Category Archives: Voyage Of The Beagle

Momentul decisiv – Galapagos (IV – final)


I have not as yet noticed by far the most remarkable feature in the natural history of this archipelago, it is, that the different islands to a considerable extent are inhabited by a different set of beings. My attention was first called to this fact by the Vice-Governor,Mr Lawson, declaring that the tortoises differed from the different islands, and that he could with certainty tell which islands any one was brought. I did not for some time pay sufficient attention to this statement, and i had already partially mingled together the collections from tow of the islands, I never dreamed that islands, about 50 or 60 miles apart, and most of them in sight of each other, formed of precisely the same rocks, placed under a quite similar climate, rising to a nearly equal height, would have been differently tenanted; but we shall soon see that this is the case. It is the fate of most voyagers, no sooner to discover what is most interesting in any locality, than they are hurried from it; but i ought, perhaps to be thankful that i obtained sufficient materials to establish this most remarkable fact in the distribution of organic beings.


If we now turn to the Flora, we shall find the aboriginal plants of the different islands, wonderfully different. I give all the following results on the high authority of my friend doctor J. Hooker. I may premise that I indiscriminately collected everthing in flower on the different islands, and fortunately kept my collections separate. To much confidence, however, must not be placed in the proportional results as the small collections brought home by some other naturalists though in some respects confirming the results plainly show that much remains to be done in the botany of this group: the Leguminosae, moreover has as yet been only aproximately worked out.


Hence, we have the truly wonderful fact, that in James Island of the thirty-eight Galapegian plants, or those found in no other part of the world, thirty are exclusively confined to this one island; and in Albermarle Island of the twenty-six aboriginal Galapegian plants, twenty-two are confined to this one island, that is, only four, are at present known to grow in the other islands of the archipelago.And so on, as shown in the abose table, with the plants from Chatham and Charles Islands.


The distribution of the tennats of this archipelago, would not be nearly as wonderful, if, for instance, one island had a mocking-thrush, and a second island some other quite distinct genus; if one island had it’s genus of a lizard, and the second island another distinct genus, or none whatever; or if the different islands were inhabited not by representative species of the same genera of plants, but by totally different genera as does to a certain extend hold good: for, to give on instance, a large berry-bearing tree at James island has no representative species in Charles island. But it is the circumstance, that several of the islands posses their own species of tortoise, mocking-thrush, finches, and numerous plants, these species having the same general habits, occupying analogous situations, and obviously filling the same place in the natural economy of this archipelago, that strikes me with wonder.


Nu am prezentat încă cea mai remarcabilă trăsătură a istoriei naturale a acestui arhipelag şi anume aceea că insulele diferite sunt populate de către o multime de fiinţe. Atenţia mi-a fost atrasă de vice-guvernatorul Lawson care a declarat că ţestoasele sunt diferite de la insulă la insulă şi că putea spune cu certitudine de unde venea fiecare. O vreme nu am dat atenţie afirmaţiei şi deja amestecasem specimene de pe insule diferite. Nu mi-aş fi inchipuit că insule aflate la 50-60 de mile distanţă, formate din aceleaşi pietre, cu un climat asemănător, ridicându-se până la aproape aceeaşi înălţime, ar fi putut avea ca şi locuitori creaturi diferite; dar se va dovedi în curând că aşa este. Soarta oricărui călător este de a descoperi ceva interesant exact când este pe punctul de a părăsi acel loc, dar ar trebui să fiu recunoscător faptului că am obţinut suficiente materiale pentru a stabili acest lucru remarcabil în distributia fiinţelor organice


Dacă ne referim la floră, vom descoperi că plantele aborigene ale diferitelor insule sunt deosebit de variate. Ofer aceste rezultate prin înalta autoritate a prietenului meu Dr J. Hooker. Pot spune că am colectat tot ce însemna floră pe diferitele insule, şi din fericire mi-am ţinut colecţiile separate. Prea multă încredere nu poate fi pusă în aceste rezultate proporţionale, pentru că micile colecţii aduse acasă de alţi naturalişti, deşi în anumite privinţe confirmă rezultatele, arată clar că mai sunt multe de făcut în legatura cu botanica acestui grup; leguminoasele, totuşi, au fost aproximate astfel:


Astfel avem certitudinea faptului că, în insula James din cele 38 de plante din Galapagos, sau din cele care nu se pot găsi în alte părţi ale lumii, 30 se găsesc exclusiv pe această insula. Iar, pe insula Albemarle din cele 26 de plante aborigene din Galapagos, 22 se găsesc doar pe această insulă, ceea ce înseamna că doar despre 4 se ştie că mai cresc şi pe celelalte insule. Şi aşa mai departe, aşa cum se vede în tabel pentru toate plantele de pe insulele Chatham şi Charles.


