Alfred Russel Wallace : Alfred Wallace : A. R. Wallace
Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)
Did Flowers Exist During the
Carboniferous Epoch? (S309: 1879)
Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: A letter
to the Editor printed on page 582 of the 24 April 1879 number of Nature.
To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S309.htm
I cannot accept Mr. McLachlan's reference of
the interesting Breyeria borinensis to the Ephemeridæ,
even though he has "examined the fossil," and "has no doubt" about it.
The photograph which I possess is so beautifully sharp that it brings
out the minutest details, and a careful examination and comparison of
it with specimens and drawings leads me to the conclusion, that in the
general character of the wing-neuration it is strictly lepidopterous and
of the Bombycine type, having the costal, subcostal, and median nervures,
with their branches and bifurcations, arranged precisely as in that group,
but differing in the much greater length of the wing and the increased
number of the branches of the subcostal vein--seven instead of four. In
some of the Chalcosiidæ, however, there are often six branches to
this vein, but crowded together and sometimes anastomosing, owing to the
much shorter apical portion of the wing. In this family also we often
have an intermediate false vein, which is distinctly visible in the fossil.
Until, therefore, I am referred to some group of insects with which it
more nearly agrees, I must believe it to be an ancestral moth, even though,
according to Prof. Haeckel and Mr. Scudder, moths ought not to have existed
in the carboniferous epoch.
After a careful comparison of the photograph
with specimens and figures of Ephemeridæ, I can see no resemblance
whatever to the neuration of the family with which Mr. McLachlan
so confidently associates it; while the "dense transverse reticulation"
to which he refers seems to me to be merely due to crumpling of the membrane,
and certainly bears no close resemblance to the strong reticulation of
the veining of the Ephemeridæ, and it is, moreover, only visible
at all at the base of the wing. The general form of the wing and arrangement
of the veins are, however, so different, as, to me, to be conclusive against
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