Chapter II. Transfer, modification, and extirpation of vegetable and of animal species
Modern Geography Embraces Organic Life
It was a narrow view of geography which confined that science to delineation of terrestrial surface and outline, and to description of the relative position and magnitude of land and water. In its improved form it embraces not only the globe itself and the atmosphere which bathes it, but the living things which vegetate or move upon it, the varied influences they exert upon each other, the reciprocal action and reaction between them and the earth they inhabit. Even if the end of geographical studies were only to obtain a knowledge of the external forms of the mineral and fluid masses which constitute the globe, it would still be necessary to take into account the element of life; for every plant, every animal, is a geographical agency, man a destructive, vegetables, and in some cases even wild beasts, restorative powers. The rushing waters sweep down earth from the uplands; in the first moment of repose, vegetation seeks to reestablish itself on the bared surface, and, by the slow deposit of its decaying products, to raise again the soil which the torrent lhad lowered. So important an element of reconstruction in this, that it has been seriously questioned whether, upon the whole, vegetation does not contribute as much to elevate, as the waters to depress, the level of the surface.
Whenever man has transported a plant from its native habitat to a new soil, he has introduced a new geographical force to act upon it, and this generally at the expense of some indigenous growth which the foreign vegetable has supplanted. The new and the old plants are rarely the equivalents of each other, and the substitution of an exotic for a native tree, shrub, or grass, increases or diminishes the relative importance of the vegetable element in the geography of the country to which it is removed. Further, man sows that he may reap. The products of agricultural industry are not suffered to rot upon the ground, and thus raise it by an annual stratum of new mould. They are gathered, transported to greater or less distances, and after they have served their uses in human economy, they enter, on the final decomposition of their elements, into new combinations, and are only in smnall proportion returned to the soil on which they grew. The roots of the grasses, and of many other cultivated plants, however, usually remain and decay in the earth, and contribute to raise its surface, though certainly not in the same degree as the forest.
The smaller vegetables which have taken the place of trees unquestionably perform many of the same functions. They radiate heat, they absorb gases, and exhale uncombined gases and watery vapor, and consequently act upon the chemical constitution and hygrometrical condition of the air, their roots penetrate the earth to greater depths than is commonly supposed, and form an inextricable labyrinth of filaments which bind the soil together and prevent its erosion by water. The broad-leaved annuals and perennials, too, shade the ground, and prevent the evaporation of moisture from its surface by wind and sun. At a certain stage of growth, grass land is probably a more energetic evaporator and refrigerator than even the forest, but this powerful action is exerted, in its full intensity, for a comparatively short time only, while trees continue such functions, with unabated vigor, for many months in succession. Upon the whole, it seems quite certain, that no cultivated ground is as efficient in tempering climatic extremes, or in conservation of geographical surface and outline, as is the soil which nature herself has planted.
Origin of Domestic Plants
One of the most important questions connected with our subject is: how far we are to regard our cereal grains, our esculent bulbs and roots, and the multiplied tree fruits of our gardens, as artificially modified and improved forms of wild, self-propagating vegetation. The narratives of botanical travellers have often announced the discovery of the original form and habitat of domesticated plants, and scientific journals have described the experiments by which the identity of particular wild and cultivated vegetables has been thought to be established. It is confidently affirmed that maize and the potato--which we must suppose to have been first cultivated at a much later period than the breadstuffs and most other esculent vegetables of Europe and the East--are found wild and self-propagating in Spanish America, though in forms not recognizable by the common observer as identical with the familiar corn and tuber of modern agriculture. It was lately asserted, upon what seemed very strong evidence, that the Aegilops ovata, a plant growing wild in Southern France, had been actually converted into common wheat; but, upon a repetition of the experiments, later observers have declared that the apparent change was only a case of temporary hybridation or fecundation by the pollen of true wheat, and that the grass alleged to be transformed into wheat could not be perpetuated as such from its own seed.
The very great modifications which cultivated plants are constantly undergoing under our eyes, and the numerous varieties and races which spring up among them, certainly countenance the doctrine, that every domesticated vegetable, however dependent upon human care for growth and propagation in its present form, may have been really derived, by a long Succession of changes, from some wild plant not now perhaps much resembling it. But it is, in every case, a question of evidence.
The only satisfactory proof that a given wild plant is identical with a given garden or field vegetable, is the test of experiment, the actual growing of the one from the seed of the other, or the conversion of the one into the other by transplantation and change of conditions.
It is hardly contended that any of the cereals or other plants important as human aliment, or as objects of agricultural industry, exist and propagate themselves uncultivated in the same form and with the same properties as when sown and reared by human art.
In fact, the cases are rare where the identity of a wild with a domesticated plant is considered by the best authorities as conclusively established, and we are warranted in affirming of but few of the latter, as a historically known or experimentally proved fact, that they ever did exist, or could exist, independently of man.
Transfer of Vegetable Life
It belongs to vegetable and animal geography, which are almost sciences of themselves, to point out in detail what man has done to change the distribution of plants and of animated life and to revolutionize the aspect of organic nature; but some of the more important facts bearing on the first branch of this subject may pertinently be introduced here. Most of the cereal grains, the pulse, the edible roots, the tree fruits, and other important forms of esculent vegetation grown in Europe and the United States are believed, and--if the testimony of Pliny and other ancient naturalists is to be depended upon--many of them are historically known, to have originated in the temperate climates of Asia. The agriculture of even so old a country as Egypt has been almost completely revolutionized by the introduction of foreign plants, within the historical period. "With the exception of wheat," says Hehn, "the Nile valley now yields only new products, cotton, rice, sugar, indigo, sorghum, dates," being all unknown to its most ancient rural husbandry . The wine grape has been thought to be truly indigenous only in the regions bordering on the eastern end of the Black Sea, where it now, particularly on the banks of the Rion, the ancient Phasis, propagates itself spontaneously, and grows with unexampled luxuriance. But some species of the vine seem native to Europe, and many varieties of grape have been too long known as common to every part of the United States to admit of the supposition that they were introduced by European colonists.
Objects of Modern Commerce
It is an interesting fact that the commerce--or at least the maritime carrying trade--and the agricultural and mechanical industry of the world are, in very large proportion, dependent on vegetable and animal products little or not at all known to ancient Greek, Roman, and Jewish civilization. In many instances, the chief supply of these articles comes from countries to which they are probably indigenous, and where they are still almost exclusively grown; but in most cases, the plants or animals from which they are derived have been introduced by man into regions now remarkable for their successful cultivation, and that, too, in comparatively recent times, or, in other words, within two or three centuries.
Something of detail on this subject cannot, I think, fail to prove interesting. Pliny mentions about thirty or forty oils as known to the ancients, of which only olive, sesame, rape seed and walnut oil--for except in one or two doubtful passages I find in this author no notice of linseed oil--appear to have been used in such quantities as to have had any serious importance in the carrying trade. At the present time, the new oils, linseed oil, the oil of the whale and other largeo marine animals, petroleum--of which the total consumption of the world in 1871 is estimated at 6,000,000 barrels, the port of Philadelphia alone exporting 56,000,000 gallons in that year--palm-oil recently introduced into commerce, and now imported into England from the coast of Africa at the rate of forty or fifty thousand tuns a year, these alone undoubtedly give employment to more shipping than the whole commerce of Italy--with the exception of wheat--at the most flourishing period of the Roman empire.
England imports annually about 600,000 tons of sugar, 100,000 tons of jute, and about the same quantity of esparto, six million tons of cotton, of which the value of $30,000,000 is exported again in the form of manufactured, goods--including, by a strange industrial revolution, a large amount of cotton yarn and cotton tissues sent to India and directly or indirectly paid for by raw cotton to be manufactured in England--30,000 tons of tobacco, from 100,000 to 350,000 tons of guano, hundreds of thousands of tons of tea, coffee, cacao, caoutchone, gutta-percha and numerous other important articles of trade wholly unknown, as objects of commerce, to the ancient European world; and this immense importation is balanced by a corresponding amount of exportation, not consisting, however, by any means, exclusively of articles new to commerce.
Foreign Plants, How Introduced
Besides the vegetables I have mentioned, we know that many plants of smaller economical value have been the subjects of international exchange in very recent times. Busbequius, Austrian ambassador at Constantinople about the middle of the sixteenth century--whose letters contain one of the best accounts of Turkish life which have appeared down to the present day--brought home from the Ottoman capital the lilac and the tulip. The Belgian Clusius about the same time introduced from the East the horse chestnut, which has since wandered to America. The weeping willows of Europe and the United States are said to have sprung from a slip received from Smyrna by the poet Pope; and planted by him in an English garden; Drouyn de l'IIuys, in a discourse delivered before the French Societe d'Acclimatation, in 1860, claims for Rabelais the introduction of the melon, the artichoke and the Alexandria pink into France; and the Portuguese declare that the progenitor of all the European and American oranges was an Oriental tree transplanted to Lisbon, and still living in the last generation.
The present favorite flowers of the parterres of Europe have been imported from America, Japan and other remote Oriental countries, within a century and a half, and, in fine, there are few vegetables of any agricultural importance, few ornamental trees or decorative plants, which are not now common to the three civilized continents.
The statistics of vegetable emigration exhibit numerical results quite surprising to those not familiar with the subject. The lonely island of St. Helena is described as producing, at the time of its discovery in the year 1501, about sixty vegetable species, including some three or four known to grow elsewhere also. At the present time its flora numbers seven hundred and fifty species--a natural result of the position of the island as the half-way house on the great ocean highway between Europe and the East. Humboldt and Bonpland found, among the unquestionably indigenous plants of tropical America, monocotyledons only, all the dicotyledons of those extensive regions having been probably introduced after the colonization of the New World by Spain.
The seven hundred new species which have found their way to St. Helena within three centuries and a half, were certainly not all, or ever in the largest proportion, designedly planted there by human art, and if we were well acquainted with vegetable emigration, we should probably be able to show that man has intentionally transferred fewer plants than he has accidentally introduced into countries foreign to them. After the wheat, follow the tares that infest it. The woods that grow among the cereal grains, the pests of the kitchen garden, are the same in America as in Europe. The overturning of a wagon, or any of the thousand accidents which befall the emigrant in his journey across the Western plains, may scatter upon the ground the seeds he designed for his garden, and the herbs which fill so important a place in the rustic materia medica of the Eastern States, spring up along the prairie paths but just opened by the caravan of the settler.
Introduction of Foreign Plants
"A negro slave of the great Cortez," says Humboldt, "was the first who sowed wheat in New Spain. He found three grains of it among the rice which had been brought from Spain as food for the soldiers."
About twenty years ago, a Japanese forage plant, the Lesperadeza striata, whose seeds had been brought to the United States by some unknown accident made its appearance in one of the Southern States. It spread spontaneously in various directions, and in a few years was widely diffused. It grows upon poor and exhausted soils, where the formation of a turf or sward by the ordinary grasses would be impossible, and where consequently no regular pastures or meadows can exist. It makes excellent fodder for stock, and though its value is contested, it is nevertheless generally thought a very important addition to the agricultural resources of the South.
In most of the Southern countries of Europe, the sheep and horned cattle winter on the plains, but in the summer are driven, sometimes many days' journey, to mountain pastures. Their coats and fleeces transport seeds in both directions. Hence we see Alpine plants in champaign districts, the plants of the plains on the borders of the glaciers, though in neither case do these vegetables ripen their seeds and propagate themselves. This explains the occurrence of tufts of common red clover with pallid and sickly flowers, on the flanks of the Alps at heights exceeding seven thousand feet.
The hortus siccus of a botanist may accidentally sow seeds from the foot of the Himalayas on the plains that skirt the Alps; and it is a fact of very familiar observation, that exotics, transplanted to foreign climates suited to their growth, often escape from the flower garden and naturalize themselves among the spontaneous vegetation of the pastures. When the cases containing the artistic treasures of Thorvaldsen wore opened in the court of the museum where they are deposited, the straw and grass employed in packing them were scattered upon the ground, and the next season there sprang up from the seeds no less than twenty-five species of plants belonging to the Roman campagna, some of which were preserved and cultivated as a new tribute to the memory of the great Scandinavian sculptor, and at least four are said to have spontaneously naturalized themselves about Copenhagen.
The Turkish armies, in their incursions into Europe, brought Eastern vegetables in their train, and left the seeds of Oriental wall plants to grow upon the ramparts of Buda and Vienna.
In the campaign of 1814, the Russian troops brought, in the stuffing of their saddles and by other accidental means, seeds from the banks of the Dnieper to the valley of the Rhine, and even introduced the plants of the steppes into the environs of Paris.
The forage imported for the French army in the war of 1870-1871 has introduced numerous plants from Northern Africa and other countries into France, and this vegetable emigration is so extensive and so varied in character, that it will probably have an important botanical, and even economical, effect on the flora of that country.
The Canada thistle, Erigeron Canadense, which is said to have accompanied the early French voyagers to Canada from Normandy, is reported to have been introduced into other parts of Europe two hundred years ago by a seed which dropped out of the stuffed skin of an American bird.
Vegetable Power of Accommodation
The vegetables which, so far as we know their history, seem to have been longest objects of human care, can, by painstaking industry, be made to grow under a great variety of circumstances, and some of them prosper nearly equally well when planted and tended on soils of almost any geological character; but the seeds of most of them vegetate only in artificially prepared ground, they have little self-sustaining power, and they soon perish when the nursing hand of man is withdrawn from them.
The vine genus is very catholic and cosmopolite in its habits, but particular varieties are extremely fastidious and exclusive in their requirements as to soil and climate. The stocks of many celebrated vineyards lose their peculiar qualities by transplantation, and the most famous wines are capable of production only in certain well-defined and for the most part narrow districts. The Ionian vine which bears the little stoneless grape known in commerce as the Zante currant, has resisted almost all efforts to naturalize it elsewhere, and is scarcely grown except in two or three of the Ionian islands and in a narrow territory on the northern shores of the Morea.
The attempts to introduce European varieties of the vine into the United States have not been successful except in California, and it may be stated as a general rule that European forest and ornamental trees are not suited to the climate of North America, and that, at the same time, American garden vegetables are less luxuriant, productive and tasteful in Europe than in the United States.
The saline atmosphere of the sea is specially injurious both to seeds and to very many young plants, and it is only recently that the transportation of some very important vegetables across the ocean lines been made practicable, through the invention of Ward's air-tight glass cases. By this means large numbers of the trees which produce the Jesuit's bark were successfully transplanted from America to the British possessions in the East, where this valuable plant may now be said to have become fully naturalized.
Vegetables, naturalized abroad either by accident or design, sometimes exhibit a greatly increased luxuriance of growth.
The European cardoon, an esculent thistle, has broken out from the gardens of the Spanish colonies on the La Plata, acquired a gigantic stature, and propagated itself, in impenetrable thickets, over hundreds of leagues of the Pampas; and the Anacharis alsinastrum, a water plant not much inclined to spread in its native American habitat, has found its way into English rivers, and extended itself to such a degree as to form a serious obstruction to the flow of the current, and even to navigation.
Not only do many wild plants exhibit a remarkable facility of accommodation, but their seeds usually possess great tenacity of life, and their germinating power resists very severe trials. Hence, while the seeds of many cultivated vegetables lose their vitality in two or three years, and can be transported safely to distant countries only with great precautions, the weeds that infest those vegetables, though not cared for by man, continue to accompany him in his migrations, and find a new home on every soil he colonizes. Nature fights in defence of her free children, but wars upon them when they have deserted her banners and tamely submitted to the domination of man.
Indeed, the faculty of spontaneous reproduction and perpetuation necessarily supposes a greater power of accommodation, within a certain range, than we find in most domesticated plants, for it would rarely happen that the seed of a wild plant would fall into ground as nearly similar, in composition and condition, to that where its parent grew, as the soils of different fields artificially prepared for growing a particular vegetable are to each other. Accordingly, though every wild species affects a habitat of a particular character, it is found that, if accidentally or designedly sown elsewhere, it will grow under conditions extremely unlike those of its birthplace. Cooper says: "We cannot say positively that any plant is uncultivable ANYWHERE until it has been tried;" and this seems to be even more true of wild than of domesticated vegetation.
The wild plant is much hardier than the domesticated vegetable, and the same law prevails in animated brute and even human life. The beasts of the chase are more capable of endurance and privation and more tenacious of life, than the domesticated animals which most nearly resemble them. The savage fights on, after he has received half a dozen mortal wounds, the least of which would have instantly paralyzed the strength of his civilized enemy, and, like the wild boar, he has been known to press forward along the shaft of the spear which was trans-piercing his vitals, and to deal a deathblow on the soldier who wielded it.
True, domesticated plants can be gradually acclimatized to bear a degree of heat or of cold, which, in their wild state, they would not have supported; the trained English racer out-strips the swiftest horse of the pampas or prairies, perhaps even the less systematically educated courser of the Arab; the strength of the European, as tested by the dynamometer, is greater than that of the New Zealander. But all these are instances of excessive development of particular capacities and faculties at the expense of general vital power. Expose untamed and domesticated forms of life, together, to an entire set of physical conditions equally alien to the former habits of both, so that every power of resistance and accommodation shall be called into action, and the wild plant or animal will live, while the domesticated will perish.
Agricultural Products of the United States
According to the census of 1870, the United States had, on the first of June in that year, in round numbers, 189,000,000 acres of improved land, the quantity having been increased by 16,000,000 acres within the ten years next preceding. Not to mention less important crops, this land produced, in the year ending on the day last mentioned, in round numbers, 288,000,000 bushels of wheat, 17,000,000 bushels of rye, 282,000,000 bushels of oats, 6,000,000 bushels of peas and beans, 30,000,000 bushels of barley, orchard fruits to the value of ,000,000, 640,000 bushels of cloverseed, 580,000 bushels of other grass seed, 13,000 tons of hemp, 27,000,000 pounds of flax, and 1,730,000 bushels of flaxseed. These vegetable growths were familiar to ancient European agriculture, but they were all introduced into North America after the close of the sixteenth century.
Of the fruits of agricultural industry unknown to the Greeks and Romans, or too little employed by them to be of any commercial importance, the United States produced, in the same year, 74,000,000 pounds of rice, 10,000,000 bushels of buckwheat, 3,000,000 bales of cotton, 87,000 hogsheads of cane sugar, 6,600,000 gallons of cane molasses, 16,000,000 gallons of sorghum molasses, all yielded by vegetables introduced into that country within two hundred years, and--with the exception of buckwheat, the origin of which is uncertain, and of cotton--all, directly or indirectly, from the East Indies; besides, from indigenous plants unknown to ancient agriculture, 761,000,000 bushels of Indian corn, 263,000,000 pounds of tobacco, 143,000,000 bushels of potatoes, 22,000,000 bushels of sweet potatoes, 28,000,000 pounds of maple sugar, and 925,000 gallons of maple molasses. To all this we are to add 27,000,000 tons of hay,--produced partly by new, partly by long known, partly by exotic and partly by native herbs and grasses, the value of ,000,000 in garden vegetables chiefly of European or Asiatic origin, 3,000,000 gallons of wine, and many minor agricultural products.
The weight of this harvest of a year would be many times the tonnage of all the shipping of the United States at the close of the year 1870--and, with the exception of the maple sugar, the maple molasses, and the products of the Western prairie lands and of some small Indian clearings, it was all grown upon lands wrested from the forest by the European race within little more than two hundred years. The wants of Europe have introduced into the colonies of tropical America the sugar cane, the coffee plant, the orange and the lemon, all of Oriental origin, have immensely stimulated the cultivation of the former two in the countries of which they are natives, and, of course, promoted agricultural operations which must have affected the geography of those regions to an extent proportionate to the scale on which they have been pursued.
Useful American Plants Grown in Europe
America has partially repaid her debt to the Eastern continent. Maize and the potato are very valuable additions to the field agriculture of Europe and the East, and the tomato is no mean gift to the kitchen gardens of the Old World, though certainly not an adequate return for the multitude of esculent roots and leguminous plants which the European colonists carried with them.
I wish I could believe, with some, that America is not alone responsible for the introduction of the filthy weed, tobacco, the use of which is the most vulgar and pernicious habit engrafted by the semi-barbarism of modern civilization upon the less multifarious sensualism of ancient life; but the alleged occurrence of pipe-like objects in old Sclavonic, and, it has been said, in Hungarian sepulchres, is hardly sufficient evidence to convict those races of complicity in this grave offence against the temperance and the refinement of modern society.
Extirpation of Vegetables
Lamentable as are the evils produced by the too general felling of the woods in the Old World, I believe it does not appear that any species of native forest tree has yet been extirpated by man on the Eastern continent. The roots, stumps, trunks, and foliage found in bogs are recognized as belonging to still extant species. Except in some few cases where there is historical evidence that foreign material was employed, the timber of the oldest European buildings, and even of the lacustrine habitations of Switzerland, is evidently the product of trees still common in or near the countries where such architectural remains are found; nor have the Egyptian catacombs themselves revealed to us the former existence of any woods not now familiar to us as the growth of still living trees.
It is, however, said that the yew tree, Taxus baccata, formerly very common in England, Germany, and--as we are authorized to infer from Theophrastus--in Greece, has almost wholly disappeared from the latter country, and seems to be dying out in Germany. The wood of the yew surpasses that of almost any other European tree in closeness and fineness of grain, and it is well known for the elasticity which of old made it so great a favorite with the English archer. It is much in request among wood carvers and turners, and the demand for it explains, in part, its increasing scarcity.
