Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

NATURAL HISTORY OF CELEBES. 277

CHAPTER XVIII.

NATURAL HISTORY OF CELEBES.

THE position of Celebes is the most central in the Archipelago. Immediately to the north are the Philippine islands; on the west is Borneo; on the east are the Molucca Islands; and on the south is the Timor group: and it is on all sides so connected with these islands by its own satellites, by small islets, and by coral reefs, that neither by inspection on the map nor by actual observation around its coast is it possible to determine accurately which should be grouped with it, and which with the surrounding districts. Such being the case, we should naturally expect to find that the productions of this central island in some degree represented the richness and variety of the whole Archipelago, while we should not expect much individuality in a country so situated that it would seem as if it were pre-eminently fitted to receive stragglers and immigrants from all around.

As so often happens in nature, however, the fact turns out to be just the reverse of what we should have expected; and an examination of its animal productions shows Celebes to be at once the poorest in the number of its species, and the most isolated in the character of its productions of all the great islands in the Archipelago. With its attendant islets, it spreads over an extent of sea hardly inferior in length and breadth to that occupied by Borneo, while its actual land area is nearly double that of Java; yet its Mammalia and terrestrial birds number scarcely more than half the species found in the lastnamed island. Its position is such that it could receive immigrants from every side more readily than Java, yet in proportion to the species which inhabit it far fewer seem derived from other islands, while far more are altogether peculiar to it; and a considerable number of its animal forms are so remarkable, as to find no close allies in any other part of the world. I now propose to examine the best known groups of

Celebesian animals in some detail, to study their relations to those of other islands, and to call attention to the many points of interest which they suggest.

We know far more of the birds of Celebes than we do of any other group of animals. No less than 191 species have been discovered, and though no doubt many more wading and swimming birds have to be added, yet the list of land birds, 144 in number, and which for our present purpose are much the most important, must be very nearly complete. I myself assiduously collected birds in Celebes for nearly ten months, and my assistant, Mr. Allen, spent two months in the Sula Islands. The Dutch naturalist Forsten spent two years in Northern Celebes (twenty years before my visit), and collections of birds had also been sent to Holland rom Macassar. The French ship of discovery L'Astrolabe also touched at Menado and procured collections. Since my return home, the Dutch naturalists Rosenberg and Bernstein have made extensive collections both in North Celebes and in the Sula Islands; yet all their researches combined have only added eight species of land birds to those forming part of my own collection—a fact which renders it almost certain that there are very few more to discover.

Besides Salayer and Boutong on the south, with Peling and Bungay on the east, the three islands of the Sula (or Zula) Archipelago also belong zoologically to Celebes, although their position is such that it would seem more natural to group them with the Moluccas. About 48 land birds are now known from the Sula group, and if we reject from these five species which have a wide range over the Archipelago, the remainder are much more characteristic of Celebes than of the Moluccas. Thirty-one species are identical with those of the former island, and four are representatives of Celebes forms, while only eleven are Moluccan species, and two more representatives.

But although the Sula Islands belong to Celebes, they are so close to Bouru and the southern islands of the Gilolo group, that several purely Moluccan forms have migrated there, which are quite unknown to the island of Celebes itself; the whole thirteen Moluccan species being in this category, thus adding to the productions of Celebes a foreign element which does not really belong to it. In studying the peculiarities of

OF CELEBES.

279

the Celebesian fauna, it will therefore be well to consider only the productions of the main island.

The number of land birds in the island of Celebes is 128, and from these we may, as before, strike out a small number of species which roam over the whole Archipelago (often from India to the Pacific), and which therefore only serve to disguise the peculiarities of individual islands. These are 20 in number, and leave 108 species which we may consider as more especially characteristic of the island. On accurately comparing these with the birds of all the surrounding countries, we find that only nine extend into the islands westward, and nineteen into the islands eastward, while no less than 80 are entirely confined to the Celebesian fauna-a degree of individuality which, considering the situation of the island, is hardly to be equalled in any other part of the world. If we still more closely examine these 80 species, we shall be struck by the many peculiarities of structure they present, and by the curious affinities with distant parts of the world which many of them seem to indicate. These points are of so much interest and importance that it will be necessary to pass in review all those species which are peculiar to the island, and to call attention to whatever is most worthy of remark.

