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Paleontological advances, particularly in the 20th century, have added new information on the distribution of vertebrate families that negate some of the assumptions of Slater, Wallace and others. Nonetheless, the basic notion and the names of the zoogeographic provinces are still in use today. The exact locations of boundaries of any region are often problematic, and this is certainly true for zoogeographic provinces.
The boundary between the Oriental and Australian provinces, for example, has been redrawn several times; the most famous version is known as Wallace's Line, which falls between Borneo and Sulawesi and between the tiny islands of Bali and Lombok.
The latter pair of islands are separated by a mere 20 miles, but for the most part they are inhabited by different families of mammals and even birds with all the powers of flight. Wallace's Line Alfred Russel Wallace, the so-called father of animal geography, formulated his ideas on evolution by natural selection while observing and collecting wildlife in the islands of Southeast Asia.
He was particularly impressed by the sudden difference in bird families he encountered when he sailed some twenty miles east of the island of Bali and landed on Lombok. On Bali the birds were clearly related to those of the larger islands of Java and Sumatra and mainland Malaysia. On Lombok the birds were clearly related to those of New Guinea and Australia. He marked the channel between Bali and Lombok as the divide between two great zoogeographic regions, the Oriental and Australian.
In his honor this dividing line, which extends northward between Borneo and Sulawesi, is still referred to today as Wallace's Line. But the numerous and deep-seated peculiarities of many other of its mammalia, would indicate a very remote origin; and a long-continued isolation of South America from the rest of the world is required, in order to account for the preservation and development of so many distinct groups of comparatively low-type quadrupeds.
Distinctive Characters of Neotropical Birds. In the enormous group of Passerine VOL. The ten families forming the group of "Formicaroid Passeres," in our arrangement vol. Another group of ten families-our "Tanagroid Passeres," are characterised by the abortion or very rudimentary condition of the first quill; and of these, five are exclusively American, and have numerous genera and species, while only two are non-American, and these are of small extent. On the other hand the "Turdoid Passeres," consisting of 23 families and comprising all the true "singing-birds," is poorly represented in America; no family being exclusively Neotropical, and only three being at all fully represented in South America, though they comprise the great mass of the Old World passeres.
These peculiarities, which group together whole series of families of American birds, point to early separation and long isolation, no less surely than the more remarkable structural divergences presented by the Neotropical mammalia. In the Picarise, we have first, the toucans Rhamphastidae ; an extraordinary and beautiful family, whose enormous gailycoloured bills and long feathered tongues, separate them widely from all other birds.
The Galbulidae or jacamars, the motmots Momotidaeand the curious little todies Todidae of the Antilles, are also isolated groups. But most remarkable of all is the wonderful family of the humming-birds, which ranges over all America from Tierra del Fuego to Sitka, and from the level plains of the Amazon to above the snow-line on the Andes; which abounds both in genera, species, and individuals, and is yet strictly confined to this continent alone!
No naturalist can study in detail this single family of birds, without being profoundly impressed with the vast antiquity ot the South American continent, its long isolation from the rest of the land surface of the globe, and the persistence through countless ages of all the conditions requisite for the development and increase of varied forms of animal life. Passing on to the parrot tribe, we find the peculiar family of the Conuridae, of which the macaws are the highest development, very largely represented.
It is in the gallinaceous birds however that we again meet with wholly isolated groups. The Cracidse, including the curassows and guans, have no immediate relations with any of the Old World families. Professor Huxley considers them to approach nearest to though still very remote from the Australian megapodes; and here, as in the case of the marsupials, we probably have divergent modifications of an ancient type once widely distributed, not a direct communication between the southern continents.
The Tinamidae or tinamous, point to a still more remote antiquity, since their nearest allies are believed to be the Struthiones or ostrich tribe, of which a few representatives are scattered widely over the globe. The hoazin of Guiana Opisthocorus is another isolated form, not only the type of a family, but perhaps of an extinct order of birds. Passing on to the waders, we have a number of peculiar family types, all indicative of antiquity and isolation.
