Extracts from The Wonders of Geology, by Samuel Griswold Goodrich (Boston: Bradbury, Soden & Co., 1845)
BY THE AUTHOR OF
PETER PARLEY’S TALES
“Geology is the world’s history of itself.”
BRADBURY, SODEN & CO.
We are now about to open one of the most startling pages of human science,—that which treats of organic remains,—and the study of which is called Paleontology. It is only since the discoveries in this branch of geology, that it has made such rapid advances, and taken so high a stand in the public estimation.
Allusion has been made, in the preceding pages, to the various remains found in the stratified rocks of our earth, which, in science, bear the general name of organic remains, though in common language they are frequently called petrifactions. These consist of the relics of plants and animals, and are found in a variety of conditions and circumstances.
It may be well, in the first place, to present some views of the general characteristics of organic remains, and then proceed to consider them more in detail.
Animals are sometimes found entire, in the more recent formations; and sometimes, also, parts of them, less liable to be altered, are discovered in the solid rocks, with but little change. The harder parts of the
animal are, indeed, often impregnated with mineral substances, but this does not prevent the examination of the animal matter.
As an example of the first class, may be mentioned the fact, that the entire carcass of an elephant was found, at the beginning of the present century, in the frozen mud and sand of Siberia. It was covered with hair and fur, resembling those of the elephants which are now found among the Himalaya Mountains of Asia. The drift along the shores of the Northern Ocean of the eastern continent abounds with the bones of the same animal, but without the preservation of the flesh and hair. In 1771, the entire carcass of a rhinoceros was dug out of the gravel, in that frozen region.
Besides the conditions above mentioned, in which organic remains appear, sometimes the animal substance is almost entirely replaced by mineral matter, and thus a real petrifaction is formed; at other times, the animal matter, having been partially inclosed by the mineral, decays or falls out, and leaves a mould which presents its shape more or less perfectly. These moulds are often filled up with extraneous matter, and thus form a species of cast, showing what the animal was.
In other instances, the substance of the animal matter is so crushed down and flattened, that only a thin plate, seeming to indicate the form, size, and character of the animal, remains; sometimes, also, nothing is left but tracks impressed on the rocks, or fecal remains, to furnish the materials for judging of the races which have existed.
In the case of petrifaction, which is the replacing of animal or vegetable matter by mineral substances, by means of chemical action, the process is common, and often witnessed at the present day. Of this we have given several instances, in our account of alluvium. Among the mineralizers which are most commonly found are carbonate of lime, silica, clay, oxide or sulphuret of iron, and sometimes the ores of copper, lead, &c.
In the alluvial and diluvial formations, the traces of the existing orders of animated nature are everywhere apparent. Works of art, mingled with the bones of man, and the remains of vegetables and animals, are found in these modern deposits. But as we advance into the earlier formations, many species of them are absent, and finally we come upon regions where the existing races wholly disappear, and those at present unknown seem to have usurped the dominion of nature in the remote ages to which they must be referred.
Organic Remains of Man.—The question has been raised, and much interest has been excited in its discussion, whether human remains exist in the geological formations which have been mentioned. It was formerly supposed that this was the case; but later investigations have proved that the fossil bones which were said to be human have no claim to be thus considered. Thus, the specimens which Scheuchzer notices, under the head of Homo, diluvii testis,— “Man, a witness of the deluge,”—Cuvier demonstrated to be those of a large salamander. Other supposed cases have been proved to be equally unfounded. So far as the earth has been examined, there appears to be an
entire uniformity in this respect. It is, indeed, regarded as conclusively established, that such animals as now exist could not have lived in that state which must have prevailed while the creatures whose remains we find in the lower formations flourished.
Certain human remains have, it is true, been discovered, imbedded in solid limestone rock, on the shore of the island of Guadaloupe. But this rock being of recent formation, and composed of fragments of shells and corals, there is no reason to believe that they are of ancient date. They have been conjectured by some to have belonged to a race of Indians who were exterminated about one hundred and twenty years since by the Caribs; while others have referred them to a Peruvian origin. A curious impression of human feet, also, was discovered, many years ago, in sandstone, on the western bank of the Mississippi, at St. Louis, which Dr. Mantell says, he has no doubt is an actual print of human feet in soft sand, which was quickly converted into solid rock by the infiltration of calcareous matter. The length of each foot is ten inches and a half, and the spread of the toes four inches, indicating the usual stature, and the nature of the impression shows that the feet were unconfined by shoes or sandals. Others, however, have been disposed to view these impressions as the work of art. It may be remarked, that none of these indications of the presence of human beings are found, except in the alluvial formations.
Mode of determining the Nature of Animals from their Bones.—Before entering upon the consideration of the principal animals found in the tertiary
and secondary formations, it may be well to allude to some of the means by which the discoveries of lost species have been so wonderfully obtained. In this the science of comparative anatomy bears a striking part. To a person unacquainted with this art, the fossil bones brought to light might seem a confused medley of mere fragments, from which nothing certain could be gathered. Like the hieroglyphics, some key was needed to explain the mystery; and it is to the genius and knowledge of Cuvier that we owe the method of solving the question, What were the animals, and their habits, of which these are the mere relics? A knowledge of the structure of the living races, their peculiarities as well as resemblances, is all important to this end.
The organs of every animal, says Cuvier, may be considered as forming a machine, the parts of which are mutually dependent on each other, and exquisitely adapted for the functions they are designed to perform; and such is the intimate relaiton of the several organs, that any variation in one part is constantly accompanied by a corresponding modification in another. The mutual adaptation of the several parts of the animal fabric is a law of organic structure, which, like every other induction of physical truth, has only been established by patient and laborious investigation. It is by the knowledge of this law that we are enabled to reassemble, as it were, the scattered remains of the beings of a former state of the globe; to determine their place in the scale of animated nature; and to reason on their structure, habits, and economy, with as much clearness and certainty as if they were still
living and before us. Of all the solid parts of the animal structure, the most obviously mechanical are the jaws and teeth; and as we know in each instance the operations they are intended to perform, they afford the most simple and striking illustration of the principles above enunciated.
On examining the jaws of carnivorous animals, we find a set of cutting teeth, called incisors, in front, canine teeth, or sharp fangs, on the sides, and the molar,—that is, bruising, grinding, or crushing teeth,—farther behind. These last rise into sharp, cutting points, and in the upper and lower jaw overlap each other, like the edges of a pair of shears. They are likewise covered with a thick crust of enamel, and are thus suited for tearing or cutting flesh, and breaking or crushing bones; but are not adapted for grinding the stalks or the seeds of vegetables. The jaws open and shut like a hinge, and thus admit of no grinding motion.
In the case, therefore, of an animal whose stomach is so organized as to fit it for the digestion of flesh alone, and that raw or fresh, the jaws will be found to be so constructed as to serve for devouring live prey; the claws, for seizing and tearing it in pieces; the teeth, for cutting and dividing it; its whole system of motion, for pursuing and overtaking it; the organs of sense, for perceiving it at a distance; and the brain, with the instinct necessary for teaching the animal how to conceal itself, and lie in wait for its victim. But to carry out these general principles, the muscles which raise the head must be vigorous, and consequently the vertebræ or bones from which these
muscles spring must be of a particular form, adapted to the purpose. The paws or claws must possess a peculiarity of construction, that they may easily move and grasp with strength; and so of all the various members.
The case is different with regard to the herbivorous animals, or those which live on vegetables. They have no sharp canine teeth or fangs; and the enamel is not placed on the top of the teeth, but in deep vertical layers, alternating with bony matter, so as to form a grinding surface. The flat molar teeth are not fitted for cutting, but to masticate or grind, to reduce into a pulp the soft vegetable substance. The jaws, too, are loosely articulated, so as to allow a sort of rotary or lateral movement; and the muscles correspond in position and power with the design in view.
Another class of animals are called the rodentia, or gnawers, of which the squirrel is an example. These have long cutting teeth, like nippers; the front teeth are large, compared with the molar teeth, and are so interlocked as to allow no grinding motion; and the lower jaw is so constructed, that, instead of working in the skull transversely, or laterally, it works lengthwise, the teeth moving backwards and forwards, like a carpenter using his plane. These cutting teeth are also liable to be worn away by constant use, and therefore they are renewed by continual growth, and there is a special provision for their support in a bent socket. The enamel is very thin behind, and thick in front of the tooth; so that the cutting edges are kept sharp, as, by the act of gnawing, the hinder part wears away sooner than the fore part, and thus an inclined edge, like that
of a chisel, is continued. The enamel of the molar teeth, also, is placed vertically and transversely, so as to form an admirable grinding surface.
From these examples it is evident that the practised comparative anatomist can easily discover by a tooth the class of animals to which a subject belonged, and consequently the kind of vertebræ, claws, and other bones, as well as muscles, which the creature must have had. The animal by this means may be restored, and a drawing made of him, such as he probably was when living, and his habits and economy described. The nature of the country which he must have inhabited, its climate, productions, &c., may likewise be deduced from these prior conclusions. Thus Cuvier and others have been enabled to form a numerous fossil collection of extinct species, and to describe various peculiarities they possessed, which would otherwise have remained unknown.
The laws, which have just been mentioned as applicable to quadrupeds, apply also, with certain modifications, to other beings, as birds, reptiles, insects, &c. The feet of birds correspond to the classes to which they belong. Some are designed to climb and perch on trees; some, to seize on and tear their prey; others, again, to paddle in the water; others, to frequent marshes; and yet others, to live in sandy deserts. All of these have their peculiarity of construction, by which their habits and economy may be discovered. Certain forms of different parts of the skeleton are found to be related to each other; so that, where one is found, the other must be supposed to exist. In the older fossils, the bones which are found
are no longer white and glossy, like the recent skeleton, but have been changed in appearance, like bones that have lost a portion of their animal matter by being buried in a dry and loose soil. Besides the bones, there are also found the feces of animals, which have suffered such changes as to have become converted into stone, and are called coprolites. These likewise afford additional means of identifying the animals in connection with which they are found.
Fossil Elephants and Mammoths.— We now come to the description of particular species of fossil animals. There are two species of elephants still existing in tropical regions,—the Asiatic and the African. The Asiatic is the largest, and is found no further north than the thirty-first degree of north latitude; the African is found as far south as the Cape of Good Hope.
The colossal bones of the elephantine family, which occur in such great abundance as fossils, were formerly supposed to be the remains of giants; and the fossil tooth of an elephant, discovered at Brighton, in England, was conjectured, some years since, to be a petrified cauliflower.
We have already spoken of the elephants discovered in Siberia, in the ice of that frigid region, and of the bones of the rhinoceros and mastodon along the Arctic shores.
The teeth of the fossil elephant appear to be somewhat peculiar, though more nearly allied to the Asiatic or Indian elephant than to the African. These are sometimes water-worn, but usually are perfect. From the characteristics exhibited, Cuvier decided that the species thus indicated is extinct, and that the structure
of the teeth, the configuration of the skull, and the hairy and woolly skin, proved that it was adapted to live in a colder climate than that in which the Asiatic species could exist; from which he inferred that they lived in the country where their remains were found; and from the preservation of their carcasses in ice, he further inferred that a sudden change of climate must have taken place in those regions. Mr. Lyell supposes that a large portion of Central Asia, and perhaps Southern Siberia, may have enjoyed a climate mild enough for the elephant; and that the whole tract of mountains, to the sea, may have been upheaved, and thus sudden cold have been produced through all Northeastern Asia.
Fossil elephants have been found in various countries. As many teeth have been collected on the coast of Norfolk and Suffolk, in England, as must have belonged to not less than five hundred individuals. In Essex, a large collection has been made, which comprises skulls, teeth, and tusks, from the sucking animal to that which was full grown. Similar deposits have been found also in France, along the coast.
The Mastodon, &c.—This fossil animal is incorrectly called the mammoth; but that name belongs rather to the fossil elephant; the mastodon differing from the elephant in the form of its teeth. The places that afford the bones of the mastodon in the greatest number are the salt or brackish waters of North America, which are called Licks. Of these, Big Bone Lick, in Kentucky, is very celebrated. The mastodon was a gigantic animal. An entire skeleton in Peale’s Museum, Philadelphia, is fifteen feet long and eleven feet high. It derives its name from two Greek words, signi-
fying mammillary teeth; because the thick enamel which is spread over the crown of the tooth, when unworn, is divided into two several transverse processes, each of which is also subdivided into obtuse points. These teeth, unlike those of carnivorous animals, have no longitudinal and saw-like cutting edge. They resemble rather those of the hog and hippopotamus, and seem designed for bruising and masticating raw vegetables, roots, and water-plants. The animal was not altogether unlike the elephant, but had a longer and thicker body. It had a trunk or proboscis, tusks, and four molar teeth in each jaw, but no incisors or cutting teeth. It probably frequented marshy places, and was undoubtedly a terrestrial animal. Among a collection of the bones imbedded in the mud, a mass of branches, grass, and leaves, in a half-bruised state, was discovered, together with a species of reed common in Virginia; the whole, says Dr. Mantell, appeared to have been enveloped in a sack, probably the stomach of the animal.* The tusks are of ivory, and vary in their curve. Cuvier thought he had discovered not less than six species of the mastodon. Some of them have been found in America only, and others in Europe. The Big Bone Lick contains a vast number of the
* Professor Owen, a British geologist of high standing, states that the young mastodon possessed four tusks,—two in the upper and two in the lower jaw. The two in the upper jaw remained through life; while the two in the lower, in females, both decayed and fell out, as the animal grew up, the sockets being obliterated; in the male, only the left one perished, and the right remained; so that the name Tetracaulodon, which had been given to it as a distinct species, was incorrect.
bones imbedded in a dark mud or gravel. Mr. Cooper, who examined the spot carefully, supposes that the bones of one hundred mastodons, twenty elephants, two oxen, one deer, and one megalonyx, have been carried from it. Baron Humboldt found a tooth of the mastodon near a volcano, at the height of twelve hundred fathoms.
The remains of an animal, which, from the structure of its teeth, is considered as filling up the interval between the mastodon and the elephant, have been found in the Burmese empire. The structure of the teeth in general is similar to that of the great mastodon; but the ridges in the crown of the tooth are disposed similarly tp those in that of the elephant; and the worn surface of the teeth, it is said, bears an analogy to that of the grinders of the African elephant. These remains were found by Mr. Crawford, on the Irrawaddy, and are believed by the natives to be the bones of giants, who warred against Vishnu, and were destroyed. It is not a little remarkable, that, while there are many of the bones of the mastodon, showing that this animal once existed in great numbers in that country, no bones of the elephant, tiger, or hyena, animals now abounding in India, have been discovered.
The relics of the rhinoceros, horse, ox, hippopotamus, deer, and camel, are often found associated with other fossil bones. They are usually much larger than those of the existing species. The horns of the fossil ox have been found thirty-one inches long; and those of the elk have been seen, in Ireland, measuring from ten to fourteen feet between the tips, and reaching as high as ten feet from the
ground. The average weight of the skull and antlers is computed to be three quarters of a hundred weight. Professor Jamieson, and others, says Dr. Mantell, have proved that this majestic creature was coeval with man. A skull was discovered, in Germany, associated with urns and stone-hatchets; and in the county of Cork, a human body was exhumed from a wet and marshy soil, beneath a bed of peat eleven feet thick; the body was in a good state of preservation, and enveloped in a skin, covered with hair, which there is every reason to conclude was that of the elk. A rib of the elk has also been found, in which there is a perforation, that evidently had been made by a pointed instrument, while the animal was alive; for there is an effusion of callus, or new bony matter, which could only have resulted from something remaining in the wound for a considerable period,—an effect like that produced by a wound from a spear or arrow.
