« PreviousContinue »
indeed, it does not in some features excel in interest, the great island-continent itself. The monkeys of the Neotropical region, for example, are totally different from those of any other region of the globe. They are broad-nosed, and usually possess prehensile tails, adapting them for an active life amid the dense forests of the region. Those apes have no callosities; their thumbs are less perfectly developed than in Old World apes; and cheek-pouches are also wanting. They include (Fig. 8) the spider monkeys, howlers, capuchins, marmosets, and many other peculiar and
Fig. 8. Spider Moskey. special forms. The bats are likewise peculiar, in that they are represented by the famous vampires and other blood-sucking species. The rodents are the chinchillas, the curious capybara, the pacas, and agoutis and tree porcupines, possessing, like the apes, prehensile tails. The carnivora include the racoons, which take the place in this region of the weasels of the Old World Deer and llamas represent the ruminants of the region; and the tapir and peccaries represent
Fić. 9. ANT-EATER. other forms of hoofed quadrupeds. It is the group of the Edentate quadrupeds, however, which finds in Neotropical territory its peculiar home. If the marsupial kangaroos and wombats characterise Australia as their head-quarters, no less typically in South America do the sloths, true ant-eaters (Fig. 9), and armadillo (Fig. 10) represent the fulness of Edentate development. With the exception of a few species of scaly ant-eaters or pangolins (Fig. 11) occurring in
the Ethiopian and Oriental regions, and the “aardvark” or ground hog of South Africa, the Edentate mammals are absolutely confined to the Neotropical Region ; and it is in the recent deposits of South America that we likewise discover the fossil remains of those huge extinct edentata, of which the Megatherium, Mylodon, and Glypto
don are well-known representatives. Last of all, the marsupial opossums, an apparent remnant of Australian life, find their home in the Neotropical area. As remarkable exceptions and absentees
from the lists of South Fig. 10. Armadillo.
American quadrupeds may be mentioned the Insectivora, of which order-represented by the moles, shrews, and hedgehogs--not an example exists in this area, if we except a little shrew in the north, and one genus in the West Indian Islands. Then, also, we may note the absence of sheep and oxen ; there are none of the civets, so widely spread over other areas; and there is an absence of the large carnivora, and of the elephants and rhinoceroses of the Old World.
Equally notable are the birds of the region. The smaller Passerine birds of the region (Formicaroid Passeres), curiously enough, want the singing muscles of the larynx, as a rule. To this group belong the ant-thrushes, tree creepers, tyrants, chatterers, and manakins. Other typical birds of this area are the tanagers, toucans, puff
birds, todies, and motmots. No less typical are the macaws, the curious curassows and tinamous, the sun bit. terns and the horned screamers; and the humming-birds are
likewise among the FIG. 11. Pangolix.
veritable gems of
South American orni. thology. The humming-birds, ranging from Sitka to Patagonia, from the plains to the towering heights of the Andes, are absolutely confined to the New World “No naturalist,” says Mr. Wallace, “ can study
in detail this single family of birds, without being profoundly impressed with the vast antiquity of the South American continent, its long isolation from the rest of the land surface of the globe, and the persistence through countless ages of all the conditions requisite for the development and increase of varied forms of animal life.” The curassows are distant relatives of the mound-birds of Australia; and the tinamous possess affinities with the ostrich-tribe itself; whilst in such peculiar Neotropical birds as the Cariama of Brazil, the sun bitterns and horned screamers, we see types of birds, either intermediate between other families, or standing solitary and isolated in the bird class, testifying again by these peculiarities of structure to the lapse of time which has passed since their evolution from some common and now extinct type.
The snakes of the region are numerous and peculiar, and the lizards are equally varied. The true crocodiles and the New World alligators co-exist in this region, and the tortoises attain considerable development in this region. The tailed newts are well-nigh absent, however; frogs and toads are abundant; and the fishes of South America present us with numerous types, many of the species and 120 genera at least being confined to the waters of the area.
Central America, as might be expected, shows less clearly the characteristic features of the southern portion of the continent. There we find a commingling of Nearctic with Neotropical forms, but the latter predominate, and as far north as Mexico we may trace the howling monkeys and armadillos of the southern region.
