Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/571

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
555
A CENTURY OF GEOLOGY.

but at the same time more or less complete obliteration of geographical diversity.

4. After these periods of migrations and minglings there would be re-isolations in new localities, and the process of diversification would recommence and increase as long as the isolation continues.

The last of these critical periods of migrations and minglings and struggles for life among competing species was the Glacial epoch or ice age. Therefore the present geographical distribution of species was largely determined by the extensive migrations of that time.

II. Cosmopolitan and Provincial Faunas.—There are apparently in the history of the earth periods of widespread or cosmopolitan faunas, alternating with localized or provincial faunas. The cosmopolitan periods are usually times of prevalence of limestones or organic sediments, and the fossils are very abundant. The provincial periods are usually characterized by sandstones and shales or mechanical sediments, and are comparatively poor in fossils. Moreover, it is believed that the cosmopolitan limestone periods are oceanic periods—i.e., periods of wide oceans and lower and smaller continents and little erosive activity, while the sandstone periods, characterized by provincial faunas, are periods of higher and larger continents, and therefore of great erosion and abundant mechanical sedimentation.

Now, according to Chamberlin, these remarkable alternations are due to oscillations of the crust, in which the continents are alternately lifted and depressed. It must be remembered that abyssal faunas are almost unknown among fossils. This is the necessary result of substantial permanency of oceanic basins. The whole geological record is in shallow-water faunas. These shallow waters are along continental shore lines and in interior continental seas. According to Chamberlin again, during a period of continental depression all the flat continental margins are submerged, forming broad submarine platforms, and the lower interior portions of the continents are also submerged, forming wide and shallow interior seas. Under these conditions continental waste, and therefore sand and clay sediments, are reduced to a minimum. Life, animal and vegetal, abounds, and therefore much limestone is formed. The oceans are widely connected with one another, and therefore the faunas are widespread or cosmopolitan. During the period of elevation, on the contrary, the continents are extended to the margin of the deep oceanic basins, the broad, shallow submarine platforms are abolished, the interior seas are also abolished, the shallow-water areas are reduced to isolated bays, and their faunas are peculiar or provincial. Also, elevated and enlarged continents