Hyenas, &c.,—The remains of hyenas have been found singularly associated with other remains in caverns. Of these, the cave of Kirkdale, in England, is one of the best known. In 1821, some workmen, while quarrying stone, cut across the narrow mouth of a chasm, which had been choked up with rubbish, and overgrown with grass and bushes. The access was so confined, that a person could enter only in a bent position. The whole interior of the cave was covered with a bed of hardened mud or clay, averaging about a foot in thickness. The surface was perfectly smooth and level, when the cave was except where stalagmites had been
formed. A thin coat of stalactitic matter, like ice, also extended over the bottom, which must have been formed after the mud was deposited. In this mud, or clay, were found great quantities of bones of various animals, many of them exhibiting marks of having been gnawed. These bones belong to the tiger, bear, wolf, fox, weasel, elephant, rhinoceros, hippopotamus, horse, ox, and deer. Bones of a species of hare, or rabbit, water-rat, and mouse, with fragments of the skeletons of ravens, pigeons, larks, and ducks, were also imbedded with these remains.
From these facts, says Dr. Mantell, it is inferred that the cave was inhabited by hyenas, for a considerable period; that many of the remains found there were of the species which had been carried in and devoured by those animals; and that in some instances the hyenas preyed upon each other. It would seem, therefore, that the wilds and forests of England were once inhabited by races of carnivorous animals, belonging to genera the species of which are now almost wholly confined to southern climates; that they continued for successive generations, and were the prey or the destroyers of each other; that the hyenas, according to their peculiar habits, dragged into their dens the creatures which they killed or found dead, and devoured them at their leisure; and that these races afterwards became extinct, and were succeeded by animals of an entirely different character.
Diseased bones of carnivorous animals are also found in Germany. In some of these, as described by Professor Walther, there has been a formation of new
bony matter, to repair fractures in the joints, which adhere from inflammation; in others, the effects of the decay of the bones from disease are evident. Some, likewise, have a light and spongy character, exhibiting the want of nutriment in consequence of scrofulous affections.
Sivatherium.— This is an animal which seems to have occupied a place, and formed a link, between the ruminants and the large pachydermata, or thick-skinned animals. A skull, and other parts of the skeleton, have been discovered in India, in the hills of Livalik, which belong to the Sub-Himalaya mountains. The deposits, where they were found, consist of immense quantities of fossil teeth and bones of the elephant, mastodon, and other animals, crocodiles, shells, and fishes. From the skull, it is ascertained that the animal had four horns and a proboscis; that it exceeded the rhinoceros in size, and combined the horns of a ruminant animal with the characteristics of the thick-skinned tribes. When living, it is supposed that it must have resembled an immense antelope, or gnu, with a short and thick head, an elevated cranium, crested with two pairs of horns, the front pair of which were small, and the hinder large, and set quite behind, with the face and figure of the rhinoceros. It must have had small eyes, on the side of the head, great lips, and a nasal proboscis.
Extinct species of the monkey and camel were found in the same deposit.
The Megalonyx.—This was an animal about the size of an ox, the bones of which were discovered in the nitre caverns of Virginia and Kentucky. They
were first described by Mr., afterwards President, Jefferson. He supposed, from the form and size of the claw-bone, that it was a carnivorous animal; but Cuvier, a better anatomist, determined, from the character of its articulations, that the animal belonged to the sloth tribe. The distinctions on which the decision was founded are as follows:—The paws or feet of the dog and cat are both armed with claws. In the dog tribe, the nails are coarse and thick, and fitted to bear the friction of a long chase; while in the cat tribe, they are crooked and sharp,—a peculiarity, the preservation of which is owing to a peculiar mechanism. The last bone which supports the claw is placed sideways to the last bone but one, and is so united with it, that a tendon draws it backward, and raises up the sharp point of the claw, and the nearest end of the farther bone presses on the ground, as the animal usually runs, the claw being drawn back into a sheath; but when the animal makes a spring and strikes, then the claws are thrown out, by the action of the bending tendons, or flexor muscles. The example of the cat is familiar to all who have observed with what ease she can throw out or draw in her claws. Now, in the claw of the megalonyx, there is no such provision for drawing back the claw, and the point could not have been raised vertically, as in the case of the cat, so as to allow it to touch the ground without injury. As the articulating surface is double, and there is a ridge or spine in the middle, it must have moved like a hinge. The sloth, an existing species of the tardigrade animals, as they are called, has long toes and large nails, constructed similarly to those of the fossil
animal. Instead of being drawn in, the nails are folded up, as when our fingers are folded under the palms of our hands. The arms are double the length of the legs; and the animal, from the peculiarity of the construction of its limbs, is thus obliged to drag itself along on its elbows. The sloth tribe, however, are designed to inhabit trees; they live on the branches, and rapidly pass from one to another. They feed on the leaves and the young shoots, and, if undisturbed, continue on a tree till they have thoroughly stripped it of its foliage. Instead of descending by the trunk, they roll themselves into a ball, and drop down to the ground. Their claws, therefore, are merely hooks to hang by on the branches, and they have great strength in their arms. They keep fast hold with one set of hooks till they catch by the other, and thus hang by their hands and feet. They sleep in the same position.
The megalonyx had a great resemblance to this animal in some of these peculiarities. The arm-bone was fitted to receive very large muscles for the purpose of moving its enormous claws; and there was also an opening for a passage of the nerves and blood-vessels, to protect them from the pressure to which the powerful muscular action employed would have exposed them, while there was a provision which allowed of a rotary motion of the arm.
The Megatherium is an animal resembling the megalonyx, and formerly existed on the pampas of South America, where the bones are found strewed over an extent of six hundred miles or more. It was about nine to twelve feet long, and seven or eight feet high, and thus was larger than the rhinoceros. Its
proportions were colossal, the thigh-bone being three times as large as that of the elephant, and the haunch-bone twice the breadth. It had no cutting teeth; and the molar teeth, or grinders, which have been found, are seven inches long, of a prismatic form, and of similar composition to those of the elephant. The crown of the tooth always presents two cutting, wedge-shaped, salient angles. In forming the adze, a plate of steel is put between two plates of iron, so as to project in a line; in the same manner, these teeth have in their centre a cylinder of ivory, which is well protected by enamel, and thus they are admirably fitted to cut and bruise vegetable matter. The whole length of the fore-foot is a yard; and the claws, which are gigantic, are set in obliquely to the ground. This adapts them peculiarly for digging. Across the haunches, it measured five feet; the spinal marrow must have been a foot in diameter; and the tail, in that part nearest to the body, at least six feet in circumference. The megaloynx and the megatherium were neither of them adapted for climbing; but their food probably consisted of vegetables and roots, which they dug up with their claws. Referring to the means of mastication possessed by the megatherium, Dr. Buckland remarks, that the act of mastication formed and perpetually maintained a series of wedges, locking into each other like the alternate ridges on the rollers of a crushing-mill; and the mouth of the megatherium became an engine of prodigious power, in which thirty-two such wedges formed the grinding surfaces of sixteen molar teeth, each from seven to nine inches long, and having the quarter part of this length fixed firmly in a
socket of great depth. It is scarcely possible, he adds, to find any apparatus in the mechanism of dentition, which constitutes a more powerful machine for masticating roots than was formed by these teeth of the megatherium, accompanied by a property which is the perfection of all machinery, namely, that of maintaining itself perpetually in perfect order, by the act of performing its work. The creature is supposed to have occupied a midway position between the sloths and ant-eaters and the armadillo. The bony armor and scales which were once attributed to it have been assigned by Professor Owen, a distinguished geologist and comparative anatomist, to another animal, as large as an ox, called the glyptodon. An entire skeleton of the megatherium is in the Museum at Madrid, in Spain.
The Dinotherium.—Among the various extinct species of mammalia, the dinotherium holds the first place. This creature was even larger than the mammoth or mastodon. Its bones were first discovered in the South of France, and afterwards in Bavaria and Austria. The molar teeth or grinders resemble those of the tapir in form and structure; and Cuvier described the animal under the name of the gigantic tapir, Professor Kaup, however, regards it as a new genus, between the tapir and the mastodon, and adapted to a marshy or lacustrine condition of the earth, which seems to have prevailed during the period when the tertiary strata were depositing. The skeletons found show that the animal must, in some cases, have been at least eighteen feet long. The shoulder-blade resembled that of the mole, and the fore-leg was adapt-
ed to digging in the earth. It had likewise two strong tusks curved downward, the reverse of those of the walrus; and the lower jaw, into which they were firmly fixed, was four feet long. From the structure of the cranium, it appears, also, to have had a proboscis. It had no front cutting teeth with which to seize its food, and the jaws did not close together in front. It is mechanically impossible, says Dr. Buckland, that a lower jaw, nearly four feet long, loaded with such heavy tusks at its extremity, could have been otherwise than cumbrous and inconvenient to a quadruped living on dry land. No such disadvantage would have attended this structure in a large animal designed to live in water; and the aquatic habits of the family of tapirs, to which the dinotherium was most nearly allied, render it probable, that, like them, it was an inhabitant of fresh-water lakes and rivers. To an animal of such habits, the weight of the tusks sustained in water would have been no source of inconvenience; and, if we suppose them to have been employed in raking and grubbing up by the roots large aquatic vegetables from the bottom, they would render such service, and combine the mechanical powers of the pickaxe with those of the horse-harrow of modern husbandry. The weight of the head, placed above these downward tusks, would add to their efficiency for the service here supposed; as the power of the harrow is increased by being loaded with weights.
The tusks of the dinotherium may also, he adds, have been applied with mechanical advantage to hook the head of the animal to the bank, with the nostrils
sustained above the water, so as to breathe securely during sleep, whilst the body remained floating, at perfect ease, beneath the surface. The animal might thus repose, moored to the margin of a lake or river, without the slightest muscular exertion, the weight of the head and body tending to fix and keep the tusks fast anchored in the substance of the bank; as the weight of the body of a sleeping bird keeps the claws clasped firmly around its perch. These tusks might have been further used, like those in the upper jaw of the walrus, to assist in dragging the body out of the water; also, as formidable instruments of defence. The great length of the body of the animal would not have been inconvenient to him living in the water, but would have been attended with much mechanical disadvantage to so weighty a quadruped on land.
Early Pachydermata.—A great variety of fossil remains of animals belonging to the class of mammalia have been discovered in the mud which occupied the area of the city of Paris and vicinity, called
the basin of Paris. The quarries of gypsum spread over Montmartre, though known to contain fossil bones, were passed comparatively unnoticed by the naturalists of Paris, till Cuvier, after having successfully applied the laws of comparative anatomy to the investigation of fossil elephants, turned his attention to them. He now perceived that a new world was open to his researches, and, by his zeal and energy, soon obtained an extensive collection, and found himself—to use his own expression—in a charnel-house, surrounded by a mass of broken skeletons of a great variety of animals. To arrange each fragment in its proper place, and to restore order to these heaps of ruins, seemed, at first, a hopeless task; but a knowledge of the immutable laws by which the organization of animal existence is governed soon enabled him to assign to each bone, and even fragment of bone, its proper place in the skeleton, and the forms of beings hitherto unseen by mortal eye rose before him. The deduction itself is a beautiful specimen of the application of science to investigation; and the splendid triumph which followed his perseverance well rewarded his skill and toil. “I cannot,” remarks this illustrious philosopher, in all the enthusiasm of successful genius, “express my delight, on finding how the application of one principle was instantly followed by the most triumphant results. The essential character of a tooth, and its relation to the skull, being determined, immediately all the other elements of the fabric fell into their places; and the vertebræ, ribs, bones of the legs, thighs, and feet, seemed to arrange themselves even without my bidding, and precisely in the manner I had predicted.”
The fossil teeth, on being examined, exhibited such a form and structure as at once showed that the animals must have belonged to the herbivorous tribe. The following engraving will give some idea of their appearance.
1 Palæotherium magnum. 3 Anoplotherium gracile.
2 Palæotherium minus. 4 Anoplotherium commune.
The Palæotherium magnum was of the size of a horse, but thicker and more clumsy; its head was massive, and its legs and tail were short. It resembled a large tapir, but differed somewhat as to the teeth, and had one toe less on the fore-feet. Its height was probably from four to five feet; about equal, it is said, to that of the rhinoceros of Java. It was, no doubt, furnished, also, with a short proboscis or trunk.
The Palæotherium minus was smaller in size, probably not larger than the roebuck, and of similar form to the tapir. It had light and slender limbs.
The Anoplotherium gracile was of elegant proper-
tions, resembling in size and form the gazelle, and must have lived after the manner of the deer and antelope.
The Anoplotherium commune was of the height of the wild boar, but its form was more elongated; it had a long and thick tail, like the kangaroo; and the feet had a divided hoof, or two large toes, like those of ruminating animals. It would appear to have been used to swimming, and probably frequented the lakes, in the beds of which its bones were found. Like the anoplotherium gracile, it was destitute of canine teeth; whence its name, which signifies unarmed wild beast, as palæotherium means ancient wild beast. Other animals were also discovered in the older tertiary formations, and named by Baron Cuvier. Of these, the Anthracotherium, so called on account of its being found in anthracite or lignite, held an intermediate place between the hog and the hippopotamus.
Plants, Shells, Insects, Fishes, and Birds.—The remains of a great variety of these are also found, as having been in existence during the various periods of the tertiary formation. Some of them are of species now existing, while others belong to extinct species. A few of these may be briefly noticed. Of the shells called foraminifera, there are several interesting species. These bodies are entirely distinct from the testaceous habitations of snails, periwinkles, &c.; they are, in truth, not an external, but an internal apparatus; and it is supposed, that, in addition to their having served as a point of attachment and support to the soft, body of the animal, they acted as a buoy, which could be made heavier or lighter at
pleasure, and by which the animal was enabled either to sink or swim. The nummalite—so called from its resemblance to a coin—affords a beautiful illustration of the structure of these bodies. It has a disk-like form, and varies from the microscopic size of a mere point, to an inch and a half in diameter. Its outer surface is generally smooth and marked by fine waving lines. On splitting the shell, it is found to consist of several coils, divided into a great many cells or chambers by cross partitions, having no apparent communication with each other, but which the creature probably had the power of filling with fluid or air through the foramina or pores. The pyramids of Egypt are composed of limestone formed of nummalites, which Strabo supposed to have been lentils scattered about by the workmen, and afterwards converted into stone! Fossil crabs and fishes, also, are found, and several species of birds,—as, the pelican, sea-lark, curlew, woodcock, buzzard, owl, quail, &c. The eggs, too, of some aquatic species occur in the lacustrine limestone of Auvergne, as do those of turtles of recent formation on the island of Ascension.
We cannot give a better view of the organic remains and changes of the tertiary period, a portion of which we have now considered, than by employing the language of Dr. Mantell.
In the pliocene, or newer tertiary, which also embraces the mammalian epoch, the fossil remains in the alluvial deposits afford incontestable proof, that the mammoth, mastodon, hippopotamus, dinotherium, and other colossal animals of extinct species and genera, together with birds, reptiles, and enormous carnivora,
inhabited such districts of our continents as were then dry land; while the older tertiary, or eocene, incloses the bones of land animals, particularly those of a lacustrine character, which approximate to certain races that now exist in the torrid zone, but belong to extinct genera, that preceded the mammoth and the mastodon.
The seas and lakes of that remote epoch occupied areas that are now above the waters; and rocks and mountains, hills and valleys, streams and rivers, diversified the surface of countries which are now destroyed or entirely changed, and whose past existence is revealed by the spoils which the streams and rivers have accumulated in the ancient lakes and deltas. The ocean abounded in mollusca, crustacea, and fishes, a large proportion of which are referable to extinct species. Crocodiles, turtles, birds, and insects were contemporary with the palæotherium and anthracotherium; and animal organization, however varied in certain types, presented the same general outline as in modern times; the extinction of species and genera being then, as now, in constant activity.