The Cariama of the plains of Brazil, a bird somewhat intermediate between a bustard and a hawk, is one of these; the elegant Psophia or trumpeter of the Amazonian forests; the beautiful little sun-bittern of the river banks Eurypyga ; and the horned screamers Palamedeaall form distinct and isolated families of birds, to which the Old World offers nothing directly comparable. As the orders of reptiles differ considerably in their distributional features, they must be considered separately.
The snakes Ophidia differ from all other reptiles, and from most other orders of vertebrates, in the wide average distribution of the families; so that such an isolated region as the Neotropical possesses no peculiar family, nor even one confined to the American continent. The families of most restricted range arethe Scytalidce, only found elsewhere in the Philippine islands; the Amblycephalidae, common to the Oriental and Neotropical regions; and the Tortricidae, most abundant in the Oriental region, but.
Sixteen of the families of snakes occur in the region, the Colubridae, Amblycephalidce, and Pythonidee, being those which are best represented by peculiar forms. The lizards Lacertilia are generally more restricted in their range; hence we find that out of 15 familieswhich inhabit the region, 5 are altogether peculiar, and 4 more extend only to N.
The families which range over both South and North America are Chirotidae, Chalcide, Teidce, and Iguanidae; the first and second are of small extent, but the other two are very large groups, the Teidae possessing 12 genera and near 80 species; the Iguanidae 40 genera and near species; the greater part of which, are Neotropical.
There are more than 50 peculiar'or highly characteristic genera of lizards, about 40 of which belong to the Teidae and Iguanidae, which thus especially characterize the region.
The most'important and characteristic genera are the following: The three extensive Old World families Varanidce, Lacertidce, and Agamidae, are absent from the entire American continent. In the order Crocodilia, America has the peculiar family of the alligators Alligatoridaeas well as several species of true crocodiles Crocodilidae. The Chelonia tortoises are represented by the families Testudinidce and Chelydidae, both of wide range; but there are six peculiar genera,-Dermatemys and Stanrotypus belonging to the former family,-Peltocephalus, Podocnemis, Hydromedusa, and Chelys, to the latter.
Some of the Amazon river-turtles of the genus Podocnemys rival in size the largest species of true marine turtles Cheloniidaeand are equally good for food.
The Ceeciliadae or snake-like amphibia, are represented by two peculiar genera, Siphonopsis and Rhinatrema. Tailed Batrachians are almost unknown, only a few species of Spelerpes Salamandridce entering Central America, and one extending as far south as the Andes of Bogota in South America.
Tail-less Batrachians on the other hand, are abundant; there being 14 families represented, of which 4,-Rhinophryndae, Hylaplesidce, Plectromantidse, and Pipidee are peculiar. None of these families contain more than a single genus, and only the second more than a single species; so that it is not these which give a character to the South American Amphibia-fauna.
The most important and best represented families are, Ranidae true frogswith eleven genera and more thahi 50 species; Polypedatidae tree-frogs with seven genera and about 40 species; Hylidae tree-frogs with eight genera and nearly 30 species; Engystomidae toads 5 generaBombinatoridae frogs4 generaPhryniscidae and Bufonidae toadseach with 2 generaare also fairly represented.
All these families are widely distributed, but the Neotropical genera are, in almost every case, peculiar. Three families, and three sub-family groups are peculiar, while the number of peculiar genera is about The peculiar families are Polycentridae, with two genera; Gymnotidme, a family which includes the electric eels, 5 genera ; and Trygonidse, the rays, which are everywhere marine except in the great rivers of South America, where many species are found, belonging to two genera.
Of the extensive family Siluridae, three sub-families Siluridae anomalopterae, S. The larger and more important of the peculiar genera are the following: Percilia, inhabiting Chilian and Percichthys South Temperate rivers, belong to the Perch family Percidse ; Acharnes, found only in Guiana, belongs to the Nandidae, a family of wide range in the tropics; the Chromidae, a family of exclusively fresh-water fishes found in the tropics of the Ethiopian, Oriental and Neotropical regions, are here represented by 15 genera, the more important being Acara 17 sp.
Many of these fishes are beautifully marked and coloured. The Siluridae proteropterme are represented by 14 genera, of which Pimelodus 42 sp. The Siluridse proteropodes are represented by 16 genera, many of thembeing among the most singular of fresh-water fishes, clothed in coats of mail, and armed with hooks and serrated spines.