It is also asserted that no insect depends upon it for food or shelter, or aids in its fructification, and birds very rarely feed upon its berries: these are circumstances of no small importance, because the tree hence wants means of propagation or diffusion common to so many other plants. But it is alleged that the reproductive power of the yew is exhausted, and that it can no longer be readily propagated by the natural sowing of its seeds, or by artificial methods. If further investigation and careful experiment should establish this fact, it will go far to show that a climatic change, of a character unfavorable to the growth of the yew, has really taken place in Germany, though not yet proved by instrumental observation, and the most probable cause of such change would be found in the diminution of the area covered by the forests. The industry of man is said to have been so successful in the local extirpation of noxious or useless vegetables in China, that, with the exception of a few water plants in the rice grounds, it is sometimes impossible to find a single weed in an extensive district; and the late eminent agriculturist, Mr. Coke, is reported to have offered in vain a considerable reward for the detection of a weed in a large wheatfield on his estate in England. In these cases, however, there is no reason to suppose that diligent husbandry has done more than to eradicate the pests of agriculture within a comparatively limited area, and the cockle and the darnel will probably remain to plague the slovenly cultivator as long as the cereal grains continue to bless him.
All the operations of rural husbandry are destructive to spontaneous vegetation by the voluntary substitution of domestic for wild plants, and, as we have seen, the armies of the colonist are attended by troops of irregular and unrecognized camp-followers, which soon establish and propagate themselves over the new conquests. These unbidden and hungry guests--the gipsies of the vegetable world--often have great aptitude for accommodation and acclimation, and sometimes even crowd out the native growth to make room for themselves. The botanist Latham informs us that indigenous flowering plants, once abundant on the North-Western prairies, have been so nearly extirpated by the inroads of half-wild vegetables which have come in the train of the Eastern immigrant, that there is reason to fear that, in a few years, his herbarium will constitute the only evidence of their former existence.
There are plants--themselves perhaps sometimes stragglers from their proper habitat--which are found only in small numbers and in few localities. These are eagerly sought by the botanist, and some such species are believed to be on the very verge of extinction, from the zeal of collectors.
Animal Life as a Geological and Geographical Agency
The quantitative value of animated life, as a geological agency, seems to be inversely as the volume of the individual organism; for nature supplies by numbers what is wanting in the bulk of the animal out of whose remains or structures she forms strata covering whole provinces, and builds up from the depths of the sea large islands, if not continents. There are, it is true, near the mouths of the great Siberian rivers which empty themselves into the Polar Sea, drift islands composed, in an incredibly large proportion, of the bones and tusks of elephants, mastodons, and other huge pachyderms, and many extensive caves in various parts of the world are half filled with the skeletons of quadrupeds, sometimes lying loose in the earth, sometimes cemented together into an osseous breccia by a calcareous deposit or other binding material. These remains of large animals, though found in comparatively late formations, generally belong to extinct species, and their modern congeners or representatives do not exist in sufficient numbers to be of sensible importance in geology or in geography by the mere mass of their skeletons.
But the vegetable products found with them, and, in rare cases, in the stomachs of some of them, are those of yet extant plants; and besides this evidence, the discovery of works of human art, deposited in juxtaposition with fossil bones, and evidently at the same time and by the same agency which buried these latter--not to speak of human bones found in the same strata--proves that the animals whose former existence they testify were contemporaneous with man, and possibly even extirpated by him.
I do not propose to enter upon the thorny question, whether the existing races of man are genealogically connected with these ancient types of humanity, and I advert to these facts only for the sake of the suggestion, that man, in his earliest known stages of existence, was probably a destructive power upon the earth, though perhaps not so emphatically as his present representatives. The larger wild animals are not now numerous enough in any one region to form extensive deposits by their remains; but they have, nevertheless, a certain geographical importance. If the myriads of large browsing and grazing quadrupeds which wander over the plains of Southern Africa--and the slaughter of which by thousands is the source of a ferocious pleasure and a brutal triumph to professedly civilized hunters--if the herds of the American bison, which are numbered by hundreds of thousands, do not produce visible changes in the forms of terrestrial surface, they have at least an immense influence on the growth and distribution of vegetable life, and, of course, indirectly upon all the physical conditions of soil and climate between which and vegetation a mutual interdependence exists. In the preceding chapter I referred to the agency of the beaver in the formation of bogs as producing sensible geographical effects.
I am disposed to think that more bogs in the Northern States owe their origin to beavers than to accidental obstructions of rivulets by wind-fallen or naturally decayed trees; for there are few swamps in those States, at the outlets of which we may not, by careful search, find the remains of a beaver dam. The beaver sometimes inhabits natural lakelets and even large rivers like the Upper Mississippi, when the current is not too rapid, but he prefers to owe his pond to his own ingenuity and toil. The reservoir once constructed, its inhabitants rapidly multiply so long as the trees, and the harvests of pond lilies and other aquatic plants on which this quadruped feeds in winter, suffice for the supply of the growing population. But the extension of the water causes the death of the neighboring trees, and the annual growth of those which could be reached by canals and floated to the pond soon becomes insufficient for the wants of the community, and the beaver metropolis now sends out expeditions of discovery and colonization. The pond gradually fills up, by the operation of the same causes as when it owes its existence to an accidental obstruction, and when, at last, the original settlement is converted into a bog by the usual processes of vegetable life, the remaining inhabitants abandon it and build on some virgin brooklet a new city of the waters.
Influence of Animal Life on Vegetation
The influence of wild quadrupeds upon vegetable life have been little studied, and not many facts bearing upon it have been recorded, but, so far as it is known, it appears to be conservative rather than pernicious. Few wild animals depend for their subsistence on vegetable products obtainable only by the destruction of the plant, and they seem to confine their consumption almost exclusively to the annual harvest of leaf or twig, or at least of parts of the vegetable easily reproduced. If there are exceptions to this rule, they are in cases where the numbers of the animal are so proportioned to the abundance of the vegetable that there is no danger of the extermination of the plant from the voracity of the quadruped, or of the extinction of the quadruped from the scarcity of the plant.
In diet and natural wants the bison resembles the ox, the ibex and the chamois assimilate themselves to the goat and the sheep; but while the wild animal does not appear to be a destructive agency in the garden of nature, his domestic congeners are eminently so.
This is partly from the change of habits resulting from domestication and association with man, partly from the fact that the number of reclaimed animals is not determined by the natural relation of demand and spontaneous supply which regulates the multiplication of wild creatures, but by the convenience of man, who is, in comparatively few things, amenable to the control of the merely physical arrangements of nature. When the domesticated animal escapes from human jurisdiction, as in the case of the ox, the horse, the goat, and perhaps the ass--which, so far as I know, are the only well-authenticated instances of the complete emancipation of household quadrupeds--he becomes again an unresisting subject of nature, and all his economy is governed by the same laws as that of his fellows which have never been enslaved by man; but, so long as he obeys a human lord, he is an auxiliary in the warfare his master is ever waging against all existences except those which he can tame to a willing servitude.
Origin and Transfer of Domestic Quadrupeds
Civilization is so intimately associated with certain inferior forms of animal life, if not dependent on them, that cultivated man has never failed to accompany himself, in all his migrations, with some of these humble attendants. The ox, the horse, the sheep, and even the comparatively useless dog and cat, as well as several species of poultry, are voluntarily transferred by every emigrant colony, and they soon multiply to numbers far exceeding those of the wild genera most nearly corresponding to them.
Of the origin of our domestic animals, we know historically nothing, because their domestication belongs to the ages which preceded written annals; but though they cannot all be specifically identified with now extant wild animals, it is presumable that they have been reclaimed from an originally wild state. Ancient writers have preserved to us fewer data respecting the introduction of domestic animals into new countries than respecting the transplantation of domestic vegetables. Ritter, in his learned essay on the camel, has shown that this animal was not employed by the Egyptians until a comparatively late period in their history; that he was unknown to the Carthaginians until after the downfall of their commonwealth; and that his first appearance in Western Africa is more recent still. The Bactrian camel was certainly brought from Asia Minor to the Northern shores of the Black Sea, by the Goths, in the third or fourth century, and the buffalo first appeared in Italy about A.D. 600, though it is unknown whence or by whom he was introduced . The Arabian single-humped camel, or dromedary, has been carried to the Canary Islands, partially introduced into Australia, Greece, Spain, and even Tuscany, experimented upon to little purpose in Venezuela, and finally imported by the American Government into Texas and New Mexico, where it finds the climate and the vegetable products best suited to its wants, and promises to become a very useful agent in the promotion of the special civilization for which those regions are adapted.
Quadrupeds, both domestic and wild, bear the privations and discomforts of long voyages better than would be supposed. The elephant, the giraffe, the rhinoceros, and even the hippopotamus, do not seem to suffer much at sea. Some of the camels imported by the U.S. government into Texas from the Crimea and Northern Africa were a whole year on shipboard. On the other hand, George Sand, in Un Hiver au Midi, gives an amusing description of the sea-sickness of swine in the short passage from the Baleares to Barcelona. America had no domestic quadruped but a species of dog, the lama tribe, and, to a certain extent, the bison or buffalo. Of course, it owes the horse, the ass, the ox, the sheep, the goat, and the swine, as does also Australia, to European colonization. Modern Europe has, thus far, not accomplished much in the way of importation of new animals, though some interesting essays have been made. The reindeer was successfully introduced into Iceland about a century ago, while similar attempts failed, about the same time, in Scotland. The Cashmere or Thibet goat was brought to France a generation since, and succeeds well. The same or an allied species and the Asiatic buffalo were carried to South Carolina about the year 1850, and the former, at least, is thought likely to prove of permanent value in the United States. The yak, or Tartary ox, seems to thrive in France, and it is hoped that success will attend the present efforts to introduce the South American alpaca into Europe.
According to the census of the United States for 1870, the total number of horses in all the States of the American Union, was, in round numbers, 7,100,000; of asses and mules, 1,100,000; of the ox tribe, 25,000,000; of sheep, 28,000,000; and of swine, 25,000,000. The only indigenous North American quadruped sufficiently gregarious in habits, and sufficiently multiplied in numbers, to form really large herds, is the bison, or, as he is commonly called in America, the buffalo; and this animal is confined to the prairie region of the Mississippi basin, a small part of British America, and Northern Mexico. The engineers sent out to survey railroad routes to the Pacific estimated the number of a single herd of bisons seen within the last fifteen years on the great plains near the Upper Missouri, at not less than 200,000, and yet the range occupied by this animal is now very much smaller in area than it was when the whites first established themselves on the prairies.
But it must be remarked that the American buffalo is a migratory animal, and that, at the season of his annual journeys, the whole stock of a vast extent of pasture-ground is collected into a single army, which is seen at or very near any one point only for a few days during the entire season. Hence there is risk of great error in estimating the numbers of the bison in a given district from the magnitude of the herds seen at or about the same time at a single place of observation; and, upon the whole, it is neither proved nor probable that the bison was ever, at any one time, as numerous in North America as the domestic bovine species is at present. The elk, the moose, the musk ox, the caribou, and the smaller quadrupeds popularly embraced under the general name of deer, though sufficient for the wants of a sparse savage population, were never numerically very abundant, and the carnivora which fed upon them were still less so. It is almost needless to add that the Rocky Mountain sheep and goat must always have been very rare.
Summing up the whole, then, it is evident that the wild quadrupeds of North America, even when most numerous, were few compared with their domestic successors, that they required a much less supply of vegetable food, and consequently were far less important as geographical elements than the many millions of hoofed and horned cattle now fed by civilized man on the same continent.
Extirpation of Wild Quadrupeds
Although man never fails greatly to diminish, and is perhaps destined ultimately to exterminate, such of the larger wild quadrupeds as he cannot profitably domesticate, yet their numbers often fluctuate, and oven after they seem almost extinct, they sometimes suddenly increase, without any intentional steps to promote such a result on his part. During the wars which followed the French Revolution, the wolf multiplied in many parts of Europe, partly because the hunters were withdrawn from the woods to chase a nobler game, and partly because the bodies of slain men and horses supplied this voracious quadraped with more abundant food. The same animal became again more numerous in Poland after the general disarming of the rural population by the Russian Government. On the other hand, when the hunters pursue the wolf, the graminivorous wild quadrupeds increase, and thus in turn promote the multiplication of their great four-footed destroyer by augmenting the supply of his nourishment. So long as the fur of the beaver was extensively employed as a material for hats, it bore a very high price, and the chase of this quadruped was so keen that naturalists feared its speedy extinction. When a Parisian manufacturer invented the silk hat, which soon came into almost universal use, the demand for beavers' fur fell off, and the animal--whose habits are an important agency in the formation of bogs and other modifications of forest nature--immediately began to increase, reappeared in haunts which he had long abandoned, and can no longer be regarded as rare enough to be in immediate danger of extirpation. Thus the convenience or the caprice of Parisian fashion has unconsciously exercised an influence which may sensibly affect the physical geography of a distant continent.
Since the invention of gunpowder, gome quadrupeds have completely disappeared from many European and Asiatic countries where they were formerly numerous. The last wolf was killed in Great Britain two hundred years ago, and the bear was extirpated from that island still earlier. The lion is believed to have inhabited Asia Minor and Syria, and probably Greece and Sicily also, long after the commencement of the historical period, and he is even said to have been not yet extinct in the first-named two of these countries at the time of the first Crusade.
Modern naturalists identify the elk with the eland, the wisent with the auerochs. The period when the ur and the schelk became extinct is not known. The auerochs survived in Prussia until the middle of the last century, but unless it is identical with a similar quadruped said to be found on the Caucasus, it now exists only in the Russian imperial forest of Bialowitz where about a thousand are still preserved, and in some great menageries, as for example that at Schonbrunn, near Vienna, which, in 1852, had four specimens. The eland, which is closely allied to the American wapiti if not specifically the same animal, is still kept in the royal preserves of Prussia, to the number of four or five hundred individuals. The chamois is becoming rare, and the ibex or steinbock, once common in all the high Alps, is now believed to be confined to the Cogne mountains in Piedmont, between the valleys of the Dora Baltea and the Orco, though it is said that a few still linger about the Grandes Jorasses near Cormayeur.
The chase, which in early stages of human life was a necessity, has become with advancing civilization not merely a passion but a dilettanteism, and the cruel records of this pastime are among the most discreditable pages in modern literature. It is true that in India and other tropical countries, the number and ferocity of the wild beasts not only justify but command a war of extermination against them, but the indiscriminate slaughter of many quadrupeds which are favorite objects of the chase can urge no such apology. Late official reports from India state the number of human victims of the tiger, the leopard, the wolf and other beasts of prey, in ten "districts," at more then twelve thousand within three years, and we are informed on like authority that within the last six years more than ten thousand men, women, and children have perished in the same way in the Presidency of Bengal alone. One tiger, we are told, had killed more than a hundred people, and finally stopped the travel on an important road, and another had caused the desertion of thirteen villages and thrown 250 square miles out of cultivation. In such facts we find abundant justification of the slaying of seven thousand tigers, nearly six thousand leopards, and twenty-five hundred other ravenous beasts in the Bengal Presidency, in the space of half a dozen years. But the humane reader will not think the value of the flesh, the skin, and other less important products of inoffensive quadrupeds a satisfactory excuse for the ravages committed upon them by amateur sportsmen as well as by professional hunters. In 1861, it was computed that the supply of the English market with ivory cost the lives of 8,000 elephants. Others make the number much larger and it is said that half as much ivory is consumed in the United States as in Great Britain. In Ceylon, where the elephants are numerous and destructive to the crops, as well as dangerous to travellers, while their tusks are small and of comparatively little value, the government pays a small reward for killing them. According to Sir Emerson Tennant, in three years prior to 1848, the premium was paid for 3,500 elephants in a part of the northern district, and between 1851 and 1856 for 2,000 in the southern district. Major Rogers, famous as an elephant shooter in Ceylon, ceased to count his victims after he had slain 1,300, and Cumming in South Africa sacrificed his hecatombs every month.
In spite of the rarity of the chamois, his cautious shyness, and the comparative inaccessibility of his favorite haunts, Colani of Pontresina, who died in 1837, had killed not less than 2,000 of these animals; Kung, who is still living in the Upper Engadine, 1,500; Hitz, 1,300, and Zwichi an equal number; Soldani shot 1,100 or 1,200 in the mountains which enclose the Val Bregaglia, and there are many living hunters who can boast of having killed from 500 to 800 of these interesting quadrupeds.
In America, the chase of the larger quadrupeds is not less destructive. In a late number of the American Naturalist, the present annual slaughter of the bison is calculated at the enormous number of 500,000, and the elk, the moose, the caribou, and the more familiar species of deer furnish, perhaps, as many victims. The most fortunate deer-hunter I have personally known in New England had killed but 960; but in the northern part of the State of New York, a single sportsman is said to have shot 1,500, and this number has been doubtless exceeded by zealous Nimrods of the West.
But so far as numbers are concerned, the statistics of the furtrade furnish the most surprising results. Russia sends annually to foreign markets not less than 20,000,000 squirrel skins, Great Britain has sometimes imported from South America 600,000 nutria skins in a year. The Leipzig market receives annually nearly 200,000 ermine, and the Hudson Bay Company is said to have occasionally burnt 20,000 ermine skins in order that the market might not be overstocked. Of course natural reproduction cannot keep pace with this enormous destruction, and many animals of much interest to natural science are in imminent danger of final extirpation.
Large Marine Animals Relatively Unimportant in Geography
Vast as is the bulk of some of the higher orders of aquatic animals, their remains are generally so perishable that, even where most abundant, they do not appear to be now forming permanent deposits of any considerable magnitude; but it is quite otherwise with shell-fish, and, as we shall see hereafter, with many of the minute limeworkers of the sea. There are, on the southern coast of the United States, beds of shells so extensive that they were formerly supposed to have been naturally accumulated, and were appealed to as proofs of an elevation of the coast by geological causes; but they are now ascertained to have been derived chiefly from oysters and other shell-fish, consumed in the course of long ages by the inhabitants of Indian towns. The planting of a bed of oysters in a new locality might very probably lead, in time, to the formation of a bank, which, in connection with other deposits, might perceptibly affect the line of a coast, or, by changing the course of marine currents, or the outlet of a river, produce geographical changes of no small importance.
Introduction and Bredding of Fish
The introduction and successful breeding of fish or foreign species appears to have been long practised in China, and was not unknown to the Greeks and Romans. This art has been revived in modern times, but thus far without any important results, economical or physical, though there seems to be good reason to believe it may be employed with advantage on an extended scale. As in the case of plants, man has sometimes undesignedly introduced now species of aquatic animals into countries distant from their birthplace. The accidental escape of the Chinese goldfish from ponds where they were bred as a garden ornament, has peopled some European, and it is said American streams with this species. Canals of navigation and irrigation interchange the fish of lakes and rivers widely separated by natural barriers, as well as the plants which drop their seeds into the waters. The Erie Canal, as measured by its own channel, has a length of about three hundred and sixty miles, and it has ascending and descending locks in both directions. By this route, the fresh-water fish of the Hudson and the Upper Lakes, and some of the indigenous vegetables of these respective basins, have intermixed, and the fauna and flora of the two regions have now more species common to both than before the canal was opened. The opening of the Suez Canal will, no doubt, produce very interesting revolutions in the animal and vegetable population of both basins. The Mediterranean, with some local exceptions--such as the bays of Calabria, and the coast of Sicily so picturesquely described by Quatrefages-is comparatively poor in marine vegetation, and in shell as well as in fin fish. The scarcity of fish in some of its gulfs is proverbial, and you may scrutinize long stretches of beach on its northern shores, after every south wind for a whole winter, without finding a dozen shells to reward your search. But no one who has not looked down into tropical or subtropical seas can conceive the amazing wealth of the Red Sea in organic life. Its bottom is carpeted or paved with marine plants, with zoophytes and with shells, while its waters are teeming with infinitely varied forms of moving life. Most of its vegetables and its animals, no doubt, are confined by the laws of their organization to a warmer temperature than that of the Mediterranean, but among them there must be many whose habitat is of a wider range, many whose powers of accommodation would enable them to acclimate themselves in a colder sea.
We may suppose the less numerous aquatic fauna and flora of the Mediterranean to be equally capable of climatic adaptation, and hence there will be a partial interchange of the organic population not already common to both seas. Destructive species, thus newly introduced, may diminish the numbers of their proper prey in either basin, and, on the other hand, the increased supply of appropriate food may greatly multiply the abundance of others, and at the same time add important contributions to the aliment of man in the countries bordering on the Mediterranean.
Some accidental attraction not unfrequently induces fish to follow a vessel for days in succession, and they may thus be enticed into zones very distant from their native habitat. Several years ago, I was told at Constantinople, upon good authority, that a couple of fish, of a species wholly unknown to the natives had just been taken in the Bosphorus. They were alleged to have followed an English ship from the Thames, and to have been frequently observed by the crew during the passage; but I was unable to learn their specific character. Many of the fish which pass the greater part of the year in salt water spawn in fresh, and some fresh-water species, the common brook-trout of New England for instance, which under ordinary circumstances never visit the sea, will, if transferred to brooks emptying directly into the ocean, go down into the salt water after spawning-time, and return again the next season. Some sea fish have been naturalized in fresh water, and naturalists have argued from the character of the fish of Lake Baikal, and especially from the existence of the seal in that locality, that all its inhabitants were originally marine species, and have changed their habits with the gradual conversion of the saline waters of the lake-once, as is assumed, a maritime bay-into fresh. The presence of the seal is hardly conclusive on this point, for it is sometimes seen in Lake Champlain at the distance of some hundreds of miles from even brackish water. One of these animals was killed on the ice in that lake in February, 1810, another in February, 1846, and remains of the seal have been found at other times in the same waters.
