The Zoologist/4th series, vol 1 (1897)/Issue 668/Notices of New Books
NOTICES OF NEW BOOKS.
With this volume Mr. Ogilvie-Grant completes his task, and describes the remaining species of the order Gallinæ or True Game-birds, as well as that curious and aberrant form the Hoatzin, and the Bustard Quails; in fact, as Dr. Bowdler Sharpe, the editor, remarks:—"His volumes contain the names of every species of Game-birds known up to the present date, so that they may be considered in the light of a small monograph of the Gallinæ."
In these days, when so much popular Natural History is written,—so to say,—secondhand, we do not always find the author an admitted specialist on his subject as is the case with the writer of these volumes; nor do we usually obtain such exhaustive treatment as has been devoted to them. Consequently we have in this 'Hand-book to the Game-birds,' not only a complete enumeration and description of the species, but also a nomenclature revised to date, and this, to working naturalists who are not specially ornithologists, is a considerable boon. Another welcome feature is to be found in the copious extracts given from the published writings of field naturalists and observers as to the life-habits of the species, and here we would fain have wished that bibliographical references might have been added to the same. These descriptive narratives give a life and colour to the monograph. We leave the mere skin with the description, and are then transported to bird-life in many climes and under the guidance of competent and accurate observers. In the years to come, when some zoological Gibbon shall devote his life to the composition of an exhaustive history of animal existence, the scattered field-notes now in many languages, often buried in little known or less read books, and frequently published in non-scientific journals, will perhaps be brought together, and such a work may be expected to inspire the conclusions of another Darwin. We want more recorders before we can anticipate new prophets.
It is impossible, with regard to space, to give many extracts. The author narrates one experience of the destruction of Pheasants' eggs by Crows. In a Scotch plantation, where thousands of Pheasants are annually reared and turned down, and in a slippery path along the sea-coast, "we found several sucked Pheasant's eggs, evidently the work of Crows, nor had we gone far before we came suddenly upon a whole family of Hooded Crows, five young and two old birds. In the course of about a quarter of a mile we counted over a hundred empty shells which had evidently been carried to the path and there devoured. How many more might have been discovered had we searched it is impossible to say, but we saw ample evidence of the wholesale destruction which a family of Crows is capable of committing among Pheasants' eggs."
To those interested in the discussion as to hereditary transmission of ideas and experience, a fact related of the Grey Peacock Pheasant, Polyplectron chinquis, a bird inhabiting the Indo-Chinese countries, will not be unacceptable. "We are told that when the young of this species were first hatched in the Zoological Gardens, a Bantam Hen was employed as a foster mother, and that the chicks would follow close behind her, never coming in front to take food, so that, in scratching the ground, she frequently struck them with her feet. The reason for the young keeping in her rear was not understood until, on a subsequent occasion, two chicks were reared by a hen P. chinquis, when it was observed that they always kept in the same manner close behind the mother, who held her tail widely spread, thus completely covering them, and there they continually remained out of sight, only running forward when called by the hen to pick up some food she had found, and then immediately retreating to their shelter."
A question in nomenclature seems to be raised by the name Megapodius Layardi, Tristran, 1879. In 1869 Mr. Sclater had for the same bird proposed the name M. brazieri, "founded on an egg from Banks I." Mr. Ogilvie-Grant is probably quite canonical in adopting the later description made from the bird itself. Would the same law apply to the description of a lepidopteron founded on a caterpillar? The answer would almost certainly be in the affirmative now, but posterity might reverse the verdict!
This bulky volume is another instance of how science is fostered in the United States, and is the first report made by Mr. Walcott, who succeeded Mr. Powell in 1894, after that gentleman had directed the survey for thirteen years. We wish the present editor equal success and increased longevity.
With the geological contents of the volume we have nothing to do in the pages of this magazine, but zoologists may well consult and study an exhaustive memoir, by Prof. O.C. Marsh, on "The Dinosaurs of North America." As the author writes, among the many extinct animals that lived in North America in past ages, "none were more remarkable than the dinosaurian reptiles which were so abundant during Mesozoic times. This group was then represented by many and various forms, including among them the largest land animals known, and some, also, very diminutive. In shape and structure, moreover, they showed great variety, and in many other respects they were among the most wonderful creatures yet discovered."
