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Another celebrated deposite of fossil fishes is that of the cupriferous slate surrounding the Hartz. Many of the fishes of this slate at Mansfeldt, Eiselebon, &c, have a distorted attitude, which has often been assigned to writhing in the agonies of death. The true origin of this condition, is the unequal contraction of the muscular fibres, which causes fish and other animals to become stiff during a short interval between death and the flaccid state preceding decomposition. As these fossil fishes maintain the altitude of the rigid stage immediately succeeding death, it follows that they were buried before putrefaction had commenced, and apparently in the same bituminous mud, the influx of which had caused their destruction. The dissemination of Copper and Bitumen through the slate that contains so many perfect fishes around the Hartz, seems to offer two other causes, either of which may have produced their sudden death.*
From what has been said respecting the general history of fossil organic Remains, it appears that not only the relics of aquatic, but also those of terrestrial animals and plants, are found almost exclusively in strata that have been accumulated by the action of water. This circumstance is readily explained, when we consider that the bones of all dead creatures that may be left uncovered upon dry land, are in a few years entirely destroyed by various animals and the decomposing influence of the atmosphere. If we
• Under the turbulent conditions of our planet, whilst stratification was in progress, the activity of volcanic agents, then frequent and intense, was probably attended also with atmospheric disturbances affecting both the air and water, and producing the same fatality among the then existing Tribes of fishes, that is now observed to result from sudden and violent changes in the electric condition of the atmosphere. M. Agassiz has observed that rapid changes in the degree of atmospheric pressure upon the water, affect the air within the swimming bladders of fishes, sometimes causing them to be distended to a fatal degree, and even to burst. Multitudes of dead fishe9, that have thus perished during tempests, are often seen floating on the surface, and cast on the shores of the lakes of Switzerland.
except the few bones that may have been collected in caves, or buiied under land slips, or the products of volcanic eruptions, or in sand drifted by the winds,* it is only in strata formed by water that any remains of land animals can have been preserved.
We continually see the carcasses of such animals drifted by rivers in their seasons of flood, into lakes, estuaries, and seas; and although it may at first seem strange to find terrestrial remains, imbedded in strata formed at the bottom of the water, the difficulty vanishes on recollection that the materials of stratified rocks are derived in great part from the Detritus of more ancient lands. As the forces of rains, torrents, and inundations have conveyed this detritus into lakes, estuaries, and seas, it is probable that many carcasses of terrestrial and amphibious animals, should also have been drifted to great distances by currents which swept such enormous quantities of abraded matter from the lands; and accordingly we find, that strata of aqueous formation have become the common repository not only of the Remains of aquatic, but also of terrestrial animals and vegetables.
* Captain Lyon states, that in the deserts of Africa, the bodies of camels are often dessiccated by the heat and dryness of the atmosphere, and become the nucleus of a sandhill, which the wind accumulates around them. Be« neath this sand they remain interred like the stumps of palm trees, and the buildings of ancient Egypt.
In a recent paper or. the geology of the Bermudas (Proceedings of Geol. Soc. Lond. Ap. 9, 1834,) Lieutenant Nelson describes these islands as composed of calcareous sand and limestone, derived from comminuted shells and corals;.he considers great part of the materials of these strata to have been drifted up from the shore by the action of the wind. The surface in man)r parts is composed of loose sand, disposed in all the irregular forms of drifted snow, and presents a surface covered with undulations like those produced by the ripple of water upon sand on the sea-shore. Recent shells occur both in the loose sand and solid limestone, and also roots of the Palmetto now growing in the island. The N. W. coast of Cornwall affords examples of similar invasions of many thousand acres of land by Deluges of sand drifted from the sea-shore, at the villages of Bude and Perran Zabulo; the latter village has been twice destroyed, and buried under sand, drifted inland during extraordinary tempests, at distant intervals of time. See Trans, of Geol. Soc. of Cornwall, vol. ii. p. 140, and vol. iii. p. 12. See also De la Beche's Geological Manual, 3d edit. p. 84, and Jameson's Translation of Cuvier's Theory of the earth, 5lh edit Nots G.