The intentional naturalization of foreign fish, as I have said, has not thus far yielded important fruits; but though this particular branch of what is called, not very happily, pisciculture, has not yet established its claims to the attention of the physical geographer or the political economist, the artificial breeding of domestic fish, of the lobster and other crustacea, has already produced very valuable results, and is apparently destined to occupy an extremely conspicuous place in the history of man's efforts to compensate his prodigal waste of the gifts of nature. The arrangements for breeding fish in the Venetian lagoon of Comacchio date far back in the Middle Ages, but the example does not seem to have been followed elsewhere in Europe at that period, except in small ponds where the propagation of the fish was left to nature without much artificial aid. The transplantation of oysters to artificial ponds has long been common, and it appears to have recently succeeded well on a large scale in the open sea on the French coast. A great extension of this fishery is hoped for, and it is now proposed to introduce upon the same coast the American soft clam, which is so abundant in the tide-washed beach sands of Long Island Sound as to form an important article in the diet of the neighboring population. Experimental pisciculture has been highly successful in the United States, and will probably soon become a regular branch of rural industry, especially as Congress, at the session of 1871-2, made liberal provision for its promotion.
The restoration of the primitive abundance of salt and fresh water fish, is perhaps the greatest material benefit that, with our present physical resources, governments can hope to confer upon their subjects. The rivers, lakes, and seacoasts once restocked, and protected by law from exhaustion by taking fish at improper seasons, by destructive methods, and in extravagant quantities, would continue indefinitely to furnish a very large supply of most healthful food, which, unlike all domestic and agricultural products, would spontaneously renew itself and cost nothing but the taking. There are many sterile or wornout soils in Europe so situated that they might, at no very formidable cost, be converted into permanent lakes, which would serve not only as reservoirs to retain the water of winter rains and snow, and give it out in the dry season for irrigation, but as breeding ponds for fish, and would thus, without further cost, yield a larger supply of human food than can at present be obtained from them even at a great expenditure of capital and labor in agricultural operations. The additions which might be made to the nutriment of the civilized world by a judicious administration of the resources of the waters, would allow some restriction of the amount of soil at present employed for agricultural purposes, and a corresponding extension of the area of the forest, and would thus facilitate a return to primitive geographical arrangements which it is important partially to restore.
Destruction of Fish
The inhabitants of the waters seem comparatively secure from human pursuit or interference by the inaccessibility of their retreats, and by our ignorance of their habits--a natural result of the difficulty of observing the ways of creatures living in a medium in which we cannot exist. Human agency has, nevertheless, both directly and incidentally, produced great changes in the population of the sea, the lakes, and the rivers, and if the effects of such revolutions in aquatic life are apparently of small importance in general geography, they are still not wholly inappreciable. The great diminution in the abundance of the larger fish employed for food or pursued for products useful in the arts is familiar, and when we consider how the vegetable and animal life on which they feed must be effected by the reduction of their numbers, it is easy to see that their destruction may involve considerable modifications in many of the material arrangements of nature. The whale does not appear to have been an object of pursuit by the ancients, for any purpose, nor do we know when the whale fishery first commenced. It was, however, very actively prosecuted in the Middle Ages, and the Biscayans seem to have been particularly successful in this as indeed in other branches of nautical industry.Five hundred years ago, whales abounded in every sea. They long since became so rare in the Mediterranean as not to afford encouragement for the fishery as a regular occupation; and the great demand for oil and whalebone for mechanical and manufacturing purposes, in the present century, has stimulated the pursuit of the "hugest of living creatures" to such activity, that he has now almost wholly disappeared from many favorite fishing grounds, and in others is greatly diminished in numbers.
What special functions, besides his uses to man, are assigned to the whale in the economy of nature, wo do not know; but some considerations, suggested by the character of the food upon which certain species subsist, deserve to be specially noticed. None of the great mammals grouped under the general name of whale are rapacious. They all live upon small organisms, and the most numerous species feed almost wholly upon thesoft gelatinous mollusks in which the sea abounds in all latitudes. We cannot calculate even approximately the number of the whales, or the quantity of organic nutriment consumed by an individual, and of course we can form no estimate of the total amount of animal matter withdrawn by them, in a given period, from the waters of the sea. It is certain, however, that it must have been enormous when they were more abundant, and that it is still very considerable. In 1846 the United States had six hundred and seventy-eight whaling ships chiefly employed in the Pacific, and the product of the American whale fishery for the year ending June 1st, 1860, was seven millions and a half of dollars.
The mere bulk of the whales destroyed in a single year by the American and the European vessels engaged in this fishery would form an island of no inconsiderable dimensions, and each one of those taken must have consumed, in the course of his growth, many times his own weight of mollusks. The destruction of the whales must have been followed by a proportional increase of the organisms they feed upon, and if we had the means of comparing the statistics of these humble forms of life, for even so short a period as that between the years 1760 and 1860, we should find a difference possibly sufficient to suggest an explanation of some phenomena at present unaccounted for. For instance, as I have observed in another work, the phosphorescence of the sea was unknown to ancient writers, or at least scarcely noticed by them, and even Homer--who, blind as tradition makes him when he composed his epics, had seen, and marked, in earlier life, all that the glorious nature of the Mediterranean and its coasts discloses to unscientific observation--nowhere alludes to this most beautiful and striking of maritime wonders. In the passage just referred to, I have endeavored to explain the silence of ancient writers with respect to this as well as other remarkable phenomena on psychological grounds; but is it not possible that, in modern times, the animalculae which produce it may have immensely multiplied, from the destruction of their natural enemies by man, and hence that the gleam shot forth by their decomposition, or by their living processes, is both more frequent and more brilliant than in the days of classic antiquity?
Although the whale does not prey upon smaller creatures resembling himself in form and habits, yet true fishes are extremely voracious, and almost every tribe devours unsparingly the feebler species, and even the spawn and young of its own. The enormous destruction of the shark the pike, the trout family, and other ravenous fish, as well as of the fishing birds, the seal, and the otter, by man, would naturally have occasioned a great increase in the weaker and more defenceless fish on which they feed, had he not been as hostile to them also as to their persecutors.
Destruction of Aquatic Animals
It does not seem probable that man, with all his rapacity and all his enginery, will succeed in totally extirpating any salt-water fish, but he has already exterminated at least one marine warm-blooded animal--Steller's sea cow--and the walrus, the sea lion, and other large amphibia, as well as the principal fishing quadrupeds, are in imminent danger of extinction. Steller's sea cow, Rhytina Stelleri, was first seen by Europeans in the year 1741, on Bering's Island. It was a huge amphibious mammal, weighing not less than eight thousand pounds, and appears to have been confined exclusively to the islands and coasts in the neighborhood of Bering's Strait. Its flesh was very palatable, and the localities it frequented were easily accessible from the Russian establishments in Kamtschatka. As soon as its existence and character, and the abundance of fur animals in the same waters, were made known to the occupants of those posts by the return of the survivors of Bering's expedition, so active a chase was commenced against the amphibia of that region, that, in the course of twenty-seven years, the sea cow, described by Steller as extremely numerous in 1741, is believed to have been completely extirpated, not a single individual having been seen since the year 1768. The various tribes of seals in the Northern and Southern Pacific, the walrus and the sea otter, are already so reduced in numbers that they seem destined soon to follow the sea cow, unless protected by legislation stringent enough, and a police energetic enough, to repress the ardent cupidity of their pursuers. The seals, the otter tribe, and many other amphibia which feed almost exclusively upon fish, are extremely voracious, and of course their destruction or numerical reduction must have favored the multiplication of the species of fish principally preyed upon by them. I have been assured by the keeper of several young seals that, if supplied at frequent intervals, each seal would devour not less than fourteen pounds of fish, or about a quarter of his own weight, in a day. A very intelligent and observing hunter, who has passed a great part of his life in the forest, after carefully watching the habits of the fresh-water otter of the North American States, estimates their consumption of fish at about four pounds per day. Man has promoted the multiplication of fish by making war on their brute enemies, but he has by no means thereby compensated his own greater destructiveness.
The bird and beast of prey, whether on land or in the water, hunt only as long as they feel the stimulus of hunger, their ravages are limited by the demands of present appetite, and they do not wastefully destroy what they cannot consume. Man, on the contrary, angles to-day that he may dine to-morrow; he takes and dries millions of fish on the banks of Newfoundland and the coast of Norway, that the fervent Catholic of the shores of the Mediterranean may have wherewithal to satisfy the cravings of the stomach during next year's Lent, without violating the discipline of the papal church; and all the arrangements of his fisheries are so organized as to involve the destruction of many more fish than are secured for human use, and the loss of a large proportion of the annual harvest of the sea in the process of curing, or in transportation to the places of its consumption.
Fish are more affected than quadrupeds by slight and even imperceptible differences in their breeding places and feeding grounds. Every river, every brook, every lake stamps a special character upon its salmon, its shad, and its trout, which is at once recognized by those who deal in or consume them. No skill can give the fish fattened by food selected and prepared by man the flavor of those which are nourished at the table of nature, and the trout of the artificial pouds in Germany and Switzerland are so inferior to the brook-fish of the same species and climate, that it is hard to believe them identical. The superior sapidity of the American trout and other fresh-water fishes to the most nearly corresponding European species, which is familiar to every one acquainted with both continents, is probably due less to specific difference than to the fact that, even in the parts of the New World which have been longest cultivated, wild nature is not yet tamed down to the character it has assumed in the Old, and which it will acquire in America also when her civilization shall be as ancient as is now that of Europe.
Man has hitherto hardly anywhere produced such climatic or other changes as would suffice of themselves totally to banish the wild inhabitants of the dry land, and thedisappearance of the native birds and quadrupeds from particular localities is to be ascribed quite as much to his direct persecutions as to the want of forest shelter, of appropriate food, or of other conditions indispensable to their existence. But almost all the processes of agriculture, and of mechanical and chemical industry, are fatally destructive to aquatic animals within reach of their influence. When, in consequence of clearing the woods, the changes already described as thereby produced in the beds and currents of rivers, are in progress, the spawning grounds of fish, are exposed from year to year to a succession of mechanical disturbances; the temperature of the water is higher in summer, colder in winter, than when it was shaded and protected by wood; the smaller organisms, which formed the sustenance of the young fry, disappear or are reduced in numbers, and new enemies are added to the old foes that preyed upon them; the increased turbidness of the water in the annual inundations chokes the fish; and, finally, the quickened velocity of its current sweeps them down into the larger rivers or into the sea, before they are yet strong enough to support so great a change of circumstances.
Industrial operations are not less destructive to fish which live or spawn in fresh water. Mill-dams impede their migrations, if they do not absolutely prevent them, the sawdust from lumber mills clogs their gills, and the thousand deleterious mineral substances, discharged into rivers from metallurgical, chemical, and manufacturing establishments, poison them by shoals. We have little evidence that any fish employed as human food has naturally multiplied in modern times, while all the more valuable tribes have been immensely reduced in numbers. This reduction must have affected the more voracious species not used as food by man, and accordingly the shark, and other fish of similar habits, even when not objects of systematic pursuit, are now comparatively rare in many waters where they formerly abounded. The result is, that man has greatly reduced thenumbers of all larger marine animals, and consequently indirectly favored the multiplication of the smaller aquatic organisms which entered into their nutriment. This change in the relations of the organic and inorganic matter of the sea must have excercised an influence on the latter. What that influence has been we cannot say, still less can we predict what it will be hereafter; but its action is not for that reason the less certain.
Geographical Importance of Birds
Wild birds form of themselves a very conspicuous and interesting feature in the staffage, as painters call it, of the natural landscape, and they are important elements in the view we are taking of geography, whether we consider their immediate or their incidental influence. Birds affect vegetation directly by sowing seeds and by consuming them; they affect it indirectly by destroying insects injurious, or, in some cases, beneficial to vegetable life. Hence, when we kill a seed-sowing bird, we check the dissemination of a plant; when we kill a bird which digests the seed it swallows, we promote the increase of a vegetable. Nature protects the seeds of wild, much more effectually than those of domesticated plants. The cereal grains are completely digested when consumed by birds, but the germ of the smaller stone fruits and of very many other wild vegetables is uninjured, perhaps even stimulated to more vigorous growth, by the natural chemistry of the bird's stomach. The power of flight and the restless habits of the bird enable it to transport heavy seeds to far greater distances than they could be carried by the wind. A swift-winged bird may drop cherry stones a thousand miles from the tree they grow on; a hawk, in tearing a pigeon, may scatter from its crop the still fresh rice it had swallowed at a distance of ten degrees of latitude, and thus the occurrence of isolated plants in situations where their presence cannot otherwise well be explained, is easily accounted for. There is a large class of seeds apparently specially fitted by nature for dissemination by animals. I refer to those which attach themselves, by means of hooks, or by viscous juices, to the coats of quadrupeds and the feathers of birds, and are thus transported wherever their living vehicles may chance to wander. Some birds, too, deliberately bury seeds in the earth, or in holes excavated by them in the bark of trees, not indeed with a foresight aiming directly at the propagation of the plant, but from apparently purposeless secretiveness, or as a mode of preserving food for future use.
The tame fowls play a much less conspicuous part in rural life than the quadrupeds, and, in their relations to the economy of nature, they are of very much less moment than four-footed animals, or than the undomesticated birds. The domestic turkey is probably more numerous in the territory of the United States than the wild bird of the same species ever was, and the grouse cannot, at the period of their greatest abundance, have counted as many as we now number of the common hen. The dove, however, must fall greatly short of the wild pigeon in multitude, and it is hardly probable that the flocks of domestic geese and ducks are as numerous as once wore those of their wild congeners. The pigeon, indeed, seems to have multiplied immensely, for some years after the first clearings in the woods, because the settlers warred unsparingly upon the hawk, while the crops of grain and other vegetable growths increased the supply of food within the reach of the young birds, at the age when their power of flight is not yet great enough to enable them to seek it over a wide area. The pigeon is not described by the earliest white inhabitants of the American States as filling the air with such clouds of winged life as astonished naturalists in the descriptions of Audubon, and, at the present day, the net and the gun have so reduced its abundance, that its appearance in large numbers is recorded only at long intervals, and it is never seen in the great flocks remembered by many still living observers as formerly very common.
Introduciton of Birds
Man has undesignedly introduced into now districts perhaps fewer species of birds than of quadrupeds; but the distribution of birds is very much influenced by the character of his industry, and the transplantation, of every object of agricultural production is, at a longer or shorter interval, followed by that of the birds which feed upon its seeds, or more frequently upon the insects it harbors. The vulture, the crow, and other winged scavengers, follow the march of armies as regularly as the wolf. Birds accompany ships on long voyages, for the sake of the offal which is thrown overboard, and, in such cases, it might often happen that they would breed and become naturalized in countries where they had been unknown before. There is a familiar story of an English bird which built its nest in an unused block in the rigging of a ship, and made one or two short voyages with the vessel while hatching its eggs. Had the young become fledged while lying in a foreign harbor, they would of course have claimed the rights of citizenship in the country where they first took to the wing.
An unfortunate popular error greatly magnifies the injury done to the crops of grain and leguminous vegetables by wild birds. Very many of those generally supposed to consume large quantities of the seeds of cultivated plants really feed almost exclusively upon insects, and frequent the wheatfields, not for the sake of the grain, but for the eggs, larvae, and fly of the multiplied tribes of insect life which are so destructive to the harvests. This fact has been so well established by the examination of the stomachs of great numbers of birds in Europe and the United States, at different seasons of the year, that it is no longer open to doubt, and it appears highly probable that even the species which consume more or less grain generally make amends by destroying insects whose ravages would have been still more injurious.
On this subject, we have much other evidence besides that derived from dissection. Direct observation has shown, in many instances, that the destruction of wild birds has been followed by a great multiplication of noxious insects, and, on the other hand, that these latter have been much reduced in numbers by the protection and increase of the birds that devour them. Many interesting facts of this nature have been collected by professed naturalists, but I shall content myself with a few taken from familiar and generally accessible sources. The following extract is from Michelet, L'Oiseau, pp. 169,170:
"The STINGY farmer--an epithet justly and feelingly bestowed by Virgil. Avaricious, blind, indeed, who proscribes the birds--those destroyers of insects, those defenders of his harvests. Not a grain for the creature which, during the rains of winter, hunts the future insect, finds out the nests of the larvae, examines, turns over every leaf, and destroys, every day, thousands of incipient caterpillars. But sacks of corn for the mature insect, whole fields for the grasshoppers, which the bird would have made war upon. With eyes fixed upon his furrow, upon the present moment only, without seeing and without foreseeing, blind to the great harmony which is never broken with impunity, he has everywhere demanded or approved laws for the extermination of that necessary ally of his toil--the insectivorous bird. And the insect has well avenged the bird. It has become necessary to revoke in haste the proscription. In the Isle of Bourbon, for instance, a price was set on the head of the martin; it disappeared, and the grasshopper took possession of the island, devouring, withering, scorching with a biting drought all that they did not consume. In North America it has been the same with the starling, the protector of Indian corn. Even the sparrow, which really does attack grain, but which protects it still more, the pilferer, the outlaw, loaded with abuse and smitten with curses--it has been found in Hungary that they were likely to perish without him, that he alone could sustain the mighty war against the beetles and the thousand winged enemies that swarm in the lowlands; they have revoked the decree of banishment, recalled in haste this valiant militia, which, though deficient in discipline, is nevertheless the salvation of the country.
"Not long since, in the neighborhood of Ronen and in the valley of Monville, the blackbird was for some time proscribed. The beetles profited well by this proscription; their larvae, infinitely multiplied, carried on their subterranean labors with such success, that a meadow was shown me, the surface of which was completely dried up, every herbaceous root was consumed, and the whole grassy mantle, easily loosened, might have been rolled up and carried away like a carpet."
The general hostility of the European populace to the smaller birds is, in part, the remote effect of the reaction created by the game laws. When the restrictions imposed upon the chase by those laws were suddenly removed in France, the whole people at once commenced a destructive campaign against every species of wild animal. Arthur Young, writing in Provence, on the 30th of August, 1789, soon after the National Assembly had declared the chase free, thus complains of the annoyance he experienced from the use made by the peasantry of their newly-won liberty. "One would think that every rusty firelock in all Provence was at work in the indiscriminate destruction of all the birds. The wadding buzzed by my ears, or fell into my carriage, five or six times in the course of the day." ... "The declaration of the Assembly that every man is free to hunt on his own land ... has filled all France with an intolerable cloud of sportsmen. ... The declaration speaks of compensations and indemnities [to the seigneurs], but the ungovernable populace takes advantage of the abolition of the game laws and laughs at the obligation imposed by the decree."
The contagious influence of the French Revolution occasioned the removal of similar restrictions, with similar results, in other countries. The habits then formed have become hereditary on the Continent, and though game laws still exist in England, there is little doubt that the blind prejudices of the ignorant and half-educated classes in that country against birds are, in some degree, at least, due to a legislation, which, by restricting the chase of game worth killing, drives the unprivileged sportsman to indemnify himself by slaughtering all wild life which is not reserved for the amusement of his betters. Hence the lord of the manor buys his partridges and his hares by sacrificing the bread of his tenants, and so long as the members of "Sparrow Clubs" are forbidden to follow higher game, they will suicidally revenge themselves by destroying the birds which protect their wheatfields.
On the Continent, and especially in Italy, the comparative scarcity and dearness of animal food combine with the feeling I have just mentioned to stimulate still further the destructive passions of the fowler. In the Tuscan province of Grosseto, containing less than 2,000 square miles, nearly 300,000 thrushes and other small birds are annually brought to market.
Birds are less hardy in constitution, they possess less facility of accommodation, and they are more severely affected by climatic excess than quadrupeds. Besides, they generally want the special means of shelter against the inclemency of the weather and against pursuit by their enemies, which holes and dens afford to burrowing animals and to some larger beasts of prey. The egg is exposed to many dangers before hatching, and the young bird is especially tender, defenceless, and helpless. Every cold rain, every violent wind, every hailstorm during the breeding season, destroys hundreds of nestlings, and the parent often perishes with her progeny while brooding over it in the vain effort to protect it. The great proportional numbers of birds, their migratory habits, and the ease with which, by their power of flight they may escape most dangers that beset them, would seem to secure them from extirpation, and even from very great numerical reduction. But experience shows that when not protected by law, by popular favor or superstition, or by other special circumstances, they yield very readily to the hostile influences of civilization, and, though the first operations of the settler are favorable to the increase of many species, the great extension of rural and of mechanical industry is, in a variety of ways, destructive even to tribes not directly warred upon by man.
