Alfred Russel Wallace : Alfred Wallace : A. R. Wallace :
Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)

 
 
On the Value of the "Neoarctic" as One of the
Primary Zoological Regions (S360: 1883)

 
Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: A letter to the Editor printed in the 22 March 1883 number of the journal Nature. Original pagination indicated within double brackets. To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S360.htm


    [[p. 482]] In the Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia (December, 1882) Prof. Angelo Heilprin has an article under the above title, in which he seeks to show that the Neoarctic and Palæarctic should form one region, for which he proposes the somewhat awkward name "Triarctic Region," or the region of the three northern continents. The reasons for this proposal are, that in the chief vertebrate classes the proportion of peculiar forms is less in both the Nearctic and Palæarctic than in any of the other regions; while, if these two regions are combined, they will, together, have an amount of peculiarity greater than some of the tropical regions.

    This may be quite true without leading to the conclusion argued for. The best division of the earth into zoological regions is a question not to be settled by looking at it from one point of view alone; and Prof. Heilprin entirely omits two considerations--peculiarity due to the absence of widespread groups, and geographical individuality. The absence of the [[p. 483]] families of hedgehogs, swine, and dormice, and of the genera Meles, Equus, Bos, Gazella, Mus, Cricetus, Meriones, Dipus, and Hystrix, among mammals; and of the important families of flycatchers and starlings, the extreme rarity of larks, the scarcity of warblers, and the absence of such widespread genera as Acrocephalus, Hypolais, Ruticilla, Saxicola, Accentor, Garrulus, Fringilla, Emberiza, Motacilla, Yunx, Cuculus, Caprimulgus, Perdix, Coturnix, and all the true pheasants, among birds, many of which are groups which may almost be said to characterise the Old World as compared with the New, must surely be allowed to have great weight in determining this question.

    The geographical individuality of the two regions is of no less importance, and if we once quit these well-marked and most natural primary divisions we shall, I believe, open up questions as regards the remaining regions which it will not be easy to set at rest. There runs through Prof. Heilprin's paper a tacit assumption that there should be an equivalence, if not an absolute equality, in the zoological characteristics and peculiarities of all the regions. But even after these two are united, there will remain discrepancies of almost equal amount among the rest, since in some groups the Neotropical, in others the Australian, far exceed all other regions in their speciality. The temperate and cold parts of the globe are necessarily less marked by highly peculiar groups than the tropical areas, because they have been recently subjected to great extremes of climate, and have thus not been able to preserve so many ancient and specialised forms as the more uniformly warm areas. But, taking this fact into account, it seems to me that the individuality of the Nearctic and Palæarctic regions is very well marked, and much greater than could have been anticipated; and I do not think that naturalists in general will be induced to give them up by any such arguments as are here brought forward.


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