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important operations of nature are conducted by the agency of atoms too minute to be either perceptible by the human eye, or comprehensible by the human understanding.
We cannot better conclude this brief outline of the history of fossil Polyparies, extending as they do, from the most early transition rocks to the present seas, than in the words with which Mr. Ellis expresses the feelings excited in his own mind by his elaborate and beautiful investigations of the history of living Corallines.
"And now, should it be asked, granting all this to be true, to what end has so much labour been bestowed in the demonstration? I can only answer, that as to me these disquisitions have opened new scenes of wonder and astonishment, in contemplating how variously, how extensively, life is distributed through the universe of things, so it is possible, that the facts here related, and these instances of nature animated in a part hitherto unsuspected, may excite the like pleasing ideas in others; and, in minds more capacious and penetrating, lead to farther discoveries, farther proofs, (should such yet be wanting,) that One infinitely wise, good, all-powerful Being has made, and still upholds, the Whole of what is good and perfect; and hence we may learn, that, if creatures of so low an order in the great scale of Nature, are endued with faculties that enable them to fill up their sphere of action with such Propriety, we likewise, who are advanced so many gradations above them, owe to ourselves, and to Him who made us and all things, a constant application to acquire that degree of Rectitude and Perfection, to which we also are endued with faculties of attaining."— Ellis on Corallines, p. 103.
of the Valves of a marine Cyprir (Cytherina) and sixteen species of Foraminifers.
Proofs of Design in the Structure of Fossil Vegetables. SECTION I.
GENERAL HISTORY OF FOSSIL VEGETABLES.
The history of Fossil Vegetables has a twofold claim upon our consideration, in relation to the object of our present inquiry. The first regards the influence exerted on the actual condition of Mankind, by the fossil carbonaceous remains of Plants, which clothed the former surface of the Earth, and has been briefly considered in a former chapter: (Chap. VII. P. 57.) the second directs our attention to the history and structure of the ancient members of the vegetable kingdom.
It appears that nearly at the same points in the progress of stratification, where the most striking changes take place in the remains of Animal life, there are found also concurrent changes in the character of fossil Vegetables.
A large and new field of investigation is thus laid open to our inquiry, wherein we may compare the laws which regulated the varying systems of vegetation, on the earlier surfaces of our earth, with those which actually prevail. Should it result from this inquiry, that the families which make up our fossil Flora were formed on principles, either identical with those that regulate the development of existing plants, or so closely allied to them, as to form connected parts of one and the same great system of laws, for the universal regulation of organic life, we shall add another link to the chain of arguments which we extract from the interior of the Earth, in proof of the Unity of the Intelligence and of the Power, which have presided over the entire construction of the material world.
We have seen that the first remains of Animal life yet noticed are marine, and as the existence of any kind of animals implies the prior, or at least the contemporaneous existence of Vegetables, to afford them sustenance, the presence of sea weeds in strata coeval with these most ancient animals, and their continuance onwards throughout all formations of marine origin, is a matter of a priori probability, which has been confirmed by the results of actual observation. M. Adolphe Brongniart, in his admirable History of Fossil Vegetables,* has shown, that the existing submarine vegetation seems to admit of three great divisions which characterize, to a certain degree, the Plants of the frigid, temperate, and torrid zones; and that an analogous distribution of the fossil submerged Algae appears to have placed in the lowest and most ancient formations, genera allied to those which now grow in regions of the greatest heat, whilst the forms of marine vegetation that succeed each other in the Secondary and Tertiary periods, seem to approximate nearer to those of our present climate, as they are respectively enclosed in strata of more recent formation.f
• Histoire des Vegetaux Fossiles, 4to. Pans, 1828.