The vegetable world also contained the same great divisions; there were forests of oak, elm, and beech; of furs, pines, and other coniferous trees; palms, tree-ferns, and the principal groups of modern floras; while the water, both salt and fresh, teemed with the few and simple forms of vegetable structure peculiar to that element. The state of the inorganic world is not less manifest; the abrasion of the land by streams and rivers,—the destruction of the sea-shore by the waves, and the formation of basalt and shingle,—the desolation inflicted by volcanic eruptions,—all these
operations were then, as now, in constant action. The bed of an ancient sea, containing myriads of the remains of fishes, crustacea, and shells, now forms the site of the capital of Great Britain; and accumulations of tropical fruits and plants, drifted by ancient currents from other climes, constitute islands in the estuary of the Thames; while the sediments of lakes and gulfs, teeming with the skeletons of beings which are blotted out from the face of the earth, compose the soil of the metropolis of France.
Although the changes in the relative level of the land and sea during this epoch were numerous and extensive, yet there is one region which still presents traces of its original physical geography; and although the earthquake has rent its mountains to their very centre,—though hundreds of volcanoes have again and again spread desolation over the land, and inundations and mountain torrents have excavated valleys, and checkered the plains with ravines and water-courses, yet the grand primeval features of that country remain; and we can trace the boundaries of its ancient lakes, and the succession of changes it has undergone, from the first outbreak of its volcanoes, to the commencement of the present state of repose.
The lowermost lacustrine deposits in Auvergne, which are spread over the foundation rock of granite, unmixed with igneous productions, mark the period antecedent to the volcanic era. While the intrusions of lava and scoriæ in the superincumbent strata denote the first eruptions of Mont d’Or, the succeeding period of tranquillity is recorded in characters alike intelligible. The hard deposition of calcareous mud,—
the incrustation of successive generations of aquatic insects, crustacea, and mollusca, and we may even add of infusoria,—the imbedding of the bones of mammalia, birds, and reptiles,—the accumulation of lignite, and other vegetable matter,—are data from which we may, in imagination, restore the ancient country of Central France.
It was a region encircled by a chain of granite mountains, watered by numerous streams and rivulets, and possessing lakes of vast extent. Its soil was covered with luxuriant vegetation, and peopled by palæotheria, anoplotheria, and other terrestrial mammalia; the crocodile and turtle found shelter in its marshes and rivers; aquatic birds frequented its fens, and sported over the surface of its lakes; while myriads of insects swarmed in the air, and passed through their wonderful metamorphoses in the waters. In a neighbouring region, herds of ruminants, and other herbivora, of species and genera now no more, with birds and reptiles, were the undisturbed occupants of a country abounding in palms and tree-ferns, and having rivers and lakes, with gulfs which teemed with the inhabitants of the sea; and to this district the fiery torrents of the volcano did not extend.
But at length a change came over the scene; violent eruptions burst forth from craters long silent; the whole country was laid desolate; its living population was swept away; all was one vast waste; and sterility succeeded to the former luxuriance of life and beauty. Ages rolled by; the mists of the mountains and the rains produced new springs, torrents, and rivers; a fertile soil gradually accumulated over
the cooled lava currents and the beds of scoriæ, to which the sediments of the ancient lakes, borne down by the streams, largely contributed; another vegetation sprang up; the mammoth and mastodon, with enormous deer and oxen, now quietly browsed in the verdant plains. Other changes succeeded; those colossal forms of life in their turn passed away, and at length the earlier races of mankind took possession of a country, which had once more become a scene of fertility and repose.
ORGANIC REMAINS OF THE SECONDARY FORMATIONS.
Our attention has been directed thus far to remains discovered in deposits made in the basins of lakes, and estuaries,—such materials as have been drifted by the action of rivers and inundations. “We have now,” says Dr. Mantell, referring to the subject before us,” arrived on the shores of that ocean, of whose spoils the existing islands and continents are principally composed; the fathomless depths of the ancient seas are spread before us, and the myriads of beings which sported in their waters, and lived and died in those profound abysses, remain, like the mummies of ancient Egypt, the silent yet eloquent teachers of their own eventful history.”
The secondary formation, it will be recollected, embraces several principal divisions, forming four natural groups,—the cretaceous, oölitic, saliferous, and
Ichthyosaurus, Plesiosaurus, Pterodactyle, &c., restored.
Fossil Tapir, &c., restored.
Fossils, Megatherium, Gigantic Elk.
carboniferous systems. The period which we are now to examine has been fitly denominated the Age of Reptiles; and the organic remains, called saurians, found in the rocks, have justly been a theme of wonder and admiration. These belong to the lizard tribe, and not less than forty species have been discovered. They are sometimes divided into the marine, amphibious, and flying, according as they partake of the characters thus denoted.
The Mososaurus.—The quarries of St. Peter’s Mountain, near Maestricht, composed of chalk and calcareous freestone, have long been celebrated for their peculiar fossils. The bones and teeth of an unknown animal having been found there in 1770, M. Hoffmann, who was collecting specimens, discovered one which consisted of the jaws of an enormous animal. He had the mass of stone containing the remains carefully detached from the rock, watching over the operation personally, until he was enabled to take it home in triumph. The canon of the cathedral which stands on the mountain, however, laid claim to it, as being the lord of the manor, and succeeded in wresting it out of M. Hoffmann’s hands. There it remained till after his death. The French Revolution having broke out, the town was bombarded, and a committee of French savans, who accompanied the army, having carefully shielded that part of the city where it was deposited from the artillery, sought earnestly for the treasure. The canon had concealed it, but was finally forced to give it up; and the French committee, after finding the relatives of the deceased philosopher, and paying for it a fair compensation,
bore it away to Paris, where it was placed in the Jardin des Plantes. Here, models were made of it, under the direction of Cuvier, and sent to various museums; the original still remaining in the collection of that institution.
The animal was a reptile, probably about twenty-five feet long, holding an intermediate place between the monitor and the iguana, different species of the lizard tribe. It was furnished with a tail, which, by its oar-like application, enabled the creature to stem the waves of the ocean, which Cuvier supposed it to have inhabited. It had paddles instead of legs, and the number of vertebræ was one hundred and thirty-three. The most skilful anatomist, says Dr. Buckland, would be at a loss to devise a series of modifications by which the monitor could be enlarged to the length and bulk of a grampus, and at the same time be fitted to move with strength and rapidity through the waters of the sea; yet in the fossil before us we shall find the genuine character of the monitor maintained throughout the whole skeleton, with such deviations only as tended to fit the animal for its marine existence.
Specimens of the vertebræ and teeth have also been found in other places, showing that the ocean of the chalk formation was not confined to one place, but reached over the area now occupied by the Atlantic.
Ichthyosaurus.—Some of the most remarkable specimens of the reptiles known by the name of saurians have been assigned to a genus called the ichthyosaurus or fish-lizard. There are seven or eight known species of this genus, all agreeing with one another in the general principles of their construction. This reptile,
which was sometimes more than thirty feet long, had the snout of a porpoise, the teeth of a crocodile,—often amounting to one hundred and eighty,—the head of a lizard, the sternum or breast-bone of the ornithorhynchus, the paddles of a whale, and the vertebræ of a true fish. It thus combined in itself the mechanical contrivances belonging to individuals in the three separate classes of the animal kingdom. The position of the nostril was not, as in the case of the crocodile, near the point of the snout; but it was set as in the lizard, near the front angle of the orbit of the eye. The eye was of enormous size, far beyond that of any living animal,—in one species, the space of the orbit being fourteen inches in its longest direction. It was so constructed, therefore, as to admit a great quantity of light, and the power of vision must have been uncommon. Besides this, it is evident that it must have possessed both microscopic and telescopic powers. On the front of the orbital cavity in which the eye was placed, a circular series of petrified, thin, bony plates were placed around a central opening, where was the pupil. These plates, so arranged, by their retraction pressed forward the front of the eye, and thus converted it into a microscope; and when the eye was at rest, by resuming their position, they formed it into a telescope.
This singular provision shows that the enormous eye must have been an instrument of very great and varied power, by which the ichthyosaurus could see to a great distance, and could discern its prey in the obscurity of the night, or at the depths of the sea. Its jaws were sometimes more than six feet long, and, as in the
case of the crocodile and lizard, were composed of many thin plates, so arranged as to combine elasticity and lightness with strength. To avoid the danger of fracture, to which it would have been liable had the jaw been a single bone, each side of the lower jaw was made up of six separate pieces, set in a peculiar manner; something like the method often practised in binding together parallel plates of wood or steel, to make a crossbow, or the springs of a carriage; the plates being most numerous where the strength was required to be exerted. The vertebral column was composed of more than one hundred joints, which gave the creature great strength, elasticity, and power of motion. Its ribs were slender, and so arranged as to enable the animal to introduce into its body an unusual quantity of air; so that it could remain long under water, without coming up to the surface for the purpose of breathing. A large animal, moving rapidly through the water, and breathing, must have differed in its fore-leg from the lizard tribe. Accordingly we find its feet converted into fins or paddles, of which, like the turtle, it had four, composed of numerous bones enveloped in one fold, so as to appear like a fin. The internal structure of these paddles, therefore, resembled the paws of turtles, having the short and strong bones of the arm, and those of the fore-arm, and beyond these the series of polygonal bones that made up the phalanges of the fingers. The hind-paddles were nearly one half smaller than those in front. The skin of the ichthyosaurus was naked; his food was fish, and even the young of his own species,—the remains of these having been found in its feces or coprolites.
Plesiosaurus.—This was one of the most remarkable animals that have yet been discovered. Indeed, Cuvier asserts that the structure is the most heteroclite, and its character altogether the most monstrous, that has yet been found amid the ruins of a former world.
Impression of the Plesiosaurus.
To the head of the lizard it united the teeth of the crocodile, a neck of enormous length, resembling the body of a serpent, a trunk and tail having the proportions of an ordinary quadruped, with paddles like those of the turtle or whale. Six species or more have been discovered, having a general structure like the ichthyosaurus. It differs, however, in the vertebræ, which are larger and less concave; and the ribs, which are connected by peculiar processes, are said to present a striking resemblance to those of the chameleon. A skeleton is to be seen in the British Museum, eleven feet long, and so nearly perfect, that the form of the original creature may be readily traced. It was probably carnivorous, and lived in shallow seas and estuaries, and breathed the air like the ichthyosaurus and
our modern cetacea. The vertebræ of the neck are about thirty-three, equal to those of the longest-necked bird, the swan. This neck was probably of great use in aiding it to seize upon fish beneath the waters, and perhaps flying reptiles and insects. Its tail was so short that it could not have been used like the tail of fishes to impel the creature rapidly forward, but was doubtless employed as a rudder to steer him when swimming, as well as to raise, or depress him when ascending or descending in the water. As it does not seem to have been provided with means of defence, it had probably to seek its food, as well as its safety, chiefly by artifice and concealment. Dr. Buckland suggests, that it may have been a kind of submarine chameleon, possessing the power of altering its skin by the varied intensity of its inspirations; and that this property would have been of much advantage to the animal in concealing it from its most formidable enemy, the ichthyosaurus, with which it could not contend, and from which its slow locomotive powers would not enable it to escape. Mr. Conybeare, after considering all the characteristics of the animal, draws the following inferences with respect to the habits of the plesiosaurus. That it was aquatic is evident from the form of its paddles; that it was marine is almost equally so, from the remains with which it is universally associated; that it may have occasionally visited the shore, the resemblance of its extremities to those of the turtle may lead us to conjecture; its motion, however, must have been awkward on land, and its long neck must have impeded its progress through the water,—presenting a striking contrast to the organization which so
admirably fitted the ichthyosaurus to cut through the waves. May it not, therefore, be concluded—since, in addition to these circumstances, its respiration must have required a frequent access of air—that it swam upon or near the surface; arching its long neck like the swan, and occasionally darting it down at the fish which happened to float within its reach? It may, perhaps, have lurked in shoal water along the coast, concealed among the sea-weed, and, raising its nostrils to a level with the surface from a considerable depth, have found a secure retreat from the assaults of dangerous enemies. The length and flexibility of its neck may have compensated for the want of strength in its jaws and its incapacity for swift motion through the water, by enabling it to make a sudden and effective attack on every animal fitted for its prey, which came within its reach.
Hylæosaurus.—The remains of this reptile were discovered by Dr. Mantell, in the summer of 1832, in the limestone of Tilgate forest. He denominated it the hylæosaurus, or lizard of the weald or wood, because it was found in the wealden formation. It blends the osteology of the crocodile with that of the lizard, and was probably about twenty-five feet long. Its most peculiar characteristic is stated to have consisted in a series of long, flat, and pointed bones, which seem to have formed an enormous fringe, like the horny spines on the back of the modern iguana or lizard. These bones vary in length from five to seventeen inches, and in width from three to seven inches and a half at the base. Large thick scales were also found together with these, which probably were lodged in th[e] skin.
Megalosaurus.—This was a gigantic reptile of the lizard tribe, probably measuring from forty to fifty feet in length, partaking of the structure both of the crocodile and the monitor. No skeleton of it has yet been discovered entire, but so many perfect bones and teeth have been found, that the form and dimensions of its limbs are well known. It was evidently fitted, from the character of its feet, to move on land, as the hollows of the bones were filled with marrow. The form of its teeth, flat pointed, curving back in the form of a pruning-knife, and the inner edge deeply seated down to the base, thus combining the powers of the knife, sabre, and saw, shows it to have been carnivorous; and it probably fed on smaller reptiles, as crocodiles and tortoises, the remains of which are found with its bones. The shape of the head indicates it to have terminated in a long and narrow snout.
Iguanodon.—Associated with the various members of the saurian family we have now mentioned, Dr. Mantell discovered also in Tilgate forest the remains of a still more gigantic reptile, of the herbivorous class, and more nearly allied to the living iguana of the warm climates. From the resemblance of its teeth to those of the iguana, he gave it the significant name of iguanodon, or the animal with teeth like the iguana. Dr. Mantell’s own account, as given in his “Wonders of Geology,” is, that the discovery of a mutilated tooth led him to suspect the existence of a gigantic herbivorous animal, which later researches confirmed. The fossil in question was a portion of the crown of a tooth, resembling, in its form, the incisor or cutting tooth of one of the herbivorous mammalia. The enamel was
thick in front and thin behind, and by this means a sharp cutting edge was maintained in every stage. The structure of the tooth, therefore, and its worn surface, proved that it was to be referred to a species that fed on vegetables; the absence of a fang, and the appearance of the base, not broken, but indented, showed that the shank had been absorbed, from the pressure of a new tooth which had grown up and supplanted the old one. The teeth, when perfect, are of the prismatic form, and remarkable for the prominent ridges which extend down the front, and the serrated margins of the crown. Examined by a powerful microscope, the ivory in the teeth of the iguanodon is found to be composed of close-set tubes, radiating in a wavy course from the cavity of the tooth to the surface. These characteristics of the tooth being settled, it became necessary to find the requisite analogies, in order to know how to class the animal to which it belonged. These, after long research, were found in the teeth of the iguana, an animal of the lizard tribe, from three to five feet in length, still living in many parts of America and the West Indies. The iguana feeds on insects and vegetables, climbing trees and chipping off the tender shoots; and nestles in the hollows of rocks, depositing its eggs, like the turtle, in the sands or the banks of rivers. The teeth of the iguana differ from those of the iguanodon in one respect, however, namely, that they never present a worn surface; they are broken or chipped off by use, but not ground smooth, as in the herbivorous animals. Not being furnished with cheeks, or a movable covering for the jaws, they seize on their prey or food and swallow it whole with-
out mastication. So great a similarity in the teeth and the mode of dentition was found to exist between the fossil and the living animal, that Dr. Mantell felt justified in giving it a name indicating such a resemblance.
Subsequently, another collection of bones of this animal was discovered, which Dr. Mantell developed and joined together. These included two thigh-bones, each thirty-three inches long; one leg-bone, thirty inches long; bones of the toes and claws; a bone of the fore-arm; several belonging to the spine and tail; collar-bones; others which seemed to belong to the pelvis, &c. From these he was enabled to form more accurate conclusions as to the size of the animal, and its habits. The following, he remarks, is the result of a careful comparison of some of the fossil-bones with the corresponding ones of the iguana, made with the view of ascertaining the probable average size of the original animal. We should bear in mind that some individuals must have exceeded this estimate, and, if they bore the proportion of the recent iguana, must have been upwards of one hundred feet in length.
