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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 73.djvu/451

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447
ZOOLOGY

fill in the gaps of the lines of descent that at best can only be interrupted lines, and to show how these lines lead to modern forms or to divergent kinds that have ceased to be. And he will compare his results with those of students in other fields, who will assist him to formulate the working-plans for his own labors.

Zoo-geography is the last branch of structural zoology to attain an independent status. Many observers from Buffon onward had been struck by the fact that species of animals are not uniformly distributed over the earth, that they differ more widely as the observer passes to more and more remote localities, with more different climatic and other environmental conditions. But the meaning of these peculiarities was obscure until the doctrine of descent cleared their vision. Wagner, Louis Agassiz and Dana, Sclater, Murray and Wallace were the leaders of those who have brought together the immense mass of modern knowledge of animal distribution. From this many well-established principles relating to descent have been derived, though these have a deeper interest in connection with the dynamic problem as to whether differences in environment can actually cause species to transform, as Lamarck supposed. As a statement of the results in this apparently simple, but really quite complicated field would be misleading, I fear, from its brevity and general form, I will venture to present just one conclusion. Geographical isolation corresponds in a general way with the divergence of species in their evolution from common ancestors; thus widely separated areas have faunas that differ more widely in zoological respects than do those of neighboring or connected countries. For example, the Australian region has been cut off for a relatively long period from neighboring continents, and in correspondence with this isolation it contains the only egg-laying mammals known, as well as all of the pouched mammals like the kangaroo, with a few exceptions like our American opossum. Furthermore, groups of isolated oceanic islands, like the Galapagos and Azores and the clusters of Polynesia, are inhabited by lizards and birds and insects which resemble most closely the species of the nearest bodies of land. Such resemblances are most reasonably interpreted as indicating that the original progenitors of the island colonies were stragglers from the nearest mainland, whose descendants have undergone divergent evolution during succeeding generations.

Having, then, this vast store of fact and principle amassed through centuries by countless students, the zoologist is entitled to speak positively when he finds a law like the doctrine of evolution that reviews and summarizes the whole range of animal structure. The well-established facts of zoology are the reasons why he asserts with a decision often mistaken for dogmatism that evolution is a real process. The further question, why is nature so constituted that evolution is