Nature sets bounds to the disproportionate increase of birds, while at the same time, by the multitude of their resources, she secures them from extinction through her own spontaneous agencies. Man both preys upon them and wantonly destroys them. The delicious flavor of game-birds, and the skill implied in the various arts of the sportsman who devotes himself to fowling, make them favorite objects of the chase, while the beauty of their plumage, as a military and feminine decoration, threatens to involve the sacrifice of the last survivor of many once numerous species. Thus far, but few birds described by ancient or modern naturalists are known to have become absolutely extinct, though there are some cases in which they are ascertained to have utterly disappeared from the face of the earth in very recent times. The most familiar instances are those of the dodo, a large bird peculiar to the Mauritius or Isle of France, exterminated about the year 1690, and now known only by more or less fragmentary skeletons, and the solitary, which inhabited the islands of Bourbon and Rodriguez, but has not been seen for more than a century. A parrot and some other birds of the Norfolk Island group are said to have lately become extinct. The wingless auk, Alca impennis, a bird remarkable for its excessive fatness, was very abundant two or three hundred years ago in the Faroe Islands, and on the whole Scandinavian seaboard. The early voyagers found either the same or a closely allied species, in immense numbers, on all the coasts and islands of Newfoundland. The value of its flesh and its oil made it one of the most important resources of the inhabitants of those sterile regions, and it was naturally an object of keen pursuit. It is supposed to be now completely extinct, and few museums can show even its skeleton. There seems to be strong reason to believe that modern civilization is guiltless of one or two sins of extermination which have been committed in recent ages. Now Zealand formerly possessed several species of dinornis, one of which, called moa by the islanders, was larger than the ostrich. The condition in which the bones of these birds have been found and the traditions of the natives concur to prove that, though the aborigines had probably extirpated them before the discovery of New Zealand by the whites, they still existed at a comparatively late period. The same remarks apply to a winged giant the eggs of which have been brought from Madagascar. This bird must have much exceeded the dimensions of the moa, at least so far as we can judge from the egg, which is eight times as large as the average size of the ostrich egg, or about one hundred and fifty times that of the hen.
But though we have no evidence that man has exterminated many species of birds, we know that his persecutions have caused their disappearance from many localities where they once were common, and greatly diminished their numbers in others. The cappercailzie, Tetrao urogallus, the finest of the grouse family, formerly abundant in Scotland, had become extinct in Great Britain, but has been reintroduced from Sweden.
The ostrich is mentioned, by many old travellers, as common on the Isthmus of Suez down to the middle of the seventeenth century. It appears to have frequented Palestine, Syria, and even Asia Minor at earlier periods, but is now rarely found except in the seclusion of remoter deserts.
The modern increased facilities of transportation have brought distant markets within reach of the professional hunter, and thereby given a new impulse to his destructive propensities. Not only do all Great Britain and Ireland contribute to the supply of game for the British capital, but the canvas-back duck of the Potomac, and even the prairie hen from the basin of the Mississippi, may be found at the stalls of the London poulterer. Kohl informs us that, on the coasts of the North Sea, twenty thousand wild ducks are usually taken in the course of the season in a single decoy, and sent to the large maritime towns for sale. The statistics of the great European cities show a prodigious consumption of game-birds, but the official returns fall far below the truth, because they do not include the rural districts, and because neither the poacher nor his customers report the number of his victims. Reproduction, in cultivated countries, cannot keep pace with this excessive destruction, and there is no doubt that all the wild birds which are chased for their flesh or their plumage are diminishing with a rapidity which justifies the fear that the last of them will soon follow the dodo and the wingless auk.
Fortunately the larger birds which are pursued for their flesh or for their feathers, and those the eggs of which are used as food, are, so far as we know the functions appointed to them by nature, not otherwise specially useful to man, and, therefore, their wholesale destruction is an economical evil only in the same sense in which all waste of productive capital is an evil.
If it were possible to confine the consumption of game-fowl to a number equal to the annual increase, the world would be a gainer, but not to the same extent as it would be by checking the wanton sacrifice of millions of the smaller birds, which are of no real value as food, but which, as we have seen, render a most important service by battling, in our behalf, as well as in their own, against the countless legions of humming and of creeping things, with which the prolific powers of insect life would otherwise cover the earth.
Utility and Destruction of Reptiles.
The disgust and fear with which the serpent is so universally regarded expose him to constant persecution by man, and perhaps no other animal is so relentlessly sacrificed by him. Nevertheless, snakes as well as lizards and other reptiles are not wholly useless to their great enemy. The most formidable foes of the insect, and even of the small rodents, are the reptiles. The chameleon approaches the insect perched upon the twig of a tree, with an almost imperceptible slowness of motion, until, at the distance of a foot, he shoots out his long, slimy tongue, and rarely fails to secure the victim. Even the slow toad catches the swift and wary housefly in the same manner; and in the warm countries of Europe, the numerous lizards contribute very essentially to the reduction of the insect population, which they both surprise in the winged state upon walls and trees, and consume as egg, worm, and chrysalis, in their earlier metamorphoses. The serpents feed much upon insects, as well as upon mice, moles, and small reptiles, including also other snakes.
In temperate climates, snakes are consumed by scarcely any beast or bird of prey except the stork, and they have few dangerous enemies but man, though in the tropics other animals prey upon them. It is doubtful whether any species of serpent has been exterminated within the human period, and even the dense population of China has not been able completely to rid itself of the viper. They have, however, almost entirely disappeared from particular localities. The rattlesnake is now wholly unknown in many large districts where it was extremely common half a century ago, and Palestine has long been, if not absolutely free from venomous serpents, at least very nearly so. The serpent does not appear to have any natural limit of growth, and we are therefore not authorized wholly to discredit the evidence of ancient naturalists in regard to the extraordinary dimensions which those reptiles are said by them to have sometimes attained. The use of firearms has enabled man to reduce the numbers of the larger serpents, and they do not often escape him long enough to arrive at the size ascribed to them by travellers a century or two ago. Captain Speke, however, shot a serpent in Africa which measured fifty-one and a half feet in length.
Some enthusiastic entomologist will, perhaps, by and by discover that insects and worms are as essential as the larger organisms to the proper working of the great terraqueous machine, and we shall have as eloquent pleas in defence of the mosquito, and perhaps oven of the tzetze-fly, as Toussenel and Michelet have framed in behalf of the bird. The silkworm, the lac insect, and the bee need no apologist; a gallnut produced by the puncture of a cynips on a Syrian oak is a necessary ingredient in the ink I am writing with, and from my windows I recognize the grain of the kermes and the cochineal in the gay habiliments of the holiday groups beneath them.
These humble forms of being are seldom conspicuous by more mass, and though the winds and the waters sometimes sweep together large heaps of locusts and even of may-flies, their remains are speedily decomposed, their exuviae and their structures form no strata, and still less does nature use them, as she does the calcareous and silicious cases and dwellings of animalcular species, to build reefs and spread out submarine deposits, which subsequent geological action may convert into islands and even mountains.
But the action of the creeping and swarming things of the earth, though often passed unnoticed, is not without important effects in the general economy of nature. The geographical importance of insects proper, as well as of worms, depends principally on their connection with vegetable life as agents of its fecundation, and of its destruction. We learn from Darwin, "On Various Contrivances by which British and Foreign Orchids are Fertilized by Insects," that some six thousand species of orchids are absolutely dependent upon the agency of insects for their fertilization, and that consequently, were those plants unvisited by insects, they would all rapidly disappear. What is true of the orchids is more or less true of many other vegetable families.
We do not know the limits of this agency, and many of the insects habitually regarded as unqualified pests, may directly or indirectly perform functions as important to the most valuable plants as the services rendered by certain tribes to the orchids. I say directly or indirectly, because, besides the other arrangements of nature for chocking the undue multiplication of particular species, she has established a police among insects themselves, by which some of them keep down or promote the increase of others; for there are insects, as well as birds and beasts, of prey. The existence of an insect which fertilizes a useful vegetable may depend on that of another insect which constitutes his food in some stage of his life, and this other again may be as injurious to some plant as his destroyer is to a different species.
The ancients, according to Pliny, were accustomed to hang branches of the wild fig upon the domestic tree, in order that the insects which frequented the former might hasten the ripening of the cultivated fig by their punctures--or, as others suppose, might fructify it by transporting to it the pollen of the wild fruit--and this process, called caprification, is not yet entirely obsolete.
The perforations of the earthworms and of many insect larvae mechanically affect the texture of the soil and its permeability by water, and they therefore have a certain influence on the form and character of terrestrial surface. The earthworms long ago made good their title to the respect and gratitude of the farmer as well as of the angler. Their utility has been pointed out in many scientific as well as in many agricultural treatises. The following extract from an essay on this subject will answer my present purpose:
"Worms are great assistants to the drainer, and valuable aids to the fanner in keeping up the fertility of the soil. They love moist, but not wet soils; they will bore down to, but not into water; they multiply rapidly on land after drainage, and prefer a deeply-dried soil. On examining part of a field which had been deeply drained, after long-previous shallow drainage, it was found that the worms had greatly increased in number, and that their bores descended quite to the level of the pipes. Many worm-bores were large enough to receive the little finger. A piece of land near the sea, in Lincolnshire, over which the sea had broken and killed all the worms, remained sterile until the worms again inhabited it. A piece of pasture land, in which worms were in such numbers that it was thought their casts interfered too much with its produce, was rolled at night in order to destroy the worms. The result was, that the fertility of the field greatly declined, nor was it restored until they had recruited their numbers, which was aided by collecting and transporting multitudes of worms from the fields.
"The great depth into which worms will bore, and from which they push up fine fertile soil, and cast it on the surface, have been well shown by the fact that in a few years they have actually elevated the surface of fields by a largo layer of rich mould, several inches thick, thus affording nourishment to the roots of grasses, and increasing the productiveness of the soil."
It should be added that the writer quoted, and all others who have discussed the subject, have, so far as I know, overlooked one very important element in the fertilization produced by earthworms. I refer to the enrichment of the soil by their excreta during life, and by the decomposition of their remains when they die. Themanure thus furnished is as valuable as the like amount of similar animal products derived from higher organisms, and when we consider the prodigious numbers of these worms found on a single square yard of some soils, we may easily see that they furnish no insignificant contribution to the nutritive material required for the growth of plants.
The carnivorous and often herbivorous insects render another important service to man by consuming dead and decaying animal and vegetable matter, the decomposition of which would otherwise fill the air with effluvia noxious to health. Some of them, the grave-digger beetle, for instance, bury the small animals in which they lay their eggs, and thereby prevent the escape of the gases disengaged by putrefaction. The prodigious rapidity of development in insect life, the great numbers of the individuals in many species, and the voracity of most of them while in the larva state, justify the appellation of nature's scavengers which has been bestowed upon them, and there is very little doubt that, in warm countries, they consume a larger quantity of putrescent organic matter than the quadrupeds and birds which feed upon such aliment.
Injury to the Forest by Insects
The action of the insect on vegetation, as we have thus far described it, is principally exerted on smaller and less conspicuous plants, and it is therefore matter rather of agricultural than of geographical interest. But in the economy of the forest European writers ascribe to insect life an importance which it has not reached in America, where the spontaneous woods are protected by safeguards of nature's own devising.
The insects which damage primitive forests by feeding upon products of trees essential to their growth, are not numerous, nor is their appearance, in destructive numbers, frequent, and those which perforate the stems and branches, to deposit and hatch their eggs, more commonly select dead trees for that purpose, though, unhappily, there are important exceptions to this latter remark.
I do not know that we have any evidence of the destruction or serious injury of American forests by insects before or even soon after the period of colonization; but since the white man has laid bare a vast proportion of the earth's surface, and thereby produced changes favorable, perhaps, to the multiplication of these pests, they have greatly increased in numbers, and, apparently, in voracity also. Not many years ago, the pines on thousands of acres of land in North Carolina were destroyed by insects not known to have ever done serious injury to that tree before. In such cases as this and others of the like sort, there is good reason to believe that man is the indirect cause of an evil for which he pays so heavy a penalty. Insects increase whenever the birds which feed upon them disappear. Hence, in the wanton destruction of the robin and other insectivorous birds, the bipes implumis, the featherless biped, man, is not only exchanging the vocal orchestra which greets the rising sun for the drowny beetle's evening drone, and depriving his groves and his fields of their fairest ornament, but he is waging a treacherous warfare on his natural allies.
Introduction of Insects
The general tendency of man's encroachments upon spontaneous nature has been to increase insect life at the expense of vegetation and of the smaller quadrupeds and birds. Doubtless there are insects in all woods, but in temperate climates they are comparatively few and harmless, and the most numerous tribes which breed in the forest, or rather in its waters, and indeed in all solitudes, are those which little injure vegetation, such as mosquitoes, gnats, and the like. With the cultivated plants of man come the myriad tribes which feed or breed upon them, and agriculture not only introduces new speciss, but so multiplies the number of individuals as to defy calculation. Newly introduced vegetables frequently escape for years the insect plagues which had infested them in their native habitat; but the importation of other varieties of the plant, the exchange of seed, or some more accident, is sure in the long run to carry the egg, the larva, or the chrysalis to the most distant shores where the plant assigned to it by nature as its possession has preceded it. For many years after the colonization of the United States, few or none of the insects which attack wheat in its different stages of growth, were known in America. During the Revolutionary war, the Hessian fly, Cecidomyia destructrix, made its appearance, and it was so called because it was first observed in the year when the Hessian troops were brought over, and was popularly supposed to have been accidentally imported by those unwelcome strangers. Other destroyers of cereal grains have since found their way across the Atlantic, and a noxious European aphis has first attacked the American wheatfields within the last fifteen years. Unhappily, in these cases of migration, the natural corrective of excessive multiplication, the parasitic or voracious enemy of the noxious insect, does not always accompany the wanderings of its prey, and the bane long precedes the antidote. Hence, in the United States, the ravages of imported insects injurious to cultivated crops, not being checked by the counteracting influences which nature had provided to limit their devastations in the Old World, are more destructive than in Europe. It is not known that the wheat midge is preyed upon in America by any other insect, and in seasons favorable to it, it multiplies to a degree which would prove almost fatal to the entire harvest, were it not that, in the great territorial extent of the United States, there is room for such differences of soil and climate as, in a given year, to present in one State all the conditions favorable to the increase of a particular insect, while in another, the natural influences are hostile to it. The only apparent remedy for this evil is, to balance the disproportionate development of noxious foreign species by bringing from their native country the tribes which prey upon them. This, it seems, has been attempted. The United States Census Report for 1860, p. 82, states that the New York Agricultural Society "has introduced into this country from abroad certain parasites which Providence has created to counteract the destructive powers of some of these depredators."
This is, however, not the only purpose for which man has designedly introduced foreign forms of insect life. The eggs of the silkworm are known to have been brought from the farther East to Europe in the sixth century, and new silk-spinners which feed on the castor-oil bean and the ailanthus, have recently been reared in France and in South America with promising success. The cochineal, long regularly bred in aboriginal America, has been transplanted to Spain, and both the kermes insect and the cantharides have been transferred to other climates than their own. The honey--bee must be ranked next to the silkworm in economical importance. This useful creature was carried to the United States by European colonists, in the latter part of theseventeenth century; it did not cross the Mississippi till the close of the eighteenth, and it is only in 1853 that it was transported to California, where it was previously unknown. The Italian bee, which seldom stings, has lately been introduced into the United States.
The insects and worms intentionally transplanted by man bear but a small portion to those accidentally introduced by him. Plants and animals often carry their parasites with them, and the traffic of commercial countries, which exchange their products with every zone and every stage of social existence, cannot fail to transfer in both directions the minute organisms that are, in one way or another associated with almost every object important to the material interests of man.
The tenacity of life possessed by many insects, their prodigious fecundity, the length of time they often remain in the different phases of their existence, the security of the retreats into which their small dimensions enable them to retire, are all circumstances very favorable not only to the perpetuity of their species, but to their transportation to distant climates and their multiplication in their new homes. The teredo, so destructive to shipping, has been carried by the vessels whose wooden walls it mines to almost every part of the globe. The termite, or white ant, is said to have been brought to Rochefort by the commerce of that port a hundred years ago. This creature is more injurious to wooden structures and implements than any other known insect. It eats out almost the entire substance of the wood, leaving only thin partitions between the galleries it excavates in it; but as it never gnaws through the surface to the air, a stick of timber may be almost wholly consumed without showing any external sign of the damage it has sustained. The termite is found also in other parts of France, and particularly at Rochelle, where, thus far, its ravages are confined to a single quarter of the city. A borer, of similar habits, is not uncommon in Italy, and you may see in that country handsome chairs and other furniture which have been reduced by this insect to a framework of powder of post, covered, and apparently held together, by nothing but the varnish.
Destruciton of Insects
It is well known to naturalists, but less familiarly to common observers, that the aquatic larvae of some insects which in other stages of their existence inhabit the land, constitute, at certain seasons, a large part of the food of fresh-water fish, while other larvae, in their turn, prey upon the spawn and even the young of their persecutors. The larvae of the mosquito and the gnat are the favorite food of the trout in the wooded regions where those insects abound.
Earlier in the year the trout feeds on the larvae of the May fly, which is itself very destructive to the spawn of the salmon, and hence, by a sort of house-that-Jack-built, the destruction of the mosquito, that feeds the trout that preys on the May fly that destroys the eggs that hatch the salmon that pampers the epicure, may occasion a scarcity of this latter fish in waters where he would otherwise be abundant. Thus all nature is linked together by invisible bonds, and every organic creature, however low, however feeble, however dependent, is necessary to the well-being of some other among the myriad forms of life with which the Creator has peopled the earth.
I have said that man has promoted the increase of the insect and the worm, by destroying the bird and the fish which feed upon them. Many insects, in the four different stages of their growth, inhabit in succession the earth, the water, and the air. In each of these elements they have their special enemies, and, deep and dark as are the minute recesses in which they hide themselves, they are pursued to the remotest, obscurest corners by the executioners that nature has appointed to punish their delinquencies, and furnished with cunning contrivances for ferreting out the offenders and dragging them into the light of day. One tribe of birds, the woodpeckers, seems to depend for subsistence almost wholly on those insects which breed in dead or dying trees, and it is, perhaps, needless to say that the injury these birds do the forest is imaginary. They do not cut holes in the trunk of the tree to prepare a lodgment for a future colony of boring larvae, but to extract the worm which has already begun his mining labors. Hence these birds are not found where the forester removes trees as fast as they become fit habitations for such insects. In clearing new lands in the United States, dead trees, especially of the spike-leaved kinds, too much decayed to serve for timber, and which, in that state, are worth little for fuel, are often allowed to stand until they fall of themselves. Such stubs, as they are popularly called, are filled with borers, and often deeply cut by the woodpeckers, whose strong bills enable them to penetrate to the very heart of the tree and drag out the lurking larvae. After a few years, the stubs fall, or, as wood becomes valuable, are cut and carried off for firewood, and, at the same time, the farmer selects for felling, in the forest he has reserved as a permanent source of supply of fuel and timber, the decaying trees which, like the dead stems in the fields, serve as a home for both the worm and his pursuer. We thus gradually extirpate this tribe of insects, and, with them, the species of birds which subsist principally upon them. Thus the fine, large, red-headed woodpecker, Picus erythrocephalus, formerly very common in New England, has almost entirely disappeared from those States, since the dead trees are gone, and the apples, his favorite vegetable food, are less abundant.
There are even large quadrupeds which feed almost exclusively upon insects. The ant-bear is strong enough to pull down the clay houses built by the species of termites that constitute his ordinary diet, and the curious ai-ai, a climbing quadruped of Madagascar, is provided with a very slender, hook-nailed finger, long enough to reach far into a hole in the trunk of a tree, and extract the worm which bored it.
Besides the larger inhabitants of the land and of the sea, the quadrupeds, the reptiles, the birds, the amphibia, the crustacea, the fish, the insects, and the worms, there are other countless forms of vital being. Earth, water, the ducts and fluids of vegetable and of animal life, the very air we breathe, are peopled by minute organisms which perform most important functionsin both the living and the inanimate kingdoms of nature. Of the offices assigned to these creatures, the most familiar to common observation is the extraction of lime, and, more rarely, of silex, from the waters inhabited by them, and the deposit of these minerals in a solid form, either as the material of their habitations or as the exuviae of their bodies. The microscope and other means of scientific observation assure us that the chalk-beds of England and of France, the coral reefs of marine waters in warm climates, vast calcareous and silicious deposits in the sea and in many fresh-water ponds, the common polishing earths and slates, and many species of apparently dense and solid rock, are the work of the humble organisms of which I speak, often, indeed, of animaculae so small as to become visible only by the aid of lenses magnifying thousands of times the linear measures. It is popularly supposed that animalculae, or what are commonly embraced under the vague name of infusoria, inhabit the water alone, but naturalists have long known that the atmospheric dust transported by every wind and deposited by every calm is full of microscopic life or of its relics. The soil on which the city of Berlin stands, contains, at the depth of ten or fifteen feet below the surface, living elaborators of silex; and a microscopic examination of a handful of earth connected with the material evidences of guilt has enabled the naturalist to point out the very spot where a crime was committed. It has been computed that one-sixth part of the solid matter let fall by great rivers at their outlets consists of still recognizable infusory shells and shields, and, as the friction of rolling water must reduce many of these fragile structures to a state of comminution which even the microscope cannot resolve into distinct particles and identify as relics of animal or of vegetable life, we must conclude that a considerably larger proportion of river deposits is really the product of animalcules.