Length of the iguanodon, from the snout to the tip of the tail, - - - 70 feet.
Length of the head, - - - 4½ feet.
Length of the body, - - - 13 feet.
Length of the tail, - - - 52½ feet.
Height, from the ground to the top of the head, 9 feet.
Circumference of the body, - - - 14½ feet.
Length of the thigh and leg, - - - 8 feet.
Circumference of the thigh and leg, - - - 7½ feet.
Length of the hind foot, from the heel to the point of the long toe, - - - 6½ feet.
The iguanodon had also a horn, composed of bone, four inches high and of an irregular form. In this respect, too, there is an analogy with the iguana, which, besides the spiny processes on the back, has warts or horny protuberances on the head and snout.
Respecting the condition and habits of the iguanodon, it is inferred, that, as the iguana now inhabits only the warmest regions of the earth, probably a torrid climate once prevailed in the now temperate regions of the southern coast of England, where these bones have been discovered. The large bones having been evidently filled with marrow, this, with the form of the bones of the feet, shows that this animal, like the megalosaurus, was adapted and designed to move on the land. Its teeth, also, show that they were remarkably fitted for cropping tough vegetable food, such as the clatharia, and similar plants, which are found buried with its bones. As the iguana lives chiefly upon vegetables, it is furnished with long and slender feet, by which it is enabled to climb trees with facility in search of food; but no tree could have borne the weight of the colossal iguanodon. Its movements must have been confined to the land and water, and it is evident that its enormous bulk must have required limbs of great strength. Accordingly, we find that the hind feet, as in the hippopotamus, rhinoceros, and other large mammalia, were composed of strong, short, massy bones, furnished with claws, not hooked as in the iguana, but compressed as in land tortoises; thus forming a powerful support for the enormous leg and thigh. But the bones of the hands or fore-feet are analogous to those of the iguana,—long, slender,
flexible, and armed with curved claws, the exact counterpart of the nail-bones of the recent animal, thus furnishing prehensile instruments fitted to seize the palms, arborescent ferns, and dragon-blood plants, which probably constituted the food of the iguanodon.
Pterodactyle.—"Among the most remarkable disclosures made by the researches of geology,” says Dr. Buckland, “we may rank the flying reptiles which have been ranged by Cuvier under the genus pterodactyle, a genus presenting more singular combinations of form than we find in any other creatures yet discovered amid the ruins of the ancient earth.”
So peculiar and strange is the structure of these animals, that the first specimen discovered was classed by one naturalist as a bird, by another as a species of bat, and by yet a third as a flying reptile. The creature, indeed, combines certain characteristics of all three. The head, and the length of the neck, resemble those of a bird; its wings, in proportion and form, are like those of the bat; while the body and tail approximate
in form to the body and tail of the mammalia. The skull, also, is small, and furnished with a beak which has not less than sixty pointed teeth. These singular characteristics, so puzzling to investigators, it was reserved for the genius of Cuvier to reconcile. He ranks the pterodactyles among the most extraordinary of all extinct animals; and if we could see them restored to life, they would strike us as being singularly unlike any thing that exists in the present world. Eight species have been discovered, varying from the size of a snipe to that of a cormorant. In external form, the creature bore a resemblance to the bat or vampire. The snout was elongated like that of the crocodile, and armed with conical teeth. The eye, as appears from the orbit, must have been of enormous size, thus fitting them, like the bat, to fly by night. They resembled the bat also in having fingers, terminating with long hooks, which projected from their wings. They were thus furnished with a powerful paw, which enabled them to creep, or climb, or hang from the trees. It is thought, also, that the pterodactyle, like the vampire bat of the island of Bonin, possessed the power of swimming.
As the creature had wings, it was natural to look for the structure of the bird or bat in the bones. The beak, however, had teeth, and the form of a single bone enabled Cuvier to decide that the animal belonged to the lizard tribe, so that it was a kind of flying reptile. The vertebræ of the neck, also, are to those of birds only as six or seven to from nine to twenty-three, while those of the back are in the reverse proportion; the ribs, too, like those of the lizard, are thin and
thread-shaped, and thus differ from those of birds, as do the bones of the feet and toes. They are supposed to have fed on insects, and the presence of large fossil dragon-flies and other insects in the same quarries where the pterodactyles are found proves that they existed at the same period, and probably formed a portion of their food. They may also have fed on fish, and some of the small marsupial animals, or those of the opossum kind, which then existed on the earth. The creature was evidently capable of perching on trees, or standing firmly on the ground; and, by folding its wings, could hop or walk like a bird.
Dr. Buckland, alluding to the peculiarities of the pterodactyle and the age in which it lived, says: “Thus, like Milton’s fiend, all qualified for all services and all elements, the creature was a fit companion for the kindred reptiles that swarmed in the seas or crawled on the shores of a turbulent planet.
O’er bog, or steep, through straight, rough, dense, or rare,
With head, hands, wings, or feet, pursues his way,
And swims, or wades, or creeps, or flies.’*
“With flocks of such creatures flying in the air, and shoals of no less monstrous ichthyosauri and plesiosauri swarming in the ocean, and tortoises crawling on the shores of the primeval lakes and rivers,—air, sea, and land must have been strangely tenanted in these early periods of our infant world.”
In speaking of this age of reptiles, the period of the iguanodon, Dr. Mantell says:—“The country it in-
* Paradise Lost, Book II., line 947.
habited must have been diversified by hill and dale, by streams and torrents, the tributaries of its mighty rivers. Arborescent ferns, palms, and yuccas constituted its groves and forests; delicate ferns and grasses, the vegetable clothing of its soil; and in its marshes, equiseta, and plants of a like nature, prevailed. It was peopled by enormous reptiles, among which the colossal iguanodon and the megalosaurus were the chief. Crocodiles and turtles, flying reptiles and birds, frequented its fens and rivers, and deposited their eggs on the banks and shoals; and its waters teemed with lizards, fishes, and mollusca. But there is no evidence that man ever set his foot upon that wondrous soil, or that any of the animals which are his contemporaries found there a habitation; on the contrary, not only is evidence of their existence altogether wanting, but, from numberless observations made in every part of the globe, there are conclusive reasons to infer that man and the existing races of animals were not created till myriads of years after the destruction of the iguanodon country,—a country which language can but feebly portray, but which the magic pencil of a Martin, by the aid of geological research, has rescued from the oblivion of the past, and placed before us in all the hues of nature, with its appalling dragon forms, its forests of palms and tree-ferns, and the luxuriant vegetation of a tropical clime.”
Fossil Footprints.—Another most interesting and comparatively still more recent branch of paleontology is that variously known by the names of ichnology or ichnolithology, or the history of fossil footprints. These are of various kinds, and are found to have been
evidently made during the period of the new red sandstone formation. The first cases discovered seem to have been those of which an account was given in the “Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh,” for 1828. Tracks or foot-marks of some animal, with drawings of the same, are there given, as they appear impressed on red sandstone in the quarry of Corn Cockle Muir, in Dumfriesshire, Scotland. The strata which bear them lie in successive layers to the depth of forty-five feet; and after removing one large slab containing them, at a few feet, or perhaps inches, below, would be found still another, exhibiting similar impressions. They traverse the rock in a direction either up or down, and not across the surfaces of the strata, which are inclined at an angle of thirty-eight degrees. On one slab there are twenty-four continuous impressions of feet, forming a regular track with six distinct repetitions of the mark of each foot, the fore-foot being differently shaped from the hind-foot; the marks of the claws are also very distinct. By a comparison of these tracks with those made by different living species of the tortoise, it has been considered probable that they were made by the feet of land tortoises. Other foot-tracks of small animals were found, in 1831, in the layers of forest marble north of Bath, in England. They are said to occur along with ripple-marks, and were probably made by some species of Crustacea crawling along the bottom of an estuary. The impression of the tail and part of the body is sometimes to be seen between the tracks.
In 1834, a similar discovery was published, of some
remarkable fossil footmarks found in Saxony, at the village of Hessburg near Hildburghausen. The following is the account given of them by Dr. Hohnbaum and Professor Kaup. “The impressions of the feet are partly hollow, and partly in relief; all the depressions are upon the upper surfaces of the slabs of sandstone, whilst the reliefs are only upon the lower surfaces, covering those which bear the depressions. These reliefs are natural casts, formed in the subjacent footsteps, as in moulds. On one slab six feet long by five feet wide, there occur many footsteps of more than one animal, and of various sizes. The larger impressions, which seem to be of the hind-foot, are eight inches long, and five wide. One was twelve inches long. Near to each large footstep, and at a regular distance of an inch and a half before it, is a smaller print of a fore-foot, four inches long, and three inches wide. These footsteps follow one another in pairs, at intervals of fourteen inches from pair to pair, each pair being in the same line. Both large and small steps have the great toes alternately on the right and left side; each has the print of five toes, and the first or great toe is bent inwards like a thumb. The fore and hind foot are nearly similar in form, though they differ so greatly in size.” On the same slab are other tracks of smaller and differently shaped feet, armed with nails, which resemble the tracks on the sandstone of Dumfries, and were evidently made by the tortoise.
Professor Kaup proposed the provisional name of cheirotherium,— from the obvious resemblance of the marks to the impression of a human hand,—as a name
to be given to the unknown animal that formed them, and he conjectured that the creature was allied to the tribe of marsupial animals; since, in the kangaroo, the first toe is set obliquely to the others, like a thumb; and the disproportion between the hind and fore feet is also very great.
Professor Owen, having directed his attention to these footsteps, as well as to some remains of reptiles, consisting of bones and teeth, has come to the conclusion, which is considered a more probable one, that the tracks in question were made, not by an animal of the marsupial class, but by a batrachian order of reptiles, or a species of gigantic frog, to which he has given the name of labyrinthodon. The footprints, it is observed, are more like those of toads than of any other living animal. The size of the three species of the labyrinthodon corresponds with that of the three different kinds of footsteps supposed to belong to three different individuals of the cheirotherium. The structure of the nasal cavity, also, shows the labyrinthodon to have been an air-breathing reptile; as the posterior outlets were at the back part of the mouth, instead of being directly under the anterior or external nostrils. Five species have already been determined, to which appropriate names have been applied. Although the general characteristics evince that it was a batrachian reptile, or one of the frog kind, yet Professor Owen considers that it must have been quite distinct from any such reptile now known, in the form of its feet, and the teeth.
About the same time that the singular tracks above mentioned were discovered in Germany, another kind
of very distinct footsteps, resembling those of birds, was discovered, also in red sandstone, in the valley of the Connecticut River; and an account of seven species was given by Professor Hitchcock, in the “American Journal of Science,” for January, 1836, in which the name ornithichnites, or stony bird-track, was applied to them. Some of them were quite small, the toes being not more than half an inch long, and the whole track but about three or four inches. Others, however, were of an enormous size, the foot being not less than seventeen inches long, including the claw of two inches, and the steps from four to six feet, proportions twice as large as those of the ostrich. In yet another species, the whole length of the track, including the large heel, was two feet, and the step six feet.
Since the first discovery of these footprints, Professor Hitchcock says he has become acquainted with not less than thirty species of these impressions, occurring at fifteen quarries, within a compass of thirty miles, along the Connecticut River, between the north line of Massachusetts, and Middletown in Connecticut. The impressions are represented as being often very perfect, so much so, that in one specimen is shown the pitted, ridged, and furrowed skin of the bottom of the foot. The evidence appears to be strong, that a large proportion of the fossil tracks must have been made by birds of the grallæ family; and though some of them are said greatly to resemble the tracks of saurians, it is concluded that none of them were made by animals having more than two feet. The class which possess the greatest resemblance to the saurian family Professor Hitchcock calls sauroidichnites, or tracks
resembling those of saurians, of which he enumerates ten species. The others he terms ornithoidichnites, instead of ornithichnites,—that is, tracks resembling those of birds. These he divides into two classes, according to the thickness of the toes,—pachydactyli, of which there are enumerated seven species, and leptodactyli, comprising twenty other species. He says that the pterodactyle is the only animal of those yet discovered, which could have made similar tracks, and thinks it not improbable that some of the thirty species were actually made by that animal. But the toes of the pterodactyle are, as he remarks, always four or five; whereas more than half of the tracks he has examined show the impression of only three.
In the year 1839, at the meeting of the British Association, Dr. Ward gave an account of some fossil foot-marks, being trifid,—thus resembling those in the Connecticut valley,—which had recently been discovered on the new red sandstone near Shrewsbury, in England. The three toes appear, also, like the former, to have been armed with long nails. Some singular footprints are mentioned by Dr. Cotta, as having been discovered in the red sandstone of Saxony, some twenty or thirty miles from Leipsic. They have this peculiarity, that they are two-toed, or rather, as described, resemble a horse-shoe, except that they are somewhat angular. No regular arrangement of the tracks was discovered; but Dr. Cotta gives it as his opinion, that they were produced by two-footed animals. The figures were found only in relief, on the under side of a layer, like that which contains the tracks at Hessburg.
These tracks are remarkable as showing how long the impressions thus made have probably remained. Dr. Buckland’s reflections on this subject are so appropriate and striking, that we quote them at length.
“The historian or the antiquary may have traversed the fields of ancient or modern battles, and may have pursued the line of march of triumphant conquerors, whose armies trampled down the most mighty kingdoms of the world. The winds and storms have utterly obliterated the ephemeral impressions of their course. Not a track remains of a single foot or a single hoof, of all the countless millions of men and beasts whose progress spread desolation over the earth. But the reptiles that crawled upon the half finished surface of an infant planet have left memorials of their passage, enduring and indelible. No history has recorded their creation or destruction; their very bones are found no more among the fossil relics of a former world. Centuries and thousands of years may have rolled away, between the time in which these footsteps were impressed by tortoises upon the sands of their native Scotland, and the hour when they are again laid bare, and exposed to our curious and admiring eyes. Yet we behold them stamped upon the rock, distinct as the track of the passing animal upon the recent snow; as if to show that thousands of years are but as nothing amidst eternity, and as it were in mockery of the fleeting, perishable career of the mightiest potentates among mankind.”
Impressions of Rain-drops.—The same red sandstone, in which, in England, the footprints are found, also contains what are supposed to be distinct im-
pressions of drops of rain. In one quarry, where the singular tracks attributed to the cheirotherium, or labyrinthodon, were found, the under surfaces of two strata, even at the depth of thirty-two or thirty-five feet from the top of the quarry, present a singular appearance, being covered with small hemispheres of the same substance as the sandstone. These projections are casts, in relief, of indentations in the upper surface of a thin bed of clay, probably occasioned by drops of rain. The form of these indentations varies. Sometimes it is hemispherical; sometimes irregular and elongated, as if the drops struck the surface obliquely, through the force of wind accompanying the rain. Similar marks have also been discovered in this country; and by forming clay into paste, and sprinkling it with water, Professor Hitchcock says that he has produced precisely the same kind of indentations. In connection with some remarks on the footprints which have been discovered in the red sandstone, he strikingly observes: “Still more strange is it, that even the pattering of a shower at that distant period should have left marks equally distinct, and registered with infallible certainty the direction of the wind.”
Fossil Fish.—Besides the organic remains already mentioned, several species of fossil fish have been discovered. These have been classified by Professor Agassiz according to the following orders, being the same that he has proposed for fishes, and founded on the peculiar structure of their scales.
Order I. The Placoidians,—from a Greek word signifying a broad plate. The skin covered irregularly with enamelled plates, sometimes of a large size,
but frequently in the form of small points, as in the shagreen on the skin of sharks, and the tubercles on the integuments of rays; a few teeth, and possibly vertebræ, and now and then an example of the means of defence on their backs, are all the remains of this description yet discovered. This order is said to be represented by five genera, of which one, comprising twelve species, is extinct.