Distribuţia “locuitorilor” acestui arhipelag nu ar fi atât de minunată dacă, de exemplu, o insula ar avea un sturz, iar o altă insulă un specimen distinct; – o insulă ar avea o specie de şopârlă iar o alta un gen complet diferit, sau nici unul – sau dacă insulele ar fi locuite  nu de specii reprezentative ale aceluiaşi gen de plante ci de un tip total diferit, aşa cum e normal într-o anumită măsură: ca exemplu un pom fructifer de pe insula James nu are echivalent pe insula Charles.

Insă datele arată că sunt câteva insule care au propriile specii de ţestoase, sturzi, rândunici şi plante numeroase.

Aceste specii având aceleaşi obiceiuri, trăind în condiţii asemănătoare şi evident având acelaşi loc în economia naturala a arhipelagului, sunt cu adevărat uimitoare.


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Momentul decisiv – Galapagos (III)


The natural history of these islands is eminently curious, and well deserves attention. Most of the organic productions are aboriginal creations, found nowhere else; there is even a difference between the inhabitants of the different islands; yet all show a marked relationship with those of America, though separated from that continent by an open space of ocean, between 500 and 600 miles in width. The archipelago is a little worlds within itself, or rather a satellite attached to America, whence it has derived a few stray colonists, and has received the general character of its indigenous productions. Considering the small size of the islands, we feel the more astonihsed at the number of their aboriginal beings, and at their confined range. Seeing every height crowned with it’s crater, and the boundaries of most of the lava-streams still distinct, we are led to believe that within a period geologically recent the unbroken ocean was here spread out. Hence, both in space and time, we seem to be brought somewhat near to that great fact – that mystery of mysteries – the first appearance of new beings on this earth.

Of terrestrial mammals, there is only one which must be considered as indigenous, namely a mouse (Mus Galapagoensis), and this is confined, as far as I could ascertain, to Chatham Island, the most easterly island of the group. It belongs, as I am informed by Mr Waterhouse, to a division of the family of mice characteristic of America. At James Island, there is a rat sufficiently distinct from the common kind to have been named and described by Mr Waterhouse; but as it belongs to the old-world division of the family, and as this island has been frequented by ships for the last hundrend fifty years, I can hardly doubt that this rat is merely a variety produced by the new and peculiar climate, food, and soil, to which is has been subjected. Although no one has a right to speculate without distinct facts, yet even with respect to the Chatham Island mouse, it should be borne in mind, that it may possibly be an American species imported here; for I have seen, in a most unfrequented part of the Pampas, a native mouse living in the roog of a newly built hovel, and therefore its transportation in a vesel is not improbable: analogous facts have been observed by Dr. Richardson in North America.

Of land-birds I obtained twenty-six kinds, all peculiar to the group and found nowhere else, with the exception of one lark-like finch from North America (Dolichonyx orzyivorus), which ranges on that continent as far north as 54 degrees, and generally freqeuents marshes. The other twenty-five birds consist, firstly, of a hawk, curiously intermediate in structure between a buzzard and the American group of carrion-feeding Polybori; and with these latter birds it agrees most closely in every habit and even tone of voice. Secondly, there are two owls, representing the short-eared and white barn-ownls of Europe. Thirdly, wren, three tyrand-flycathcers (two of them species of Phyrocefalus, one or both of which would be ranked by some ornitologists as only varieties), and a dove – all analogous to but distinct from American species. Fourthly, a swallow, which through differing from the Progne purpurea of both Americas only in being rather duller coloured, smaller and slenderer is considered by Mr Gould as specifically distinct. Fifthly, there are three species of mocking thrush a form highly characteristic of America. The remaining land-birds form a most singular group of finches related to each other in the structure of their beaks, short tails, form of body and plumage: there are thirteen species which Mr Gould has divided into four subgroups.  All these species are peculiar to this archipelago; and so is the whole group with the exception of one species of the subgroup Cactornis, lately brought from Bow Island, in the Low Archipelago.