The following are the most important,-Chaetostomus 25 sp. The Characinidae are divided between Tropical America and Tropical Africa, the former possessing about 40 genera and species. The Cyprinodontidae are represented by 18 genera, the most important being Poecilia 16 sp. The ancient Sirenoidei, also found in Australia and Africa, have the Lepidosiren as their American representative.
Lastly, Ellipisurus is a genus of rays peculiar to the fresh waters of South America. We may expect these numbers to be largely increased and many new genera to be added, when the extensive collections made by Agassiz in Brazil are described.
Summary of Neotropical Vertebrates. It has also representatives of genera of Mammalia of which are peculiar to it, a proportion of 5; while of genera of land-birds no less than are peculiar, being almost exactly. These numbers and proportions are far higher than in the case of any other region. The Neotropical region is so excessively rich in insect life, it so abounds in peculiar groups, in forms of exquisite beauty, and in an endless profusion of species, that no adequate idea of this branch of its fauna can be conveyed by the mere enumeration of peculiar and characteristic groups, to which we are here compelled to limit ourselves.
Our facts and figures will, however, furnish data for comparison; and will thus enable those who have some knowledge of the entomology of any other country, to form a better notion of the vast wealth of insect life in this region, than a more general and picturesque description could afford them.
These four families comprise 68 genera and more than species; alone constituting a very important feature in the entomology of the region.
But in almost all the other families there are numbers of peculiar genera, amounting in all to aboutor not far short of half the total number of genera in the world We must briefly notice some of the peculiarities of the several families, as represented in this region.
The Danaidae consist of 15 genera, all peculiar, and differing widely from the generally sombre-tinted forms of the rest of the world. The delicate transparent-winged Ithomias of which species are described, are the most remarkable. Melincea, Napeogenes, Ceratina and Dircenna are more gaily coloured, and are among the chief ornaments of the forests.
The Satyridae are represented by 25 peculiar genera, many of great beauty; the most remarkable and elegant being the genus Hcetera and its allies, whose transparent wings are delicately marked with patches of orange, pink, or violet. The genus Morpho is perhaps the grandest development of the butterfly type, being of immense size and adorned with the most brilliant azure tints, which in some species attain a splendour of metallic lustre unsurpassed in nature. The Brassolidae are even larger, but are crepuscular insects, with rich though sober colouring.
The true Heliconii are magnificent insects, most elegantly marked with brilliant and strongly contrasted tints. The Nymphalidae are represented by such a variety of gorgeous insects that it is difficult to select examples. Prominent are the genera Catagramma and Callithea, whose exquisite colours and symmetrical markings are unique and indescribable; and these are in some cases rivalled by Agrias and Prepona, which reproduce their style of coloration although not closely allied to them.Australian Region
The Erycinidae, consisting of 59 genera and species, comprise the most varied and beautiful of small butterflies; and it would be useless to attempt to indicate the unimaginable coibinations of form and colour they present.
It must be sufficient to say that nothing elsewhere on the globe at all resembles them. The last family, Hesperidse, is also wonderfully developed here, the species being excessively numerous, while some of them redeem the character of this generally sober family, by their rich and elegant coloration. In the only other group of Lepidoptera we can here notice, the Sphingina, the Neotropical region possesses some peculiar forms. The magnificent diurnal butterfly-like moths, Urania, are the most remarkable; and they are rendered more interesting by the occurrence of a species closely resembling them in Madagascar.
Another family of day-flying moths, the Castniidee, is almost equally divided between the Neotropical and Australian regions, although the genera are more numerous in the latter.
The American Castnias are large, thick-bodied insects, with a coarse scaly surface and rich dull colours; differing widely from the glossy and gaily coloured Agaristas, which are typical of the family in the East. The most important are Oxychila 11 sp.
Tetracha, another large genus, has species in Australia and a few in North America and Europe. The small genus Peridexia is divided between Brazil and Madagascar,-a somewhat similar distribution to that of Urania noticed above. One genus, Agrius, is confined to the southern extremity of the continent. These are all tropical; but there are also a number of genera 26 peculiar to Chili and South Temperate America. The most important of these are Antarctia 29 sp.