Order II. The Ganoidians,—from a Greek word signifying splendor, on account of the brilliant surface of their enamel. These are characterized by angular scales, formed of horny or bony plates, protected by a thick layer of enamel. This order, it is stated, comprehends three extinct genera, with three species.
Order III. The Ctenoidians,—from a Greek word which signifies a comb. The scales of this order have their posterior margin pectinated, or like the teeth of a comb, and are composed of thin plates of bone or horn, but have no enamel.
Order IV. The Cycloidians,—from a Greek word which signifies a circle. The scales are smooth, with a simple margin, composed of thin plates of bone or horn without enamel. The teeth of some of the fossil fish of this order so greatly resemble reptiles, that it was supposed the original belonged to the extinct tribe of the saurians.
Fossil fish are termed ichthyolites. In the chalk formation, many teeth of fish allied to the shark family are found, and some of these are of so enormous a size that the fish must have been from seventy to one hundred feet long, and consequently as great a monster for the deep as was the iguanodon on the land. In
some instances, the mouth appears to have been covered with peculiar bony processes, like a tessellated pavement. The jaw-bone also of a very curious fish, called the chimæra, was discovered by Dr. Mantell, in a marl-pit, and other specimens in chalk and green sand. Remains likewise of the sauroid, or lizard-like fish, have been found, which show that these fishes must have attained a great magnitude. The specimens are sometimes quite perfect. The fossil fishes of the older formations differ greatly in their organization from the existing species, and even from those found in more recent formations. This difference consists mainly in the prolongation of the vertebræ of the upper branch of the tail, which is always more or less forked. As we ascend from the lower to the higher strata, and in the upper secondary and tertiary rocks, it is entirely wanting. One of the most singular fishes is the macropoma. The operculum of the gills is very large, and the scales are studded with hollow tubes. In many recent fishes, it is said, there is a row of tubular scales, forming what is called a lateral line, through which flows a fluid that lubricates the surface of the body; in the macropoma, every scale appears to have possessed such a mechanism.
Coprolites, or the fecal remains of fishes and other animals, are also found, and much aid is afforded by them in determining the food, habits, &c., of the species to which they belong. Thus, a coprolite of the ichthyosaurus was shown to Professor Agassiz, that contained the small scale of a fish, which he immediately recognized as having belonged originally to a particular spot on the body of an extinct species of
fish; and thus he was enabled to determine the food of the ichthyosaurus.
Loligo, or Cuttle-fish.—The common cuttle-fish is an animal which has no external shell, but is furnished with a sort of bladder or sack, containing a black and inky fluid, by ejecting which, and thus darkening the water, it is enabled to make its escape from its enemies. Strange as it may appear, among the petrified remains of animals of a former world are found numerous specimens of the cuttle-fish, in which the ink-bags are preserved in a fossil state. A portion of the ink, thus fossilized, was submitted by Dr. Buckland to Sir Francis Chantrey, who tried it as a pigment, and when used by him in drawing, it was adjudged by a celebrated painter to be most excellent sepia. The preservation of the ink-bags shows that the animals must have died suddenly, and been buried at once in the sediment that formed the strata where they were discovered.
Shell-fish.—But the variety of shells found in the older formations, and even up through the more
recent ones, is still greater than of fishes. We can mention only a few of the most remarkable. Notice has already been taken of the corals which abound in various parts of the globe. Both marine and freshwater shells are discovered among other organic remains, some of which belong to extinct, and others to existing species. It may be here remarked, that many of the rocks of the globe, and constituting a large portion of its crust, are composed wholly or in part of shells.
The Nautilus.—This genus, of which there are many species, some living and some extinct, belongs to the class of many-chambered shells. They are so called because they are divided by cross partitions into numerous compartments, which are pierced through the middle by what is termed a siphunculus or tube, which extends to the remotest cell. The animal itself occupies the outer receptacle, and is connected with the inner chambers by means of a membranous tube which lines the siphunculus. The chambers are internal air-cells, and the animal can fill the siphun-
cle with a fluid which is secreted in a sack around its heart; or exhaust it, when necessary. When the sack we have mentioned is filled, the siphuncle is empty, and the air in the inner chambers expands, which enables the shell to rise and float. When the animal draws its arm into the shell, the fluid in the sack is compressed and forced into the siphuncle; the air is thus condensed, and the shell sinks.
The fossil ammonite, or coma ammonis, is a many-chambered shell, coiled up in a similar manner to the nautilus; but the siphunculus, instead of being central, is placed at the back. The partitions, too, instead of being simple curves, possess every variety of turn, and the shell has generally flutings, ribs, or tubercles. The external surface has marks which resemble a fringe. The ammonite seems, however, to have been enabled to raise and depress itself in the water by a similar mechanism to that already mentioned as appertaining to the nautilus.
The whole genus of ammonites is now extinct, and Mr. Richardson has celebrated this geological fact in the following fanciful lines.
“The nautilus and ammonite
Were launched in friendly strife;
Each sent to float in its tiny boat
On the wide, wild sea of life.
“For each could swim on the ocean’s brim,
And when weaned, its sail could furl;
And sink to sleep in the great sea-deep,
In its palace, all of pearl.
“And theirs was a bliss more fair than this,
Which we taste in our colder clime;
For they were rife in a tropic life,—
A brighter and better clime!
“They swam ’mid isles, whose summer smiles
Were dimmed by no alloy;
Whose groves were palm, whose air was balm,
And life one only joy!
“They sailed all day through creek and bay,
And traversed the ocean deep;
And at night they sank on a coral bank,
In its fairy bowers to sleep.
“And the monsters vast of ages past
They beheld in their ocean-caves;
They saw them ride in their power and pride,
And sink in their deep sea-graves.
“And hand in hand, from strand to strand,
They sailed in mirth and glee;
These fairy shells, with their crystal cells,
Twin sisters of the sea.
“And they came at last to a sea long past;
But as they reached its shore,
The Almighty’s breath spoke out in death,
And the ammonite lived no more!
“So the nautilus now in its shelly prow,
As over the deep it strays,
Still seems to seek, in bay and creek,
Its companion of other days.
“And alike do we, on life’s stormy sea,
As we roam from shore to shore,
Thus tempest-tossed, seek the loved, the lost,
But find them on earth no more!
“Yet the hope how sweet, again to meet,
As we look to a distant strand,
Where heart meets heart, and no more they part,
Who meet in that better land!”
Another fossil, called the belemnite, is a long, conical stone, of a crystalline, radiated structure, and generally of a brown color. It appears to be the bone of a creature which is allied to the cuttle-fish, and likewise provided with an ink-bag for defence.
Among the most interesting species of fossil shells are the spirula and orthoceratite. The latter was a long, straight shell, being sometimes found a yard in length, and half a foot in diameter; the interior was divided into separate chambers by partitions, of which not less than seventy have been counted.
The crinoidea are now of rare occurrence in our seas, and only one or two species are known; but they occupied a large space among the shells of the early periods. Those that have been discovered have been arranged in four divisions, comprising nine genera, most of them containing several species. The skeleton is composed of numerous little bones, and the number in one skeleton has been computed at thirty thousand. They are described by Mr. Miller, who has written a history of them, as an animal with a round, oval, or angular column, composed of numerous articulations, and supporting at its summit a series of plates or joints, which form a cup-like body, containing the viscera, from the upper rim of which proceed fine articulated arms, divided into tentacula, or fingers, more or less numerous, surrounding the aperture of the mouth, which is situated in the centre of a plaited integument extending over the abdominal cavity, and capable of being contracted into a conical or proboscal shape. This column is supposed to have been covered with a leather-like integument. The animal resembles
a star-fish, with a long, flexible column, attached at its base to a rock. The small detached bones occur in myriads in the mountain limestone, and other secondary rocks, forming successions of strata, it is said, many feet in thickness, and many miles in extent, showing how largely the bodies of this peculiar tribe of animals must have contributed to increase the mass of materials composing the crust of the earth.
In this class are the pentacrinites and encrinites. The latter name is given to a species in which the bones of the column are circular or elliptical, and that of pentacrinites to those which have angular or pentagonal stems. One of the most elegant of the
encrinites is called the lily encrinite. There are also many other varieties, some of which are called pear encrinites or apiocrinites, the body of which was pear-shaped, the stem short, smooth, and strong, the arms simple.
The Derbyshire marble, which is so extensively used for sideboards, tables, and ornaments, contains vast quantities of encrinital remains, lying in relief in
the blocks; casts of the interior of the columns are likewise found in the chert, which occurs in that stratum,—the original calcareous matter having been removed; and the sharp impressions of the encrinital stems form solid silicious cylinders, deeply marked with annular risings and depressions, which are called screw or pulley stones.
One of the most remarkable of the pentacrinites is called the briarean pentacrinite, so called on account of the number of its hands or tentacles. The bones in the tentacles are said to amount to at least one hundred thousand, and those of the side-arms to at least fifty thousand more; and allowing, as we must do, two muscles for each of these, the muscles in the animal must have amounted to not less than three hundred thousand, while the bones in a man are only two hundred and forty-one, and the pairs of muscles but two hundred and thirty-two.
The numerous side-arms, says Dr. Buckland, when expanded, would act as auxiliary nets to retain the prey of the animal, and also serve as holdfasts to assist it in adhering to the bottom, or to extraneous bodies. In agitated water, they would close and fold
themselves along the column, in a position which would expose the least possible surface to the element, and, together with the column and arms, would yield to the direction of the current.
Polyparia, or Fossil Polypi.—We have already alluded to these animals while speaking of coral; but there are some particulars which deserve further mention in connection with the fossil zoöphytes. The tentacula of these animals are furnished with small, delicate hairs, called cilia. These can be moved with a rapid motion, so as to set and keep the water in currents, and thus bring food to their mouths. Some specimens have immense numbers of these tentacula and cilia. Thus, one kind of the flustra has usually twenty-two tentacula and twenty-two hundred cilia. An ordinary specimen, therefore, of this species, will contain eighteen thousand polypi, and have three hundred and ninety-six thousand tentacula, and thirty-nine millions of cilia. One other species Dr. Grant estimates to contain four hundred million cilia.
These animals multiply as if by buds. These are called gemmules, which, after sprouting out like a bud, fall off from the parent polype, and thus become distinct and perfect animals. By dividing them, also, each part will become a perfect polype. In a single month, one polype may thus produce a million of its young.
Trilobites.— The trilobite is an animal whose remains are found in formations of a very early date. It belongs to the crustacea, and appears to have been very numerous, as not less than twelve genera and sixty species have been established. In its form it is divided into three parts or lobes, and exhibits consider-
able variety. Some of the species could coil themselves up like a ball; others had only the central portion movable, while others still possessed a tail. They had no antennæ, and their feet or paddles, if they had any, must have been soft and perishable, as no remains of them have yet been discovered. The fore part of the body was covered with a kind of shield, while the abdomen had many segments, which folded over each other like the tail of a lobster. They vary in size from one to six inches long; the largest yet described is said to be twenty-one inches long. One of the most remarkable circumstances respecting them is, that they are found all over the globe, in Northern Europe and North America, in South America and Africa. They never occur in any strata more recent than the carboniferous.
As respects the habits of these animals, it is supposed, from their being closely allied to the recent bopyrus, and their feet being almost null, if not entirely so, that they were, to a certain extent, sedentary; the flat under surface of their bodies, and the side leather-like margin of several species, renders it probable that they adhered, with a soft articulated under side, to rocks or fuci. Some of the species seem to have been without eyes, and all without antennæ, or distinct feet; if they had feet, they must have been so small as to have been almost useless as organs of locomotion. That they were carnivorous is probable from the structure of the mouth; and the highly organized eyes of some of the genera prove that they had to search for food, and consequently had some power of locomotion. But their most remarkable feature was the eye, which was
immovable and fixed; this apparent deficiency being compensated by an arrangement similar to that by which the fixed eyes of certain kinds of flies are furnished with a multitude of lenses. The eye is composed of a number of elongated cones, each having a crystalline lens, pupil, and cornea, and terminating in the extremity of the optic nerves. Each organ of sight, therefore, is a compound instrument, made up of a series of optical tubes or telescopes.
That any traces should remain of the visual organs of an animal which must have perished at so remote a period seems at first incredible; but there are no limits to the wonders which geology unfolds to us. The trilobite, like the limulus, was furnished with two compound eyes, each being the frustum of a cone, but incomplete on that side which is opposite to the other eye. In one species, four hundred spherical lenses have been detected in each eye; but, in general, the lenses have fallen out, as often happens after death in the eye of the common lobster. The eye was not adapted to look downward; nor was it necessary, as the creature was evidently destined to live at the bottom of the water; but for horizontal vision the structure was complete. The exterior of each eye ranges round nearly three fourths of a circle, each commanding such a field of vision, that, where one eye ceases, the other begins to see; so that, taking both eyes together, it had, as it were, a panoramic vision. The fact, that trilobites existed during the transition formation, shows that the waters could not have consisted of such a turbid, chaotic fluid as some geologists have supposed; but must have been so transparent, as, at
least, to allow the passage of light to the visual organs.
Fossil Plants.—We have not room to dwell upon the particular species of plants which are found imbedded in the rocks of the various formations. Some of the most common are the giant ferns, equiseta, and club-mosses, which are found in the coal formations. The cut below shows what may have been the appearance of the flora of the carboniferous period.
Plants of the Carboniferous Period.
Some of the sigillaria or tree-ferns which have been found are ten feet in length, and specimens are said to have been discovered which indicate a length of sixty feet, the circumference having been not less than three feet. They were evidently hollow, like the reed, and with but little substance, as they are found compressed into a flat form. Nearly fifty species are
enumerated. The flutings and scars are still visible upon the numerous fossil specimens.
Another fossil plant of the coal formation is the stigmaria, which consists of a dome-shaped centre, three or four feet in diameter, from which proceeded branches twenty or thirty feet long, covered with tubercles, to which were attached cylindrical succulent leaves. It is supposed to have been an aquatic plant, which floated in the water, or trailed in the swamps. Other plants of this formation had whorled leaves, like the flower of the aster.
The most elegant and abundant, however, of the fossil plants of the coral formation are the lepidodendra, so called on account of the scaly appearance of the stems, caused by the separation of the leaf-stalks. The scars are simple, lanceolate, rhomboidal, and arranged spirally round the stem; the latter is slight and tapering, and sometimes arborescent. The cones, which are so frequent in ironstone nodules, are the fruit of those plants.
The recent species of the lepidodendron are small creepers clothed with delicate foliage, while the fossil plants probably attained a height of not less than eighty feet; the base of their trunks being more than three feet in diameter, and their leaves in some cases nearly two feet in length. They were equal in size to the large pines, and formed extensive forests, beneath the shade of which the smaller ferns, whose remains are so abundant, flourished. Other plants were of the same gigantic size; the equisetum, which is not now found above half an inch in diameter, then flourished, with stems fourteen inches in diameter. The whole
number of coal plants, determined, amounts to more than three hundred.
Fossil trees are also found in some of the formations. A remarkable example of a petrified forest in the Isle of Portland is thus described by Mantell. “Upon the upper layer of marine limestone, which abounds in ammonites, tregoniæ, and other characteristic shells of the oölite, is a fresh-water limestone, covered by a layer of bituminous earth, or vegetable mould, which is of a dark brown color, contains a large proportion of earthy lignite, and, like the modern soil on the surface of the island, many water-worn stones. This layer is termed the dirt-bed by the workmen; and in and upon it are trunks and branches of coniferous trees and plants, allied to the recent cycas and zamia. Many of the trees, as well as the plants, are still erect, as if petrified while growing undisturbed in their native forests, having their roots in the soil, and their trunks extending into the upper limestone.
