The Zoologist/4th series, vol 4 (1900)/Issue 703/Notices of New Books

Notices of New Books  (January, 1900) 
editor W.L. Distant


An Account of the Deep-Sea Brachyura, and a Descriptive Catalogue of the Indian Deep-Sea Fishes collected by the Royal Indian Marine Survey Ship 'Investigator.' By A. Alcock, M.B., C.M.Z.S., &c.Calcutta: Printed by order of the Trustees of the Indian Museum.

Both these publications relate to the good work done on board the 'Investigator,' a small paddle-steamer of 580 tons, which since 1885 has yearly contributed the results of deep-sea dredgings to the Indian Museum.

The Brachyura number fifty-three species belonging to thirty-eight genera, and, with two exceptions, have all been obtained from depths of over one hundred fathoms. Although the list furnishes no "theory of geographical distribution," yet Dr. Alcock remarks:—"If, however, we regard genera and not species, the list discloses some suggestive affinities between the Brachyuran fauna of these seas and of certain parts of the Atlantic area. These affinities may, of course, be taken as merely confirmatory of current views as to the unity of the deep-sea fauna; but seeing that the Brachyura are not generally considered to belong to the true deep-sea (abyssal) fauna, I think it equally probable that they may afford evidence of a former open connection between the seas in question." The species are very fully described, and the memoir is enriched by four good plates.

The fishes included in the 'Catalogue' were all dredged by the 'Investigator' in deep water, and, excluding a few mangled remains which cannot be identified, number one hundred and sixty-nine species. They were obtained between the meridians of 65° and 99° E., and the parallels of 5° and 24° N., while no fewer than one hundred and twenty-six species "have, so far as is known, been taken only by the 'Investigator.'"

The views of Dr. Günther as to a former direct and open connection between the Mediterranean and Japanese Seas are supported by Dr. Alcock, who considers that the "hypothesis that appears to offer the most satisfactory explanation is, that a very considerable part of the fish fauna of the Oriental region originated from, and to a certain extent is a remnant of, the fauna of the Tertiary Mediterranean of Prof. Suess—of a Mediterrnean that extended from the present Gulf of Mexico, through the present Mediterranean basin, far into the Eastern Hemisphere." Species whose distribution may be used as evidence for this hypothesis are not only pointed out among these fishes, but also have been detailed by Dr. Alcock among the deep-sea Madreporaria and Brachyura of the same region. If the number of Indian genera of marine fishes are estimated at three hundred and fifty, and of species at one thousand two hundred; "then over fifty-six per cent. of the genera and close on five per cent. of the species are also found in the Atlantic-Mediterranean region." The argument is much advanced and clearly elucidated by a large chart compiled from Plate 11 of Dr. E. Koken's 'Die Vorwelt und ihre Entwickelungsgeschichte,' showing the supposed coast-lines of the Tertiary continents and the then Great Inland Sea.

The Rainbow Trout. By Charles Edward Walker and Charles S. Patterson.Lawrence & Bullen, Limited.

The Rainbow Trout (Salmo irideus var. Shasta), whose natural home is the Pacific slope rivers, has been largely introduced into the waters of various portions of the world. It has succeeded wonderfully well in New Zealand, where specimens have been taken reaching nine pounds in weight; in this country one of the first authentic reports of its colonization was a capture in Warwickshire in 1892 from a lake stocked in 1890. But success in the introduction of this fish depends upon a proper knowledge of its life-history. "The natural zone of the Rainbow Trout may be roughly said to be from 35° to 45° N.—that is to say, the latitude of Spain and the South of France"; and the best developed form of the true S. irideus var. Shasta "has for its original environment water not liable to freeze, and situated in a country the mean temperature of which is not below 55° F., and usually about 57°." Hence the Rainbow is doomed if placed in cold waters, escaping from them if possible, but if not, gradually dying off. "Probably it will never stand a chance north of Yorkshire, even if it should do well in selected waters in that county."

A bad report is given for Herons and Kingfishers who exist near rearing ponds. We read:—"I have often seen Herons fishing on Trout streams, and have seen Kingfishers catching Trout fry. There are only two courses open to the fish-culturist, to protect his ponds or kill the birds. I believe it best to protect the ponds first, and kill the birds afterwards."

This is an excellent little monograph of a fish, with directions for its acclimatization and breeding. It is thorough and yet concise, occupying but sixty-four pages, with a bibliography and sufficient illustration.

Our Rarer British Breeding Birds. By R. Kearton, F.Z.S.Cassell & Co., Limited.

We now quite expect an annual volume from Mr. Kearton, with fresh revelations by the camera, for he knows not only how to photograph, but what to photograph. This little volume, we are told, is to be regarded as a supplement to a former work on "British Birds" Nests, &c.; and we scarcely require to be reminded that the journeying to and fro to photograph the nests, eggs, or breeding-places of our rarer birds entails an inroad on time and space which is far from being inconsiderable.

These volumes can be made to advocate a main thesis—the photographer rather than the collector, the camera versus the gun. By the aid of these illustrations, we live with the birds and see the nests in situ. We do not come home with a skin and a few blown eggs, but bring back nature in our portfolio. When colour photography comes into the possession of science, then indeed shall we estimate what is really assimilative colouration in nature, and not have to rely on forensic argument based on cabinet specimens. By the aid of the camera we shall in the future understand the superficial method of organic evolution, and when we are able to photograph aquatic life well beneath the surface, in colour as well as detail—which is only a matter of time, though probably not in our own personal period—then will many brilliant theorists see the hidden things made bare. Meanwhile, as we turn over these beautiful illustrations, many questions arise as to the success in subterfuge, or the apparent absence of concealment in the arrangement of eggs and nests. Here we may rely on the whole mise en scène, for as we remember hearing Boucicault declaim in the 'Octoroon'—alas! too many years ago—"the apparatus never lies."

The present volume is equal to its predecessors in illustration, but perhaps compares less favourably by absence of narrative, the treatment being more descriptive of the birds and nests themselves. The representation of the Dabchick's nest—covered and uncovered—at p. 39 well exhibits the conscious strategy of a bird.

Die Fledermäuse des Berliner Museums für Naturkunde: 1 Lieferung, Die Megachiroptera. By Paul Matschie.Berlin: Georg Reimer.

Naturalists will welcome a new catalogue of the Chiroptera, the late Dr. Dobson's catalogue of the Bats published in 1878, naturally now requiring great revision and many additions. The inception of the present work appears to be as follows. The late Prof. Carl Peters, who presided at the Berlin Museum from 1857 to 1883, proposed to publish a monograph of the Bats, for which no fewer than seventy-five plates were prepared by the artists, F. Wagner and G. Mützel. After the death of Prof. Peters these plates remained—without text—in the hands of the publisher, and Dr. Matschie has stepped into the breach, and will provide from his own pen a descriptive synopsis of the whole order, while such additional plates will be given as are necessary to bring the work into line with present zoological knowledge.

Part I. is devoted to the Megachiroptera, or Fruit Bats, and the whole work is intended to be completed in four instalments.

We hope to give a fuller notice on the completion of the work.