Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

HORNBILLS.

147

at a village while a boat was being made water-tight, I had the good-fortune to obtain a male, female, and young bird of one of the large hornbills. I had sent my hunters to shoot, and while I was at breakfast they returned, bringing me a fine large male, of the Buceros bicornis, which one of them assured me he had shot while feeding the female, which was shut up in a hole in a tree. I had often read of this curious habit, and immediately returned to the place, accompanied by several of the natives. After crossing a stream and a bog, we found a large tree leaning over some water, and on its lower side, at a height of about twenty feet, appeared a small hole, and what looked like a quantity of mud, which I was assured had been used in stopping up the large hole. After a while we heard the harsh cry of a bird inside, and could see the white extremity of its beak put out. I offered a rupee to any one who would go up and get out the bird, with the egg or young one, but they all declared it was too difficult, and they were afraid to try. I therefore very reluctantly came away. In about an hour afterward, much to my surprise, a tremendous loud hoarse screaming was heard, and the bird was brought me, together with a young one which had been found in the hole. This was a most curious object, as large as a pigeon, but without a particle of plumage on any part of it. It was exceedingly plump and soft, and with a semi-transparent skin, so that it looked more like a bag of jelly, with head and feet stuck on, than like a real bird.

The extraordinary habit of the male in plastering up the female with her egg and feeding her during the whole time of incubation, and till the young one is fledged, is common to several of the large hornbills, and is one of those strange facts in natural history which are stranger than fiction."

66

7*

CHAPTER IX.

NATURAL HISTORY OF THE INDO-MALAY ISLANDS.

In the first chapter of this work I have stated generally the reasons which lead us to conclude that the large islands in the western portion of the Archipelago-Java, Sumatra, and Borneo-as well as the Malay Peninsula and the Philippine Islands, have been recently separated from the continent of Asia. I now propose to give a sketch of the natural history of these, which I term the Indo-Malay Islands, and to show how far it supports this view, and how much information it is able to give us of the antiquity and origin of the separate islands.

The flora of the Archipelago is at present so imperfectly known, and I have myself paid so little attention to it, that I can not draw from it many facts of importance. The Malayan type of vegetation is however a very important one; and Dr. Hooker informs us, in his "Flora Indica," that it spreads over all the moister and more equable parts of India, and that many plants found in Ceylon, the Himalayas, the Nilghiri, and Khasia mountains are identical with those of Java and the Malay Peninsula. Among the more characteristic forms of this flora are the rattans-climbing palms of the genus Calamus, and a great variety of tall, as well as stemless palms. Orchids, Araceæ, Zinziberaceæ, and ferns are especially abundant, and the genus Grammatophylluma gigantic epiphytal orchid, whose clusters of leaves and flower-stems are ten or twelve feet long-is peculiar to it. Here, too, is the domain of the wonderful pitcher-plants (Nepenthaceae), which are only represented elsewhere by solitary species in Ceylon, Madagascar, the Seychelles, Celebes, and the Moluccas. Those celebrated fruits, the mangosteen and the durion, are natives of this region, and will hardly grow out of the Archipelago. The mountain plants of Java have already been alluded to as showing a former

[ocr errors]

INDO-MALAY ISLANDS.

149

connection with the continent of Asia; and a still more extraordinary and more ancient connection with Australia has been indicated by Mr. Low's collections from the summit of Kini-balou, the loftiest mountain in Borneo.

