Page:Darwinism by Alfred Wallace 1889.djvu/373

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
XII
349
GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION OF ORGANISMS

have extended during any portion of the Tertiary and Secondary periods, we shall obtain a foundation of inestimable value for our inquiries into those migrations of animals and plants during past ages which have resulted in their present peculiarities of distribution. We see, for instance, that the South American and African continents have always been separated by nearly as wide an ocean as at present, and that whatever similarities there may be in their productions must be due to the similar forms having been derived from a common origin in one of the great northern continents. The radical difference between the higher forms of life of the two continents accords perfectly with their permanent separation. If there had been any direct connection between them during Tertiary times, we should hardly have found the deep-seated differences between the Quadrumana of the two regions—no family even being common to both; nor the peculiar Insectivora of the one continent, and the equally peculiar Edentata of the other. The very numerous families of birds quite peculiar to one or other of these continents, many of which, by their structural isolation and varied development of generic and specific forms, indicate a high antiquity, equally suggest that there has been no near approach to a land connection during the same epoch.

Looking to the two great northern continents, we see indications of a possible connection between them both in the North Atlantic and the North Pacific oceans; and when we remember that from middle Tertiary times backward—so far as we know continuously to the earliest Palaeozoic epoch—a temperate and equable climate, with abundant woody vegetation, prevailed up to and within the arctic circle, we see what facilities may have been afforded for migration from one continent to the other, sometimes between America and Europe, sometimes between America and Asia. Admitting these highly probable connections, no bridging of the Atlantic in more southern latitudes (of which there is not a particle of evidence) will have been necessary to account for all the intermigration that has occurred between the two continents. If, on the other hand, we remember how long must have been the route, and how diverse must always have been the conditions between the more northern and the more southern portions of the American and Euro-Asiatic continents, we shall not be