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:

    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 this view.

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