Plants have much greater facilities for passing across arms of the sea than animals. The lighter seeds are easily carried by the winds, and many of them are specially adapted to be so carried. Others can float a long time unhurt in the

[graphic]

GRAMMATOPHYLLUM, A GIGANTIC ORCHID.

water, and are drifted by winds and currents to distant shores. Pigeons, and other fruit-eating birds, are also the means of distributing plants, since the seeds readily germinate after passing through their bodies. It thus happens that plants which grow on shores and lowlands have a wide distribution, and it requires an extensive knowledge of the species of each island to determine the relations of their floras with any approach to accuracy. At present we have no such complete knowledge of the botany of the several isl

ands of the Archipelago; and it is only by such striking phenomena as the occurrence of northern and even European genera on the summits of the Javanese mountains that we can prove the former connection of that island with the Asiatic continent. With land animals, however, the case is very different. Their means of passing a wide expanse of sea are far more restricted. Their distribution has been more accurately studied, and we possess a much more complete knowledge of such groups as mammals and birds in most of the islands than we do of the plants. It is these two classes which will supply us with most of our facts as to the geographical distribution of organized beings in this region.

The number of Mammalia known to inhabit the Indo-Malay region is very considerable, exceeding 170 species. With the exception of the bats, none of these have any regular means of passing arms of the sea many miles in extent, and a consideration of their distribution must therefore greatly assist us in determining whether these islands have ever been connected with each other or with the continent since the epoch of existing species.

The Quadrumana, or monkey tribe, form one of the most characteristic features of this region. Twenty-four distinct species are known to inhabit it, and these are distributed with tolerable uniformity over the islands, nine being found in Java, ten in the Malay Peninsula, eleven in Sumatra, and thirteen in Borneo. The great man-like orang-utans are found only in Sumatra and Borneo; the curious siamang (next to them in size) in Sumatra and Malacca; the longnosed monkey only in Borneo; while every island has representatives of the Gibbons, or long-armed apes, and of monkeys. The lemur-like animals, Nycticebus, Tarsius, and Galeopithecus, are found in all the islands.

Seven species found on the Malay Peninsula extend also into Sumatra, four into Borneo, and three into Java; while two range into Siam and Burmah, and one into North India. With the exception of the orang-utan, the siamang, the Tarsius spectrum, and the Galeopithecus, all the Malayan genera of Quadrumana are represented in India by closely allied species, although, owing to the limited range of most of these animals, so few are absolutely identical.

INDO-MALAY ISLANDS.

151

Of Carnivora, thirty-three species are known from the Indo-Malay region, of which about eight are found also in Burmah and India. Among these are the tiger, leopard, a tigercat, civet, and otter; while out of the twenty genera of Malayan Carnivora, thirteen are represented in India by more or less closely allied species. As an example, the Malayan bear is represented in North India by the Thibetan bear, both of which animals may be seen alive at the Zoological Society's Gardens.

The hoofed animals are twenty-two in number, of which about seven extend into Burmah and India. All the deer are of peculiar species except two, which range from Malacca into India. Of the cattle, one Indian species reaches Malacca, while the Bos sondiacus of Java and Borneo is also found in Siam and Burmah. A goat-like animal is found in Sumatra which has its representative in India; while the two horned rhinoceros of Sumatra and the single-horned species of Java, long supposed to be peculiar to these islands, are now both ascertained to exist in Burmah, Pegu, and Moulmein. The elephant of Sumatra, Borneo, and Malacca is now considered to be identical with that of Ceylon and India.

In all other groups of Mammalia the same general phenomena recur. A few species are identical with those of India. A much larger number are closely allied or representative forms, while there are always a small number of peculiar genera, consisting of animals unlike those found in any other part of the world. There are about fifty bats, of which less than one-fourth are Indian species; thirty-four Rodents (squirrels, rats, etc.), of which six or eight only are Indian; and ten Insectivora, with one exception peculiar to the Malay region. The squirrels are very abundant and characteristic, only two species out of twenty-five extending into Siam and Burmah. The Tupaias are curious insect-eaters, which closely resemble squirrels, and are almost confined to the Malay Islands, as are the small feather-tailed Ptilocerus lowii of Borneo, and the curious long-snouted and naked-tailed Gymnurus rafflesii.

As the Malay Peninsula is a part of the continent of Asia, the question of the former union of the islands to the mainland will be best elucidated by studying the species which are found in the former district, and also in some of the islands. Now, if we entirely leave out of consideration the bats, which

« AnteriorContinuar »