“As the Portland stone lies beneath these strata, which are not much used for economical purposes, the fossil trees are removed and thrown by as rubbish. On my visit to the island, in the summer of 1832, the surface of a large area of the dirt-bed was cleared, preparatory to its removal, and a most striking phenomenon was presented to my view. The floor of the quarry was literally strewed with fossil wood, and I saw before me a petrified tropical forest; the trees and plants, like the inhabitants of the city in Arabian story, being converted into stone, yet still maintaining the places which they occupied when alive! Some of the trunks were surrounded by a conical mould of calcareous
matter, which had evidently once been earth, and had accumulated around the bases and roots of the trees. The stems were generally three or four feet high, being jagged or splintered, as if they had been torn or wrenched by a hurricane,—an appearance which many trees in this neighbourhood, after the late storm, strikingly resembled. Some of the trunks were two feet in diameter, and the united fragments of one tree measured upwards of thirty feet in length; in other specimens, branches were attached to the stem.
“In the dirt-bed, there were many trunks lying prostrate, and fragments of branches. Fossil plants occurred in the intervals between the trees; and the dirt-bed was so little consolidated, that I dug up with a spade, as from a parterre, several specimens that were standing on the very spot in which they grew, having, like the columns of Puzzuoli, preserved their erect position amidst all the revolutions which have subsequently taken place, and beneath the accumulated spoils of numberless ages. The trees and plants are completely petrified by silex, or flint; and sparks are emitted, upon striking a piece of steel with a fragment of what was once a delicate plant.”
Many other instances of buried forests are known. Mr. Parker mentions one near the cascades of the Columbia River, of twenty miles in extent; the trees standing in water twenty or thirty feet deep, with their tops just above its surface. This curious phenomenon is evidently the result of a sinking of the land, doubtless from volcanic action.
Comparison of Fossil and Living Species.—It is estimated that at least five thousand species of animals and plants have been identified, below the tertiary strata, and nearly all these are now extinct. Koferstein gives the following estimate of the whole number of fossil species.
Birds . . . . . . 20
Reptiles . . . . . . . 104
Fishes . . . . . . 386
Insects . . . . . . . 247
Spiders, Crustacea, Xyphosura, Entomostracea, Isopoda, Myriopoda . . . . 211
Mollusca . . . . . . . . . 6056
Annelides . . , . . . . . . . . 214
Radiata . . . . . . . 411
Polypina. . . . . . . . . . . 907
Vegetables . . . . . . 803
Total . 9629
The number of species of fossil shells is estimated at three thousand and thirty-six, of which five hundred and sixty-eight are identical with existing species.
The organic remains in the northern parts of the globe correspond more nearly to species now found in tropical climates, than to those at present existing in the same latitudes; a fact sufficiently indicating that the climate of the earth has at some period undergone an entire revolution, and that the polar regions have in
fact once been subject to a degree of heat and moisture even greater than that of the torrid zone at the present day!
Progress of Improvement.—The deeper we descend into the earth, that is, the older the rock, the more unlike are the organic remains to living species. As we ascend, the nearer is the approximation to those which exist. From these facts we infer, that in the earlier periods of creation the forms of life were unlike the present, and that there has been a succession of creations, in each step of which there has been an advance toward the existing races. In other words, it is evident that in every successive change in the earth’s surface there has been an improvement of its condition; that animals and plants of higher and finer organization have been multiplied with every revolution, until at last the earth was prepared for the existence of man, the head of creation. The progress of improvement is still going on; new and finer fruits are produced by art; the breeds of animals are improved by the same means; and doubtless the superior races of men are finally to displace the inferior ones, until at last the physical, intellectual, and moral stature of man, throughout the globe, shall be elevated to its highest standard. But we must remember the vastness of the scale upon which these changes operate, and the almost incalculable duration of years through which they must extend. Though the world has existed for countless millions of ages, still, man has just entered on the threshold of his existence; and if we would look to the period of his highest improvement, as inferred from the general
course of Providence upon the earth, we must stretch our view forward into the unseen and mysterious distance of the fathomless future.
Order of Creation of Animals and Plants.—It may be stated, in general, that plants and animals began first to exist on the globe during the period when the lowest rocks, in which their remains are found, were deposited or formed. The following is the order, as given by Professor Hitchcock, in which some of the most important plants and animals appeared on the earth; or, in other words, the epoch of their creation.
Fishes. Placoidians and Ganoidians (Sauroids and Sharks); also those with heterocercal tails.
Flowerless Plants, } Marine [and] Terrestrial.
Flowering Plants, } Marine [and] Terrestrial.
Fishes: Cephalaspis, &c.
Dicotyledonous Plants: Coniferæ (Pines, &c.),
Monocotyledonous Plants: Palmæ, Scitaminæ.
Tracks of Birds, Tortoises, and Cheirotheria, or gigantic Batrachians.
Reptiles: Monitor, Phytosaurus, Ichthyosaurus, Plesiosaurus, Mastodonsaurus, (Labyrinthodon,) Thecodontosaurus, Palæosaurus.
Fishes: Palæsoniscus, &c.
Dicotyledonous Plants: Voltzia, &c.
Mammalia (Marsupials): Thylacotherium and Phasæolotherium (Didelphys of Buckland).
Reptiles: Saurocephalus, Saurodon, Teleosaurus, Streptospondylus, Megalosaurus, Lacerta Neptunia, Ælodon, Rhacheosaurus, Pleurosaurus, Geosaurus, Macrospondylus, Pterodactylus, Crocodile, Gavial, Tortoise.
Fishes: Pycnodontes and Lepidoides (Dapedium, &c.), with homocercal tails.
Insects: Libellulæ, Coleoptera.
Crustacea: Pagurus, Eryon, Scyllarus, Palæmon, Astacus.
Plants: Cycadeæ (Pterophyllum, Zamia), Coniferæ (Thuytes, Taxites), Lilia (Bucklandia).
Birds: Grallæ (Tilgate Forest).
Reptiles: Iguanodon, Leptorynchus, Trionyx, Emys, Chelonia.
Fishes: Lepidotus, Pycnodus, &c., Fresh-water and Estuary shells.
Reptiles: Mososaurus, &c.
Fishes: Ctenoidians and Cycloidians.
Crustacea: Arcania, Etyæa, Coryster.
Plants: Confervæ, Naiades.
Mammalia: 1. Eocene Period: Fifty species:—Palæotherium, Anoplotherium, Lophiodon, Anthracotherium, Cheroptamus (allied to the hog), Adapis (resembling the hedgehog). Carnivora: Bat, Canis (Wolf and Fox), Coatis, Raccoon, Genette, Dormouse, Squirrel. Reptiles: Serpents.
Birds: Buzzard, Owl, Quail, Woodcock, Sea-lark, Curlew, Pelican, Albatross, Vulture.
Reptiles: Fresh-water Tortoises.
Fishes: Seven extinct species of extinct genera.
2. Miocene Period: Ape, Dinotherium, Tapir, Chalicotherium, Rhinoceros, Tetracaulodon, Hippotherium, Sus, Felis, Machairodus, Gulo, Agnotherium, Mastodon, Hippopotamus, Horse.
3. Pliocene Period: Elephant, Ox, Deer, Dolphin, Seal, Walrus, Lamantin, Megalonyx, Megatherium, Glyptodon, Hyena, Ursus, Weasel, Hare, Rabbit, Water Rat, Mouse, Dasyurus, Halmaturus, Kangaroo, and Kangaroo Rat.
Birds: Pigeon, Raven, Lark, Duck, &c.
Fishes: (In the formation generally) more than one hundred species now extinct, which belong to more than forty extinct, and as many living genera.
Insects: One hundred and sixty-two genera of Diptera, Hemiptera, Coleoptera, Aptera, Hymenoptera, Neuropteræ, and Orthoptera.
Shells: In the newer pliocene period, ninety to ninety-five per cent. of living species; thirty-five to fifty per cent. in the older pliocene; seventeen per cent. in the miocene; and 3.5 in the eocene; amounting in all, extinct and recent, to four thousand species.
Plants: Poplars, Willows, Elms, Chestnuts, Sycamores, and nearly two hundred other species; seven eighths of which are monocotyledonous, or dicotyledonous.
Man, and most of the other species of existing animals and plants.
From this view it appears, that in every age of the earth, amid all the diversities of organic life, the same general plan has been followed in the animal and vegetable kingdoms; for at every epoch we find the four great classes of animals, namely, the mammiferous, molluscous, articulated, and radiated; and the same divisions of plants, the vasculares and cellulares.
Remains of Man.—The remains of man have never been found in any deposit older than the alluvium,
except in a few cases, where they appear to have been mingled with drift at a period subsequent to its deposition. Some human bones are, indeed, found imbedded in solid limestone rock, on the shores of Guadaloupe; but this formation was alluvial, and, as the same rock contains shells of existing species, as well as arrows, hatchets of stone, pottery, &c., it is clear that they are of no great antiquity. It appears, therefore, that man was created at a comparatively recent period, ages after many successive races had lived and perished; and furthermore, that he came into existence about the same time as the principal species of animals and plants now flourishing on the earth.
Review: Succession of Changes in the Organic Kingdom.—If we take a retrospect of the facts we have presented, beginning with the most recent formations, we shall find, says Mantell, that traces of the existing orders of animated nature are everywhere apparent; and works of art, with the bones of man and the remains of vegetables and of animals, are found in the modern deposits. In the succeeding era, many species and genera both of plants and animals were absent. Large terrestrial pachydermata greatly predominated, and the vegetation was principally of a character referable to temperate and intertropical climes; while the seas abounded in fishes, crustacea, and mollusca, as at the present time.
The next epoch presented one wide waste of waters, teeming with the general types of marine beings, but of different species and genera from those of the previous eras, and bearing a large proportion of cephalopodous mollusca; a few algæ and fuci made up the
marine flora; and drifted trunks of coniferæ and dicotyledonous trees, with a few reptiles, were the only indications of the dry land and its inhabitants. The delta of a mighty river now made its appearance, containing the spoils of an extensive island or continent; and the remains of colossal reptiles, and of unknown forms of tropical plants, marked the era of the country of the iguanodon.
We were then conducted to other seas, whose waters abounded in fishes and mollusca, and were inhabited by marine reptiles wholly unlike any that now exist; while the dry land was tenanted by enormous terrestrial and flying reptiles, marsupial animals and insects, and possessed a tropical flora of a peculiar character. In the next era we found another sea, swarming with fishes, mollusca, and corals, and with reptiles similar to those of the preceding period.
The succeeding change disclosed extensive regions covered by a luxuriant vegetation,—groves and forests of palms, arborescent ferns and conifers, and gigantic trees related to the existing club-mosses and equisetaceæ; the numerical preponderance of the flowerless plants constituting a character wholly unknown in modern floras. The ocean abounded in mollusca, radiaria, and crustacea, of genera and species unlike any that had previously appeared.
We advanced to other oceans swarming with polyparia, mollusca, radiaria, and fishes, which bore some analogy to those of the preceding seas, but belonged to different species; interspersions of cryptogamous plants with a flora related to the one immediately antecedent marked the existence of dry land. But
traces of animal and vegetable existence became less and less manifest, and were at length reduced to a few shells, corals, and sea-weeds; these finally disappeared, and dubious indications of infusoria were the last vestiges of organic life.
Such is a brief rev[ie]w of the changes upon the surface of the globe, which geology unfolds. According to the records found in the strata of the earth,—setting aside the infusoria,—a few fuci, mollusca, and polyparia are the first evidence of organic existence; these are followed by a larger development of the same orders, and the addition of crinoidea, crustacea, and fishes. In the succeeding period, reptiles and insects appear, with sauroid fishes, and an immense development of vegetable life, particularly of the cryptogamic class. Large reptiles next prevail, to an extraordinary degree; and one genus of birds, and two genera of mammalia, attest the existence of the higher order of animals. The vegetable kingdom is greatly modified; and plants related to the zamiæ and to the ciliaceæ preponderate, with conifers and dicotyledonous trees. The next remarkable change is in the sudden increase of mammiferous animals, and the reduction of the reptile tribes; the large pachydermata, as the mammoth, elephant, &c., first appear. From this period, till the creation of man, there are no striking general modifications, in the various orders of animal and vegetable existence.
The physical changes that have taken place in the earth’s surface are in perfect harmony with the modifications observable in animated nature; for the laws of mechanical and chemical action are indissolubly con-
nected with those which govern vital phenomena; and we have incontrovertible evidence, that, throughout the vast periods over which geological speculations extend, the same causes have operated, the same effects followed. Thus, heat and cold, drought and moisture, and other atmospheric influences, have dissolved the loftiest peaks; rivulets and torrents have eroded the sides of the mountain-chains; streams and rivers have worn away the plains, and carried the spoils of the land into the bed of the ocean; the waves of the sea have wasted its shores, and destroyed the cliffs and rocks which opposed their progress; silt has been changed into clay; calcareous mud into limestone; sand into sandstone; pebbles into conglomerates and breccia; and animal and vegetable remains have been imbedded, and added to the mineral accumulations of the past ages of our planet.
Beneath the surface, the action of electro-chemical forces has been alike unintermitting; vegetable matter has been converted into bitumen, coal, amber, and the diamond; earth into crystals; limestone into marble; clay into slate; and sedimentary into crystalline masses. The volcano has poured forth its rivers of molten rock; the earthquake rent the solid crust of the globe; beds of seas have been elevated into mountains; subsidences of the land and irruptions of the ocean have taken place; and the destructive and conservative influences both of fire and water have been constantly exerted; the phases of action have alone differed in duration and intensity.
Rocks composed of Organic Remains.—In a previous part of this volume, we have dwelt upon the highly
interesting subject of the elaboration of solid matter from gaseous and fluid elements by vital action, and the formation of islands and continents by countless myriads of living instruments. Let us now consider how far the present solid materials of the earth’s surface have been derived from organized beings. The processes by which animal and vegetable structures are converted into stone, and the various states in which their fossil remains occur, have already been explained.
The strata of vegetable origin consist of peat; of forests ingulfed by subsidences of the land, or imbedded in the mud of rivers and deltas, or in the basin of the sea; of the lignite and brown call of the tertiary deposits; of the coal and shales of the carboniferous strata; and of the silicified and calcareous trunks of trees, in tertiary and secondary formations. But the deposits which are derived, either wholly or in part, from animal exuviæ are so numerous, and of such prodigious extent, that the interrogation of the poet may be repeated by the philosopher:
Probably there is not an atom of the crust of the globe which has not passed through the complex and wonderful laboratory of life. Thus we find that all the orders of animals, from the infusoria up to man, have more or less contributed, by their organic remains, to swell the amount of the solid materials of the earth. It is supposed that limestone constitutes one seventh part of the crust of the globe, and this, with
the immense beds of chalk, flint, marl, gypsum, sandstone, lias, jasper, are all of animal origin. The following tabular arrangement presents in a condensed form some of the most striking facts on this subject.
[Transcriber’s note: In the original, the chart on pages 215 through 217 is divided into three columns: “Strata,” “Prevailing Remains,” and “Formation.” In order to keep the chart’s readability, I’ve rearranged the information. Images of the pages are also available: page 215 | page 216 | page 217]
Formation: Silurian System. Strata: Trilobite schist; prevailing remains: Trilobites. Strata: Dudley limestone; prevailing remains: Corals, crinoidea, trilobites, and shells. Strata: Shelly limestone; prevailing remains: Productæ, spiriferæ, &c.
Formation: Carboniferous System. Strata: Mountain limestone; prevailing remains: Corals and shells. Strata: Encrinital marble; prevailing remains: Lily-shaped animals and shells. Strata: Muscle-band; prevailing remains: Fresh-water muscles [sic]. Strata: Iron-stone nodules; prevailing remains: Trilobites, insects, and shells.
Formation: Lias. Strata: Lias shales and clay; prevailing remains: Pentacrinites, reptiles, and fishes. Strata: Limestone; prevailing remains: Terebratulæ and other shells. Strata: Lias conglomerates; prevailing remains: Fishes, shells, corals. Strata: Gryphite limestone; prevailing remains: Shells, principally gryphites.