It is stated that the best authorities now regard the dinosaurs as constituting a distinct subclass of the Reptilia, and Prof. Marsh recognizes three groups, viz. Theropoda, carnivorous forms; and Sauropoda and Predentata, both herbivorous groups. "The first of these suborders contains large dinosaurs more or less protected by a dermal covering of bony plates; the second group includes the huge horned dinosaurs; and the third is made up of the forms that in shape and structure most nearly resemble birds."
While the geological range of the Dinosauria, according to present knowledge, is confined entirely to the Mesozoic period, known so well as the Age of Reptiles, their geographical distribution was extensive. America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia, have all contributed remains of these animals, but "while North America seems to have contained the greatest number of different types, some of the larger species are now known to have lived in the southern half of the continent. Europe stands next to America in variety and number of these reptiles, large and small."
One interesting point with these animals is their relation to the so-called "bird-tracks" of the Connecticut River sandstone, which have been a "fruitful subject of discussion for half a century or more," and Prof. Marsh considers it now evident "that a dinosaurian reptile like Anchisaurus and its near allies must have made footprints very similar to, if not identical with, the 'bird-tracks' of this horizon." No zoologist can fail to find the most absorbing interest in these gigantic and peculiar reptiles, as, for instance, Atlantosaurus immanis, of which "the femur is over 6 feet long, and this, with other portions of the skeleton, indicates an animal about 70 or 80 feet in length," or Laosaurus consors, estimated as having a height of about 4 feet, with 8 feet in length. It is considered "that the animal was bipedal in its usual locomotion on land," and when walking upright it "seems probable that the animal would touch the ground with its tail; but this is by no means certain."
We have only alluded to matters of general interest in this memoir, which is worthy of study by the zoologist, and is of the greatest importance to the evolutionist. The structural details are fully described, and eighty-five plates are given in illustration of the remains of these vanished creatures.
"With the present volume the first group of Indian Invertebrata included in the present series is completed." The magnitude of the work is shown by the fact that the four volumes of Moths, with the appendix to the last volume, contain descriptions of 5618 species regarded as valid, exclusive of races or subspecies.
These introductory remarks of Mr. W.T. Blanford, the editor of the series, are necessary to appreciate this colossal monograph, of which the volume under notice comprises only a fourth and concluding part. It is but a few years back when the Moths of India were in the present position of the Moths of Africa, the game of happy hunting grounds for specialists, but a hopeless study for the average lepidopterist. The material was comparatively scanty, with a systematic literature obscure, scattered, and surcharged with synonomy. Without access to a large and well arranged collection, it was hopeless to attempt even much generic subdivision, save in the largest or best known groups of Moths. Hence much work was necessarily of an empirical description, and many of the "difficult" groups remained outside the nomenclature. This is now no longer the case; with these volumes a student of Oriental Heterocera should not find much difficulty in understanding his subject or naming his species. Each genus is illustrated by a typical species, of which one half exhibits the venation, while the other recorded species are also described.
The author has pursued a synthetic method in his work, but on the merits of "splitting," or "lumping," the pages of 'The Zoologist' contain no mention. We merely record the completion of a great and successful undertaking; and when it is remembered that the first volume only appeared in 1892, the industry alone displayed is something phenomenal.
This 'International Zoologists' Directory,' edited and published by the well-known Berlin firm whose catalogues are always appreciated by scientific workers, will prove a weleome addition to the bookshelf. In these days when zoological work is carried on by so many widely separated students, it is a boon to readily acquire the address of those with whom we wish to correspond. It is equally important to discover the names of those who in far-away localities are interested in the same studies as ourselves, and may be expected to join in mutual assistance. Taken in conjunction with 'The Scientists' International Directory,' compiled by Cassino and published in Boston in 1892, a mass of information is available which will save much time in these busy days, and serve to increase—where necessary—the number of our correspondents.