It is evident that the chemical, and in many cases mechanical, character of a great number of the objects important in the material economy of human life, must be affected by the presence of so large an organic element in their substance, and it is equally obvious that all agricultural and all industrial operations tend to disturb the natural arrangements of this element, to increase or to diminish the special adaptation of every medium in which it lives to the particular orders of being inhabited by it. The conversion of woodland into pasturage, of pasture into plough land, of swamp or of shallow sea into dry ground, the rotations of cultivated crops, must prove fatal to millions of living things upon every rood of surface thus deranged by man, and must, at the same time, more or less fully compensate this destruction of life by promoting the growth and multiplication of other tribes equally minute in dimensions. I do not know that man has yet endeavored to avail himself, by artificial contrivances, of the agency of these wonderful architects and manufacturers. We are hardly well enough acquainted with their natural economy to devise means to turn their industry to profitable account, and they are in very many cases too slow in producing visible results for an age so impatient as ours. The over-civilization of the nineteenth century cannot wait for wealth to be amassed by infinitesimal gains, and we are in haste to SPECULATE upon the powers of nature, as we do upon objects of bargain and sale in our trafficking one with another. But there are still some cases where the little we know of a life, whose workings are invisible to the naked eye, suggests the possibility of advantageously directing the efforts of troops of artisans that we cannot see. Upon coasts occupied by the corallines, the reef-building animalcule does not work near the mouth of rivers. Hence the change of the outlet of a stream, often a very busy matter, may promote the construction of a barrier to coast navigation at one point, and check the formation of a reef at another, by diverting a current of fresh water from the former and pouring it into the sea at the latter. Cases may probably be found, in tropical seas, where rivers have prevented the working of the coral animalcules in straits separating islands from each other or from the mainland. The diversion of such streams might remove this obstacle, and reefs consequently be formed which should convert an archipelago into a single large island, and finally join that to the neighboring continent. Quatrefages proposed to destroy the teredo in harbors by impregnating the water with a mineral solution fatal to them. Perhaps the labors of the coralline animals might be arrested over a considerable extent of sea-coast by similar means. The reef-builders are leisurely architects, but the precious coral is formed so rapidly that the beds may be refished advantageously as often as once in ten years.
It does not seem impossible that branches of this coral might be attached to the keel of a ship and transplanted to the American coast, where the Gulf stream would furnish a suitable temperature beyond the climatic limits that otherwise confine its growth; and thus a new source of profit might perhaps be added to the scanty returns of the hardy fisherman. In certain geological formations, the diatomaceae deposit, at the bottom of fresh-water ponds, beds of silicious shields, valuable as a material for a species of very light firebrick, in the manufacture of water-glass and of hydraulic cement, and ultimately, doubtless, in many yet undiscovered industrial processes. An attentive study of the conditions favorable to the propagation of the diatomaceae might perhaps help us to profit directly by the productivity of this organism, and, at the same time, disclose secrets of nature capable of being turned to valuable account in dealing with silicious rocks, and the metal which is the base of them.
Our acquaintance with the obscure and infinitesimal life of which I have now been treating is very recent, and still very imperfect. We know that it is of vast importance in geology, but we are so ambitious to grasp the great, so little accustomed to occupy ourselves with the minute, that we are not yet prepared to enter seriously upon the question how far we can control and utilize the operations, not of unembodied physical forces merely, but of beings, in popular apprehension, almost as immaterial as they.
Disturbance of Natural Balances
It is highly probable that the reef-builders and other yet unstudied minute forms of vital existence have other functions in the economy of nature besides aiding in the architecture of the globe, and stand in important relations not only to man but to the plants and the larger sentient creatures over which he has dominion. The diminution or multiplication of these unseen friends or foes may be attended with the gravest consequences to all his material interests, and he is dealing with dangerous weapons whenever he interferes with arrangements pre-established by a power higher than his own. The equation of animal and vegetable life is too complicated a problem for human intelligence to solve, and we can never know how wide a circle of disturbance we produce in the harmonics of nature when we throw the smallest pebble into the ocean of organic being. This much, however, the facts I have hitherto presented authorize us to conclude: as often as we destroy the balance by deranging the original proportions between different orders of spontaneous life, the law of self-preservation requires us to restore the equilibrium, by either directly returning the weight abstracted from one scale, or removing a corresponding quantity from the other. In other words, destruction must be either repaired by reproduction, or compensated by new destruction in an opposite quarter. The parlor aquarium has taught even those to whom it is but an amusing toy, that the balance of animal and vegetable life must be preserved, and that the excess of either is fatal to the other, in the artificial tank as well as in natural waters. A few years ago, the water of the Cochituato aqueduct at Boston became so offensive in smell and taste as to be quite unfit for use. Scientific investigation found the cause in the too scrupulous care with which aquatic vegetation had been excluded from the reservoir, and the consequent death and decay of the animalculae, which could not be shut out, nor live in the water without the vegetable element.
Nature has no unit of magnitude by which she measures her works. Man takes his standards of dimension from himself. The hair's breadth was his minimum until the microscope told him that there are animated creatures to which one of the hairs of his head is a larger cylinder than is the trunk of the giant California sequoia to him. He borrows his inch from the breadth of his thumb, his palm and span from the width of his hand and the spread of his fingers, his foot from the length of the organ so named; his cubit is the distance from the tip of his middle finger to his elbow, and his fathom is the space he can measure with his outstretched arms. To a being who instinctively finds the standard of all magnitudes in his own material frame, all objects exceeding his own dimensions are absolutely great, all falling short of them absolutely small. Hence we habitually regard the whale and the elephant as essentially large and therefore important creatures, the animalcule as an essentially small and therefore unimportant organism. But no geological formation owes its origin to the labors or the remains of the huge mammal, while the animalcule composes, or has furnished, the substance of strata thousands of feet in thickness, and extending, in unbroken beds, over many degrees of terrestrial surface. If man is destined to inhabit the earth much longer, and to advance in natural knowledge with the rapidity which has marked his progress in physical science for the last two or three centuries, he will learn to put a wiser estimate on the works of creation, and will derive not only great instruction from studying the ways of nature in her obscurest, humblest walks, but great material advantage from stimulating her productive energies in provinces of her empire hitherto regarded as forever inaccessible, utterly barren.
1. ^It is impossible to say how far the abstraction of water from the earth by broad-leaved field and garden plants--such as maize, the gourd family, the cabbage, &c.--is compensated by the condensation of dew, which sometimes pours from them in a stream, by the exhalation of aqueous vapor from their leaves, which is directly absorbed by the ground, and by the shelter they afford the soil from sun and wind, thus preventing evaporation. American farmers often say that after the leaves of Indian corn are large enough to "shade the ground," there is little danger that the plants will suffer from drought; but it is probable that the comparative security of the fields from this evil is in port due to the fact that, at thin period of growth, the roots penetrate down to a permanently humid stratum of soil, and draw from it the moisture they require. Stirring the ground between the rows of maize with a light harrow or cultivator, in very dry seasons, is often recommended as a preventive of injury by drought. It would seem, indeed, that loosening and turning over the surface earth might aggravate the evil by promoting the evaporation of the little remaining moisture; but the practice is founded partly on the belief that the hygroscopicity of the soil is increased by it to such a degree that it gains more by absorption than it loses by evaporation, and partly on the doctrine that to admit air to the rootlets, or at least to the earth near them, is to supply directly elements of vegetable growth.
2. ^What is the possible limit of such changes, we do not know, but they may doubtless be carriad vastly beyond what experience has yet shown to be practicable. Civilized man has experimented little on wild plants, and especially on forest trees. He has indeed improved the fruit, and developed new varieties, of the chestnut, by cultivation, and it is observed that our American forest-tree nuts and berries, such as the butternut and thewild mulberry, become larger and better flavored in a single generation by planting and training. (Bryant, Forest Trees, 1871, pp. 99, 115.) Why should not the industry and ingenuity which have wrought such wonders in our horticulture produce analogous results when applied to the cultivation and amelioration of larger vegetables Might not, for instance, the ivory nut, the fruit of the Phytelephas macrocarpa, possibly be so increased in size as to serve nearly all the purposes of animal ivory now becoming so scarce Might not the various milk-producing trees become, by cultivation, a really important source of nutriment to the inhabitants of warm climates In short, there is room to hope incalculable advantage from the exercise of human skill in the improvement of yet untamed forms of vegetable life.
3. ^The poisonous wild parsnip of New England has been often asserted to be convertible into the common garden parsnip by cultivation, or rather to be the same vegetable growing under different conditions, and it is said to be deprived of its deleterious qualities simply by an increased luxuriance of growth in rich, tilled earth. Wild medicinal plants, so important in the rustic materia medica of New England--such as pennyroyal, for example--are generally much less aromatic and powerful when cultivated in gardens than when self-sown on meagre soils. On the other hand, the cinchona, lately introduced from South America into British India and carefully cultivated there, is found to be richer in quinine than the American tree.
4. ^Some recent observations of Wetzatein are worthy of special notice. "The soil of the Hauran," he remarks, "produces, in its primitive condition, much wild rye, which is not known as a cultivated plant in Syria, and much wild barley and oats. These cereals precisely resemble the corresponding cultivated plants in leaf, ear, size, and height of straw, but their grains are sensibly flatter and poorer in flour."--Reisebericht uber Hauran und die Trachenen, p. 40.
Some of the cereals are, to a certain extent, self-propagating in the soil and climate of California. "VOLUNTEER crops are grown from the seed which falls out in harvesting. Barley has been known to volunteer five crops in succession."--Prayer-Frowd, Six Months in California, p. 189.
5. ^This remark is much less applicable to fruit trees than to garden vegetables and the cerealia. The wild orange of Florida, though once considered indigenous, is now generally thought by botanists to be descended from the European orange introduced by the early colonists. On the wild apple trees of Massachusetts see an interesting chapter in Thoreau, Excursions. The fig and the olive are found growing wild in every country where those trees are cultivated The wild fig differs from the domesticated in its habits, its season of fructification, and its insect population, but is, I believe, not specifically distinguishable from the garden fig, though I do not know that it is reclaimable by cultivation. The wild olive, which is so abundant in the Tuscan Maremma, produces good fruit without further care, when thinned out and freed from the shade of other trees, and is particularly suited for grafting. See Salvagnoli, Memorie sulle Maremme, pp. 63-73. The olive is indigenous in Syria and in the Punjaub, and forms vast forests in the Himalayas at from 1,400 to 2,100 feet above the level of the sea.--Cleghorn, Memoir on the Timber procured from the Indus, etc., pp. 8-15. Fraas, Klima und Pfanzenwelt in der Zeit, pp. 35-38, gives, upon the authority of Link and other botanical writers, a lift of the native habitats of most cereals and of many fruits, or at least of localities where those plants are said to be now found wild; but the data do not appear to rest, in general, upon very trustworthy evidence. Theoretically, there can be little doubt that all our cultivated plants are modified forms of spontaneous vegetation, though the connection is not historically shown, nor are we able to say that the originals of some domesticated vegetables may not be now extinct and unrepresented in the existing wild flora. See, on this subject, Humboldt, Ansichten der Natur, i., pp. 208, 209.
The Adams of modern botany and zoology have been put to hard shifts in finding names for the multiplied organisms which the Creator has brought before them, "to see what they would call them;" and naturalists and philosophers have shown much moral courage in setting at naught the law of philology in the coinage of uncouth words to express scientific Ideas. It is much to be wished that some bold neologist would devise English technical equivalents for the German verwildert, run-wild, and veredelt, improved by cultivation.
6. ^On these points see the learned work of Hehn, Kultur. Pflanzen und Thiere in ihrem Uebergang aus Asien, 1870. On the migration of plants generally, see Lyell, Principles of Geology, 10th ed., vol. ii., c.
7. ^The vine-wood planks of the ancient great door of the cathedral at Ravenna, which measured thirteen feet in length by a foot and a quarter in width, are traditionally said to have boon brought from the Black Sea, by way of Constantinople, about the eleventh or twelfth century. Vines of such dimension are now very rarely found in any other part of the East, and, though I have taken some pains on the subject, I never found in Syria or in Turkey a vine stock exceeding six inches in diameter, bark excluded. Schulz, however, saw at Beitschin, near Ptolemais, a vine measuring eighteen inches in diameter. Strabo speaks of vine-stocks in Margiana (Khorasan) of such dimension that two men, with outstretched arms, could scarcely embrace them. See Strabo, ed. Casaubon, pp. 78, 516, 826. Statues of vine wood are mentioned by ancient writers. Very large vine-stems are not common in Italy, but the vine-wood panels of the door of the chapter-hall of the church of St. John at Saluzzo are not less than ten inches in width, and I observed not long since, in a garden at Pie di Mulera, a vine stock with a circumference of thirty inches.
8. ^The Northmen who--as I think it has been indisputably established by Professor Rafn of Copenhagen--visited the coast of Massachusetts about the year 1000, found grapes growing there in profusion, and the wild vine still flourishes in great variety and abundance in the southeastern counties of that State. The townships in the vicinity of the Dighton rock, supposed by many--with whom, however, I am sorry I cannot agree--to bear a Scandinavian inscription, abound in wild vines. According to Laudonniere, Histoire Notable de la Florida, reprint, Paris, 1853, p 5, the French navigators in 1562 found in that peninsula "wild vines which climb the trees and produce good grapes."
9. ^A very few years since, the United States had more than six hundred large ships engaged in the whale fishery, and the number of American whalers, in spite of the introduction of many now sources of oils, still amounts to two hundred and fifty.
The city of Rome imported from Sicily, from Africa, and from the Levant, enormous quantities of grain for gratuitous distribution among the lower classes of the capital. The pecuniary value of the gems, the spices, the unguents, the perfumes, the cosmetics and the tissues, which came principally from the East, was great, but these articles were neither heavy nor bulky and their transportation required but a small amount of shipping. The marbles, the obelisks, the statuary and other objects of art plundered in conquered provinces by Roman generals and governors, the wild animals, such as elephants, rhinoceroses, hippopotami, camelopards and the larger beasts of prey imported for slaughter at the public games, and the prisoners captured in foreign wars and brought to Italy for sale as slaves or butchery as gladiators, furnished employment for much more tonnage than all the legitimate commerce of the empire, with the possible exception of wheat. Independently of the direct testimony of Latin authors, the Greek statuary, the Egyptian obelisks, and the vast quantities of foreign marbles, granite, parphyry, basalt, and other stones used in sculpture and in architecture, which have been found in the remains of ancient Rome, show that the Imperial capital must have employed an immense amount of tonnage in the importation of heavy articles for which there could have been no return freight, unless in the way of military transportation. Some of the Egyptian obelisks at Rome weigh upwards of four hundred tons, and many of the red granite columns from the same country must have exceeded one hundred tons. Greek and African marbles were largely used not only for columns, contablatures, and solid walls, but for casing the exterior and veneering the interior of public and private buildings. Scaurus imported, for the scene alone of a temporary theatre designed to stand scarcely for a month, three hundred and sixty columns, which were disposed in three tiers, the lower range being forty-two feet in height--See Pliny, Nat. Hist., Lib. xxxvi. Italy produced very little for export, and her importations, when not consisting of booty, were chiefly paid for in coin which was principally either the spoil of war or the fruit of official extortion.
10. ^Many of these articles would undoubtedly have been made known to the Greeks and Romans and have figured in their commerce, but for the slowness and costliness of ancient navigation, which, in the seas familiar to them, was suspended for a full third of the year from the inability of their vessels to cope with winter weather. The present speed and economy of transportation have wrought and are still working strange commercial and industrial revolutions. Algeria now supplies Northern Germany with fresh cauliflowers, and in the early spring the market-gardeners of Naples find it more profitable to send their first fruits to St. Petersburg than to furnish them to Florence and Rome.
11. ^The name portogallo, so generally applied to the orange in Italy, seems to favor this claim. The orange, however, was known in Europe before the discovery of the Cape of Good Hope, and therefore, before the establishment of direct relations between Portugal and the East.--See Amari, Storia del Musulmani in Sicilia, vol ii., p. 445.
The date-palms of eastern and southern Spain were certainly introduced by the Moors. Leo Von Rozmital, who visited Barcelona in 1476, says that the date-tree grew in great abundance in the environs of that city and ripened its fruit well. It is now scarcely cultivated further north than Valencia. It is singular that Ritter in his very full monograph on the palm does not mention those of Spain.
On the introduction of conifera into England see an interesting article in the Edinburgh Review of October, 1864.
Muller, Das Buch der Pfianzenrodt, p. 86, asserts that in 1802 the ancestor of all the mulberries in France, planted in 1500, was still standing in a garden in the village of Allan-Montelimart.
12. ^It may be considered very highly probable, if not certain, that the undiscriminating herbalists of the sixteenth century must have overlooked many plants native to this island. An English botanist, in an hour's visit to Aden, discovered several species of plants on rocks always reported, even by scientific travellers, as absolutely barren. But after all, it appears to be well established that the original flora of St. Helena was extremely limited, though now counting hundreds of species.
13. ^Some years ago I made a collection of weeds in the wheatfields of Upper Egypt, and another in the gardens on the Bosphorus. Nearly all the plants were identical with those which grow under the same conditions in New England. I do not remember to have seen in America the scarlet wild poppy so common in European grainfields. I have heard, however, that it has lately crossed the Atlantic, and I am not sorry for it. With our abundant harvests of wheat, we can well afford to pay now and then a loaf of bread for the cheerful radiance of this brilliant flower.
14. ^Josselyn, who wrote about fifty years after the foundation of the first British colony in New England, says that the settlers at Plymouth had observed more than twenty English plants springing up spontaneously near their improvements.
Every country has many plants not now, if ever, made use of by man, and therefore not designedly propagated by him, but which cluster around his dwelling, and continue to grow luxuriantly on the ruins of his rural habitation after he has abandoned it. The site of a cottage, the very foundation stones of which have been carried off, may often be recognized, years afterwards, by the rank weeds which cover it, though no others of the same species are found for miles.
"Mediaeval Catholicism," says Vaupell, "brought us the red horsehoof--whose reddish-brown flower buds shoot up from the ground when the snow melts, and are followed by the large leaves--comfrey and snake-root, which grow only where there were convents and other dwellings in the Middle Ages."--Bogens Indvandring & de Daneke Skove, pp. 1, 2.
15. ^Accidents sometimes limit, as well as promote the propagation of foreign vegetables in countries new to them. The Lombardy poplar is a deciduous tree, and is very easily grown from cuttings. In most of the countries into which it has been introduced the cuttings hare been taken from the male, and as, consequently, males only have grown from them, the poplar does not produce seed in those regions. This is a fortunate circumstance, for otherwise this most worthless and least ornamental of trees would spread with a rapidity that would make it an annoyance to the agriculturist.
16. ^Vaupell, Bogens Indvandring i de Danske Skove, p. 2.
17. ^I believe it is certain that the Turks introduced tobacco into Hungary, and probable that they in some measure compensated, the injury by introducing maize also, which, as well as tobacco, has been claimed as Hungarian by patriotic Magyars.
18. ^In a communication lately made to the French Academy, M. Vibraye gives numerous interesting details on this subject, and says the appearance of the many new plants observed in France in 1871, "results from forage supplied from abroad, the seeds of which had fallen upon the ground. At the present time, several Mediterranean plants, chiefly Algerian, having braved the cold of an exceptionally severe winter, are being largely propagated, forming extensive meadows, and changing soil that was formerly arid and produced no vegetable of importance into veritable oases." See Nature, Aug. 1, 1872, p. 263. We shall see on a following page that canals are efficient agencies in the unintentional interchange of organic life, vegetable as well as animal, between regions connected by such channels.
19. ^In 1869, a vine of a European variety planted in Sta. Barbara county in 1833 measured a foot in diameter four foot above the ground. Its ramifications covered ten thousand square feet of surface and it annually produces twelve thousand pounds of grapes. The bunches are sixteen or eighteen inches long, and weigh six or seven pounds.-Letter from Commissioner of Land-Office, dated May 13, 1860.
20. ^See Cleghorn, Forests and Gardens of South India, Edinburgh, 1861, and The British Parliamentary return on the Chinchona Plant, 1866. It has been found that the seeds of several species of CINCHONA preserve their vitality long enough to be transported to distant regions. The swiftness of steam navigation render it possible to transport to foreign countries not only seeds but delicate living plants which could not have borne a long voyage by sailing vessels.
21. ^Tempests, violent enough to destroy all cultivated plants, frequently spare those of spontaneous growth. I have often seen in Northern Italy, vineyards, maize fields, mulberry and fruit trees completely stripped of their foliage by hail, while the forest trees scattered through the meadows, and the shrubs and brambles which sprang up by the wayslde, passed through the ordeal with scarcely the loss of a leaflet.
22. ^Ninth Census of the United States, 1872, p. 841. By "improved" land, in the reports on the census of the United States, is meant "cleared land" used for grazing, grass, or tillage, or which is now fallow, connected with or belonging to a farm."--Instructions to Marshals and Assistants, Census of 1870.
23. ^Cotton, though cultivated in Asia from the remotest antiquity, and known as a rare and costly product to the Latins and the Greeks, was not used by them except as an article of luxury, nor did it enter into their commerce to any considerable extent as a regular object of importation. The early voyagers found it in common use in the West Indies and in the provinces first colonized by the Spaniards; but it was introduced into the territory of the United States by European settlers, and did not become of any importance until after the Revolution. Cottonseed was sown in Virginia as early as 1621, but was not cultivated with a view to profit for more than a century afterwards. Sea-island cotton was first grown on the coast of Georgia in 1786, the seed having been brought from the Bahamas, when it had been introduced from Anguilla--BIGELOW, Les Etats-Unis en 1868, p. 370
24. ^There is a falling off since 1860 of 11,000,000 pounds in the quantity of maple sugar and of more than a million gallons of maple molasses. The high price of cane sugar during and since the late civil war must have increased the product of maple sugar and molasses beyond what it otherwise would have been, but the domestic warfare on the woods has more than compensated this cause of increase.