Casnonia and Lebia are cosmopolite, but most abundant in South America. Those common to other regions are Syndesus, confined to Tropical South America and Australia, and Platycerus which is Palearctic and Nearctic, with one species in Brazil.
The most remarkable genus is undoubtedly CMiasognathus, confined to Chili. These are large insects of metallic green colours, and armed with enormous serrated mandibles. The allied genera, Pholidotus and Sphenognathus. Streptocerus confined to Chili, is interesting, as being allied to the. The other genera present no remarkable features; but Sclerognathus and Leptinoptera are the most extensive.
There are 14 genera, 12 of which are peculiar. The most extensive genus is Gymnetis, which, with its allies Cotinis and Allorhina, form a group which comprehends two-thirds of the Neotropical species of the family. The only other genera of importance are, Inca 7 sp. The non-peculiar genera are, Stethodesma, of which half the species are African and half tropical American; and Euphoria, confined, to America both North and South.
Of these, the most extensive are Conognatha and Halecia, which have a wide range over most parts of the region; and Dactylozodes, confined to the south temperate zone. Of important genera which range beyond the region, Dicerca is mainly Nearctic' and Palearctic; Cinyra has a species in North America and one in Australia; Curis is divided between Chili and Australia; the Australian genus Stigmodera has a species in Chili; Polycesta has a species in Madagascar, two in the Mediterranean region, and a few in North America; Acherusia is divided between Australia and Brazil; Ptosima has one species in south temperate America, the rest widely scattered from North America to the Philippines; Actenodes has a single species in North America and another in West Africa; Colobogaster has two in West Africa, one in Java and one in the Moluccas.
The relations of South America and Australia as indicated by these insects has already been sufficiently noticed under the latter region. In the recent Catalogue of Gemminger and Harold, it is credited with genera, of which are peculiar to it; while it has only 5 genera in common exclusively with the Nearctic, and 4 in the same way with the Australian region. Only the more important genera can be here referred to, under the three great families into which these insects are divided. The Prionidae are excessively numerous, being grouped in 64 genera, more than double the number possessed by any other region; and 61 of these are peculiar.
The three, common to other regions, are, Parandra and Mallodon, which are widely distributed; and Ergates, found also in California and Europe. Macrodontia; and Titanus, the largest insect of the entire family. Of the Cerambycidse there are genera, exceeding by onehalf, the number in any other region; and of these are peculiar.
Only 2 are common to the Neotropical and Nearctic regions exclusively, and 3 to the Neotropical and Australian. The most extensive genera are the elegant Ibidion 80 sp.
The noteworthy genera of wide range are, Oeme and Cyrtomerus, which have each a species in West Africa, and Hamnmatocerus, which has one in Australia. The Lamiidce have genera, and this is the only tropical region in which they do not exceed the Cerambycidee. This number is almost exactly the same as that of the Oriental genera, but here there are more peculiar groups, against in the other region.
The most extensive genera are Hemilophus 80 sp. Macropus longimanus, commonly called the harlequin beetle, is one of the largest and most singularly-marked insects in the whole family.
Maps & Distribution of the Birds of the Western Palearctic Region - Zoogeographic Regions
Africa, and Australia, respectively; Spalacopsis has a species in W. Africa; Pachypeza is common to S. America and the Philippines; Mesosa is Oriental and Palaearctic, but has one species on the Amazon; Apomecyna ranges through the tropics of the Eastern Hemisphere, but has two species in S.
General Conclusions as to the Neotropical Insect-fauna. This points to a long period of isolation, during which the various forms of life have acted and reacted on each other, leading to such a complex yet harmoniously-balanced result as to defy the competition of the chance immigrants that from time to time must have arrived.
This is quite in accordance with the very high antiquity we have shown most insect-forms to possess; and it is no doubt owing to this antiquity, that such a complete diversity of generic forms has been here brought about, without any important deviation from the great family types which prevail over the rest of the globe.
The most recent estimates show that the Antilles contain more species of land shells than all the rest of the region, and almost exactly as many as all continental America, north and south. Thomas Bland, who has long studied American land shells, points out a remarkable difference in the distribution of the Operculated and Inoperculated groups, the former being predominant on the islands, the latter on the continent.