Of Cactornis the two species may be often seen climbing about the flowers of the great cactus-trees; but all of the other species of this group of finches, are mingled together in flocks, feed on the dry and sterile ground of the lower districts. The males of all, or certainly of the greater number are jet black; and the females (with perhaps one or two exceptions) are brown. The most curious fact is the perfect gradation in the size of the beaks inthe different species of Geospiza, from one as large as that of a hawfinch to that of a chaffinch, and (if Mr Gould is right in including this sub-group, Certhidea, in the main group) even to that of a warbler.

The largest beak in the genus Geospiza is shown in Fig. 1, and the smallest in Fig. 3; but instead of their being only one intermediate species with a beak of the size shown in figure 2. there are no less than six species with insensibly gratuated beaks. The beak of the subgroup Certhidea is shown in Fig. 4. The beak of Cactornis is somewhat that of a starling; and that of the fourth sub-group, Camarhynchus, is slightly parrot shaped. Seeing this gradation and diversity of structure in one small, intimately related group of birds one might really fancy that from an original paucity of birds in this archipelago one species has been taken and modified for different ends. In a like manner it might be fancied that a bird originally a buzzard, had been induced here to undertake the office of the carrion-feeding Polybori of the American continent.


Istoria naturala a acestor insule este foarte curioasa, si merita atentie. Majoritatea elementelor naturii sunt locale, nu se gasesc in alte locuri; exista chiar si o diferentiere intre populatia diferitelor insule; desi toate arata o relatie vizibial cu speciile Americii, chiar daca sunt separate de acel continent printr-o deschidere oceanica lata de 5-600 de mile. Archipelago-ul este o mica lume, sau mai degraba un satelit atasat Americii, de la care a obtinut cativa colonisti rataciti, si a primit caracterul general al populatiei autohtone. Luand in considerare marimea mica a insulelor suntem uimiti de numarul mare al vietuitoarelor indigene si al ariei lor restranse.  Observand craterele aflate pe fiecare inaltime, si granitele evidente ale majoritatii raurilor de lava, deducem ca intr-o perioada apropiata geologic oceanul acoperea totul. Prin urmare, atat in spatiu cat si in timp, parem a fi adusi ceva mai aproape de acel mare moment – acel mister al misterelor – prima aparitie a unor noi fiinte pe acest pamant.

Numai una dintre mamiferele terestre trebuie considerata indigena, un soarece (Mus Galapagoensis), si acesta este limitat, din ce mi-am dat seama la Insula Chatham, cea mai estica insula din grup. Insula apartine, asa cum am fost informat de dl Waterhouse, unei diviziuni ale familiei soarecilor caracteristica Americii. Pe insula James, exista un soboland suficient de distinct fata de genul comun incat sa fi fost numit si descris de dl Waterhouse; dar cum apartine diviziunii  din Lumea Veche  a respectivei familii , si cum aceasta insula a fost frecventata de corabii pentru cel putin 150 de ani, consider ca acest soarece e doar o varietate produsa de climatul nou si ciudat, de mancare si solul la care a fost expus. Desi nimeni nu are dreptul de a specula fara fapte, chiar si in legatura cu soarecele de pe insula Chatham, ar trebui sa ne gandim la posibilitatea unor specii americane ce au fost importate aici; am vazut chiar si in cele mai putin frecventate locuri din Pampas un soarece indigen traind sub acoperisul unei colibe nou construite, asadar transportarea acestuia pe o corabie nu este improbabila; fapte asemanatoare au fost observate de dr. Richardson in America de Nord.