25. ^Raenie, Bochmeria tenacissima, a species of Chinese nettle producing a fibre which may be spun and woven, and which unites many of the properties of silk and of linen, has been completely naturalized in the United States, and results important to the industry of the country are expected from it.
26. ^The sugar cane was introduced by the Arabs into Sicily and Spain as early as the ninth century, and though it is now scarcely grown in those localities, I am not aware of any reason to doubt that its cultivation might be revived with advantage. From Spain it was carried to the West Indies, though different varieties have since been introduced into those Islands from other sources.
27. ^John Smith mentions, In his Historie of Virginia, 1624, pease and beans as having been cultivated by the natives before the arrival of the whites, and there is no doubt, I believe, that several common cucurbitaceous plants are of American origin; but most, if not all the varieties of pease, beans, and other pod fruits now grown in American gardens, are from European and other foreign seed. Cartier, A.D. 1535-'6, mentions "vines, great melons, cucumbers, gourds [courges], pease, beans of various colors, but not like ours," as common among the Indians of the banks of the St. Lawrence--Bref Recit, etc., reprint. Paris, 1863, pp. 13, a; 14, b; 20, b; 31, a.
28. ^Some botanists think that a species of water lily represented in many Egyptian tombs has become extinct, and the papyrus, which must have once been abundant in Egypt, is now found only in a very few localities near the mouth of the Nile. It grows very well and ripens its seeds in the waters of the Anapus near Syracuse, and I have seen it in garden ponds at Messina and in Malta. There is no apparent reason for believing that it could not be easily cultivated in Egypt, to any extent, if there were any special motive for encouraging its growth.
Silphium, a famous medicinal plant of Lybia and of Persia, seems to have disappeared entirely. At any rate there is no proof that it now exists in either of those regions. The Silphium of Greek and Roman commerce appears to have come wholly from Cyrene, that from the Asiatic deserts being generally of less value, or, as Strabo says, perhaps of an inferior variety. The province near Cyrene which produced it was very limited, and according to Strabo (ed. Casaubon, p. 837), it was at one time almost entirely extirpated by the nomade Africans who invaded the province and rooted out the plant.
The vegetable which produced the Balm of Gilead has not been found in modern times, although the localities in which it anciently grew have been carefully explored.
29. ^Although it is not known that man has absolutely extirpated any vegetable, the mysterious diseases which have, for the last twenty years, so injuriously affected the potato, the vine, the orange, the olive, and silk husbandry, are ascribed by some to a climatic deterioration produced by excessive destruction of the woods. As will be seen in the next chapter, a retardation in the period of spring has been observed in numerous localities in Southern Europe, as well as in the United States, and this change has been thought to favor the multiplication of the obscure parasites which causee the injury to the vegetables mentioned. Babinet supposes the parasites which attack the grape and the potato to be animal, not vegetable, and he ascribes their multiplication to excessive manuring and stimulation of the growth of the plants on which they live. They are now generally, it not universally, regarded as vegetable, and if they are so, Babinet's theory would be even more plausible than on his own supposition.--Etudes et lectures, ii, p. 269.
It is a fact of some interest in agricultural economy, that the oidium, which is so destructive to the grape, has produced no pecuniary loss to the proprietors of the vineyards in France. "The price of wine," says Lavergne, "has quintupled, and as the product of the vintage has not diminished in the same proportion, the crisis has been, on the whole, rather advantageous than detrimental to the country."--Economie rurale de la France, pp. 263, 264.
France produces a large surplus of wines for exportation, and the sales to foreign consumers are the principal source of profit to French vinegrowers. In Northern Italy, on the contrary, which exports little wine, there has been no such increase in the price of wine as to compensate the great diminution in the yield of the vines, and the loss of this harvest is severely felt. In Sicily, however, which exports much wine, prices have risen as rapidly as in France. Waltershausen informs us that in the years 1838-'42, the red wine of Mount Etna sold at the rate of one kreuzer and a half, or one cent the bottle, and sometimes even at but two thirds that price, but that at present it commands five or six times as much.
The grape disease has operated severely on small cultivators whose vineyards only furnished a supply for domestic use, but Sicily has received a compensation in the immense increase which it has occasioned in both the product and the profits of the sulphur mines. Flour of sulphur is applied to the vine as a remedy against the disease, and the operation is repeated from two to three or four--and sometimes even eight or ten--times in a season. Hence there is a great demand for sulphur in all the vine-growing countries of Europe, and
Waltershausen estimates the annual consumption of that mineral for this single purpose at 850,000 centner, or more than forty thousand tons. The price of sulphur has risen in about the same proportion as that of the wine.--Waltershausen, Ueber den Sicilianischen Ackerbau, pp. 19, 20.]
30. ^Report of Commissioner of Agriculture of the United States for 1870.
31. ^Could the bones and other relics of the [[[domestication|domestic]] quadrupeds destroyed by disease or slaughtered for human use in civilized countries be collected into large deposits, as obscure causes have gathered together those of extinct animals, they would soon form aggregations which might almost be called mountains. There were in the United States, in 1870, as we shall see hereafter, nearly one hundred millions of horses, black cattle, sheep, and swine. There are great numbers of all the same animals in the British American Provinces and in Mexico, and there are large herds of wild horses on the plains, and of tamed among the independent Indian tribes of North America. It would perhaps not be extravagant to suppose that all these cattle may amount to two thirds as many as those of the United States, and thus we have in North America a total of 160,000,000 domestic quadrupeds belonging to species introduced by European colonization, besides dogs, cats, and other four-footed household pets and pests, also of foreign origin.
If we allow half a solid foot to the skeleton and other slowly destructible parts of each animal, the remains of these herds would form a cubical mass measuring not much short of four hundred and fifty feet to the side, or a pyramid equal in dimensions to that of Cheops, and as the average life of these animals does not exceed six or seven years, the accumulations of their bones, horns, hoofs, and other durable remains would amount to at least fifteen times as great a volume in a single century. It is true that the actual mass of solid matter, left by the decay of dead domestic quadrupeds and permanently added to the crust of the earth, is not so great as this calculation makes it. The greatest proportion of the soft parts of domestic animals, and even of the bones, is soon decomposed, through direct consumption by man and other carnivora, industrial use, and employment as manure, and enters into new combinations in which its animal origin is scarcely traceable; there is, nevertheless, a large annual residuum, which, like decayed vegetable matter, becomes a part of the superficial mould; and in any event, brute life immensely changes the form and character of the superficial strata, if it does not sensibly augment the quantity of the matter composing them. The remains of man, too, add to the earthy coating that covers the face of the globe. The human bodies deposited in the catacombs during the long, long ages of Egyptian history, would perhaps build as large a pile as one generation of the quadrupeds of the United States. In the barbarous days of old Moslem warfare, the conquerors erected large pyramids of human skulls. The soil of cemeteries in the great cities of Europe has sometimes been raised several feet by the deposit of the dead during a few generations. In the East, Turks and Christians alike bury bodies but a cople of feet beneath the sculptures of the ignoble poor, and of those whose monuments time or accident has removed, are opened again and again to receive fresh occupants. Hence the ground in Oriental cemeteries is pervaded with relics of humanity, of not wholly composed of them; and an examination of the soil of the lower part of the Petit Champ des Morts, at Pera, by the naked eye alone, shows the observer that it consists almost exclusively of the comminuted bones of his fellow-man.
32. ^The bones of mammoths and mastodons, in many instances, appear to have been grazed or cut by flint arrow-heads or other stone weapons, and the bones of animals now extinct are often wrought into arms and utensils, or split to extract the marrow. These accounts have often been discredited, because it has been assumed that the extinction of these animals was more ancient than the existence of man. Recent discoveries render it certain that this conclusion has been too hastily adopted.
On page 143 of the Antiquity of Man, Lyell remarks that man "no doubt played his part in hastening the era of the extincion" of the large pachyderms and beasts of prey; but, as contemporaneous species of other animals, which man cannot be supposed to have extirpated, have also become extinct, he argues that the disappearance of the quadrupeds in question cannot be ascribed to human action alone.
On this point it may be observed that, as we cannot know what precise physical conditions were necessary to the existence of a given extinct organism, we cannot say how far such conditions may have been modified by the action of man, and he may therefore have influenced the life of such organisms in ways, and to an extent, of which we can form no just idea.
33. ^I find confirmation of my own observations on this point (published in 1863) in the North-West Passage by Land of Milton and Cheadle, London, 1865. These travellers observed "a long chain of marshes formed by the damming up of a stream which had now ceased to exist," Chap. X. In Chap. XII, they state that "nearly every stream between the Pembina and the Athabasca--except the large river McLeod--appeared to have been destroyed by the agency of the beaver," and they question whether the vast extent of swampy ground in that region "has not been brought to this condition by the work of beavers who have thus destroyed, by their own labor, the streams necessary to their own existence."
But even here nature provides a remedy, for when the process of "consolidation" referred to in treating of bogs in the first chapter shall have been completed, and the forest re-established upon the marshes, the water now diffused through them will be collected in the lower or more yielding portions, cut new channels for their flow, become running brooks, and thus restore the ancient aspect of the surface.
The authors add the curious observation that the beavers of the present day seem to be a degenerate race, as they neither fell huge trees not construct great dams, while their progenitors cut down trees two feet in diameter and dammed up rivers a hundred feet in width. The change in the habits of the beaver is probably due to the diminution of their numbers since the introduction of fire-arms, and to the tact that their hydraulic operations are more frequently interrupted by the encroachments of man. In the valley of the Yellowstone, which has but lately been much visited by the white man, Hayden saw stumps of trees thirty inches in diameter which had been cut down by beavers. --Geological Survey of Wyoming, p. 135.
The American beaver closely resembles his European congener, and I believe most naturalists now regard them as identical. A difference of speceies has been inferred from a difference in their modes of life, the European animal being solitary and not a builder, the American gregarious and constructive. But late careful researches in Germany have shown the former existence of numerous beaver dams in that country, though the animal, having becaome rare to form colonies, has of course ceased to attempt works which require the co-operation of numerous individuals.--Schleiden, Fur Baum und Wald Leipzig, 1870, p. 68.
On the question of identity and on all others relating to this interesting animal, see L.H. Morgan's important monograph, The American Beaver and his Works, Philadelphia, 1868. Among the many new facts observed by this investigator is the construction of canals by the beaver to float trunks and branches of trees to his ponds. These canals are sometimes 600 to 700 feet long, with a width of two or three feet and a depth of one to one and a half.
34. ^European foresters speak of the action of the squirrel as injurious to trees. Doubtless this is sometimes true in the case of artificial forests, but in woods of spontaneous growth, ordered and governed by nature, the squirrel does not attack trees, or at least the injury he may do is too trifling to be perceptible, but he is a formidable enemy to the plantation. "The squirrels bite the cones of the pine and consume the seed which might serve to restock the wood; they do still more mischief by gnawing off, near the leading shoot, a strip of bark, and thus often completely girdling the tree. Trees so injured must be felled, as they would never acquire a vigorous growth. The squirrel is especially destructive to the pine in Sologne, where he gnaws the bark of trees twenty or twenty-five years old." But even here, nature sometimes provides a compensation, by making the appetite of this quadruped serve to prevent an excessive production of seed cones, which tends to obstruct the due growth of the leading shoot. "In some of the pineries of Brittany which produce cones so abundantly as to strangle the development of the leading shoot of the maritime pine, it has been observed that the pines are most vigorous where the squirrels are most numerous, a result attributed to the repression of the cones by this rodent."--Boitel, Mise en valeur des Terres pauvres, p. 50.
Very interesting observations, on the agency of the squirrel and other small animals in planting and in destroying nuts and other seeds of trees, may be found in a paper on the Succession of Forests in Thoreau's Excursions, pp. 135 et seqq.I once saw several quarts of beech-nuts taken from the winter quarters of a family of flying squirrels in a hollow tree. The kernels were neatly stripped of the shells and carefully stored in a dry cavity.
35. ^Evelyn thought the depasturing of grass by cattle serviceable to its growth. "The biting of cattle," he remarks, "gives a gentle loosening to the roots of the herbage, and makes it to grow fine and sweet, and their very breath and treading as well as soil, and the comfort of their warm bodies, is wholesome and marvellously cherishing."--Terra, or Philosophical Discourses of Earth, p. 86.
In a note upon this passage, Hunter observes: "Nice farmers consider the lying of a beast upon the ground, for one night only, as a sufficient tilth for the year. The breath of graminivorous quadrupeds does certainly enrich the roots of grass; a circumstance worthy of the attention of the philosophical farmer."--Terra, same page.
The "philosophical farmer" of the present day will not adopt these opinions without some qualification, and they certainly are not sustained by American observation.The Report of the Department of Agriculture for March and April, 1872, states that the native grasses are disappearing from the prairies of Texas, especially on the bottom-lands, depasturing of cattle being destructive to them.
36. ^The rat and the mouse, though not voluntarily transported, are passengers by every ship that sails for a foreign port, and several species of these quadrupeds have, consequently, much extended their range and increased their numbers in modern times. From a story of Heliogabalus related by Lampridius, Hist. Aug. Scriptores, ed. Casaubon, 1690, p. 110, it would seem that mice at least were not very common in ancient Rome. Among the capricious freaks of that emperor, it is said that he undertook to investigate the statistics of the arachnoid population of the capital, and that 10,000 pounds of spiders (or spiders' webs--for aranea is equivocal) were readily collected; but when he got up a mouse-show, he thought ten thousand mice a very fair number. Rats are not less numerous in all great cities; and in Paris, where their skins are used for gloves, and their flesh, it is whispered, in some very complex and equivocal dishes, they are caught by legions. I have read of a manufacturer who contracted to buy of the rat-catchers, at a high price, all the rat-skins they could furnish before a certain date, and failed, within a week, for want of capital, when the stock of peltry had run up to 600,000.
Civilization has not contented itself with the introduction of domestic animals alone. The English sportsman imports foxes from the continent, and Grimalkin-like turns them loose in order that he may have the pleasure of chasing them afterwards.
37. ^The horse and the ass were equally unknown to ancient Egypt, and do not appear in the sculptures before the XV. and XVI. dynasties. But even then, the horse was only known as a draught animal, and the only representation of a horseman yet found in the Egyptian tombs is on the blade of a battle axe of uncertain origin and period.
38. ^Erdkunde, viii., Asien, 1ste Abtheuung, pp. 660,758. Hehn, Kuttonpflanzen, p. 845.
39. ^See Chapter III., post; also Humboldt, Ansichten der Natur, i., p. 71. From the anatomical character of the bones of the urus, or auerochs, found among the relics of the lacustrine population of ancient Switzerland, and from other circumstances, it is inferred that this animal had been domesticated by that people; and it is stated, I know not upon what authority, in Le Alpi che cingono l'Italia, that it had been tamed by the Veneti also. See Lyell, Antiquity of Man, pp. 24, 25, and the last-named work, p. 480. This is a fact of much interest, because it is one of the very few HISTORICALLY known instances of the extinction of a domestic quadruped, and the extreme improbability of such an event gives some countenance to the theory of the identity of the domestic ox with, and its descent from, the urus.
40. ^The goat introduced into South Carolina was brought from the district of Angora, in Asia Minor, which has long been celebrated for flocks of this valuable animal. It is calculated that more than a million of these goats are raised in that district, and it is commonly believed that the Angora goat and its wool degenerate when transported. Probably this is only an invention of the shepherds to prevent rivals from attempting to interfere with so profitable a monopoly. But if the popular prejudice has any foundation, the degeneracy is doubtless to be attributed to ignorance of the special treatment which long experience has taught the Angora shepherds, and the consequent neglect of such precautions as are necessary to the proper care of the animal. Throughout nearly the whole territory of the United States the success of the Angora goat is perfect, and it would undoubtedly thrive equally well in Italy, though it is very doubtful whether in either country the value of its fleece would compensate the damage it would do to the woods.
41. ^The reproductive powers of animals, as well as of plants, seem to be sometimes stimulated in an extraordinary way by transfer to a foreign clime. The common warren rabbit introduced by the early colonists into the island of Madeira multiplied to such a degree as to threaten the extirpation of vegetation, and in Australia the same quadruped has become so numerous as to be a very serious evil. The colonists are obliged to employ professional rabbit-hunters, and one planter has enclosed his grounds by four miles of solid wall, at an expense of ,000, to protect his crops against those ravagers.--Revue des Eaux et Forets, 1870, p. 38.
42. ^In the enumeration of farm stock, "sucking pigs, spring lambs, and calves," are omitted. I believe they are included in the numbers reported by the census of 1860. Horses and horned cattle in towns and cities were excluded from both enumerations, the law providing for returns on these points from rural districts only. On the whole, there is a diminution in the number of all farm stock, except sheep, since 1860. This is ascribed by the Report to the destruction of domestic quadrupeds during the civil war, but this hardly explains the reduction in the number of swine from 39,000,000 in 1800 to 25,000,000 in 1870.
43. ^"About five miles from camp we ascended to the top of a high hill, and for a great distance ahead every square mile seemed to have a herd of buffalo upon it. Their number was variously estimated by the members of the party; by some as high as half a million. I do not think it any exaggeration to set it down at 200,000." Steven's Narrative and Final Report. Reports of Explorations and Surveys for Railroad to Pacific, vol xii, book i., 1860.
The next day the party fell in with a "buffalo trail," where at least 100,000 were thought to have crossed a slough.As late as 1868, Sheridan's party estimated the number of bisons seen by them in a single day at 200,000.--Sheridan's Troopers on the Border, 1868, p. 41.
44. ^During the late civil war in America, deer and other animals of the chase multiplied rapidly in the regions of the Southern States which were partly depopulated and deprived of their sportsmen by the military operations of the contest, and the bear is said to have reappeared in districts where he had not been seen in the memory of living man.
45. ^In maintaining the recent existence of the lion in the countries named in the text, naturalists have, perhaps, laid. too much weight on the frequent occurrence of representations of this animal in sculptures apparently of a historical character. It will not do to argue, twenty centuries hence, that the lion and the unicorn were common in Great Britain in Queen Victoria's time because they are often seen "fighting for the crown" in the carvings and paintings of that period. Many paleontolgists, however, identify the great cat-like animal, whose skeletons are frequently found in British bone-caves, with the lion of our times.
The leopard (panthera), though already growing scarce, was found in Cilicia in Cicero's time. See his letter to Coelius, Epist. ad Diversos, Lib. II., Ep. 11.
The British wild ox is extinct except in a few English and Scottish parks, while in Irish bogs of no great apparent antiquity are found antlers which testify to the former existence of a stag much larger than any extant European species. Two large graminivorous or browsing quadrupeds, the ur and the schelk, once common in Germany, have been utterly extirpated, the eland and the auerochs nearly so. The Nibelungen-Lied, which, in the oldest form preserved to us, dates from about the year 1200, though its original composition no doubt belongs to an earlier period, thus sings:
Then slowe the dowghtie Sigfrid a wisent and an elk, he smote four stoute uroxen and a grim and sturdie schelk.
46. ^Dar nach sluoger schiere, einen wisent unde elch. Starker ure viere, unt einen grimmen schelch. XVI. Aventiure.
The testimony of the Nibelungen-Lied is not conclusive evidence that these quadrupeds existed in Germany at the time of the composition of that poem. It proves too much; for, a few lines above those just quoted, Sigfrid is said to have killed a lion, an animal which the most patriotic Teuton will hardly claim as a denizen of mediaeval Germany.
47. ^Natural History of Ceylon, chap. iv.
48. ^Although it is only in the severest cold of winter that the chamois descends to the vicinity of grounds occupied by man, its organization does not confine it to the mountains. In the royal park of Racconigi, on the plain a few miles from Turin, at a height of less than 1,000 feet, is kept a herd of thirty or forty chamois, which thrive and breed apparently as well as in the Alps.
49. ^Objectionable as game laws are, they have done something to prevent the extinction of many quadrupeds, which naturalists would be loth to lose, and, as in the case of the British ox, private parks and preserves have saved other species from destruction. Some few wild aminals, such as the American mink, for example, have been protected and bred with profit, and in Pennsylvania an association of gentlemen has set apart, and is about enclosing, a park of 16,000 acres for the breeding of indigenous quadrupeds and fowls.
50. ^The observations of COLUMELLA, de Re Rustica, lib. viii., sixteenth and following chapters, on fish-breeding, are interesting. The Romans not only stocked natural but constructed artificial ponds, of both fresh and salt water, and cut off bays of the sea for this purpose. They also naturalized various species of sea-fish in fresh water.
51. ^The opening or rather the reconstruction of the Claudian emissary by Prince Torlonia, designed to drain the Lake Fucinus, or Celano, has introduced the fish of that lake into the Liri or Garigliano which received the discharge from the lake.--Dorotea, Sommario storico dell' Alieutica, p. 60.
52. ^Souvenire d'un Naturaliste, i., pp. 204 et seqq.
