Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/196

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into one of deciduous trees, and this again into one of conifers, the vegetation declining through mosses and lichens as we reach the region of perpetual snow.

In these cases of horizontal and vertical distribution which thus present such a striking botanical resemblance, there is likewise so clear a meteorological analogy that it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the distribution of plants depends very largely on the distribution of heat. And, indeed, what better illustration of the influence of heat could we have than this, that by artificially adjusting the temperature of hot-houses we can cause any plant to grow in any latitude?

But temperature alone does not determine the distribution of plants. If it did, we should find the same species in the same isothermal zones. Throughout the old continent, with the exception of the torrid zone, heaths abound; but in America not a single heath occurs. In the New World, through forty degrees on each side of the equator, the cactus tribe flourishes; in the Old not a single cactus is to be seen—the spurges there replace them. So, again, in Australia, the forests present a melancholy, a shadeless character, from their casuarinas, acacias, eucalypti, whereas, if temperature alone were concerned, they should offer the same aspect as the forests of North America and Europe.

As regards animals the same remark may be made. In the temperate zone, eastward beyond the Caspian, there are men whose complexion is yellow; in Europe the complexion is white; the American Indian is red. Asia has its Tibet bear, Europe its brown bear, North America its black bear. The European stag finds in America its analogue in the wapiti, its Asiatic in the musk-deer. The wild-ox of Lithuania differs from the North American buffalo, and this, again, from the Mongolian yak. The llama in America replaces the camel of Asia, the puma replaces the lion. Brazil has had in times long past representatives of its existing sloths and armadillos. Australia, which has isothermal zones like those of other continents, has no apes or monkeys, no cats or tigers, no wolves or bears, hyenas, horses, squirrels, rabbits; no woodpeckers or pheasants. Instead of them it has the kangaroo, wombat, ornithorhynchus, cockatoos, and lories, nowhere else found.

Then, though heat is a dominating influence in the distribution of plants and animals, it is by no means the only one. There are also other conditions, such as the supply of water, the composition of the soil, the access of light, etc. It has been found convenient to group all these together, and to speak of them, as I have already stated, under a single designation, "The Environment."

Change in the environment, and change in its organisms, go hand in-hand. Should the warmth of the tropics be diffused into the polar circle, a tropical vegetation would replace the vanishing snows.