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later day than did the dodo. The æpiornis, already noticed with reference to its enormous egg, may have existed in Madagascar till less than two hundred years ago.
We have already referred to Mantel's rail, which has quite recently become extinct in New Zealand, and also to the various kinds of moa, or dinornis, which once inhabited that region. But there also once existed a large bird of prey, known as harpagornis, which had more powerful claws than those possessed by any existing eagle. It has been thought probable that this rapacious creature preyed on the small species of moa and the young of the larger species. All the foregoing extinct species are to be reckoned as quite modern forms. When, however, we ascend the course of time, and explore the rocks deposited in past geological ages, abundant evidences present themselves that birds once existed very different from any of those which people the surface of our planet in the present day. But as we recede we find the change which has taken place to have been a gradual process of change. In the Pliocene rocks we find only genera which now exist ; nor are we struck with any marked geographical differences. In Miocene times, however, both trogons and parrots existed in Europe with Eastern forms of stork; but the turkey was then, as now, an inhabitant of America. When once, however, we enter upon the Eocene fauna, we find there genera which are new ; but though different from existing generic groups, they nevertheless more or less markedly resemble them. Thus the Eocene bird called protornis was a sort of lark, and that named halcyornis was a sort of kingfisher. Lithornis also was not improbably allied to the king vulture, while a true woodpecker had already made its appearance in France.
As might be expected when we leave these tertiary deposits to explore the relics found in the cretaceous strata of the secondary period, much stranger forms come to light. There we meet with the hesperornis. It was a bird which, like the ostrich and its allies, had no keel to its breastbone; but it had, what no existing bird has, a number of true teeth, which were, however, not implanted in separate sockets, but in open continuous grooves in the jaw. By another character which it presents, however, it differed from every other known bird, existing or extinct. The great auk could not, and the penguin and the ostrich cannot, fly; but they all possess similar wing-bones to those of other birds.
The same may
be said even of the apteryx, minute as are its rudimentary wings. In the hesperornis, however, the very skeleton of the wing seems to have been imperfect. It had a feeble upper-arm bone, to the distal end of
which was attached but a rudiment of the rest of the limbskeleton.
The other celebrated cretaceous bird has been named ichthyornis, on account of the fish-like character of the bones which compose its vertebral column. Each segment of its backbone presents a concavity in front as well as behind, and is thus biconcave, as is the corresponding part of the skeleton of almost all fishes. This bird also had teeth, and each tooth, like each of ours, was implanted in a distinct and separate socket.
The most ancient known bird was found, however, in 1861, in those oolitic strata which are known as the Solenhofen slates of Bavaria. It is the renowned archeopteryx, which in very important respects is the most exceptional of all known birds, and yet in other points is strangely like the general rank and file of the feathered class. In the first place, it has been well ascertained to have possessed feathers ; for a detached feather was the very first relic of the species which was found.
Some existing birds are said to have long tails, and others to have short ones ; but the term refers to the length of the feathers alone. It does and must so refer, because every existing bird has but a very short bony tail, which supports a fleshy padknown in the fowl as the 'parson's nose'-into which the tailfeathers are inserted. The archeopteryx, however, possessed a long bony tail of twenty distinct bones, to each side of which long feathers were attached. This is the greatest peculiarity of its structure. But its hand was also very exceptional ; for two bones, answering to those imbedded in the flesh of our hand, were separate bones, though in all other known birds they are fused into one.
Each hand also possessed two claws. Nevertheless the foot of this bird was quite of the ordinary avian type, and its breast-bone was distinctly keeled.
The changes which we thus see to have taken place in the long course of ages, when considered from the point of view of the evolutionist, give a special interest to the two questions : Whence did birds arise ? and How have they been subsequently modified? The great number of existing species—which probably amount nearer to twelve than to ten thousand kindsmakes an elaborate system of classification necessary for their comprehension and study. A second problem thus confronts usthe problem, namely, how to construct a system of classification, which shall correspond with those modifications, which have been induced in the course of the descent of existing species from their first progenitors.'
Existing birds are now generally arranged in two very unequal groups. One of these includes only the ostrich and its
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allies, while the other embraces all the rest of the class. With the ostrich we class the American ostrich, or rheas, the few species of cassowary, the two emeus and the species of apteryssome twenty species all told. It is in the structure of the breast and shoulder-bones that these birds agree together and differ rom all other species of the class, and it has been suggested that they are the kinds which most nearly resemble the peculiar reptiles from whence all birds have been supposed to have originated.
