Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/839

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ful wings, had apart from its teethed jaws all the appearance of a bird of our own time.[1] And, finally, the discovery of a large ostrich-like bird (Dasornis Londinensis) in the Lower Eocene of the isle of Sheppey, and of another, also big and flightless bird (Gastornis), in the Eocene of Meudon, Rheims, and Croydon, established a further connection between the bird-like lizards of the Triassic times and real specialized birds.

These last discoveries brought the series very near to our own times, and they were the more valuable as the just-mentioned Gastornis proved to combine some of the characters of both flying birds and of those which, like the ostrich, the cassowary, and the emu, do not fly; while the Pliocene deposits of north India and the numberless remains of the so-called moas of New Zealand yielded specimens of still nearer ancestors of our flightless birds. The New Zealand deposits of bones became known more than fifty years ago, when Owen, on receiving (in 1839) a broken but characteristic moa bone, determined the general characters of the great ostrich-like Dinornis, which inhabited the island quite recently, but is found no more in a living state. But it is especially of late that the enormous accumulations of moa remains have been explored in detail. Cart-loads of those bones have already been shipped to Europe, and new accumulations continue to be found—always with the same astonishing numbers of individuals entombed on the same spot, and in the same excellent state of preservation. Such a deposit—one of the most remarkable of its kind—has been lately discovered by Prof. H. O. Forbes, near Oamaru, in the South Island of New Zealand. In a small hollow which did not exceed twelve yards in width, no less than eight hundred to nine hundred individuals were imbedded in solid peat, under a superficial layer of a few inches of soil. Many skeletons lay quite undisturbed, and in some instances the contents of the stomach, which consisted of triturated grass and small rounded and smooth quartz pebbles, were found lying in their natural position, under the sternum. The bones of a giant buzzard, a big extinct goose, the Cape Barron goose, the kiwi, and so on, were mixed together with bones and full skeletons of several species of Dinornis, big and small.[2] And again, as on previous occasions, the New Zealand scientists are at a loss to explain the accumulation of so many various birds on such a narrow space. However, the most interesting part of Prof. Forbes's dis-

  1. R. Lydekker's Catalogue of Fossil Birds of the British Museum, London, 1892. For the general reader we can not but highly recommend a charming book of the same author, Phases of Animal Life, Past and Present, London, 1892, which is a real model of scientific and popular literature.
  2. Letter to Nature, March 3, 1892, vol. xlv, p. 416.