in a former connection with S. Africa.
I am sure that I read, some twenty to thirty years ago in a French journal, an account of teeth of Mastodon found in Timor; but the statement may have been an error. (391/5. In a letter to Falconer (Letter 155), January 5th, 1863, Darwin refers to the supposed occurrence of Mastodon as having been "smashed" by Falconer.)
With respect to what you say about the colonising of New Zealand, I somewhere have an account of a frog frozen in the ice of a Swiss glacier, and which revived when thawed. I may add that there is an Indian toad which can resist salt-water and haunts the seaside. Nothing ever astonished me more than the case of the Galaxias; but it does not seem known whether it may not be a migratory fish like the salmon. (391/6. The only genus of the Galaxidae, a family of fresh-water fishes occurring in New Zealand, Tasmania, and Tierra del Fuego, ranging north as far as Queensland and Chile (Wallace's "Geographical Distribution," II., page 448).)
LETTER 392. TO A.R. WALLACE. Down, June 25th, 1876.
I have been able to read rather more quickly of late, and have finished your book. I have not much to say. Your careful account of the temperate parts of South America interested me much, and all the more from knowing something of the country. I like also much the general remarks towards the end of the volume on the land molluscs. Now for a few criticisms.
Page 122. (392/1. The pages refer to Volume II. of Wallace's "Geographical Distribution.")--I am surprised at your saying that "during the whole Tertiary period North America was zoologically far more strongly contrasted with South America than it is now." But we know hardly anything of the latter except during the Pliocene period; and then the mastodon, horse, several great edentata, etc., etc., were common to the north and south. If you are right, I erred greatly in my "Journal," where I insisted on the former close connection between the two.
Page 252 and elsewhere.--I agree thoroughly with the general principle that a great area with many competing forms is necessary for much and high development; but do you not extend this principle too far--I should say much too far, considering how often several species of the same genus have been developed on very small islands?
Page 265.--You say that the Sittidae extend to Madagascar, but there is no number in the tabular heading. [The number (4) was erroneously omitted.-- A.R.W.]
Page 359.--Rhinochetus is entered in the tabular heading under No. 3 of the neotropical subregions. [An error: should have been the Australian.-- A.R.W.]
Reviewers think it necessary to find some fault; and if I were to review you, the sole point which I should blame is your not giving very numerous references. These would save whoever follows you great labour. Occasionally I wished myself to know the authority for certain statements, and whether you or somebody else had originated certain subordinate views. Take the case of a man who had collected largely on some island, for instance St. Helena, and who wished to work out the geographical relations of his collections: he would, I think, feel very blank at not finding in your work precise references to all that had been written on St. Helena. I hope you will not think me a confoundedly disagreeable fellow.
I may mention a capital essay which I received a few months ago from Axel Blytt (392/2. Axel Blytt, "Essay on the Immigration of the Norwegian Flora." Christiania, 1876. See Letter 387.) on the distribution of the plants of Scandinavia; showing the high probability of there having been secular periods alternately wet and dry, and of the important part which they have played in distribution.
I wrote to Forel (392/3. See Letter 388.), who is always at work on ants, and told him your views about the dispersal of the blind coleoptera, and asked him to observe.
I spoke to Hooker about your book, and feel sure that he would like nothing better than to consider the distribution of plants in relation to your views; but he seemed to doubt whether he should ever have time.
And now I have done my jottings, and once again congratulate you on having brought out so grand a work. I have been a little disappointed at the review in "Nature." (392/4. June 22nd, 1876, pages 165 et seq.)
LETTER 393. A.R. WALLACE TO CHARLES DARWIN. Rosehill, Dorking, July 23rd, 1876.
I should have replied sooner to your last kind and interesting letters, but they reached me in the midst of my packing previous to removal here, and I have only just now got my books and papers in a get-at-able state.
And first, many thanks for your close observation in detecting the two absurd mistakes in the tabular headings.
