Page:Origin of Species 1859 facsimile.djvu/320

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.
308
Chap. IX.
IMPERFECTION OF THE

a metamorphosed condition. But the descriptions which we now possess of the Silurian deposits over immense territories in Russia and in North America, do not support the view, that the older a formation is, the more it has suffered the extremity of denudation and metamorphism.

The case at present must remain inexplicable; and may be truly urged as a valid argument against the views here entertained. To show that it may hereafter receive some explanation, I will give the following hypothesis. From the nature of the organic remains, which do not appear to have inhabited profound depths, in the several formations of Europe and of the United States; and from the amount of sediment, miles in thickness, of which the formations are composed, we may infer that from first to last large islands or tracts of land, whence the sediment was derived, occurred in the neighbourhood of the existing continents of Europe and North America. But we do not know what was the state of things in the intervals between the successive formations; whether Europe and the United States during these intervals existed as dry land, or as a submarine surface near land, on which sediment was not deposited, or again as the bed of an open and unfathomable sea.

Looking to the existing oceans, which are thrice as extensive as the land, we see them studded with many islands; but not one oceanic island is as yet known to afford even a remnant of any palæozoic or secondary formation. Hence we may perhaps infer, that during the palæozoic and secondary periods, neither continents nor continental islands existed where our oceans now extend; for had they existed there, palæozoic and secondary formations would in all probability have been accumulated from sediment derived from their wear and