-\ See Ad. Brongniart's Hist- de Veg. Foss. 1 Liv. p. 47.—Dr. Harlan in the Journal of the Academy of Nat. Sc. of Philadelphia, 1831, and Mr. R. C. Taylor in Loudon's Mag. Nat. Hist. Jan. 1834, have published accounts of numerous deposites of fucoids, as occurring in repeated thin layers among the Transition strata of N. America, and extending over a long track on the E. flank of the Alleghany chain. The most abundant of these is the Fucoides Alleghaniensis of Dr. Harlan. Mr. R. C. Taylor has found extensive deposites of fossil Fuci in the Granwacke of central Pennsylvania! in one place seven courses of Plants are laid bare in the thickness of four feet, in another, one hundred courses within a thickness of twenty feet. (Jameson's Journal, July, 1835, p. 185.) I have also seen Fucoids in great abundance in the Grauwacke-slate of the Maritime Alps, in many parts of the new road between Nice and Genoa I once found small Fucoids dispersed abundantly through shale of the Lias formation, from a well at Cheltenham. The Fucoides granulatus
If we take a general review of the remains of terrestrial Vegetables, that are distributed through the three great periods of geological history, we find a similar division of them into groups, each respectively indicating the same successive diminutions of Temperature upon the Land, which have been inferred from the remains of the vegetation of the Sea. Thus, in strata of the Transition series, we have an association of a few existing families of Endogenous Plants,* chiefly Ferns and^Equisetaceae, with extinct families both Endogenous and Exogenous, which some modern botanists have considered to indicate a Climate hotter than that of the Tropics of the present day.
In the Secondary formations, the species of these most eaily families become much less numerous, and many of their genera, and even of the families themselves entirely cease; and a large increase takes place in two families, that comprehend many existing forms of vegetables, and are rare in the Coal formation, viz. Cycadeoe and Coniferoe. The united characters of the groups associated in this series, indicate a Climate, whose temperature was nearly similar to that which prevails within the present Tropics.
In the Tertiary deposites, the greater number of the families of the first series, and many of those of the second, disappear; and a more complicated dicotyledonous] Vegetation takes place of the simpler forms which predominated through the two preceding periods. Smaller Equisetaceae also succeed to the gigantic Calamites; Ferns are reduced in size and number to the scanty proportions they bear on the southern verge of our temperate climates; the presence of Palms attests the absence of any severe degree of cold, and the general character marks a Climate nearly approaching to that of the Mediterranean.
occars in Lias at Lyme Regis, and at Boll in Wurtemberg; and F. Targionii in the Upper Greensand near Bignor in Sussex.
* Endogenous Plants are those, the growth of whose stems takes place by addition from within. Exogenous are those in which the growth takes place by addition from without.
t Monocotyledonous Plants are those, the embryo of whose seed is made up of one cotyledon or lobe, like the seed of a Lily or an Onion. Dicotyledonous Plants are those, the embryo of whose seed is made up of two lobes, as in the Bean and Coffee-seed. The stems of Monocotyledonou3 Plants are all Endogenous, i. c. increase from within by the addition of bundles of vessels set in cellular substance, and enlarge their bulk by addition from the centre outwards, e. g. Palms, Canes, and Liliaceous plants. The stems of Dicotyledonous Plants are all Exogenous, i. e. increase externally by the addition of concentric layers from without; these form the rings, which mark the amount of annual growth in the Oak and other forest trees in our climate.
We owe to the labours of Schlotheim, Sternberg and Ad. Brongniart the foundation of such a systematic arrangement of fossil plants, as enables us to enter, by means of the analogies of recent plants, into the difficult question of the Ancient Vegetation of the Earth, during those periods when the strata were under the process of formation.
Few persons are aware of the nature of the evidence, upon which we have at length arrived at a certain and satisfactory conclusion, respecting the long disputed question as to the vegetable origin of Coal. It is not unfrequent to find among the cinders beneath our grates, traces of fossil plants, whose cavities having been filled with silt, at the time of their deposition in the vegetable mass, that gave origin to the Coal, have left the impression of their forms upon clay and sand enclosed within them, sharp as those received by a cast from the interior of a mould.
A still more decisive proof of the vegetable origin, even of the most perfect bituminous Coal has recently been discovered by Mr. Hutton; he has ascertained that if any of the three varieties of Coal found near Newcastle be cut into very thin slices and submitted to the microscope, more or less of vegetable structure can be recognised.*
* "In these varieties of coal," says Mr. Hutton, "even in samples taken indiscriminately, more or less of Vegetable Texture could always