As to the former greater distinction of the North and South American faunas, I think I am right. The edentata being proved (as I hold) to have been mere temporary migrants into North America in the post-Pliocene epoch, form no part of its Tertiary fauna. Yet in South America they were so enormously developed in the Pliocene epoch that we know, if there is any such thing as evolution, etc., that strange ancestral forms must have preceded them in Miocene times.
Mastodon, on the other hand, represented by one or two species only, appears to have been a late immigrant into South America from the north.
The immense development of ungulates (in varied families, genera, and species) in North America during the whole Tertiary epoch is, however, the great feature which assimilates it to Europe, and contrasts it with South America. True camels, hosts of hog-like animals, true rhinoceroses, and hosts of ancestral horses, all bring the North American [fauna] much nearer to the Old World than it is now. Even the horse, represented in all South America by Equus only, was probably a temporary immigrant from the north.
As to extending too far the principle (yours) of the necessity of comparatively large areas for the development of varied faunas, I may have done so, but I think not. There is, I think, every probability that most islands, etc., where a varied fauna now exists, have been once more extensive--eg., New Zealand, Madagascar: where there is no such evidence (e.g., Galapagos), the fauna is very restricted.
Lastly, as to want of references: I confess the justice of your criticism; but I am dreadfully unsystematic. It is my first large work involving much of the labour of others. I began with the intention of writing a comparatively short sketch, enlarged it, and added to it bit by bit; remodelled the tables, the headings, and almost everything else, more than once, and got my materials in such confusion that it is a wonder it has not turned out far more crooked and confused than it is. I, no doubt, ought to have given references; but in many cases I found the information so small and scattered, and so much had to be combined and condensed from conflicting authorities, that I hardly knew how to refer to them or where to leave off. Had I referred to all authors consulted for every fact, I should have greatly increased the bulk of the book, while a large portion of the references would be valueless in a few years, owing to later and better authorities. My experience of referring to references has generally been most unsatisfactory. One finds, nine times out of ten, the fact is stated, and nothing more; or a reference to some third work not at hand!
I wish I could get into the habit of giving chapter and verse for every fact and extract; but I am too lazy, and generally in a hurry, having to consult books against time, when in London for a day.
However, I will try to do something to mend this matter, should I have to prepare another edition.
I return you Forel's letter. It does not advance the question much; neither do I think it likely that even the complete observation he thinks necessary would be of much use, because it may well be that the ova, or larvae, or imagos of the beetles are not carried systematically by the ants, but only occasionally, owing to some exceptional circumstances. This might produce a great effect in distribution, yet be so rare as never to come under observation.
Several of your remarks in previous letters I shall carefully consider. I know that, compared with the extent of the subject, my book is in many parts crude and ill-considered; but I thought, and still think, it better to make some generalisations wherever possible, as I am not at all afraid of having to alter my views in many points of detail. I was so overwhelmed with zoological details, that I never went through the Geological Society's "Journal" as I ought to have done, and as I mean to do before writing more on the subject.
LETTER 394. TO F. BUCHANAN WHITE.
(394/1. "Written in acknowledgment of a copy of a paper (published by me in the "Proceedings of the Zoological Society") on the Hemiptera of St. Helena, but discussing the origin of the whole fauna and flora of that island."--F.B.W.)
Down, September 23rd. .
I have now read your paper, and I hope that you will not think me presumptuous in writing another line to say how excellent it seems to me. I believe that you have largely solved the problem of the affinities of the inhabitants of this most interesting little island, and this is a delightful triumph.
LETTER 395. TO J.D. HOOKER. Down, July 22nd .
I have just read Ball's Essay. (395/1. The late John Ball's lecture "On the Origin of the Flora of the Alps" in the "Proceedings of the R. Geogr. Soc." 1879. Ball argues (page 18) that "during ancient Palaeozoic times, before the deposition of the Coal-measures, the atmosphere contained twenty times as much carbonic acid gas and considerably less oxygen than it does
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