53. ^The dissolution of the salts in the bed of the Bitter Lake impregnated the water admitted from the Red Sea so highly that for some time fish were not seen in that basin. The flow of the current through the canal has now reduced the proportion of saline matter to five per cent, and late travellers speak of fish as abundant in its waters.
54. ^Seven or eight years ago, the Italian government imported from France a dredging machine for use in the harbor of La Spezia. The dredge brought attached to its hull a shell-fish not known in Italian waters. The mollusk, finding the local circumstances favorable, established itself in this new habitat, multiplied rapidly, and is now found almost everywhere on the west coast of the Peninsula.
55. ^Babinet, Etudes et Lectures, ii, pp. 108,110.
56. ^Thompson, Natural History of Vermont, p. 38, and Appendix, p. 18. There is no reason to believe that the seal breeds in Lake Champlain, but the individual last taken there must have been some weeks, at least, in its waters. It was killed on the ice in the widest part of the lake, on the 23d of February, thirteen days after the surface was entirely frozen, except the usual small cracks, and a month or two after the ice closed at all points north of the place where the seal was found.
57. ^See Ackerhof, Die Nutzung der Seiche und Gewasser. Quedlinburg, 1860.
58. ^I use WHALE not in a technical sense, but as a generic term for all the large inhabitants of the sea popularly grouped under that name. The Greek kaetos and Latin Balaena, though sometimes, especially in later classical writers, specifically applied to true cetaceans, were generally much more comprehensive in their signification than the modern word whale. This appears abundantly from the enumeration of the marine animals embraced by Oppian under the name , in the first book of the Halieutica. There is some confusion in Oppian's account of the fishery of the in the fifth book of the Halieutica. Part of it is probably to be understood of cetaceans which have GROUNDED, as some species often do; but in general it evidently applies to the taking of large fish--sharks, for example, as appear by the description of the teeth--with hook and bait.
59. ^From the narrative of Ohther, introduced by King Alfred into his translation of Orosius, it is clear that the Northmen pursued the whale fishery in the ninth century, and it appears, both from the poem called The Whale, in the Codex Exoniensis, and from the dialogue with the fisherman in the Colloquies of Aelfric, that the Anglo-Saxons followed this dangerous chore at a period not much later. I am not aware of any evidence to show that any of the Latin nationals engaged in this fishery until a century or two afterward, though it may not be easy to disprove their earlier participation in it. In mediaeval literature, Latin and Romance, very frequent mention is made of a species of vessel called in Latin baleneria, balenerium, balenerius, balaneria, etc.; in Catalan, balener; in French, balenier; all of which words occur the many other forms. The most obvious etymology of these words would suggest the meaning, whaler, baleinier; but some have supposed that the name was descriptive of the great size of the ships, and others have referred it to a different root. From the fourteenth century, the word occurs oftener, perhaps, in old Catalan, than in any other language; but Capmany does not notice the whale fishery as one of the maritime pursuits of the very enterprising Catalan people, nor do I find any of the products of the whale mentioned in the old Catalan tariffs. The WHALEBONE of the mediaeval writers, which is described as very white, is doubtless the ivory of the walrus or of the narwhale.
60. ^In consequence of the great scarcity of the whale, the use of coal-gas for illumination, the substitution of other fatty and oleaginous substances, such as lard, palm-oil, and petroleum for right-whale oil and spermaceti, the whale fishery has rapidly fallen off within a few years. The great supply of petroleum, which is much used for lubricating machinery as well as for numerous other purposes, has produced a more perceptible effect on the whale fishery than any other single circumstance. According to Bigelow, Les Etats-Unis en 1863, p. 346, the American whaling fleet was diminished by 29 in 1858, 57 in 1860, 94 in 1861, and 65 in 1862. The number of American ships employed in that fishery in 1862 was 353. In 1868, the American whaling fleet was reduced to 223. The product of the whale fishery in that year was 1,485,000 gallons of sperm oil, 2,065,612 gallons of train oil, and 901,000 pounds of whalebone. The yield of the two species of whale is about the same, being estimated at from 4,000 to 5,000 gallons for each fish. Taking the average at 4,500 gallons, the American whalers must have captured 789 whales, besides, doubtless, many which were killed or mortally wounded and not secured. The returns for the year are valued at about five million and a half dollars. Mr. Cutts, from a report by whom most of the above facts are taken, estimates the annual value of the "products of the sea" at ,000,000. According to the New Bedford Standard, the American whalers numbered 722, measuring 230,218 tons, in 1846. On the 31st December, 1872, the number was reduced to 204, with a tonnage of 47,787 tons, and the importation of whale and sperm oil amounted in that year to 79,000 barrels. Svend Foyn, an energetic Norwegian, now carries on the whale fishery in the Arctic Ocean in a steamer of 20 horse-power, accompanied by freight-ships for the oil. The whales are killed by explosive shells fired from a small cannon. The number usually killed by Foyn is from 35 to 45 per year.--The Commerce in the Products of the Sea, a report by Col. R. D. Cutts, communicated to the U. S. Senate. Washington, 1872.
61. ^The Origin and History of the English Language, &c., pp. 423, 424.
62. ^Two young pickerel, Gystes fasciatus, five inches long, ate 128 minnows, an inch long, the first day they were fed, 132 the second, and 150 the third.--Fifth Report of Commissioners of Massachusetts for Introduction of Fish. 1871. p. 17.
63. ^The shark is pursued in all the tropical and subtropical seas for its fins--for which there is a great demand in China as an article of diet--its oil and other products. About 40,000 are taken annually in the Indian Ocean and the contiguous seas. In the North Sea and the Arctic Ocean large numbers are annually caught. See MERK. Waarenlexikon--a work of great accuracy and value (Leipzig, 1870), article Haifisch.
64. ^The most valuable variety of fur seal, formerly abundant in all cold latitudes, is stated to have been completely exterminated in the Southern hemisphere, and to be now found only on one or two small islands of the Aleutian group. In 1867 more than 700,000 seal skins were imported into Great Britain, and at least 600,000 seals are estimated to have been taken in 1870. These numbers do not include the seals killed by the Esquimaux and other rude tribes.
65. ^In 1868, a few American ships engaged in the North Pacific whale fishery turned their attention to the walrus, and took from 200 to 600 each. In 1869 other whalers engaged in the same pursuit, and in 1870 the American fleet is believed to have destroyed not less than fifty thousand of these animals. They yield about twenty gallons of oil and four or five pounds of ivory each.
66. ^According to Hartwig, the United Provinces of Holland had, in 1618, three thousand herring busses, and nine thousand vessels engaged in the transport of these fish to market. The whole number of persons employed in the Dutch herring fishery was computed at 200,000.
In the latter part of the eighteenth century, this fishery was most successfully prosecuted by the Swedes, and in 1781, the town of Gottenburg alone exported 136,649 barrels, each containing 1,200 herrings, making a total of about 164,000,000; but so rapid was the exhaustion of the fish, from this keen pursuit, that in 1799 it was found necessary to prohibit the exportation of them altogether.--Das Leben des Meeres, p. 182.
In 1855, the British fisheries produced 900,000 barrels, or almost enough to supply a fish to every human inhabitant of the globe.
On the shores of Long Island Sound, the white fish, a species of herring too bony to be easily eaten, is used as manure in very great quantities. Ten thousand are employed as a dressing for an acre, and a single net has sometimes taken 200,000 in a day.--Dwight's Travels, ii. pp. 512, 515. The London Times of May 11, 1872, informs us that 1,100 tons of mackerel estimated to weigh one pound each had recently been taken in a single night at a fishing station on the British coast.About ten million eels are sold annually in Billingsgate market, but vastly greater numbers of the young fry, when but three or four inches long, are taken. So abundant are they at the mouths of many French and English rivers, that they are carried into the country by cart-loads, and not only eaten, but given to swine or used as manure.
67. ^The fisheries of Sicily alone are said to yield 20,000 tons of tunny a year. The tunny is principally consumed in Italy during Lent, and a large proportion of the twenty millions of codfish taken annually at the Lofoden fishery on the coast of Norway is exported to the Mediterranean.
68. ^According to Berthelote, in the Gulf of Lyons, between Marseilles and the easternmost spur of the Pyrenees, about 5,000,000 small fish ate taken annually with the drag-net, and not lees than twice as many more, not to spekak of spawn, are destroyed by the use of this act.
Between 1861 and 1865 France imported from Norway, for use as bait in the Sardine fishery, cod-roes to the value of three million francs.--Cutts, Report on Commerce in the Products of the Sea, 1872, p. 82.The most reckless waste of aquatic life I remember to have seen noticed, if we except the destruction of herring and other fish with upawn, is that of the eggs of the turtle in the Amazon for the sake of the oil extracted from then. Bates estimates the eggs thus annually sacrificed at 48,000,000.-Naturalits inthe Amazon, 2d edition, 1864, p. 805.
69. ^It is possible that time may modify the habits of the fresh-water fish the North American States, and accommodate them to the new physical conditions of their native waters. Hence it may be hoped that nature, even unaided by art, will do something towards restoring the ancient plenty of our lakes and rivers. The decrease of our fresh-water fish cannot be alone to exhaustion by fishing, for in the waters of the valleys and flanks of the Alps, which have been inhabited and fished ten times as long by a denser population, fish are still very abundant, and they thrive and multiply under circumstances where no American species could live at all. On the southern slope of those mountains, trout are caught in great numbers, in the swift streams which rush from the glaciers, and where the water is of icy coldness, and so turbid with particles of fine-ground rock, that you cannot see an inch below the surface. The glacier streams of Switzerland, however, are less abundant in fish.
70. ^A fact mentioned by Schubert--and which in its causes and many of its results corresponds almost precisely with those connected with the escape of Barton Pond in Vermont, so well known to geological students--is important, as showing that the diminution of the fish in rivers exposed to inundations is chiefly to be ascribed to the mechanical action of the current, and not mainly, as some have supposed, to changes of temperature occasioned by clearing. Our author states that, in 1796, a terrible inundation was produced in the Indalself, which rises in the Storsjo in Jemtland, by drawing off into it the waters of another lake near Ragunda. The flood destroyed houses and fields; much earth was swept into the channel, and the water made turbid and muddy; the salmon and the smaller fish forsook the river altogether, and never returned. The banks of the river have never regained their former solidity, and portions of their soil are still continually falling into the water and destroying its purity.--Resa genom Sverge, ii, p. 61.
71. ^The mineral water discharged from a colliery on the river Doon in Scotland discolored the stones in the bed of the river, and killed the fish for twenty miles below. The fish of the streams in which hemp is macerated in Italy are often poisoned by the juices thus extracted from the plant.-Dorotea, Sommario della storia dell' Alieutica, pp. 64, 65.
72. ^Among the unexpected results of human action, the destruction or multiplication of fish, as well as of other animals, is a not unfrequent occurrence.
73. ^ Williams, in his History of Vermont, i., p. 140, records such a case of the increase of trout. In a pond formed by damming a small stream to obtain water power for a sawmill, and covering one thousand acres of primitive forest, the increased supply of food brought within reach of the fish multiplied them to that degree, that, at the head of the pond, where, in the spring, they crowded together in the brook which supplied it, they were taken by the hands at pleasure, and swine caught them without difficulty. A single sweep of a small scoopnet would bring up half a bushel, carts were filled with them as fast as if picked up on dry land, and in the fishing season they were commonly sold at a shilling (eightpence halfpenny, or about seventeen cents) a bushel. The increase in the size of the trout was as remarkable as the multiplication of their numbers.
The construction of dams and mills is destructive to many fish, but operates as a protection to their prey. The mills on Connecticut River greatly diminished the number of the salmon, but the striped bass, on which the salmon feeds, multiplied in proportion.--Dr. Dwight, Travels, vol. ii., p. 323.
74. ^Pigeons were shot near Albany, in New York, a few years ago, with green rice in their crops, which it was thought must have been growing, a very few hours before, at the distance of seven or eight hundred miles. The efforts of the Dutch to confine the cultivation of the nutmeg to the island of Banda are said to have been defeated by the birds, which transported this heavy fruit to other islands.
75. ^The wild turkey takes readily to the water, and is able to cross rivers of very considerable width by swimming. By way of giving me an idea of the former abundance of this bird, an old and highly respectable gentleman who was among the early white settlers of the West, told me that he once counted, in walking down the northern bank of the Ohio River, within a distance of four miles, eighty-four turkeys as they landed singly, or at most in pairs, after swimming over from the Kentucky side.
76. ^The wood-pigeon, as well as the domestic dove, has been observed to increase in numbers in Europe also, when pains have been taken to exterminate the hawk. The American pigeons, which migrated in flocks so numerous that they were whole days in passing a given point, were no doubt injurious to the grain, but probably less so than is generally supposed; for they did not confine themselves exclusively to the harvests for their nourishment.
77. ^The first mention I have found of the naturalization of a wild bird in modern Europe is in the Menagiana, vol. iii., p. 174, edition of 1715, where it is stated that Rene, King of Sicily and Duke of Anjou, who died in 1480, introduced the red-legged partridge into the latter country. Attempts have been made, and I believe with success, to naturalize the European lark on Long Island, and the English sparrow has been introduced into various parts of the Northern States, where he is useful by destroying noxious insects and worms not preyed upon by native birds. The humming-bird has resisted all efforts to acclimate him in Europe, though they have not unfrequently survived the passage across the ocean. In Switzerland and some other parts of Europe the multiplication of insectivorous birds is encouraged by building nests for them, and it is alleged that both fruit and forest trees have been essentially benefited by the protection thus afforded them.
78. ^Gulls hover about ships in port, and often far out at sea, diligently watching for the waste of the caboose. While the four great fleets, English, French, Turkish, and Egyptian, were lying in the Bosphorus, in the summer and autumn of 1853, a young lady of my family called my attention to the fact that the gulls were far more numerous about the ships of one of the fleets than about the others. This was verified by repeated observation, and the difference was owing no doubt to the greater abundance of the refuse from the cookrooms of the naval squadron most frequented by the birds. Persons acquainted with the economy of the navies of the states in question, will be able to conjecture which fleet was most favored with these delicate attentions. The American gull follows the steamers up the Mississippi, and has been shot 1,500 miles from the sea.
79. ^Birds do not often voluntarily take passage on board ships bound for foreign countries, but I can testify to one such case. A stork, which had nested near one of the palaces on the Bosphorus, had, by some accident, injured a wing, and was unable to join his fellows when they commenced their winter migration to the banks of the Nile. Before he was able to fly again, he was caught, and the flag of the nation to which the palace belonged was tied to his leg, so that he was easily identified at a considerable distance. As his wing grew stronger, he made several unsatisfactory experiments at flight, and at last, by a vigorous effort, succeeded in reaching a passing ship bound southward, and perched himself on a topsail-yard. I happened to witness this movement, and observed him quietly maintaining his position as long as I could discern him with a spy-glass. I supposed he finished the voyage, for he certainly did not return to the palace.
80. ^Even the common crow has found apologists, and it has been asserted that he pays for the Indian corn he consumes by destroying the worms and larva which infest that plant.
Professor Treadwell, of Massachusetts, found that a half-grown American robin in confinement ate in one day sixty-eight worms, weighing together nearly once and a half as much as the bird himself, and another had previously starved upon a daily allowance of eight or ten worms, or about twenty per cent. of his own weight. The largest of these numbers appeared, so far as could be judged by watching parent birds of the same species, as they brought food to their young, to be much greater than that supplied to them when fed in the nest; for the old birds did not return with worms or insects oftener than once in ten minutes on an average. It we suppose the parents to hunt for food twelve hours in a day, and a nest to contain four young, we should have seventy-two worms, or eighteen each, as the daily supply of the brood. It is probable enough that some of the food collected by the parents may be more nutritious than the earthworms, and consequently that a smaller quantity sufficed for the young in the nest than when reared under artificial conditions.The supply required by growing birds is not the measure of their wants after they have arrived at maturity, and it is not by any means certain that great muscular exertion always increases the demand for nourishment, either in the lower animals or in man. The members of the English Alpine Club are not distinguished for appetites which would make them unwelcome guests to Swiss landlords, and I think every man who has had the personal charge of field or railway hands, must have observed that laborers who spare their strength the least are not the most valiant trencher champions. During the period when imprisonment for debt was permitted in New England, persons confined in country jails had no specific allowance, and they were commonly fed without stint. I have often inquired concerning their diet, and been assured by the jailers that their prisoners, who were not provided with work or other means of exercise, consumed a considerably larger supply of food than common out-door laborers.
81. ^I hope Michelet has good authority for this statement, but I am unable to confirm it.
82. ^Apropos of the sparrow--a single pair of which, according to Michelet, p. 315, carries to the nest four thousand and three hundred caterpillar or coleoptera in a week--I find in an English newspaper a report of a meeting of a "Sparrow Club," stating that the member who took the first prize had destroyed 1,467 of these birds within the year, and that the prowess of the other members had brought the total number up to 11,944 birds, besides 2,553 eggs. Every one of the fourteen thousand hatched and unhatched birds, thus sacrificed to puerile vanity and ignorant prejudice, would have saved his bushel of wheat by preying upon insects that destroy the grain.
83. ^Salvagnoli, Memorie sulle Maremme Toscane, p. 143. The country about Naples is filled with slender towers fifteen or twenty feet high, which are a standing puzzle to strangers. They are the stations of the fowlers who watch from them the flocks of small birds and drive them down into the nets by throwing stones over them.
In Northern and Central Italy, one often sees hillocks crowned with grove-like plantations of small trees, much resembling large arbors. These serve to collect birds, which are entrapped in nets in great numbers. These plantatious are called ragnaje, and the reader will find, in Bindi's edition of Davanzati, a very pleasant description of a ragnaja, though its authorship is not now ascribed to that eminent writer. Tschudi has collected in his little work, Ueber die Landwirthschaftliche Bedeutung der Vogel, many interesting facts respecting the utility of birds, and, the wanton destruction of them in Italy and elsewhere. Not only the owl, but many other birds more familiarly known as predacious in their habits, are useful by destroying great numbers of mice and moles. The importance of this last service becomes strikingly apparent when it is known that the burrows of the moles are among the most frequent causes of rupture in the dikes of the Po, and, consequently, of inundations which lay many square miles of land under water. See Annales des Ponts et Chaussees, 1847, 1 semestre, p. 150; VOGT, Nutzliche und schadliche Thiere; and particularly articles in the Giornale del Club Alpino, vol. iv., no. 15, and vol. v., no. 16. See also in Aus der Natur, vol. 54, p. 707, an article entitled Nutzen der Vogel fur die Landwirthschaft, where it is affirmed that "without birds no agriculture or even vegetation would be possible." In an interesting memoir by Rondani, published in the Bolletino del Comizio agrario di Parma for December, 1868, it is maintained that birds are often injurious to the agriculturist, by preying not only on noxious insects, but sometimes exclusively, or at least by preference, on entomophagous tribes which would otherwise destroy those injurious to cultivated plants. See also articles by Prof. Sabbioni in the Giornale di Agricoltura di Bologna, November and December, 1870, and other articles in the same journal of 15th and 30th April, 1870.
84. ^Wild birds are very tenacious in their habits. The extension of particular branches of agriculture introduces new birds; but unless in the case of such changes in physical conditions, particular species seem indissolubly attached to particular localities. The migrating tribes follow almost undeviatingly the same precise line of flight in their annual journeys, and establish themselves in the same breeding-places from year to year. The stork is a strong-winged bird and roves far for food, but very rarely establishes new colonies. He is common in Holland, but unknown in England. Not above five or six pairs of storks commonly breed in the suburbs of Constantinople along the European shore of the narrow Bosphorous, while--much to the satisfaction of the Moslems, who are justly proud of the marked partiality of so orthodox a bird--dozens of chimneys of the true believers on the Asiatic side are crowned with his nests. The appearance of the dove-like grouse, Tetrao paradoxus, or Syrrhaptus Pallassi, in various parts of Europe, in 1850 and the following years, is a noticable exception to the law of regularity which seems to govern the movements and determine the habitat of birds. The proper home of this bird is the Steppes of Tartary, and it is no recorded to have been observed in Europe, or at least west of Russia, until the year above mentioned, when many flocks of twenty or thirty, and even a hundred individuals, were seen in Bohemia, Germany, Holland, Denmark, England, Ireland, and France. A considerable flock frequented the Frisian island of Borkum for more than five months. It was hoped that they would breed and remain permanently in the island but this expectation has now been disappointed, and the steppe-grouse seems to have disappeared again altogether.
85. ^It is not the unfledged and the nursing bird alone that are exposed to destruction by severe weather. Whole flocks of adult and strong-winged tribes are killed by hail. Severe winters are usually followed by a sensible diminution in the numbers of the non-migrating birds, and a cold storm in summer often proves fatal to the more delicate species. On the 10th of June, 184-, five or six inches of snow fell in Northern Vermont. The next morning I found a hummingbird killed by the cold, and hanging by its claws just below a loose clapboard on the wall of a small wooden building where it had sought shelter.
86. ^Lyell, Antiquity of Man, p. 400, observes: "Of birds it is estimated that the number of those which die every year equals the aggregate number by which the species to which they respectively belong is, on the average, permanently represented." A remarkable instance of the influence of new circumstances upon birds was observed upon the establishment of a light-house on Cape Cod some years since. The morning after the lamps were lighted for the first time, more than a hundred dead birds of several different species, chiefly water-fowl, were found at the foot of the tower. They had been killed in the course of the night by flying against the thick glass or grating of the lantern. From an article by A. Esquiros, in the Revue des Deux Mondes for Sept. 1, 1864, entitled, La vie Anglaise, p. 110, it appears that such occurrences as that stated in the note have been not unfrequent on the British coast. Are the birds thus attracted by new lights, flocks in migration?