The Antilles possess over species of Operculata, to about on the whole American continent, the genera being as 22 to Of Inoperculata the Antilles havethe Continent 1, the genera being 18 and The proportions of the two groups in each country are, therefore: Important and characteristic genera are, Glandina, in all the tropical parts of the region; Cylindrella, in Central America and the Antilles; Bulimus, containing many large and handsome species in South America.
Among the Operculata, the Aciculidae are mostly Antillean, two genera being peculiar there, and one, Truncatella, of wide distribution, but most abundant in the West Indian Islands. The Cyclostomidae are represented by 15 genera, 9 being peculiar to the region, and 5 of these belonging. Of these peculiar genera Cistula and Chondropoma are the most important, ranging over all the tropical parts of the region.
Other important genera are Cyclotus and Megalomastoma; while Cyclophlorus also occurs all over the region. The Helicinide are mostly Neotropical, six out of the seven genera being found here, and four are peculiar. Stoastoma, is one of the largest genera; and, with Trochatella and Alcadia, is confined to the Antilles, while the wide-spread Helicina is most abundant there. The Limacidse, or Old World slugs, are absent from the region, their place being taken by the allied family, Oncidiadae.
It was once thought that no species of shells were common to the two sides of the Central American Isthmus, and Dr. Morch still holds that opinion; but Dr. Philip Carpenter, who has paid special attention to the subject, considers that there are at least 35 species absolutely identical, while as many others are so close that they may be only varieties.
Nearly 70 others are distinct but representative species. The genera of marine mollusca are very largely common to the east and west coasts, more than 40 being so named in the lists published by Mr. On the west coast there is hardly any coral, while on the east it is abundant, showing a difference of physical conditions that must have greatly influenced the development of mollusca.
Guntherrender it probable that Central America has been partially submerged up to comparatively recent geological times. Yet another proof of this former union of two oceans is to be found in the fossil corals of the Antilles of the Miocene age, which Dr. Duncan finds to be more allied to existing Pacific forms, than to those of the Atlantic or even of the Caribbean Sea. In the concluding part of this work devoted to geographical zoology, the sub-regions are arranged in the order best adapted to exhibit them in a tabular form, and to show the affinities of the several regions; but for our present purpose it will be best to take first in order that which is the most important and most extensive, and which exhibits all the peculiar characteristicsof the region in their fullest development.
We begin therefore with our second division. Tropical South-Amertca, or the Braztlzan,ub-regzon. This extensive district may be defined as consisting of all the tropical forest-region of South America, including all the open plains and pasture lands, surrounded by, or intimately associated with, the forests. Its central mass consists of the great forestplain of the Amazons, extending from Paranaiba on the north coast of Brazil long. Its greatest extent from north to south, is from the mouths of the Orinooko to the eastern slopes of the Andes near La Paz in Bolivia and a little north of Sta.
Cruz de la Sierra lat. Within this area of continuous forests, are included some open " campos," or patches of pasture lands, the most important being,-the Campos of the Upper Rio Branco on the northern boundary of Brazil; a tract in the interior of British Guiana; and another on the northern bank of the Amazon near its mouth, and extending some little distance on its south bank at Santarem.
On the northern bank of the Orinooko are the Llanos, or flat open plains, partly flooded in the rainy season; but much of the interior of Venezuela appears to be forest country.
The forest again prevails from Panama to Maracaybo, and southwards in the Magdalena valley; and on all the western side of the Andes to about miles south of Guayaquil.
Roque the coast-forests of Brazil commence, extending to lat. To the south-west the forest country reappears in Paraguay, and extends in patches and partially wooded country, till it almost reaches the southern extension of the Amazonian forests. The interior of Brazil is thus in the position of a great island-plateau, rising out of, and surrounded by, a lowland region of ever-verdant forest.