Formation: Inferior Oölite. Strata: Shelly limestone; prevailing remains: Terebratulæ and other shells.
Formation: Oölite. Strata: Stonesfield slate; prevailing remains: Shells, reptiles, fishes, insects. Strata: Pappenheim schist; prevailing remains: Crustacea, reptiles, fishes, insects. Strata: Bath-stone; prevailing remains: Shells, corals, crinoidea, reptiles, fishes. Strata: Ammonite limestone; prevailing remains: Cephalopoda, principally ammonites. Strata: Coral-rag; prevailing remains: Corals, shells, echini, ammonites. Strata: Bradford limestone; prevailing remains: Crinoidea, shells, corals, cephalopoda. Strata: Portland oölite; prevailing remains: Ammonites, trigoniæ, and other shells.
p. 216 [page image]
Formations: Wealden. Strata: Purbeck and Sussex marble; prevailing remains: Fresh-water shells, crustacea, reptiles, fishes. Strata: Wealden limestone; prevailing remains: Cyclades, and other fresh- water shells, crustacea, reptiles, fishes. Strata: Tilgate grit (some beds); prevailing remains: Reptiles, fishes, fresh-water shells.
Formations: Shanklin Sand. Strata: Farington gravel; prevailing remains: Sponges, corals, echini, and shells. Strata: Jasper and chert; prevailing remains: Shells. Strata: Green sand; prevailing remains: Fibrous zoöphites.
Formations: Chalk. Strata: Chalk; prevailing remains: Corals, radiaria, echini, shells, fishes. Strata: Maestricht limestone; prevailing remains: Corals, shells, ammonites, belemnites, and other cephalopoda,—reptiles. Strata: Hippurite limestone; prevailing remains: Shells, principally hippurites. Strata: Hard chalk (some beds); prevailing remains: Echini and belemnites. Strata: Flints; prevailing remains: Sponges and other fibrous zoöphites; Infusoria and spines of zoöphites; Echini, shells, corals, crinoidea.
Formations: Tertiary. Strata: Limestone; prevailing remains: Fresh-water shells. Strata: Nummilite rock; prevailing remains: Nummulites. Strata: Septaria; prevailing remains: Nautili, turritellæ, and other shells. Strata: Calcaire grossier; prevailing remains: Shells and corals. Strata: Gypseous limestone; prevailing remains: Mammalia (palæotheria, &c.)[,] birds, reptiles, and fishes. Strata: Silicious limestone; prevailing remains: Shells. Strata: Lacustrine marl; prevailing remains: Cyprides, phryganæa, fresh-water shells. Strata: Monte Bolca limestone; prevailing remains: Fishes. Strata: Bone-breccia; prevailing remains: Mammalia and land shells.
p. 217 [page image]
Formations: Tertiary. Strata: Sub-Himalaya sandstone; prevailing remains: Elephant, mastodon, &c., reptiles. Strata: Tripoli; prevailing remains: Infusoria. Strata: Semiopal; prevailing remains: Infusoria.
Formations: Human Epoch. Strata: Guadaloupe limestone; prevailing remains: Man, land shells, and corals. Strata: Bermuda limestone; prevailing remains: Corals, shells, serpulæ. Strata: Bermuda chalk; prevailing remains: Comminuted corals, shells, &c. Strata: Bog-iron ochre; prevailing remains: Infusoria.
This list might be almost indefinitely extended, for we have omitted numerous strata, in which animal remains largely predominate; and in the tertiary and modern epochs, every order of animated nature is found to have contributed more or less largely to the sedimentary deposits,—the bones of man, &c., first appearing in the most recent accumulations; and by the geological causes now in action, not only the remains of the existing orders of living beings, but also works of human art, are added day by day to the solid crust of the globe.
We have had frequent occasion to advert to the fact, that the surface of the globe has been the theatre of successive changes and revolutions; and that, through these mutations, it has finally reached its present condition. We may, indeed, regard our globe as one of the works of the Creator, upon which he has exercised his amazing skill and power; and, through the revelations of modern geology, we are permitted to look in upon his laboratory, and see the processes by which he has produced such wonderful results. Let us now take a hasty view of the geological changes of the earth’s surface, which will, in fact, be a brief survey of the natural history of the earth.
In the early pages of this volume, we have stated that the researches of modern astronomers have furnished substantial grounds for the belief that our globe was once a nebulous mass diffused in space, which, by a known law of matter, was at last condensed and became a solid planetary body, revolving around the sun as the centre of its orbit. It is supposed, that, at the period of its condensation, it was a molten mass; but the surface became gradually cooled, probably
leaving the interior still in a melted state, and perhaps, also, leaving a vast hollow space in the centre.
In the first age of the world after its condensation,—and which, of course, goes back for myriads of ages,—it is supposed to have been in a state resembling that of the moon at the present day, presenting a surface torn and distorted by volcanic action, and doubtless destitute alike of vegetable and animal life. The bristling pinnacles of lofty mountains rose to the clouds, while deep and ghastly chasms yawned between the separate elevations. But the same causes of change which are now in operation—the wind and the rain, heat and cold, the various chemical forces, the earthquake and the volcano—began their work. The tops of the mountains were slowly, but surely, worn away, and the particles thus separated were carried by the streams to the valleys. A soil was thus formed, suited to vegetable life; the creative power of the Almighty was now put forth, and plants, suited to the state of things, began to shoot up from the ground. When a supply of food was thus provided, another creative act took place, and animals, adapted to the habitation provided for them, were seen moving upon the land and amid the waters.
At a period even anterior to this, it would appear that sea-weed and shell-fish were teeming in the marine waters, and that remains of them, in the course of ages, were deposited in the depths of the ocean, and became mingled with the masses of the land deposited there by the rains and streams that swept down from the mountains. The bottom of the sea was, in process of time, lifted, by the force of internal fires, and thus
became dry land, rich with the spoils of centuries, and fitted to the production of luxuriant vegetation. Again the creative energy was put forth, and new and higher forms of organized existence appeared, and all still suited to the improved condition of the abodes they were designed to occupy.
By a succession of changes, operating through an inconceivable length of years, a succession of races such as we have described was produced, and the various rocks which now form the crust of the globe were elaborated from the great workshop of the Almighty, until, at last, the earth, designed as the abode of man, like a house ready furnished, was prepared. The tenant was then called into existence, and the work of creation was complete.
We have already adverted to the supposed discrepancy between this view, presented by geology, and that of the Scriptures as generally understood. We leave this topic for the present, remarking, that the difference is only apparent, and entirely disappears upon a full and fair examination of the question. We now propose to give, in detail, the process of the changes upon the earth’s surface, effected by the great agencies of nature.
[Pages 220-270 describe glaciers, volcanoes, earthquakes, and other ways in which the surface of the Earth is altered, and consequent changes in climate in various places.]
Let us now briefly review the ground over which we have passed, and consider the results at which we have arrived. Instead of regarding this earth as brought suddenly into existence some six thousand years ago, by one creative act of God, we must carry the mind back into the remote depths of eternity, and suppose, that, in the formation of our earth, the same process was adopted as that which the astronomer now sees going on in the boundless regions of space. Notwithstanding Mr. Lyell’s theory, recited in a previous chapter, we incline to that hypothesis which supposes that the sun was once the nucleus or centre of a nebulous mass, revolving on its axis; that this became condensed, and the planets were successively thrown off from the central body. At first, we suppose the earth to have been in a gaseous state, similar to the comets. By degrees, its heat was dispersed and radiated into space; in consequence of which, the particles became condensed, yet still in a state of fusion. The process of cooling went on, until the external crust of the globe became hardened into the solid materials of which we see it now composed, yet,
perhaps, leaving the central mass in a state of incandescence.
At what period this process began, or how long a time has elapsed since the work was thus far completed, we have not the means of knowing; but we have reason to believe that it was myriads of years ago, and that the imagination of man is incompetent to measure the ages which have rolled away since our earth began its career as a planetary body. From the time that the earth had thus assumed its present form, we suppose that the great agencies which we now see at work in changing the surface of the earth have been in operation, and that these have been the instruments by which a series of revolutions and mutations have been effected.
The precise order of these changes we cannot trace, yet their general character and tendency we are at no loss to discover. At first, in the process of cooling, the crust of the globe was, perhaps, broken and torn, thus presenting the rugged aspect which the telescope now unfolds to view in the moon. The pent-up fires within would seek vent, the volcanoes would disgorge their contents, and the earthquake would shake and dislocate the land and the sea. The rain and the tempest now began their work; particles of earth were disengaged from the mountains, and borne by the floods to the valleys; and a soil was formed for vegetation. But, in a world which had sprung from a molten mass of matter, there was no seed,—no principle of vegetable or animal life. A creative act of God was now necessary to commence the organic kingdoms. That act was put forth; seeds were created and cast into
the soil which had been preparing for them. These sprang up at the bidding of the Almighty. At first, they were the fuci and algæ,—the rank weeds which grow on the margin of the sea. These flourish and decay, and their successive generations contribute to form a rich mould which shall give sustenance to higher forms of vegetation yet to be created.
At an early period, and perhaps immediately after the commencement of vegetable life, the lowest forms of animal existence were brought into being. The zo[ö]phytes were seen to swarm in the waters, and shellfish began to abound; crustaceous animals were multiplied; myriads of trilobites sported in the sea; fishes of the sauroid and shark form succeeded;—and while these steps of creation were advancing in the waters, the land began to put forth its blossoming flowers. Such is the Silurian or Cambrian Period.
But a change comes over the scene. Continents and islands sink beneath the ocean, and new continents arise from the bosom of the deep. The old creations are in fact swept away. A new earth appears, and new beings are created to inhabit it. Fishes of new forms are seen to glide in the waters; scorpions, spiders, and various insects are seen upon the land and the sea. The fresh-waters now begin to teem with shell-fish, and the land becomes clothed with a gigantic vegetation. The pine-tree rises, with its lofty branches, into the air. The stately palm broods in forests over hill and valley; and flowering plants and shrubs appear, in diversified forms and hues, on every hand.
At this age of the world, the climate differs from that of the present period. The torrid zone seems to
overspread the earth; and even in the polar regions, where animal and vegetable life can now hardly exist, the tropical plants seem to luxuriate, and animals now confined to the torrid regions sport in the tepid waters around the poles. This was the Carboniferous Period; and it was during this prolific age that the mighty masses of vegetable matter were produced and buried in the earth, to constitute those inexhaustible beds of coal, which ages after were to contribute to the civilization of man, to drive the whirling spindles of the factory, to work the sledge of the iron-mill, to impel the steamboat through the wave, and urge the locomotive on its track.
Another change comes over the scene. A new distribution of land and water is made. Myriads of organized existences become extinct, and new ones succeed. Reading the record of this age, as written upon the enduring leaves of red-sandstone, we see that gigantic frogs and birds of amazing stature now dwell upon the earth. The ichthyosaurus, the plesiosaurus, and other strange yet stupendous reptiles, wonderfully combining the powers of distinct genera, dwell in the waters or along their margin, and at the same time new forms of vegetable life are scattered over the landscape.
Still another change appears, and now the marsupial animals are seen; the crocodile, the gavial, and the tortoise are created. New fishes, new insects, and new animals of the crustaceous kind are discovered; and plants, also, of new forms, spring up from the soil. This is the Oölitic Period.
And now we come to the Wealden Period, the age
of the iguanodon, that stupendous reptile, whose very existence had never been imagined until a recent period, and to which the words of Milton have been fitly applied:—
“With head uplift above the waves, and eyes
That sparkling blazed, his other parts besides
Borne on the flood, extended long and large,
Lay floating many a rood, in bulk as huge
As whom the fables name of monstrous size,
Titanian, or earth-born, that warred on Jove,—
Briareus, or Typhon, whom the den
By ancient Tarsus held,—or that sea-beast
Leviathan, which God of all his works
Created hugest that swim the ocean stream.”
The imagination, in turning back to this period, pictures to itself this mighty reptile rioting in the waters where the solid earth of the British islands now stands, and, in place of the human habitations, the ox, the horse, the oak, and the chestnut,—which now appear in the scene,—discovers flying reptiles in the air, crocodiles and turtles sporting in the fens, and lizards and fishes, now blotted out of existence, making the waters boil with their gambols.
Another change takes place, and the Cretaceous Period appears. Again new forms of organized existence occupy the earth. The mososaurus and other reptiles are found. New insects, fishes, and crustacea are seen, with many that have before existed. The vegetable world displays also some new plants, amid varieties that have belonged to other ages.
We now come to the Tertiary Period, which is far more prolific in organic remains than those that have gone before. A similitude of new animals and plants
appear to have entered upon their career. Many species that are now extinct—such as the palæotherium, lophiodon, and dinotherium—are found, with a multitude of animals still in existence. The bones of creatures now unknown occur confusedly mixed with those of the bat, wolf, fox, raccoon, squirrel, owl, whale, elephant, ox, deer, &c. Many extinct species of genera still existing are discovered. Multitudes of extinct shell-fish are found with others that still remain, and, amid the relics of vegetable races which have vanished from the earth, we find the fossil remains of poplars, willows, sycamores, and elms. Thus, the old and the new,—the past and the present,—the races that are annihilated, and the races that remain,—are found huddled together in one common tomb, formed in that age of the earth to which we give the title of the Tertiary Period.
But as yet no traces of man appear. Hitherto the world has performed its revolutions, and ages have rolled away; change has followed change; myriads of animals have lived and perished; the seasons have come and gone; the elements have performed their work, and all unwitnessed by human beings. Geology tells us of the volcano and the earthquake; of the iguanodon and the plesiosaurus; of ages that have fled, and races that have perished;—it opens a new and wonderful volume of history, and reveals events which would otherwise have slept in oblivion for ever; but it tells us nothing of our own species. Man’s history is recent; his existence, as compared with the age of the earth, is as an hand-breadth. We do not find his bones imbedded in the
ancient rocks; these hoary archives have not preserved a relic of the race. It is only in the alluvial period that we find the traces of man, and within a date compatible alike with the records of sacred and profane history.
“Such,” says Dr. Mantell, in view of the geology of the British isles, “is a plain annunciation of the results of our investigations; but I will embody these inductions in a more impressive form, by employing the metaphor of an Arabian writer, and imagining some higher intelligence from another sphere to describe the physical mutations of which he may be supposed to have taken cognizance, from the period when the forests of Portland were flourishing, to the present time. Countless ages ere man was created, he might say,—I visited these regions of the earth, I beheld a beautiful country of vast extent, diversified by hill and dale, with its rivulets, streams, and mighty rivers, flowing through fertile plains. Groves of palms and ferns, and forests of coniferous trees, clothed its surface; and I saw monsters of the reptile tribe, so huge that nothing among the existing races can compare with them, basking on the banks and roaming through its forests; while in its fens and marshes were sporting thousands of crocodiles and turtles. Winged reptiles of strange forms shared with birds the dominion of the air, and the waters teemed with fishes, shells, and Crustacea.
“And after the lapse of many ages, I again visited the earth; and the country, with its innumerable dragon-forms, and its tropical forests, all had disappeared, and an ocean had usurped their place, and
its waters teemed with nautili, ammonites, and other cephalopoda, of races now extinct, and innumerable fishes and marine reptiles. And thousands of centuries rolled by, and I returned, and lo! the ocean was gone, and dry land had again appeared, and it was covered with groves and forests; but these were wholly different in character from those of the vanished country of the iguanodon. And I beheld, quietly browsing, herds of deer of enormous size, and groups of elephants, mastodons, and other herbivorous animals, of colossal magnitude. And I saw in its rivers and marshes the hippopotamus, tapir, and rhinoceros; and I heard the roar of the lion and the tiger, and the yell of the hyena and the bear.
