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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/876

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

Karakorums there were about half a dozen peaks over twenty-four thousand feet. He had himself climbed one of twenty three thousand feet. These mountains were very different from the Alps, and were mostly in the form of gigantic towers of incredible sharpness—a form in marked opposition to the rounded masses which were the prevalent form of the European mountains.

 

Distribution of Birds.—The question of the distribution of birds was cited by Canon Tristram, President of the Biological Section of the British Association, as a sphere in which the field naturalist can work to great advantage in studying the operation of isolation in the differentiation of species. Taking as typical examples the Sandwich Islands, thousands of miles from the nearest continent, and the Canaries, within sight of the African coast: in the one we may study the expiring relics of an avifauna completely differentiated by isolation; in the other we have opportunity of tracing the incipient stages of the same process. In the Sandwich Islands there is hardly a passerine bird in the indigenous fauna that can be referred to any genus known elsewhere; and it is now recognized that almost every island of the group possesses one or more representatives of each of these peculiar genera. That each of the islands of this group, however small, should possess a flora specifically distinct suggests thoughts of the vast periods occupied in their differentiation. In the Canary Islands the process of differentiation is only partially accomplished. Yet there is hardly a resident species which is not more or less modified, and this modification is still further advanced in the westernmost species than in those nearest to Africa. We have here the effect of changed conditions of life in four hundred years. What might they not have been in four hundred centuries? The avifauna of the Comoro Islands, to take another insular group, seems to stand midway in the differentiating process between those of the Canaries and the Sandwich Islands. The little Christmas Island, an isolated rock two hundred miles south of Java, only twelve miles in length, has been shown by Mr. Lister to produce distinct and peculiar forms of every class of life, vegetable and animal. Though the species are few in number, yet every mammal and land bird is endemic. In the year 1857-'58 the speaker spent many months in the Algerian Sahara, and noticed the remarkable variations in different groups, according to elevation from the sea and the difference of soil and vegetation. The Origin of Species had not then appeared; but on his return his attention was called to the communication of Darwin and Wallace to the Linnæan Society on the tendencies of species to form varieties, and on the perpetuation of varieties and species by means of natural selection. He then wrote, citing these variations as supplying illustrations of Darwin's and Wallace's theory, but suggesting that, instead of the blending of forms being caused by the two races commingling, rather while the generalized forms remain in the center of distribution, we find the more decidedly distinct species at the extremes of the range, caused not by interbreeding, but by differentiation.

 

Common Sense on the Labor Question.—The clear light of pure common sense is thrown upon some of the features of the labor agitation in the comments of the London Times upon a conference recently held at Westminster Abbey to consider the troubles in the collieries. The friends of the agitators, it hints, might profitably occupy themselves with trying to get some clear idea of the problems they are so eager to attack. "It would be useful if they would employ their leisure in framing a definition of a living wage a little more precise and intelligible than any they have yet vouchsafed. When they have settled what is a living wage for a miner, perhaps they will try to determine what is a fair day's work, or otherwise will kindly explain where the living wage is to come from in the event of the day's work not being worth it. They would also add greatly to their usefulness and avoid some rather ridiculous declamation if they would master the elementary truths that what are called economic laws are not perverted ethical maxims invented by unchristian economists, but simply generalizations of everyday phenomena. People had been buying in the cheapest market for thousands of years before English economists drew out in formal propositions the consequences of that universal tendency." Before men stand up