« PreviousContinue »
we should bear in mind that some are extremely ancient, and must have branched off from a common parent at a remote epoch; so that in such cases there will have been ample time for great climatal and geographical changes and for accidents of transport; and consequently for the migration of some of the species into all quarters of the world, where they may have become slightly modified in relation to their new conditions. There is, also, some reason to believe from geological evidence that organisms low in the scale within each great class, generally change at a slower rate than the higher forms; and consequently the lower forms will have had a better chance of ranging videly and of still retaining the same specific character. This fact, together with the seeds and eggs of many low forms being very minute and better fitted for distant transportation, probably accounts for a law which has long been observed, and which has lately been admirably discussed by Alph. de Candolle in regard to plants, namely, that the lower any group of organisms is, the more widely it is apt to range.
The relations just discussed,-namely, low and slowlychanging organisms ranging more widely than the high, —some of the species of widely-ranging genera themselves ranging widely,—such facts, as alpine, lacustrine, and marsh productions being related (with the exceptions before specified) to those on the surrounding low lands and dry lands, though these stations are so different-the very close relation of the distinct species which inhabit the islets of the same archipelago,—and especially the striking relation of the inhabitants of each whole archipelago or island to those of the nearest mainland,—are, I think, utterly inexplicable on the ordinary view of the independent creation of each species, but are explicable on the view of colonisation from the nearest and readiest source, together with the subsequent modification and better adaptation of the colonists to their new homes.
Summary of last and present Chapters. In these chapters I have endeavoured to show, that if we make due allowance for our ignorance of the full effects of all the changes of climate and of the level of the land, which have certainly occurred within the recent period, and of other similar changes which may have occurred within the same period; it we remember how profoundly ignorant we are with respect to the many and curious means of occasional transport,-a subject which has hardly ever been properly experimentised on; if we bear in mind how often a species may have ranged continuously over a wide area, and then have become extinct in the intermediate tracts, I think the difficulties in believing that all the individuals of the same species, wherever located, have descended from the same parents, are not insuperable. And we are led to this conclusion, which has been arrived at by many naturalists under the designation of single centres of creation, by some general considerations, more especially from the importance of barriers and from the analogical distribution of sub-gencra, genera, and families.
With respect to the distinct species of the same genus, which on my theory must have spread from one parentsource ; if we make the same allowances as before for our ignorance, and remember that some forms of life change most slowly, enormous periods of time being thus granted for their migration, I do not think that the difficulties are insuperable; though they often are in this case, and in that of the individuals of the same species, extremely grave.
As exemplifying the effects of climatal changes on distribution, I have attempted to show how important has been the influence of the modern Glacial period, which I ain fully convinced simultaneously affected the whole world, or at least great meridional belts. As showing how diversified are the means of occasional transport, I have discussed at some little length the means of dispersal of fresh-water productions.
If the difficulties be not insuperable in admitting that in the long course of time the individuals of the same species, and likewise of allied species, have proceeded from some one source; then I think all the grand leading facts of geographical distribution are explicable on the theory of migration (generally of the more dominant forms of life), together with subsequent modification and
the multiplication of new forms. We can thus understand the high importance of barriers, whether of land or water, which separate our several zoological and botanical provinces. We can thus understand the localisation of sub-genera, genera, and families; and how it is that under different latitudes, for instance in South America, the inhabitants of the plains and mountains, of the forests, marshes, and deserts, are in so mysterious a manner linked together by affinity, and are likewise linked to the extinct beings which formerly inhabited the same continent. Bearing in mind that the mutual relations of organism to organism are of the highest importance, we can see why two areas having nearly the same physical conditions should often be inhabited by very different forms of life; for according to the length of time which has elapsed since new inhabitants entered one region ; according to the nature of the communication which allowed certain forms and not others to enter, either in greater or lesser numbers ; according or not, as those which entered happened to come in more or less direct competition with each other and with the aborigines ; and according as the immigrants were capable of varying more or less rapidly, there would ensue in different regions, independently of their physical conditions, infinitely diversified conditions of life, there would be an almost endless amount of organic action and reaction,—and we should find, as we do find, some groups of beings greatly, and some only slightly modified, some developed in great force, some existing in scanty numbers—in the different great geographical provinces of the world.
On these same principles, we can understand, as I have endeavoured to show, why oceanic islands should have few inhabitants, but of these a great number should be endemic or peculiar; and why, in relation to the means of migration, one group of beings, even within the same class, should have all its species endemic, and another group should have all its species common to other quarters of the world. We can see why whole groups of organisms, as batrachians and terrestrial mammals, should be absent from oceanic islands, whilst the most isolated
islands possess their own peculiar species of aërial mammals or bats. We can see why there should be some relation between the presence of mammals, in a more or less modified condition, and the depth of the sea between an island and the mainland. We can clearly see why all the inhabitants of an archipelago, though specifically distinct on the several islands, should be closely related to each other, and likewise be related, but less closely, to those of the nearest continent or other source whence im. migrants were probably derived. We can see why in two areas, however distant from each other, there should be a correlation, in the presence of identical species, of varieties, of doubtful species, and of distinct but representative species.
As the late Edward Forbes often insisted, there is a striking parallelism in the laws of life throughout time and space: the laws governing the succession of forms in past times being nearly the same with those governing at the present time the differences in different areas. We see this in many facts. The endurance of each species and group of species is continuous in time; for the exceptions to the rule are so few, that they may fairly be attributed to our not having as yet discovered in an intermediate deposit the forms which are therein absent, but which occur above and below : so in space, it certainly is the general rule that the area inhabited by a single species, or by a group of species, is continuous; and the exceptions, which are not rare, may, as I have attempted to show, be accounted for by migration at some former period under different conditions or by occasional means of transport, and by the species having become extinct in the intermediate tracts. Both in time and space, species and groups of species have their points of maximum development Groups of species, belonging either to a certain period of time, or to a certain area, are often characterised by trifling characters in common, as of sculpture or colour. In looking to the long succession of ages, as in now looking to distant provinces throughout the world, we find that some organisms differ little, whilst others belonging to a different class, or to a different order, or even only to a different family of the same order, differ greatly. In both time and space the lower members of each class generally change less than the higher; but there are in both cases marked exceptions to the rule. On my theory these several relations throughout time and space are intelligible; for whether we look to the forms of life which have changed during successive ages within the same quarter of the world, or to those which have changed after having migrated into distant quarters, in both cases the forms within each class have been connected by the same bond of ordinary generation; and the more nearly any two forms are related in blood, the nearer they will generally stand to each other in time and space; in both cases the laws of variation have been the same, and modifications have been accumulated by the same power of natural selection.