The Brazilian subregion comprises all this forest-country and its included open tracts, and so far beyond it as there exists sufficient woody vegetation to support its peculiar forms of life. All the marmosets Hapalidae are also confined to this sub-region, one only being found at Panama, and perhaps extending a little beyond it. Among other peculiar forms, are 8 genera of bats; 3 peculiar forms of wild dog; Pteronura, a genus of otters; Inia, a peculiar form of dolphin inhabiting the upper waters of the Amazon; tapirs of the genus Tapirus a distinct genus being found north of Panama ; 4 genera of Muridae; Ctenomys, a genus of Octodontidse; the whole family of Echimyidae, or spiny rats, as far as the American continent is concerned consisting of 8 genera and 28 species; hcetomys, a genus of Cercolabidae; the capybara Hydrochorus the largest known rodent, belonging to the Caviidse; the larger ant-eaters Myrmecophaga ; sloths of the genus Bradypus; 2 genera of armadillos Dasypodidae ; and two peculiar forms of the opossum family Didelphyidae.
No group that is typically Neotropical is absent from this sub-region, except such as are peculiar to other single sub-regions and which will be noticed accordingly. The occurrence of a solitary species of hare Lepus braziliensis in central Brazil and the Andes, is remarkable, as it is cut off from all its allies, the genus not being known to occur elsewhere on the continent further south than Costa Rica.
The only important external relation indicated by the Mammalia of this sub-region is towards the Ethiopian region, 2 genera of Echimyidoe, Aulacodes and Petromys, occurring in South and South-east, Africa. The central and most conspicuous figure is the collared ant-eater, Tamandua tetradactylaone of the handsomest of the family, in its conspicuous livery of black and white. To the left are a pair of sloths Arctopithecus flaccidus showing the curious black spot on the back with which many of the species are marked, and which looks like a hole in the trunk of a tree; but this mark seems to be only found on the male animal.
The fur of many of the sloths has a greenish tinge, and Dr. Seemann remarked its resemblance to the Tillandsia usneoides, or " vegetable horsehair," which clothes many of the trees in Central America; and this probably conceals them. On the right are a pair of opossums Didelphys azarcone of them swinging by its prehensile tail. Overhead in the foreground are a group of howling monkeys Mycetes uersinus the largest of the American Quadrumana, and the noisiest of monkeys.
The large hollow vessel'into which the hyoid bone is transformed, and which assists in producing their tremendous howling, is altogether unique in the animal kingdom. Below them, in the distance, are a group of Sapajou monkeys Cebus sp. We can here only notice the more important, and summarize the results. More than genera of Passeres are thus limited, belonging to the following 12 families: Sylviidse 1Troglodytidae 2cerebidme 4Tanagridae 26Fringillidse 8Icteridse 5Pteroptochidae 3Dendrocolaptidae 12Formicariidse 16Tyrannidae 22Cotingide 16Pipridse Of the Picariae there are 76 peculiar genera belonging to 9 families, viz.
There are 3 peculiar genera of Psittaci, 8 of Gallinae, the only genus of Opisthocomidae, 3 of Accipitres, 1 of Rallidae, Psophia and Eurypyga types of distinct families, and 1 genus of Ardeidae, Palamedeidae, and Anatidse respectively. A considerable proportion of the genera of the Chilian and Mexican sub-regions also occur here, so that out of about genera of Neotropical landbirds more than are represented in this sub-region.
Without entering minutely into the distribution of species it is difficult to sub-divide this extensive territory with any satisfactory result. Brazil, which must have formed another great island, has more speciality, but the intermediate Amazonian forests form a perfect transition between them. The northern portion of the continent west of the Orinooko has more character; and there are indications that this has received many forms from Central and North America, and thus blended two faunas once more distinct than they are now.
The family of wood-warblers Mniotiltidae seems to have belonged to this more northern fauna; for out of 18 genera only 5 extend south of the equator, while 6 range from Mexico, or the Antilles into Columbia, some of these being only winter immigrants and no genus being exclusively South American. The eastern slopes of the Andes constitute, however, the richest and best marked province of this sub-region. At least 12 genera of tanagers Tanagridae are found here only, with an immense number of Fringillidae,-the former confined to the forests, the latter ranging to the upland plains.
The ant-thrushes Formicariidse on the other hand seem more abundant in the lowlands, many genera being peculiar to the Amazonian forests. The superb chatterers Cotingidae also seem to have their head-quarters in the forests of Brazil and Guiana, and to have thence spread 1 Messrs.