Dintre zburatoare am obtinut douazeci si sase exemplare, toate diferite de grup si ce nu pot fi gasite in alte locuri, cu exceptia unui cintezoi asemantor unei ciocarlii din America de Nord (Dolichonyx oryzivorus), care poate fi gasit pe continent pana la latitudinea de 54 de grade si care frecventeaza de obicei mlastinile. Celelalte douazeci si cinci de pasari sunt reprezentate in primul rand de un uliu cu o structura intermediara intre soricar si Polybori; si cu acestea din urma seamana foarte tare in fiecare obicei si chiar tonul vocii. In al doilea rand, sunt doua bufnite, reprezentand pe cele cu urechi scurte si albe de hambar ale Europei. In al treilea rand, o pitulice, trei “tyrand flycatchers”(doua dintre ele specii de Phorycefalus, una sau amandoua ar fi categorisite de ornitologi ca simple varietati, si un porumbel – toate legate dar diferite de speciile Americane. In al patrulea rand, o randunica, care desi difera de Progne purpurea din amele Americi doar pentru ca e colorata mai fad, mai mica si mai zvelta este considerata de dl Gould ca si distincta. In al cincilea rand, trei specii de sturz specifice Americii. Pasarile de uscat ramase formeaza un grup unitar de cintezoi asemanatori prin structura ciocurilor, cozile scurte, forma corpului si penaj. Sunt treisprezece specii pe care dl Gould le-a impartit in patru subgrupe. Toate aceste specii sunt caracteristice acestui arhipelag; la fel ca intregul grup cu exceptia unei specii din subgrupul Cactornis, adusa ulterior din Insula Bow in Arhipelagul Low.

Despre Cactornis, cele doua specii pot fi adesea observate adesea catarandu-se pe copacii cactus; dar toate celelalte specii ale acestui grup stau in grupuri, se hranesc din pamantul uscat si steril al zonelor mai joase. Masculii tuturor, sau desigur al majoritatii sunt negrii; iar femelele (cu o exceptie sau doua) sunt maronii. Cel mai curios fapt al acestei gradatii perfecte consta in marimea ciocurilor intre speciile diferite de Geospiza, de la unul mare cat al unui botgros la cel al unei cinteze, si (daca prezumtia domnului Gould a fost corecta in a include subgrupul Certhidea in grupul principal) chiar pana la al unei privighetoare de stuf.


Cel mai mare cioc din genul Geospiza este aratat in Fig. 1, iar cel mai mic in Fig. 3; dar in loc sa fie o singura specie intermediara cu o marime a ciocului precum in Fig. 2, sunt nu mai putin de sase specii cu ciocuri ce scad progresiv. Ciocul subgrupei Certhidea este prezentat in Fig.4. Ciocul unui Cactornis este asemanator cu cel al unui sturz; si cel al reprezentantului celui de-al patrulea sub-grup, Camarhynchus, este asemanator unui cioc de papagal. Vazand aceasta gradatie si diversitate a structurii intr-un grup de pasari mic dar puternic inrudit, s-ar putea presupune ca dintr-un numar initial scazut de pasari ale acestui arhipelag o specie a fost modificata pentru scopuri diferite. Intr-o maniera asemanatoare, s-ar putea deduce ca dintr-o pasare care era initial un soim a ajuns aici sa preia functia de Polybori de pe continentul american.

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Momentul decisiv – Galapagos (II)



The Beagle sailed around Chatham island and anchored in several bays. One night i slept on shore on a part of the island where black truncated cones were extraordinarily numerous: from one small eminence i counted sixty of them, all surmounted by craters more or less perfect. The greater number consisted merely of a ring of red scoriae or slags cemented together: and their height above the plain of lava was not more than from fifty to a hundred feet; none had been very lately active. The entire surface of this part of the island seems to have been permeated like a sieve, by the subterranean vapors: here and there the lava whilst soft, has been blown into great bubbles; and in other parts, the tops of caverns similarly formed have fallen in living circular pits with steep sides. From the regular form of the many craters, they gave to the country an artificial appearance which vividly reminded me of those parts of Staffordshire, where the great iron foundries are most numerous. The day was glowing hot and the scrambling over the rough surface and through the intricate thickets, was very fatiguing; but i was well repaid by the strange cyclopean scene. As i was walking along i met two large tortoises each of which must have weighted at least two hundred pounds: one was eating a piece of cactus and as I approached, it stared at me and slowly walked away; the other gave a deep hiss, and drew in it’s head.

These huge reptiles surrounded by the black lava, the leafless shrubs and large cacti seemed to my fancy like some antediluvian animals. The few dull colored birds cared no more for me than they did for the great tortoises.


