The Zoologist/4th series, vol 4 (1900)/Issue 704/Notices of New Books

Notices of New Books (February, 1900)
editor W.L. Distant
3416218Notices of New BooksFebruary, 1900editor W.L. Distant


A First Book in Organic Evolution. By D. Kerfoot Shute, A.B., M.D.Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co. Ltd.

The recognition of organic evolution is well pronounced among American biologists, and as a rule possesses a marked characteristic, which by some thinkers in this country is stated to exhibit the traces of what is considered the Neo-Lamarckian heresy. The present volume may, or may not, be tainted with an unpopular or heretical consideration of the inheritance of acquired characters, but there is much more profitable subject-matter to be found in its pages than the search for soundness of view as regards this dogma, while probably the author may be pronounced orthodox on the point. The book "has been written chiefly for the use of students in the medical department of the Columbian University," and by the ophthalmic surgeon to the University Hospital, while its author states that its production has been materially assisted by the advice of Prof. Gill, the eminent ichthyologist. We have thus an American survey of the subject by a surgeon, with the suggestions of a good zoologist, and on the subject of evolution the special standpoint of the author should always be understood.

Dr. Shute's special knowledge thus enables him to point out the confusion of thought which often fails to discriminate between heredity and pseudo-heredity, even physicians frequently writing of certain diseases as hereditary, whereas congenital bacterial infection, or the transmission of a microbe of the disease through the germ-cells of the parents is the correct explanation. That variation may be influenced by environment seems to be proved by several facts adduced by the author, and the following may be taken as an example:—"A certain species of Snail was introduced into Lexington, Virginia, a few years ago from Europe. In its new habitat it varied very much. One hundred and twenty-five varieties have been discovered there, sixty-seven of which are new and unknown in Europe, the native home of the species."

Perhaps, however, the most debatable proposition advanced is that human customs, morals, and religions have, "as yet, very slightly, if at all, influenced the germ-cells," and are to be considered as "acquired (somatic) characteristics," and "pre-eminently the creations of environment." As an illustration we are told—what most would explain by a totally different reason—that if "infants of a Catholic family which is descended from a long line of Catholic ancestors were to be placed and retained in a purely Mohammedan environment, heredity would carry no Christian customs, morals or religion into that environment," but that Mohammedanism would replace and prevail. We think this is a wider question than can be decided by the influence of germ-cells, and does not appertain to organic evolution at all.

The chapter on "Natural Selection" is a good résumé of the most advanced theories on the question; that on the evolution of Man required more space to bring it sufficiently in line with recent anthropology; but in all the discussions on the different phases of organic evolution many new or little-known facts are introduced.

This small volume is always suggestive, and when we cannot see our way to agree with its writer, we are at least stimulated to fresh fields of thought. In the list of "Works of Reference" which forms "Section VIII." we have been unable to find among the names of authors that of Ernst Haeckel.

Fifteen Years' Sport and Life in the Hunting Grounds of Western America and British Columbia. By W.A. Baillie-Grohman.Horace Cox.

This is a book primarily for the sportsman who has the strength, and possesses the opportunities, to visit the wildest parts of a now unfashionable continent, for Africa and not North America is at present considered the hunter's paradise. And yet this need not be a rule made too absolute, for we read:—"There are even to-day countries, the size of small kingdoms, in British North America, into which no hunting party has ever penetrated, and where the frying pan's capacity of a few isolated prospectors has, so far, measured the destruction of game; countries where Moose, Caribou, and Antelope-Goat are still unfamiliar with the sight of white-skinned human beings."

The zoologist will find much worth reading and remembering in the chapters—amongst others—devoted to the Wapiti and the Antelope-Goat (Haplocerus montanus), though he will wish there were even more facts relating to the life-histories of these animals, and less discussion of record heads and antlers, which, after all, pertain more to the fame of the trophies of a hall than to the real treasure of a zoological museum. In fact, these monster heads seem to provoke too much emulation and apparent heart-burnings among their fortunate possessors, and the zoological reader may well skip the results of the measuring-tape and enjoy and profit by the beautiful illustrations of the heads themselves.

This book cannot be pronounced a genial production: there is too much criticism; scarcely any authority quoted seems free from error of commission or omission, so that we frequently—too frequently—are transported from the beauties of nature to the more confined area of the forum for the purpose of critical discussion.

The chapter devoted to "The Salmon of the Pacific Slope" contains much information apart from the correction of Dr. Günther. The reproduction of the instantaneous photograph of a Salmon leaping an eighteen-feet-high fall in Labrador is a charming contribution to art and zoology.

British Dragonflies (Odonata). By W.J. Lucas, B.A., F.E.S,L. Upcott Gill.

Mr. Lucas has found the subject for a much-needed book in British Entomology. The Dragonflies were certainly collected by some, and known to a few, but to the general British zoologist they were little understood, identified with difficulty, and hence—apart from specialists—received scant attention. Their life-histories can only be unravelled by skill and patience; for the breeding of Odonata is attended with more difficulty than that of Lepidoptera, and a volume like the present is an incentive to that task, and is also provocative to observation.