In the case of the West Indian islands, forming the Antillean subregion of the Neotropical province, however, we meet with greater variations from the fauna of the continent. No better instance of the apparently arbitrary, but nevertheless logical and scientific, method of mapping off the earth's surface for biological purposes, could well be selected, than the zoologist's classification of the West Indian Islands. For, encircling Cuba, Hayti, Jamaica, Porto Rico, St. Vincent, Barbadoes, and many other islets in his biological line, he places outside this line Tobago, Trinidad, Margarita, and Curaçoa. The elimination of these latter islands from the “zoological ” West Indies, whilst they form characteristic islands of the geographical Antilles, is readily explicable. Trinidad and its three neighbouring islands in their zoology differ entirely from the other West Indian Islands, but agree with the adjoining coast of South America in the character of their included animals and plants. Scientifically and zoologically, they are therefore parts of South America ; they belong to the Brazilian sub-region, and not to the West Indian sub-province, Their affinity to the continent in the matter of their botany and zoology, and their wide divergence from the other West Indian Islands, point clearly to their relatively late detachment from the South American coasts. Their constitution as islands was attained, in other words, at a date much more recent than that at which the other islands of the group received their status as independent lands. Of Trinidad and its neighbouring islets nothing peculiar in a zoological sense can be detailed. We may, therefore, turn to the typical West Indies themselves.
Rich in vegetation and all that contributes to the support of animal life, the West Indies are poor in representatives of the higher groups. But they compensate the zoological mind for poverty in numbers by peculiarities of type. No apes or carnivora are native to the West Indies, and the characteristic edentates of South America -the sloths, ant-eaters, and armadillos—are likewise wholly absent. But bats are abundant, and the rodents are peculiar. Capromys, one of these rodents, inhabits Cuba, Jamaica; and Plagiodontia is found in Hayti alone. These two genera are thus exclusively limited to the West Indies. In addition, an agouti is found in St. Vincent, and other islands; and a rare species of mouse (Hesperomys) is found in Hayti and Martinique. If the West Indian rodents are peculiar, so likewise are the Insectivora belonging to the curious genus Solenodon. Two species of Solenodon occur, one in Cuba, the other in Hayti. These animals are allied to the Madagascar “tenrecs.” They possess an extremely elongated nose, a long and scaly tail, and powerful claws. The fur is coarse, and the teeth are peculiar in some respects.
The entire zoological history of the West Indian Islands tends to show their distinctness as a biological region. Their fauna bears a decidedly Neotropical character in its essential details, but it is likewise a fauna which has undergone extensive modification through a Jong separation from the ancient mainland of which these islands once formed part
The biological divisions of the globe having thus been detailed the task of investigating the causes which have wrought out the existing distribution of life on its surface yet remains. These preliminary studies form the material facts whereupon we may erect a solid hypothesis concerning the means whereby the living population of the earth has been modified, assorted, and arranged. We may accordingly marshal the facts in due order, that we may connect them by a theoretical bond-using hypothesis, thus legitimately, as a guide to the discovery of truth.
THE WAR OF THE WARTBURG.
IT is no stirring record of knightly prowess, no thrilling narrative I of hand-to-hand combat between mail-clad warriors, that we purpose to draw from the obscurity of distant centuries. The War of the Wartburg is a bloodless war. The cries of the dying and the wounded shall not strike our ears, our eyes shall not behold the glittering pageant of the tented field. The noble hall of the Thuringian hill-fortress is the scene of the exploits which we shall recall. Our heroes are the minstrels whom the munificence of Landgraf Hermann has attracted to his court; their only weapon the German "Schwalbe," identical with our Irish harp. But perhaps the strangest feature of all in this unique war is that the champions do not fight for their own glory. The question at issue between them is not their own worth or their own superiority; the virtues and the excellence of their respective patrons, of the enlightened and munificent princes whose favour they have enjoyed, and whose gifts they have received, supply a nobler and more generous theme.
The combatants are eight in number. Their names, in the order in which they enter the lists, and in which we shall briefly introduce them, are Heinrich von Ofterdingen, Walther von der Vogelweide, the Worthy Notary, Biterolf, Reinmar, Wolfran von Eschenbach, and lastly Klingsor.
The name of Ofterdingen is not unfamiliar in German literature. Not only has the attempt been made to prove him the author of this Wartburgkrieg, it has also been endeavoured at various times to connect him with the Nibelungen Lied, with Laurin, and with the Rosengarten. Unfortunately for these hypotheses, the existence of such a person as Heinrich von Ofterdingen has never been satisfactorily proved. Indeed, the strongest, we might almost say the only, argument in support of it, used to be deduced from his appearance in the present poem. But this was so palpable a begging of the question that Ofterdingen has come to be looked upon as a purely mythical character. In point of fact, it matters little which view we favour. Whether he actually lived in the flesh or whether he be a mere creature of the imagination, the practical result is the