Nava a ocolit insula Chatham si a ancorat in cateva porturi. Intr-o noapte am dormit pe tarm pe o parte a insulei unde conurile vulcanice erau numeroase. De pe un deal din apropiere am numarat saizeci toate inconjurate de cratere mai mult sau mai putin perfecte. Majoritatea erau formate din scoriae si metale fuzionate: iar inaltimea lor deasupra campului de lava nu era mai mare de cincizeci-o suta de picioare (30 de metri); niciunul insa nu fusese activ de curand. Intreaga suprafata a acestei parti a insulei pare sa fi fost perforata ca o sita de catre vapori subterani; ici si colo lava moale a format bule; iar in alte parti tavanele cavernelor formate in mod similar au cazut in prapastii circulare cu margini abrupte. Forma regulata a multor cratere dadeau zonei o infatisare artificiala ce mi-a amintit de acele parti din Staffordshire, unde sunt multe mine. Ziua era torida iar mersul pe suprafata dura si plin tufisurile incalcite era obositor.; dar am fost rasplatit de strania scena salbatica. Pe drum am intalnit doua testoase uriase fiecare cantarind cel putin doua sute de livre (90 de kg): una manca o bucata de cactus si cand m-am apropiat s-a uitat lung la mine si s-a indepartat; cealalta a suierat adanc si s-a retras in carapace.

Aceste reptile uriase inconjurate de lava neagra, tufisurile fara frunze si cactusi uriasi mi se pareau a fi animale antediluviene. Celor cateva pasari fad colorate nu le pasa de mine mai mult decat de uriasele testoase.

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Momentul decisiv – Galapagos (I)


“This archipelago consists of ten principle islands, of which five exceed the others in size. They are situated under the Ecuator, and between five and six hunderd miles westward of the coast of America. They are all formed of volcanic rocks; a few fragments of granite curiously glazed and altered by the heat can heardly be considered as an exception. Some of the craters, surmounting the larger islands are of immense size, and they rise to a height of between threee and four thousand feet. Their flanks are studded by innumerable smaller orifices. I scarcely hesitate to affirm that there must be in the whole archipelago at least two thousand craters.

These consist either of lava or scoriae or of finely stratified, sandstone-like tuff. Most of the latter are beautifully symmetrical; they owe their origin to eruptions of volcanic mud without any lava: it is a remarkable circumstance that every one of the twentyeight tuff craters which were examined had their southern sides either much lower than the other sides or quite broken down and removed.

As all these craters apparently have been formed when standing in the sea, and as the waves from the trade-wind and the swell from the open Pacific here unite their forces on the southern coasts of all the islands, this singular uniformity in the broken state of the craters, composed of the soft and yielding tuff, is easily explained.

Considering that these islands are placed directly under the ecuator, the climate is far from being excesivelly hot; this seems chiefly caused by the singularly low temperature of the surrounding water, brought here by the great southern polar current. Excepting during one short season very little rain falls and even then it is irregular; but the clouds generally hang low. Hence, whilst the lower parts of the islands are very sterile, the upper parts at a height of a thousand feet and upwards, possess a damp climate and the tolerably luxuriant vegetation. This is esspecially the case on the windward sides of the islands, which first receive and condense the moisture from the atmosphere.

In the morning we landed on Chatham island, which, like the others, rises with a tame and rounded outline broken here and there by scattered hillocks the remains of former craters. Nothing could be less inviting than the first appearance. A broken field of black bazaltic lava, thrown into the most rugged waves and crossed by great fissures, is everywhere covered by stunted, sun-burnt brushwood, which shows little signs of life. The dry and parched surface being heated by the noon-day sun gave to the air a close and sultry feeling like that from a stove: we fancied even that the bushes smelt unpleasantly. Although I dilligently tried to collect as many plants as possible I succeded in getting very few; and such wretched-looking little weeds would have better become and arctic that an ecuatorial flora.

The brushwood appears, from a short distance as leafless as our trees during winter; and it was sometime before I discovered that not only almost every plant was now in full leaf but that the greater number were in flower. The commonest bush is one of the Euphorbiaceae: an accacia and a great odd-looking cactus are the only trees which afford my shade. After the season of heavy rains, the islands are said to appear for a short time partially green. The volcanic island of Fernando Noronha, placed in many respects under nearly similar conditions is the only other country where I have seen a vegetation at all like this of the Galapagos Islands.