The study of these Remains will form our most interesting and instructive subject of inquiry, since it is in them that we shall find the great master-key whereby we may unlock the secret history of the earth. They are documents which contain the evidences of revolutions and catastrophes, long antecedent to the creation of the human race; they open the book of nature, and swell the volumes of science, with the Records of many successive series of animal and vegetable generations, of which the Creation and Extinction would have been equally unknown to us, but for recent discoveries in the science of Geology.
Aggregate of Animal Enjoyment increased, and that of Pain diminished, by the existence of Carnivorous Races.
Before we proceed to consider the evidences of design, discoverable in the structure of the extinct carnivorous races, which inhabited our planet during former periods of its history; we may briefly examine the nature of that universal dispensation, whereby a system of perpetual destruction, followed by continual renovation, has at all times tended to increase the aggregate of animal enjoyment, over the entire surface of the terraqueous globe.
Some of the most important provisions which will be presented to us in the anatomy of these ancient animals, are found in the organs with which they were furnished for the purpose of capturing and killing their prey; and as contrivances exhibited in instruments formed expressly for destruction may, at first sight, seem inconsistent with the dispensations of a creation founded in benevolence, and tending to produce the greatest amount of enjoyment to the greatest number of individuals; it may be proper to premise a few words upon this subject, before we enter on the history of that large portion of the animals of a former world, whose office was to effect the destruction of life.
The law of universal mortality being the established condition, on which it has pleased the Creator to give being to every creature upon earth, it is a dispensation of kindness to make the end of life to each individual as easy as possible. The most easy death is, proverbially, that which is the least expected; and though, for moral reasons peculiar to our own species, we deprecate the sudden termination of our mortal life; yet, in the case of every inferior animal, such a termination of existence is obviously the most desirable. The pains of sickness, and decrepitude of age, are the usual precursors of death, resulting from gradual decay: these, in the human race alone, are susceptible of alleviation from internal sources of hope and consolation ; and give exercise to some of the highest charities, and most tender sympathies of humanity. But, throughout the whole creation of inferior animals, no such sympathies exist; there is no affection or regard for the feeble and aged; no alleviating care to relieve the sick; and the extension of life through lingering stages of decay and of old age, would to each individual be a scene of protracted misery. Under such a system, the natural world would present a mass of daily suffering, bearing a large proportion to the total amount of animal enjoyment. By the existing dispensations of sudden destruction and rapid succession, the feebled and disabled are speedily relieved from suffering, and the world is at all times crowded with myriads of sentient and happy beings i and though to many individuals their allotted share of life b& often short, it is usually a period of uninterrupted gratification ; whilst the momentary pain of sudden and unexpected death is an evil infinitely small, in comparison with the enjoyments of which it is the termination.
The inhabitants of the earth have ever been divided into two great classes, the one herbivorous, the other carnivorous; and though the existence of ihe latter may, at first sight seem calculated to increase the amount of animal pain; yet, when considered in its full extent, it will be found materially to diminish it.
To the mind which looks not to general results in the economy of Nature, the earth may seem to present a scene of perpetual warfare and incessant carnage: but the more enlarged view, while it regards individuals in their conjoint relations to the general benefit of their own species, and that of other species with which they are associated in the great family of Nature, resolves each apparent case of individual evil, into an example of subserviency to universal good.
Under the existing system, not only is the aggregate amount of animal enjoyment much increased, by adding to the stock of life all the races which are carnivorous, but these are also highly beneficial even to the herbivorous races, that are subject to their dominion.
Besides the desirable relief of speedy death on the approach of debility or age, the carnivora confer a farther benefit on the species which form their prey, as they control their excessive increase, by the destruction of many individuals in youth and health. Without this solitary check, each species would soon multiply to an extent, exceeding in a fatal degree the supply of food, and the whole class of herbivora would ever be so nearly on the verge of starvation, that multitudes would daily be consigned to lingering and painful death by famine. All these evils are superseded by the establishment of a controlling Power in the carnivora; by their agency the numbers of each species are maintained in due proportion to one another—the sick, the