The reptiles referred to are extinct forms allied to the great iguanodon, first discovered in the Weald of Kent by the late Dr. Mantel, a magnificent mounted skeleton of which is to be seen in the Brussels Museum of Natural History,
That the birds, which because they resemble the ostrich, are called struthious, do resemble each other and may naturally be associated together, we fully agree. It has been suggested that as they all inhabit lands which approach the Antarctic Circle (South Africa, South America, Australia and New Zealand), they may be the descendants of ancestral forins which inhabited an Antarctic continent, now submerged, in times when that region of the globe was relatively warm. This speculation, however, appears to us to be an unwarranted one. Neither can we admit that such resemblance as exists between the struthious birds and reptiles is a sign of any special relationship between them; since their structural peculiarities are related to their having lost the power of flight which ancestors of theirs, not reptilian, evidently once possessed. The ostrich is not a creature on the way to become a flying bird ; it is a degraded descendant of birds which once flew, as its wingstructure clearly demonstrates. Moreover the oldest known bird, the archeopteryx, is allied by its breast and shoulder structure, not to the struthious, but to ordinary birds from which, as well as from all struthious birds, it so widely differs in its caudal structure. The origin of birds is thus a matter still open to dispute. Still more open to dispute, however, is every suggestion of bird-classification as the expression of genetic affinity and descent. This our foremost ornithologists now concede. Granted the theory of evolution, granted the assertion that all the variations of bird-structure are the effects of descent with modification, it is nevertheless now widely believed that the attempt to construct a system of classification which shall express the facts of blood-relationship, is a hopeless task. It is hopeless for two reasons: first, on account of the multitude of forms which must have entirely passed away; and secondly, because we can never certainly distinguish between similarities of structure due to blood-relationship, and similarities of structure which have been induced by a similarity between the influences and conditions to which any two species may have been exposed. The questions of bird-evolution and bird-classification are, however, subjects much too large to be entered upon at the close of this article, although we have felt it necessary to refer to them, however briefly. The interest of ornithology will remain, even if these questions be set finally on one side. It will so remain on account of those various considerations—those various characteristics of the class of birds—to which we referred at starting. Even did we revert to the elementary classification of the days of our childhood did we divide the class into .birds of prey,' perchers,' scratchers,' or gallinaceous birds; cooers,' or pigeons; climbers,' or scansorial birds; "waders,' or grallatorial birds; runners,' or cursorial birds, and “swimmers,' or natatory birds—the interest of the great group would not be very greatly diminished, nor would the devotees of ornithology cease to be numerous. Distant as may be the day when a classification of birds shall be established, which all experts in the science will be willing to accept, there is no question but that sure, though slow, progress is being made in detecting points of resemblance between species which reveal an essential affinity of nature, whether or not that affinity be a genetic one. In concluding, we would once more express our cordial thanks to the naturalists, the title of whose works are at the head of this article. Their labours have been fruitful and full of interest; but perhaps iney are to be valued above all on account of both the aid and the encouragement they will give to lovers of birds who may desire to enter upon a serious study of ornithology.
We are sure there are not a few such incipient naturalists who only need the stimulus of works like those of Messrs. Godman and Salvin, Seebohm, Oates, and Sharpe, to enter upon a career fruitful both of happiness to themselves and of pleasure and advantage to their fellows. We sincerely trust that all the illustrious ornithologists, to whose works we have here referred, may give us yet other and further grounds to express once more our gratitude for yet more extended labours in that most fertile field, the science of ornithology.
ART. IX.–1. Speech of the Marquis of Salisbury at the Mansion
House, August 6th, 1890. 2. Speech of the Marquis of Hartington at York, September 3rd,
1890. 3. Hansard's Debates, 1890. 4. The Standing Orders of the House of Commons, 1879 and
1890. PAPEL ARLIAMENT, according to present arrangements, will
meet again in November, and the same difficulty will confront it at the very threshold of its proceedings, which has of late years rendered the work of a Ministry almost impossible, and which threatens to destroy the entire usefulness of Parliament itself—the difficulty of getting any business done. It seems to be very generally supposed by the public and by the Press, that this is a difficulty which is much exaggerated, and that, whatever may be its true extent, it admits of a very speedy and effectual remedy. Observant persons, however, cannot fail to have noticed, that all who are or who have been engaged in carrying on the work of the House of Commons, during the last ten or fifteen years especially, take a totally different view of the matter. They look with the deepest anxiety and apprehension on the growth of obstruction, and on the undeniable failure of the various appliances which have been brought into existence to subdue it. It is no secret that the Speaker of the House, the Chairman of Committees, Mr. Gladstone, Mr. W. H. Smith, and every one who has practical knowledge of the working of the Lower House, begin to have serious doubts whether the business of the nation can be successfully carried on under present conditions, or whether those conditions can be altered without the adoption of measures, which would vitally change the character of the Legislature, and even affect the Constitution of the country. To those who stand outside, it appears to be the easiest thing in the world to remove the impediments to the smooth action of the legislative machine. But all who are in a position to watch its operation, whatever may be their politics, are driven to another and much less satisfactory conclusion. New Rules are devised, and scarcely have they been in operation a week before it is discovered, that means have been found of evading them, or that they have broken down altogether. The supporters of the Government sometimes wonder at its supineness; the public generally are inclined to condemn both parties, the Ministerialists and the Opposition; the proceedings in Parliament are regarded with weariness, and sometimes with shame. The Press scolds, and, to a very great extent, it has