Acest arhipelag este compus din zece insule principale, dintre care cinci le depasesc pe celalalte in marime. Sunt situate sub Ecuator, si la cinci-sase sute de mile vest de coasta Americii. Sunt formate din roci vulcanice; cele cateva fragmente de granit alterate de caldura nu pot fi considerate o exceptie. Unele dintre craterele ce se gasesc pe insulele mai mare sunt imense, si pot ajunge pana la 3-4000 de picioare (900-1200 metri) . Pe laterale se pot observa nenumarate orificii. Nu ezit sa afirm ca trebuie sa fie cel putin 2000 de cratere in intreg arhipelagul.

Acestea sunt formate din lava si scoriae sau din granit stratificat ce seamana cu tuful. Cele din urma sunt simetrice; isi datoreaza originea eruptiilor noroiului vulcanic fara de lava: este remarcabile ca fiecare dintre cele 28 de cratere pe care le-am examinat aveau portiunile sudice mult mai joase decat celelalte parti sau chiar daramate sau cazute.

Toate aceste cratere par sa se fi format din mare, si pe masura ce vanturile curentilor si valurile Pacificului isi unesc fortele pe coastele sudice ale acestor insule, aceasta uniformitate unica in starea craterelor este usor explicabila.

Considerand ca aceste insule sunt plasate direct sub ecuator, climatul departe de a fi considerat excesiv de fierbinte; cauza pare a fi temperatura scazuta a apelor inconjuratoare, aduse aici de Marele curent polar sudic. Exceptand un scurt anotimp ploua foarte putin si chiar si atunci e neregulat; dar norii sunt in general josi. Astfel, in timp ce partile joase ale insulelor sunt destul de sterile. zonele inalte de peste o mie de picioare si mai sus, poseda un climat umed si o vegetatie in general luxurianta. E in special cazul partilor din directia vantului, cele care primesc si pastreaza umezeala din atmosfera.

Dimineata am acostat pe insula Chatham, care, ca toate celelalte, are un urcus domol si rotunjit, intrerupt ici si colo de delusoare, ramasite ale fostilor vulcani. Nimic nu poate fi mai putin atractiv decat prima imagine. Valurile puternice cuprindeau roca bazaltica neagra ce era strabatuta de fisuri largi, fisuri acoperite de tufisuri ce nu pareau sa arate semne ca ar gazdui viata. Suprafata uscata, incalzita de soarele amiezii, dadea aerului o intensitate precum cea a unui cuptor: ni s-a parut chiar ca si tufisurile miroseau neplacut. Desi am incercat sa culeg cat mai multe plante, am reusit sa obtin foarte putine; si cateva buruieni ce aratau atat de trist incat ar fi putut proveni din flora arctica nu din cea ecuatoriala.

Tufisurile pareau de la o mica distanta la fel de lipsite de frunze ca si copacii nostrii in cursul iernii; dar am descoperit ca aproape toate plantele aveau frunze si cea mai mare parte a lor chiar erau in floare. Cel mai comun tufis este cel de Euphorbiaceae ; un accacia si un cactus mare si batran au fost cam singurii copaci ce reuseau sa faca o umbra. Dupa sezonul ploilor se spune ca insulele sunt verzi pentru o scurta perioada. Doar pe insula vulcanica Fernando Noronha, amplasata intr-o zona similara, am vazut vegetatie precum cea de pe insulele Galapagos.

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Uriasele patrupede


The great size of the bones of the Megatheroid animals including the Megatherium, Megalonyx, Scelidotherium, and Mylodon is truly wonderful. The habits of life of these animals were a complete puzzle to naturalists until Proffesor Owen solved the problem with remarkable ingenuity. The teeth indicate, by their simple structure, that these Megatheroid animals lived on vegetable food, and probably on the leaves and small twigs of trees. Their ponderous forms and great strong curved claws seem so little adapted for locomotion that some eminent naturalists have actually believed that, like the sloths, to which they are intimately related, they subsisted by climbing back downwards on trees and feeding on the leaves. It was a bold, not to say preposterous, idea to conceive even antediluvian trees with branches strong enough to bear animals as large as elephants. Professor Owen with far more probability, believes that, insted of climbing on the trees, they pulled the branches down to them and tore up the smaller ones by the roots, and so fed on the leaves.

The colossal breadth and weight of their hinder quarters which can hardly be imagined without having been seen, become on this view, of obvious service instead of being an encumbrance: their apparent clumsiness disappears. With their great tales and their huge heels firmly fixed like a tripod on the ground they could freely exert the full force of their most powerful arms and great claws.

