Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 58.djvu/106

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Scientific Literature.


Those areas of the earth's surface outside of the Polar regions which retain their original fauna and flora unmodified by the action of man and the organisms which accompany him in his migrations are very few and are rapidly passing away. It is obvious that it is of great importance that we should know something of the conditions, animals and plants which exist under such circumstances, in order that the effects of the influx of human beings into a virgin wilderness may be determined and recorded.

Opportunities for such researches are very rare and in a few years will be non-existent. A settlement has recently been made upon the isolated bit of land known as Christmas Island, which lies some two hundred miles southwest of the western part of Java and is separated from it by sea which reaches a depth of three thousand fathoms. At the initiative and expense of Sir John Murray, known from his connection with the Challenger expedition, Mr. C. W. Andrews, of the British Museum, was granted leave of absence for the purpose of making a thorough biological survey of this island, and the report which is the result of his observations and collections, assisted by a number of expert naturalists in working up the material, has just been issued by the Museum. It is believed to be the most elaborate account of the animal and plant life of an oceanic island ever published.

The island is of volcanic origin and comprises, beside igneous rocks, a variety of tertiary and recent limestones. Most of the life upon it is of the Malaysian type, the prevalent winds being from that quarter. However, there is a recognizable portion of it which is related to that of Ceylon and another to that of Australia, though the latter country is nine hundred miles away. About ten per cent, of the plants and forty-five per cent, of the three hundred and nineteen species of animal organisms are regarded as peculiar to the island. There are thirty-one species of birds, five of mammals and six of reptiles, of which sixteen are known only from this island. These figures, of course, exclude all pelagic forms. Altogether, many interesting facts have been brought out and several puzzling questions raised in the discussion of the data which form the basis of this valuable report.


The absence of a text-book on paleontology in English which in any adequate measure reflected the philosophic illumination of modern zoology has long been a subject of regret. The only manual worthy of the name which has enjoyed any wide reputation among scientific paleontologists has been that of von Zittel, published originally in German, but since well rendered into French with some additions. Dr. C. R. Eastman, of Harvard University, having in view a translation of von Zittel's 'Grundzüge,' with the permission of the author, submitted the different sections of the work to various American specialists for revision. The original work was lavishly illustrated with excellent, mostly original figures, which have been utilized in the present translation. The task of revision was undertaken by a number of experts as a labor of love, in the desire that the deficiency in our text-book literature, above referred to, might be done away with and that English-speaking students might possess a work of reference in which modern ideas