"Of recent Dragonflies Linnæus knew only fifty-six species in the middle of last century, Baron de Selys Longchamps gave 1344 as the total in 1871. In 1890 Kirby could bring the list up to 1800, and thought that the number might be quadrupled, if only the group were more thoroughly worked. The total for Europe is just over a hundred, while in Britain there are forty." Of these last Mr. Lucas considers two as being synonymic, and this brings the number—including occasional visitors—to thirty-nine.

Many modern authorities now either treat the Odonata as a distinct order, or as a section of the Orthoptera; Mr. Lucas decides still to regard the Dragonflies as part of the Neuroptera. Without being a specialist in the study of these insects, he seems to have read up the literature with trouble and care, and to have consulted the records of captures sufficiently to give a good account of the distribution of each species in Britain. The illustrations leave little to be desired; the sexes of each species are portrayed in coloured plates, while many good figures ornament the text. In a purely entomological publication—which this Journal is not—many points might be discussed which are dealt with in the volume; it sufficeth us to regard it as a contribution to British Zoology which was wanted, which will be welcomed by most naturalists, and which has been produced in a handsome and thorough manner.

Recent Foraminifera: a Descriptive Catalogue of Specimens dredged by the U.S. Fish Com. Steamer 'Albatross.' By James N. Flint, M.D., U.S.N.Washington; Government Printing Office.

This publication is the zoological strength of the Report of the U.S. National Museum for the year ending June 30th, 1897, and which has just been printed and received.

We read that material from above one hundred and twenty-five stations has been carefully studied, and specimens from more than a hundred localities have been preserved and identified. Of these localities, fifty-eight are in the North Atlantic Ocean, twenty-one in the Gulf of Mexico, seven in the Caribbean Sea, one in the South Pacific, and five in the North Pacific. The depths at these stations vary from 7 to 2512 fathoms. The classification followed is that of Mr. Brady in the 'Challenger' reports.

Zoologists seem sometimes to forget these primitive forms of animal life, and yet how little we know of their life-histories! "How the function of nutrition is accomplished, and the nature and condition of the organic material used as food by these minute animals is not yet determined." "Of the process of reproduction little is known beyond the fact of multiplication by gemmation and fission." The Foraminifera are therefore still in search of their interpreter. Their iconographer has not been undiscoverable. This most interesting memoir is illustrated by no fewer than eighty beautiful plates.

Most English readers will remember these animals as having formed the pabulum of Huxley's classical lecture "On a Piece of Chalk."

The Mycetozoa, and some Questions which they Suggest. By the Right Hon. Sir Edward Fry, D.C.L., &c. and Agnes Fry.'Knowledge' Office.

This is a reprint from the columns of our contemporary 'Knowledge,' and is devoted to the consideration of a form of life whose position in classification is still sub judice, being claimed alike by botanists and zoologists. We recently ('Zoologist,' 1899, p. 524) drew attention to a volume on the same subject by Prof. Macbride. It is owing to these diverse claims that the subject becomes matter for our pages. The present authors, in discussing the affinities of the Mycetozoa = Myxomycetes of Macbride, and the question as to whether they belong to the vegetable or animal domains—which, after all, reduced to their primitive conditions, are practically convertible terms—pronounce a qualified decision. "It almost seems as if the Myxies were a vagrant tribe that wander sometimes on the one side, and sometimes on the other side of the border-line—like nomads wandering across the frontier of two settled and adjoining states, to neither of which they belong. They would seem to begin life as animals, and end it as vegetables."

Biologia Animale (Zoologia Generate e Speciale) per Naturalisti, Medici, e Veterinari. Del Dott. Gedeone Collamarini.Milan: Ulrico Hoepli.

This is one of the latest publications in the 'Manuali Hoepli,' and, as will be understood by the title, is an attempt in a small volume to condense the information which is distributed over a very wide field. Thus, in the introduction, we find the subject of Zoological Nomenclature, with a considerable number of rules or axioms respecting the Law of Priority. A chapter is devoted to Anthropology, another to Medical Zoology, and a third to Agricultural Zoology. These, in addition to sections on Anatomy, Embryology, Physiology, and Systematic Zoology, comprised in a small volume of 426 pages, sufficiently proclaim that the subject is necessarily treated in a most restricted sense. As the book is written in the Italian language, it is unlikely to be much in vogue among English readers, but is worthy of record as showing a widening of horizon as to special subjects, though distinctly peculiar in ignoring the claims of Palaeontology to be included in its purview. It is probably intended for the use of schools.

Faune de France: Les Oiseaux. Par A. Acloque.Paris: Baillière et Fils.

The last publication of this series—of which we have already noticed some other volumes—is devoted to Birds, and is written on precisely the same method as pusued in the treatment of other animals. The facilities of a synoptical classification and a profuse illustration are again presented to the student; and if the first does not always secure its object—as few of these attempts do—and the second are somewhat coarse, we have at least a manual which is inexpensive, and one which will no doubt prove helpful to many a young ornithologist. Over six hundred figures are given in the comparatively short space of 252 pages.