“And another epoch passed away, and I came again to the scene of my former contemplations; and all the mighty forms which I had left had disappeared, the face of the country no longer presented the same aspect; it was broken into islands, and the bottom of the sea had become dry land, and what before was dry land had sunk beneath the waves. Herds of deer were still to be seen on the plains, with swine and horses and oxen, and wolves in the woods and forests; and I beheld human beings, clad in the skins of animals, and armed with clubs and spears; and they had formed themselves habitations in caves, constructed huts for shelter, inclosed pastures for cattle, and were endeavouring to cultivate the soil.
“And a thousand years elapsed, and I revisited the country, and a village had been built upon the seashore, and its inhabitants supported themselves by fishing; and they had erected a temple on the neigh-
bouring hill, and dedicated it to their patron saint. And the adjacent country was studded with towns and villages, and the downs were covered with flocks, and the valleys with herds, and the corn-fields and pastures were in a high state of cultivation, denoting an industrious and peaceful community.
“And lastly, after an interval of many centuries, I arrived once more, and the village was swept away, and its site covered by the waves; but in the valley, and on the hills above the cliffs, a beautiful city appeared, with its palaces, its temples, and its thousand edifices, and its streets teeming with a busy population in the highest state of civilization,—the resort of the nobles of the land, the residence of the monarch of a mighty empire. And I perceived many of its intelligent inhabitants gathering together the vestiges of the beings which had lived and died, and whose very forms were now obliterated from the face of the earth, and endeavouring, by these natural memorials, to trace the succession of those events of which I had been the witness, and which had preceded the history of their race.”
Marks of Design in the Geological Changes of the Earth’s Surface.—There are some plain and obvious inferences to be drawn from the views which we have presented, and which it may be well to notice. In
the first place, it may be remarked, that there are proofs of design, of the use of means adapted to an end, in the whole course of events presented by the geological history of the earth. We have already adverted to the process by which a soil was first formed for the support of vegetable life, and the means thus provided for the sustenance of animal life. In the outset, only the mineral kingdom existed; as yet there was no such thing as organized matter; there was nothing fit for the support of animal life. The vegetable kingdom was devised and brought into being, and thus the means were provided for the support of the animal kingdom. Now we may fairly presume that this earth was destined to become the habitation of living, sentient beings; and we see that a series of events, all tending to fit it for such a purpose, actually took place. We here see an intelligent and desirable end in view, and means, extending through countless ages, and embracing an infinite variety of circumstances, all finally terminating in fulfilling that end.
We may also suppose that the earth was intended to be the abode of man; and geology teaches us that this end has been accomplished by a process bearing the evident marks of intelligent design. In the several stages of the world’s progress, we have seen that the animals and vegetables were mutually adapted to each other, and to the state of things around them. When the air was heated and filled with moisture, the vegetation conformed to these circumstances; and the animals, consisting of huge reptiles, were fitted to breathe a fetid atmosphere, and to feed on coarse, rank herbage. But in tracing the geological changes,
we observe a constant improvement, from one step to another. If we compare any one age with that which preceded it, we see that the earth always becomes more and more suited to the higher forms of animal life. At first, only zoöphytes, animals which seem to be on the verge of the vegetable world, are created; then shell-fishes appear; then insects, and, in succession, gigantic tortoises, frogs, reptiles, and lizards of many forms. These are swept away, and, after a succession of generations, man and his associate animal races occupy the earth. Here is a series of steps obviously leading to a plain result;—the mighty engines of fire and water, the energies of chemical combination and decomposition, have been in operation for countless ages; at length the earth is fitted to be the abode of man, and then, and not till then, man appears as the master of the organic kingdoms. Here again, we see the adaptation of means to ends, and the successful accomplishment of a desirable end by the intelligent use of instruments.
We might advert to the fact, that animal races are created, with the vegetable kingdom suited to sustain them, as a proof of design; but we can particularly notice one instance only, unfolded by geology, in which an adaptation to the uses of man is obvious and striking;—we allude to the production of coal, in connection with useful minerals. The distribution of beds of coal over the earth, and the placing them in basins so as to be easily wrought, must be regarded as one of the most beneficent dispensations of Providence. The utility of this mineral, as well for domestic as public purposes, is beyond calculation.
It has been calculated that in England about fifteen thousand steam-engines are daily at work. One of those in Cornwall is said to have the power of a thousand horses; the power of each horse, according to Mr. Wyatt, being equal to that of five and a half men. Supposing, then, the average power of each steam-engine to be that of twenty-five horses, we have a total of steam power equal to that of more than two millions of men. When we consider that a large proportion of this power is applied to move machinery, and that the work now done by machinery in England has been supposed to be equivalent to that of three or four millions of men by direct labor, we are almost astounded at the influence of coal and iron and steam upon the fate and fortunes of the human race. “It is on the river,” says Mr. Webster, “and the boatman may repose upon his oars; it is on highways, and begins to exert itself along the courses of land conveyances; it is at the bottom of mines, a thousand feet below the earth’s surface; it is in the mill, and in the workshop of the trader. It rows, it pumps, it excavates, it carries, it draws, it lifts, it hammers, it spins, it weaves, it prints.”
It hardly increases our sense of the importance or power of coal to state that there is virtue in a bushel of coals, properly consumed, to raise seventy million pounds’ weight a foot high. “The ascent of Mont Blanc from Chamouni,” says Dr. Buckland, “is considered, and with justice, as the most toilsome feat that a strong man can execute in two days; yet the combustion of two pounds of coal would place him on the summit.” If we consider these facts, and observe
the mighty purposes which this mineral is actually fulfilling, in promoting the happiness of the human race, it is impossible to believe that it was created, and man himself brought into existence, but with a design that embraced the adaptation of the one to the uses of the other.
If this inference heeded confirmation, it might be found in the fact, that in Pennsylvania, England, Scotland, and other countries, there are rich beds of iron ore found in near connection with the deposits of coal. If we consider the utility of this metal to man, we cannot doubt that it was designed for his use; and when we see it thus placed side by side with a material requisite for its reduction to the purposes of life, it becomes a matter of reasonable assurance, that these things were thus disposed by the care of a wise and benignant Providence for the benefit of man.
Nor will a full view of the disturbing forces on the face of the earth furnish less evident proofs of intelligence in the great Governor of the earth, than the topics we have just considered. Elevations and subsidences, inclinations and contortions, fractures and dislocations, are phenomena which at first sight present only the appearance of confusion and disorder; yet, when fairly understood, they demonstrate the existence of order, method, and design, even in the operation of those mighty physical forces which have affected the terraqueous globe. But our space does not enable us to go into a consideration of this subject.
Unity of Design.—Geology teaches us that amid all the diversities of creation, reaching through an incalculable series of ages, and embracing innumerable
species of animals, the same general plan has been carefully observed. We have already stated, that, in every geological period, we observe the same classes of animals and vegetables, even when the genera were totally distinct from the present. As Paley has said in reference to other worlds, so we may say in respect to the past ages of this, as displayed by geology, “We never get amongst such originally or totally different modes of existence, as to indicate that we are come into the presence of a different Creator, or under the direction of a different Will.” “Wherever we go, into the records of whatever period we look, it is,” says Buckland, “the same handwriting we read, the same system and contrivance we trace, the same unity of object, and relation to final causes, which we see maintained throughout, and constantly proclaiming the unity of the great Divine Original.”
Proofs of Creation.—It has been conceived by some persons that the earth has existed from eternity; and in this mystery the atheist has generally intrenched himself. Geology affords the most satisfactory refutation of this fatal error. We see that the earth, from the commencement, has undergone an entire change, embracing a great variety of revolutions;—and that it has been, from time to time, the witness to a multitude of distinct acts of creation, by which all the races of animal and vegetable life have been successively brought into existence, is clearly demonstrated by geological researches. “We conceive it undeniable,” says an able writer, “that we see, in the transition from an earth peopled by one set of animals to the same earth swarming with entirely new forms of organic life, a
distinct manifestation of creative power, transcending the operation of known laws of nature; and it appears to us that geology has thus lighted a new lamp along the path of natural theology.”
“If I understand geology aright,” says Professor Hitchcock, “so far from teaching the eternity of the world, it proves more directly than any other science can, that its revolutions and races of inhabitants had a commencement, and that it contains within itself the chemical energies, which need only to be set at liberty, by the will of their Creator, to accomplish its destruction. Because this science teaches that the revolutions of nature have occupied immense periods of time, it does not, therefore, teach that they form an eternal series; it only enlarges our conceptions of the Deity.”
Geology in Reference to the Scripture History of the Creation.—We have already stated that geology calls upon us to reject the ancient chronology of the earth, founded, as has been supposed, upon the Mosaic record; but does it follow that the Bible itself falls to the ground? This is a question of deep interest, and deserves to be carefully considered.
When the discoveries of geology first began to be proclaimed, they were seized upon by infidels, and those who wished to discard the authority of a revelation from God, as instruments by which to impugn the veracity of the Scriptures. The account of the creation given by Moses, said they, cannot be true; for here are contradictory records of the earth’s formation written in the very rocks of which our globe is composed. So bold a charge, and the seeming plausibility with which the arguments advanced were urged, made many a
pious person look with prejudice on a science, which, it was claimed, struck so deadly a blow against the faith and dearest hopes of man. But in this case, as in every similar one, in the further prosecution of investigation, the defenders of revelation have been enabled to wrest from the hands of foes the weapons aimed at their shield, and to turn these against them. Cuvier, in his work on the revolutions upon the surface of the globe, clearly demonstrated the truth of the Bible, and boldly proclaimed it before the French savans who had ventured to attack it. Others have followed in his track,—as Buckland, J. P. Smith, Hitchcock, Silliman, &c.,—sustaining the veracity of the Scripture account, and suggesting various methods by which the apparent discrepancies of the record with the facts discovered may be reconciled. We shall here give a brief summary of their views.
It may be laid down, as a general principle on which all reasoning on this subject must rest, that revelation does not profess to teach us the principles of science. The usual language of popular speech is employed; the Bible speaks, as we all do, of the sun’s rising and setting, and of various things, which, viewed with strict philosophical accuracy, are altogether at variance with fact. No one, however, is deceived by this use of language.
There is, too, a general agreement between the Bible and geology, as to the agents employed to produce changes on our globe,—fire and water. They agree, also, in representing a primitive chaos, when the land was submerged and upheaved by the power of God; as well as in describing the work of creation to
have been progressive; and that man was the last of the created inhabitants of the globe. They agree further in the fact, that the commencement of the existing races on the globe was at a comparatively recent period; not exceeding, it is probable, about six thousand years.
It deserves to be borne in mind here, that the object of the Bible is, to treat of subjects relating to the present race of man, and the creatures by which he is surrounded. In perfect consistency with such a design, there might have been many races previously; and if there are no other difficulties than on this score, these surely present no insurmountable obstacles.
But the supposed discrepancies deserve some consideration. They relate especially to the age of the world, and the period at which death was first introduced upon the globe. Immensely long periods, it is claimed, must have intervened; several successive systems must have preceded the present one; whereas the Mosaic account of the creation represents the matter of the globe to have been produced out of nothing in the course of only six natural days, and that all animals and plants were then brought into existence. If, however, methods can be suggested by which these difficulties can be obviated, they must be allowed to have no force, or to deserve no further regard.
In the first place, it is possible—though not, indeed, probable—that the rocks which contain fossils were not the result of slow deposition, but, with all their organic remains, were created just as we find them. It is also claimed—which, likewise, is improbable, though possible—that most of the changes discov-
ered may be referred to the deluge of Noah. The shortness of the period that has elapsed since that event; the evidences of tumultuous action of the waves; as well as the existence of organic remains differing from those of present animals and plants, are considered as strongly militating against such an explanation. Similar remarks may apply to the hypothesis which refers the changes to the period between the creation and the deluge.
Others have attempted to show that the six days mentioned in the Mosaic account were not literal days, but periods of indefinite length, and may have been thousands of years. The turning of the earth on its axis is conceived by some to have been at first “inconceivably slow,” and that the present rate was not obtained, till, at least, the fourth day. While it is admitted that the word day is sometimes used figuratively in the Scripture for an indefinite period of time, we must, however, say, there is no evidence that it is so used in the first chapter of Genesis. The description, there, is a simple, plain history, designed and adapted to uncultivated minds, and to give a view of events as they took place. The reference in the fourth commandment to the work of the creation in six days is one which deserves serious consideration, and is at variance with the hypothesis now under remark. The facts in the case are strongly opposed to such a view. If the Mosaic account include the fossil species, it does not the existing ones; and if it embrace the latter, it cannot the former.
Some very able writers have maintained, that the Mosaic account is rather intended as a pictorial repre-
sentation of successive periods of the different parts of the creation, founded in the truth, but still not to be regarded as literally or exactly true. If admissible on other principles, this theory would afford a solution for the apparent discrepancy between geology and revelation, as it allows a sufficient period of time in the different epochs supposed.
The common method of explanation has been, however, to suppose, that in the first verse of Genesis Moses states the creation as having taken place in the beginning, without fixing the date, and then passing in silence over the intervening period, during which extinct animals might have lived and died, he describes the present creation, or rather reorganization, as it took place literally in six days. This would reconcile the apparent discrepancies, without doing violence to the language of the Scripture; and any seeming difficulty respecting the creation of the heavenly bodies is easily explained, on the supposition that Moses means nothing more than to describe the particular use of those bodies to our own globe, as designed for the residence of man, under the present system. Dr. John Pye Smith, in a recent able work “On the Relations between the Holy Scriptures and some Parts of Geological Science,” has proposed a modified view of the last mentioned theory, which seems to have been well received by able geologists, as well as the Christian public.
His positions, as given by Professor Hitchcock, are as follows. 1. The first verse of Genesis describes the creation of the matter of the whole universe, probably in the state of mere elements, at some indefinite
epoch in past eternity. 2. The term earth, as used in the subsequent verses of Genesis, describing the work of six days, was “designed to express the part of our world which God was adapting for the dwelling of man and the animals connected with him.” 3. The narrative of the six days’ work is “a description, in expressions adapted to the ideas and capacities of mankind in the earliest ages, of a series of operations, by which the Being of omnipotent wisdom and goodness adjusted and finished, not the earth generally, but, as the particular subject under consideration here, a portion of its surface for most glorious purposes. This portion of the earth I conceive to have been a large part of Asia, lying between the Caucasian ridge, the Caspian Sea, and Tartary, on the north, the Persian and Indian Seas on the south, and the high mountain ridges, which run at considerable distances, on the eastern and western flank. This region was first, by atmospheric and geological causes of previous operation under the will of the Almighty, brought into a condition of superficial ruin, or some kind of general disorder.” Probably by volcanic agency it was submerged and covered with fogs and clouds; but was subsequently elevated, and the atmosphere, by the fourth day, rendered pellucid. 4. The sun, moon, and stars were not created on the fourth day; but then “made, constituted, or appointed, to be luminaries.” 5. The Noachian deluge was limited to that part of the world occupied by the human race; and therefore we ought not to expect that any traces of it on the globe can now be distinguished from those of previous and analogous deluges.
These positions Dr. Smith sustains with much powerful reasoning and accurate philology; and the view is conceived to correspond to many particular facts relating to the creation, which are mentioned in the Bible, as well as to others developed by geological research. It should likewise be remembered, that, in the further progress of discovery, the seeming difficulties may be further obviated, as others have already been, both as regards astronomy and other sciences, including geology itself.
The second difficulty alleged relates to the supposed statement in the Bible, that death did not exist in our world among inferior animals, till after the creation of man. The fact, however, is not so stated; for the reasoning of the Apostle, from which it is professedly drawn, relates to man, a moral being, by whom sin was introduced into the world. The wonders of the microscope have shown that the air, the water, every thing, teems with life; consequently, life must have been destroyed soon after the first existence of the various creatures; and without a constant miraculous interference with the laws of nature and the established course of Providence, death was unavoidable.