Six species of the hawk tribe are peculiar to Celebes; three of these are very distinct from allied birds which range over all India to Java and Borneo, and which thus seem to be suddenly changed on entering Celebes. Another (Accipiter trinotatus) is a beautiful hawk, with elegant rows of large round white spots on the tail, rendering it very conspicuous and quite different from any other known bird of the family. Three owls are also peculiar; and one, a barn owl (Strix rosenbergii), is very much larger and stronger than its ally Strix javanica, which ranges from India through all the islands as far as Lombock.

Of the ten parrots found in Celebes, eight are peculiar. Among them are two species of the singular raquet-tailed parrots forming the genus Prioniturus, and which are characterized by possessing two long spoon-shaped feathers in the tail. Two allied species are found in the adjacent island of Mindanao, one of the Philippines, and this form of tail is found in no other parrots in the whole world. A small species of

lorikeet (Trichoglossus flavoviridis) seems to have its nearest ally in Australia.

The three woodpeckers which inhabit the island are all peculiar, and are allied to species found in Java and Borneo, although very different from them all.

Among the three peculiar cuckoos two are very remarkable. Phoenicophaus callirhynchus is the largest and handsomest species of its genus, and is distinguished by the three colors of its beak, bright yellow, red, and black. Eudynamis melanorhynchus differs from all its allies in having a jet-black bill, whereas the other species of. the genus always have it green, yellow, or reddish.

The Celebes roller (Coracias temmincki) is an interesting example of one species of a genus being cut off from the rest. There are species of Coracias in Europe, Asia, and Africa, but none in the Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, Java, or Borneo. The present species seems therefore quite out of place; and, what is still more curious, is the fact that it is not at all like any of the Asiatic species, but seems more to resemble those of Africa.

In the next family, the bee-eaters, is another equally isolated bird (Meropogon forsteni), which combines the characters of African and Indian bee-eaters, and whose only near ally (Meropogon breweri) was discovered by M. Du Chailla in West Africa!

The two Celebes hornbills have no close allies in those which abound in the surrounding countries. The only thrush (Geocichla erythronota) is most nearly allied to a species pcculiar to Timor. Two of the fly-catchers are closely allied to Indian species which are not found in the Malay Islands. Two genera somewhat allied to the magpies (Streptocitta and Charitornis), but whose affinities are so doubtful that Professor Schlegel places them among the starlings, are entirely confined to Celebes. They are beautiful long-tailed birds, with black and white plumage, and with the feathers of the head somewhat rigid and scale-like.

Doubtfully allied to the starlings are two other very isolated and beautiful birds. One (Enodes erythrophrys) has ashy and yellow plumage, but is ornamented with broad stripes of orange-red above the eyes. The other (Basilornis celeben

OF CELEBES.

281

sis) is a blue-black bird, with a white patch on each side of the breast, and the head ornamented with a beautiful compressed scaly crest of feathers, resembling in form that of the well-known cock-of-the-rock of South America. The only ally to this bird is found in Ceram, and has the feathers of the crest elongated upward into quite a different form.

A still more curious bird is the Scissirostrum pagei, which although it is at present classed in the starling family, differs from all other species in the form of the bill and nostrils, and seems most nearly allied in its general structure to the oxpeckers (Buphaga) of tropical Africa, next to which the celebrated ornithologist Prince Bonaparte finally placed it. It is almost entirely of a slaty color, with yellow bill and feet, but the feathers of the rump and upper tail-coverts each terminate in a rigid glossy pencil or tuft of a vivid crimson. These pretty little birds take the place of the metallic-green starlings of the genus Calornis, which are found in most other islands of the Archipelago, but which are absent from Celebes. They go in flocks, feeding upon grain and fruits, often frequenting dead trees, in holes of which they build their nests, and they cling to the trunks as easily as woodpeckers or creep

ers.

Out of eighteen pigeons found in Celebes, eleven are peculiar to it. Two of them (Ptilonopus gularis and Turacana menadensis) have their nearest allies in Timor. Two others (Carpophaga forsteni and Phlægenas tristigmata) most resemble Philippine Island species, and Carpophaga radiata belongs to a New Guinea group. Lastly, in the gallinaceous tribe, the curious helmeted maleo (Megacephalon rubripes) is quite isolated, having its nearest (but still distant) allies in the brush-turkeys of Australia and New Guinea.

Judging, therefore, by the opinions of the eminent naturalists who have described and classified its birds, we find that many of the species have no near allies whatever in the countries which surround Celebes, but are either quite isolated, or indicate relations with such distant regions as New Guinea, Australia, India, or Africa. Other cases of similar remote affinities between the productions of distant countries no doubt exist, but in no spot upon the globe that I am yet acquainted with do so many of them occur together, or

« AnteriorContinuar »