Migrating birds, whether for greater security from eagles, hawks, and other enemies, or for some unknown reason, perform a great part of their annual journeys by night; and it is observed in the Alps that they follow the high roads in their passage across the mountains. This is partly because the food in search of which they must sometimes descend is principally found near the roads. It is, however, not altogether for the sake of consorting with man, or of profiting by his labors, that their line of flight conforms to the paths he has traced, but rather because the great roads are carried through the natural depressions in the chain, and hence the birds can cross the summit by these routes without rising to a height where at the seasons of migration the cold would be excessive. The instinct which guides migratory birds in their course is not in all cases infallible, and it seems to be confounded by changes in the condition of the surface. I am familiar with a village in New England, at the junction of two valleys, each drained by a mill-stream, where the flocks of wild geese which formerly passed, every spring and autumn, were very frequently lost, as it was popularly phrased, and I have often heard their screams in the night as they flew wildly about in perplexity as to the proper course. Perhaps the village lights embarrassed them, or perhaps the constant changes in the face of the country, from the clearings then going on, introduced into the landscape features not according with the ideal map handed down in the anserine family, and thus deranged its traditional geography.
87. ^Thecappercailzie, or tjader, as he is called in Sweden, is a bird of singular habits, and seems to want some of the protective instincts which secure most other wild birds from destruction. The younger Laestadius frequently notices the tjader, in his very remarkable account of the Swedish Laplanders. The tjader, though not a bird of passage, is migratory, or rather wandering in domicile, and appears to undertake very purposeless and absurd journeys. "When he flits," says Laestadius, "he follows a straight course, and sometimes pursues it quite out of the country. It is said that, in foggy weather, he sometimes flies out to sea, and, when tired, falls into the water and is drowned. It is accordingly observed that, when he flies westwardly, towards the mountains, he soon comes back again; but when he takes an eastwardly course, he returns no more, and for a long time is very scarce in Lapland. From this it would seem that he turns back from the bald mountains, when he discovers that he has strayed from his proper home, the wood; but when he finds himself over the [[Baltic Sea|Baltic[[, where he cannot alight to rest and collect himself, he flies on until he is exhausted and falls into the sea."--Petrus Laestadius, Journal of forsta aret, etc., p. 325.
88. ^Frescobaldi saw ostriches between Suez and Mt. Sinai. Viaggio in Terra Santa, p. 65. See also Vansler, Voyage d'Egypte, p. 103, and an article in Petermann, Mittheilungen, 1870, p. 880, entitled Die Verbreitung des Straussee in Asien.
89. ^Die Herzogthumer Schleswig und Holstein, i., p. 203.
90. ^The increased demand for animal oils for the use of the leather-dresses is now threatening the penguin with the fate of the wingless auk. According to the Report of the Agricultural Department of the U. S. for August and September, 1871, p. 840, small vessels are fitted out for the chase of this bird, and return from a six week's cruise with 25,000 or 30,000 gallons of oil. About eleven birds are required for a gallon, and consequently the vessels take upon an average 800,000 penguins each.
91. ^It is very questionable whether there is any foundation for the popular belief in the hostility of swine and of deer to the rattlesnake, and careful experiments as to the former quadruped seem to show that the supposed enmity is wholly imaginary. It is however affirmed in an article in Nature, June 11, 1872, p. 215, that the pigs have exterminated the rattlesnake in some parts of Oregon, and that swine are destructive to the cobra de capello in India. Observing that the starlings, stornelli, which bred in an old tower in Piedmont, carried something from their nests and dropped it upon the ground about as often they brought food to their young, I watched their proceedings, and found every day lying near the tower numbers of dead or dying slowworms, and, in a few cases, small lizards, which had, in every Instance, lost about two inches of the tail. This part I believe the starlings gave to their nestlings, and threw away the remainder.
92. Russell denies the existence of poisonous snakes in Northern Syria, and states that the last instance of death known to have occurred from the bite of a serpent near Aleppo took place a hundred years before his time. In Palestine, the climate, the thinness of population, the multitude of insects and of lizards, all circumstances, in fact, seem very favorable to the multiplication of serpents, but the venomous species, at least, are extremely rare, if at all known, in that country. I have, however, been assured by persons very familiar with Mount Lebanon, that cases of poisoning from the bite of snakes had occurred within a few years, near Hasbeiyeh, and at other places on the southern declivities of Lebanon and Hermon. In Egypt, on the other hand, the cobra, the asp, and the cerastes are as numerous as ever, and are much dreaded by all the natives except the professional snake charmers.
The recent great multiplication of vipers in some parts of France is a singular and startling fact. Toussenel, quoting from official documents, states, that upon the offer of a reward of fifty centimes, or ten cents, a head, TWELVE THOUSAND vipers were brought to the prefect of a single department, and that in 1850 fifteen hundred snakes and twenty quarts of snakes' eggs were found under a farm-house hearthstone. The granary, the stables, the roof, the very beds swarmed with serpents, and the family were obliged to abandon its habitation. Dr. Viaugrandmarais, of Nantes, reported to the prefect of his department more than two hundred recent cases of viper bites, twenty-four of which proved fatal.--Tristia, p. 176 et seqq. According to the Journal del Debats for Oct. 1st, 1867, the Department of the Cote d'Or paid in the year 1866 eighteen thousand francs for the destruction of vipers. The reward was thirty centimes a head, and consequently the number killed was about sixty thousand. A friend residing in that department informs me that it was strongly suspected that many of these snakes were imported from other departments for the sake of the premium.In Nature for 1870 and 1871 we are told that the number of deaths from the bites of venomous serpents in the Bengal Presidency, in the year 1869, was 11,416, and that in the whole of British India not less than 40,000 human lives are annually lost from this cause. In one small department, a reward of from three to six pence a head for poisonous serpents brought in 1,200 a day, and in two months the government paid L10,000 sterling for their destruction.
93. ^Although the remains of extant animals are rarely, if ever, gathered In sufficient quantities to possess any geographical importance by their mere mass, the decayed exuviae of even the smaller and humbler forms of life are sometimes abundant enough to exercise a perceptible influence on soil and atmosphere. "The plain of Cumana," saya Humboldt, "presents a remarkable phenomenon, after heavy rains. The moistened earth, when heated by the rays of the sun, diffuses the musky odor common in the torrid zone to animals of very different classes, to the jaguar, the small species of tiger-cat, the cabiai, the gallinazo vulture, the crocodile, the viper, and the rattlesnake. The gaseous emanations, the vehicles of this aroma, appear to be disengaged in proportion as the soil, which contains the remains of an innumerable multitude of reptiles, worms, and insects, begins to be impregnated with water. Wherever we stir the earth, we are struck with the mass of organic substances which in turn are developed and become transformed or decomposed. Nature in these climes seems more active, more prolific, and, so to speak, more prodigal of life."
94. ^Later observations of Darwin and other naturalists have greatly raised former estimates of the importance of insect life in the fecundation of plants, and among other remarkable discoveries it has been found that, in many cases at least, insects are necessary even to monoecious vegetables, because the male flower does not impregnate the female growing on the same stem, and the latter can be fecundated only by pollen supplied to it by insects from another plant of the same species.
"Who would ever have thought," says Preyer, "that the abundance and beauty of the pansy and of the clover were dependent upon the number of cats and owls But so it is. The clover and the pansy cannot exist without the bumble-bee, which, in search of his vegetable nectar, transports unconciously the pollen from the masculine to the feminine flower, a service which other insects perform only partially for these plants. Their existence therefore depends upon that of the bumble-bee. The mice make war upon this bee. In their fondness for honey they destroy the nest and at the same time the bee. The principal enemies of mice are cats and owls, and therefore the finest clovers and the most beautiful pansies are found near villages where cats and owls abound."--Preyer, Der Kampf um daas Dasein, p. 22. See also Delpino, Pensieri sulla biologia vegetale, and other works of the same able observer on vegetable physiology.
95. ^The utility of caprification has been a good deal disputed, and it has, I believe, been generally abandoned in Italy, though still practised in Greece. See Browne, The Trees of America, p. 475, and on caprification in Kabylia, N. Bibesco, Les Kabyles du Djardjura, in Revue des Deux Mondes for April 1st, 1805, p. 580; also, Aus der Natur, vol. xxx., p. 684, and Phipson,
Utilization of Minute Life, p. 50. In some parts of Sicily, sprigs of mint, mentha pulegium, are used instead of branches of the wild for caprification. Pitre, Usi popolari Siciliani, 1871, p. 18.
96. ^I believe there is no foundation for the supposition that earthworms attack the tuber of the potato. Some of them, especially one or two species employed by anglers as bait, if natives of the woods, are at least rare in shaded grounds, but multiply very rapidly after the soil is brought under cultivation. Forty or fifty years ago they were so scarce in the newer parts of New England, that the rustic fishermen of every village kept secret the few places where they were to be found in their neighborhood, as a professional mystery, but at present one can hardly turn over a shovelfull of rich moist soil anywhere, without unearthing several of them. A very intelligent lady, born in the woods of Northern New England, told me that, in her childhood, these worms were almost unknown in that region, though anxiously sought for by the anglers, but that they increased as the country was cleared, and at last became so numerous in some places, that the water of springs, and even of shallow wells, which had formerly been excellent, was rendered undrinkable by the quantity of dead worms that fell into them. The increase of the robin and other small birds which follow the settler when he has prepared a suitable home for them, at last checked the excessive multiplication of the worms, and abated the nuisance.
97. ^The locust Insect, Clitus pictus, which deposits its eggs in the American locust, Robinia pseudacacia, is one of these, and its ravages have been and still are more destructive to that very valuable tree, so remarkable for combining rapidity of growth with strength and durability of wood. This insect, I believe, has not yet appeared in Europe, where, since the so general employment of the Robinia to clothe and protect embankments and the scarps of deep cuts on railroads, it would do incalculable mischief. As a traveller, however, I should find some compensation for this evil in the destruction of these acacia hedges, which as completely obstruct the view on hundreds of miles of French and Italian railways, as do the garden walls of the same countries on the ordinary roads.
The lignivorous insects that attack living trees almost uniformly confine their ravages to trees already unsound or diseased in growth from the depredations of leaf-eaters, such as caterpillars and the like, or from other causes. The decay of the tree, therefore, is the cause not the consequence of the invasions of the borer. This subject has been discussed by Perris in the Annales de la Societe Entomologique de la France for 1852, and his conclusions are confirmed by the observations of Samanos, who quotes, at some length, the views of Perris. "Having, for fifteen years," says the latter author, "incessantly studied the habits of lignivorous insects in one of the best wooded regions of France, I have observed facts enough to feel myself warranted in expressing my conclusions, which are: that insects in general--I am trees in sound health, and they assail those only whose normal conditions and functions have been by some cause impaired."
See, more fully, Samanos, Traite de la Culture du Pin Maritime, Paris, 1864, pp. 140-145, and Siemoni, Manuale dell' Arte Forestale. 2d edition. Florence, 1872.
98. ^In the artificial woods of Europe, insects are far more numerous and destructive to trees than in the primitive forests of America, and the same remark may be made of the smaller rodents, such as moles, mice, and squirrels. In the dense native wood, the ground and the air are too humid, the depth of shade too great, for many tribes of these creatures, while near the natural meadows and other open grounds, where circumstances are otherwise more favorable for their existence and multiplication, their numbers are kept down by birds, serpents, foxes, and smaller predacious quadrupeds. In civilized countries these natural enemies of the worm, the beetle, and the mole, are persecuted, sometimes almost exterminated, by man, who also removes from his plantations the decayed or wind-fallen trcea, the shrubs and underwood, which, in a state of nature, furnished food and shelter to the borer and the rodent, and often also to the animals that preyed upon them. Hence the insect and the gnawing quadruped are allowed to increase, from the expulsion of the police which, in the natural wood, prevent their excessive multiplication, and they become destructive to the forest because they are driven to the living tree for nutriment and cover. The forest of Fontainebleau is almost wholly without birds, and their absence is ascribed by some writers to the want of water, which, in the thirsty sands of that wood, does not gather into running brooks; but the want of undergrowth is perhaps an equally good reason for their scarcity.
On the other hand, the thinning out of the forest and the removal of underwood and decayed timber, by which it is brought more nearly to the condition of an artificial wood, is often destructive to insect tribes which, though not injurious to trees, are noxious to man. Thus the troublesome woodtick, formerly very abundant in the North Eastern, as it unhappily still is in native forests in the Southern and Western States, has become nearly or quite extinct in the former region since the woods have been reduced in extent and laid more open to the sun and air.--Asa Fitch, in Report of New York Agricultural Society for 1870, pp. 868,864.
100. ^The silkworm which feeds on the ailanthus has naturalized itself in the United States, but also the promises of its utility have not been realized.
101. ^Bee husbandry, now very general in Switzerland and other Alpine regions, was formerly an important branch of industry in Italy. It has lately been revived and is now extensively prosecuted it that country. It is interesting to observe that many of the methods recently introduced into this art in England and United States, such for example as the removable honey--boxes, are reinventions of Italian systeams at least three hundred years old. See Gallo, Le Venti Giornate dell' Agricultura, cap. XV. The temporary decline of this industry in Italy was doubtless in great measure due to the use of sugar which had taken the place of honed, but perhaps also in part to the decrease of the wild vegetation from which the bee draws more or less of his nutriment. A new was-producing insect, a species of coccus, very abundant in China, where its annual produce is said to amount to the value of ten millions of francs, has recently attracted notice in France. The wax is white, resembling spermaceti, and is said to be superior to that of the bee.
102. ^A few years ago, a laborer, employed at a North American port in discharging a cargo of hides from the opposite extremity of the continent, was fatally poisoned by the bite or the sting of an unknown insect, which ran out from a hide he was handling.
The Phylloxera vastatrix, the most destructive pest which has ever attacked European vineyards--for its ravages are fatal not merely to the fruit, but to the vine itself--in said by many entomologists to be of American origin, but I have seen no account of the mode of its introduction.
103. ^In many insects, some of the stages of life regularly continue for several years, and they may, under peculiar circumstances, be almost indefinitely prolonged. Dr. Dwight mentions the following remarkable case of this sort: "I saw here an insect, about an inch in length, of a brown color tinged with orange, with two antennae, not unlike a rosebug. This insect came out of a tea-table made of the boards of an apple-tree." Dr. Dwight found the "cavity whence the insect had emerged into the light," to be "about two inches in length. Between the hole, and the outside of the leaf of the table, there were forty grains of the wood." It was supposed that the sawyer and the cabinet-maker must have removed at least thirteen grains more, and the table had been in the possession of its proprietor for twenty years.
The white ant has lately appeared at St. Helena and is in a high degree destructive, no wood but teak, and even that not always, resisting it.--Nature for March 2d, 1871, p. 362.
105. ^I have seen the larva of the dragon-fly in an aquarium bite off the head of a young fish as long as itself.
106. ^Insects and fish--which prey upon and feed each other--are the only forms of animal life that are numerous in the native woods, and their range is, of course, limited by the extent of the waters. The great abundance of the trout, and of other more or less allied genera in the lakes of Lapland, seems to be due to the supply of food provided for them by the swarms of insects which in the larva state inhabit the waters, or, in other stages of their life, are accidentally swept into them. All travellers in the north of Europe speak of the gnat and the mosquito as very serious drawbacks upon the enjoyments of the summer tourist, who visits the head of the Gulf of Bothnia to see the midnight sun, and the brothers Laestadius regard them as one of the great plagues of sub-arctic life. "The persecutions of these insects," says Lars Levi Laestadius [Culex pipiens, Culex reptans, and Culex pulicaris], "leave not a moment's peace, by day or night, to any living creature. Not only man, but cattle, and even birds and wild beasts, suffer intolerably from their bite." He adds in a note, "I will not affirm that they have ever devoured a living man, but many young cattle, such as lambs and calves, have been worried out of their lives by them. All the people of Lapland declare that young birds are killed by them, and this is not improbable, for birds are scarce after seasons when the midge, the gnlat, and the mosquito are numerous."--Om Uppodlingar i Lappmarken, p. 50.
Petrus Laestadius makes similar statements in his Journal for forsta urst, p. 283.
108. ^Wittwer, Physikalische Geographie, p. 142.
109. ^To vary the phrase, I make occasional use of animaloule, which, as a popular designation, embraces all microscopic organisms. The name is founded on the now exploded supposition that all of them are animated, which was the general belief of naturalists when attention was first drawn to them. It was soon discovered that many of them were unquestionably vegetable, and there are numerous genera the true classification of which is a matter of dispute among the ablest observers. There are cases in which objects formerly taken for living animalcules turn out to be products of the decomposition of matter once animated, and it is admitted that neither spontaneous motion nor even apparent irritability are sure signs of animal life.
110. ^The smallest twig of the precious coral thrown back into the sea attaches itself to the bottom or a rock, and grows as well as on its native stem. See an interesting report on the coral fishery, by Sant' Agabio, Italian Consul-General at Algiers, in the Bollettino Consolare, published by the Department of Foreign Affairs, 1862, pp. 139, 151, and in the Annali di Agricoltura Industria e Commercio, No. ii., pp. 300, 373.
111. ^It is remarkable that Pulisay, to whose great merits as an acute observer I am happy to have frequent occasion to bear testimony, had noticed that vegetation was necessary to maintain the purity of water in artificial reservoirs, though he mistook the rationale of its influence, which he ascribed to the elemental "salt" supposed by him to play an important part in all the operations of nature. In his treatise upon Waters and Fountains, p. 174, of the reprint of 1844, he says: "And in special, thou shalt note one point, the which is understood of few: that is to say, that the leaves of the trees which fall upon the parterre, and the herbs growing beneath, and singularly the fruits, if any there be upon the trees, being decayed, the waters of the parterre shall draw onto them the salt of the said fruits, leaves, and herbs, the which shall greatly better the water of thy fountains, and hinder the putrefaction thereof."
112. ^The French metrical system seems destined to be adopted throughout the civilized world. It is indeed recommended by great advantages, but it is very doubtful whether they are not more than counterbalanced by the selection of too large a unit of measure, and by the inherent intractability of all decimal systems with reference to fractional divisions. The experience of the whole world has established the superior convenience of a smaller unit, such as the braccio, the cubit, the foot, and the palm or span, and in practical life every man finds that he haa much more frequent occasion to use a fraction than a multiple of the metre. Of course, he must constantly employ numbers expressive of several centimetres or millimetres instend of the name of a single smaller unit than the metre. Besides, the metre is not divisible into twelfths, eighths, sixths, or thirds, or the multiples of any of these proportions, two of which at least--the eighth and the third--are of as frequent use as any other fractions. The adoption of a fourth of the earth's circumference as a base for the new measures was itself a departure from the decimal system. Had the Commissioners taken the entire circumference as a base, and divided it into 100,000,000 instead of 10,000,000 parts, we should have had a unit of about sixteen inches, which, as a compromise between the foot and the cubit, would have been much better adapted to universal use than so large a unit as the metre.
113. ^The fermentation of liquids, and in many cases the decomposition of semi-solids, formerly supposed to be owing purely to chemical action, are now ascribed by many chemists to vital processes of living minute organisms, both vegetable and animal, and consequently to physiological as well as to chemical forces. Even alcohol is stated to be an animal product. The whole subject of animalcular, or rather minute organic, life, has assumed a now and startling importance from the recent researches of naturalists and physiologists, in the agency of such life, vegetable or animal, in exciting and communicating contagious diseases, and it is extremely probable that what are vaguely called germs, to whichever of the organic kingdoms they may be assigned, creatures inhabiting various media, and capable of propagating their kind and rapidly multiplying, are the true seeds of infection and death in the maladies now called zymotic, as well perhaps as in many others.
The literature of this subject is now very voluminous. For observations with high microscopic power on this subject, see Beale, Disease Germs, their supposed Nature, and Disease Germs, their real Nature, both published in London in 1870.
The increased frequency of typhoidal, zymotic, and malarious diseases in some parts of the United States, and the now common occurrence of some of them in districts where they were unknown forty years ago, are startling facts, and it is a very interesting question how far man's acts or neglects may have occasioned the change. See Third Anual Report of Massachusetts State Board of Health for 1873. The causes and remedies of the insalubrity of Rome and its environs have been for some time the object of careful investigation, and many valuable reports have been published on the subject. Among the most recent of these are: Relazione sulle condizioni agrarie ed igieniche della Campagna di Roma, per Raffaele Pareto; Cenni Storici sulla questione dell' Agro Romano di G. Guerzoni; Cenni sulle condizioni Fisico-economiche di Roma per F. Giordano; and a very important paper in the journal Lo Sperimentale for 1870, by Dr. D. Pantaleoni.
There are climates, parts of California, for instance, where the flesh of dead animals, freely exposed, shows no tendency to putrefaction but dries up and may be almost indefinitely preserved in this condition. Is this owing to the absence of destructive animalcular life in such localities, and has man any agency in the introduction and naturalization of these organisms in regions previously not infested by them.
This is a chapter from Earth as Modified by Human Action, The (historical e-book).
Previous: Introductory | Table of Contents | Next: The Woods