Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 25.djvu/82

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74
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

their own ingenious contrivances for floating with the wind and tide, and for catching on to every moving object, all have been carefully observed and faithfully chronicled.

The first important truth enforced by these observations is that all organic life on the earth is, in a generic or tribal sense at least, migratory and nomadic. The individuals may be rooted and stationary, but the tribe is traveling, constantly leaving old fields and surroundings and as constantly arriving in new ones, sometimes crowded out, sometimes starved out, and sometimes invited out, but always moving—moving on to a new environment, better suited, taking all things into consideration, to satisfy the pressing needs of, and to develop and raise in the scale of being, both the individual and the species.

A second great truth taught by examining the methods of these movements and studying the causes of this ceaseless tramp of organic life is, that certain essential elements of the environment itself are usually found to be traveling with or a little in advance of the migratory species. In other words, the rainfall and isothermal lines, the climatic and other conditions of life, are constantly and slowly changing relative to the locality, but moving in fact. It has been frequently observed that certain species, occupying some particular territory now, have at some recent time in the past been enabled by such changes to crowd out other occupants of the same territory, and in turn will be undoubtedly, by similar changes and means, crowded out themselves. All kinds of plants and animals which have remained in one locality until they have lost the means of movement, which can not or will not travel, must sooner or later first degenerate and then be exterminated. For instance, a rain-belt or an area of dew-fall veers slowly but permanently from the north to the south; an arid soil is made fertile, and a fertile soil is left arid; the grass and flowering plants in endless variety move with the dew or the rain-belt; the deer follow the grass, and the wolves follow the deer; a thousand varieties of insects follow the flowering plants, and the insectivorous birds and other animals, herbivorous and carnivorous, bring up the rear, and so on, through all the interdependencies of life, the change of a single essential condition, the movement of one variety, causes a disturbance and movement of all in the neighborhood. Thence comes all this ceaseless and migratory activity among the flora and fauna of the earth.

This condition of things would indicate the possibility at least that life upon the earth had in the main commenced in some favored area, and traveled thence far and wide over the surface of the globe, driven out by changes of environment, lessening in effect the favorable conditions of its development in the place of its beginning, and ever beckoned on by more favorable conditions in adjacent districts. As there are no plants and no animals, with the exception of man, and possibly his companion the dog, and his pest the rat, that can thrive