Strongly rooted indeed, most that tree have been , which could have resisted such force!

The Mylodon, moreover, was furnished with a long extensile tongue like that of the giraffe, which by one of those beautiful provisions of nature, thus reaches with the aid of it’s long neck it’s leafy food. I may remark that in Abysinia the elefant according to Bruce, when it cannot reach with it’s proboscis the branches deeply scores with its tusks the trunk of the tree up and down and all around, till it is sufficiently weakend to be broken down.

The beds including the above fossil remains, stand only from fifteen to twenty feet above the level of high water; and hence the elevation of the land has been small (without their has been an intercalated period of subsidence, of which we have no evidence) since the great quadrupeds wandered over the surrounding plains; and the external of the country, must then have been very nearly the same as now.


Marimea oaselor animalelor din familia Megateroidelor, incluzand aici Megatherium, Megalonyx, Scleidotherium si Mylodon e cu adevar uimitoare. Obiceiurile acestor animale erau un mister complet pentru naturalisti pana cand profesorul Owen a rezolvat problema cu o ingeniozitate remarcabila. Dintii indicau, prin structura lor simpla ca aceste animale megateroide se hraneau cu vegetale, si probabil cu frunze si mici ramurele. Soliditatea lor si forma curbata a ghearelor parea atat de putin adaptata pentru locomotie, incat unii naturalisti eminenti au crezut ca precum lenesii cu care sunt evident inruditi, se hraneau coborand cu spatele din copaci si hranindu-se cu frunze. A fost o idee indrazneata, ca sa nu zic absurda, sa ne imaginam ca ar fi existat chiar si in vremuri stravechi copaci suficient de puternici incat sa sustina animale la fel de mari ca niste elefanti. Profesorul Owen cu o mare probabilitate considera ca in loc sa se suie in copaci, trageau crengile in jos si rupeau copacii mai mici scotandu-i din radacini.

Greutatea si marimea partii lor dorsale, pe care cu greu ne-o putem inchipui fara sa o fi vazut, primeste o utilitate in loc sa fie o problema, aparenta lor stangacie dispare. Cu cozile imense si tocurile uriase bine fixate in pamant in forma unui tripod puteau folosi forta maxima a bratelor si ghearelor.

Un copac trebuia sa aiba radacini extrem de puternice pentru a resista unei asemenea forte!

Mylodonii aveau o limba extensibila precum cea a girafelor, care cu limba si cu ajutorul gatului prelung ajunge la hrana sa, prin grija minunatei naturi. Conform lui Bruce [probabil un coleg] in Abysinia [fostul nume al Etiopiei] elefantul atunci cand nu ajunge crengile cu trompa, zgarie puternic copacul de jur imprejur si de sus in jos, pana copacul este suficient de slabit pentru a fi pus la pamant.

Locul in care am gasit fosilele este la doar 4-6 metri de nivelul apei, si deci pamantul nu s-a ridicat foarte mult (in afara de cazul in care exista o perioada intermediara de scadere, despre care nu avem dovezi) din perioada in care partrupedepe se plimbau pe campiile imprejmuitaore; iar aspectul tarii trebuie sa fi fost foarte asemanatos cu prezentul.

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Rio Negro – Indians


Shortly after passing the first spring we came in sight of a famous tree, which the indians reverence as the the altar Walleechu. It is situated on a high part of the plain, and hence is a landmark visibile at a great distance. As soon as a tribe of indians come in sight of it, they offer their adorations by loud shouts.  The tree itself is low, much branched, and thorny: just above the root it has a diameter of about three feet. It stands by itself without any neighbour, and was indeed the first tree we saw; afterwards we met with a few others of the same kind, but they were far from common. Being winter the tree had no leaves, but in their place numberless threads by which the various offerings, such as cigars, bread, meat, pieces of cloth, etc., had been suspended.

Poor Indians, not having anything better, only pull a thread out of their ponchos and fasten it to the tree. Richer Indians are accustomed to pour spirits and mate into a certain hole and likewise to smoke upwards, thinking thus to afford all possible gratification to Walleechu. To complete the scene, the tree was surrounded by the bleached bones of horses which had been slaughtered as sacrifices. All Indians of every age and sex make their offerings; they then think that their horses will not tire and that they themselves shall pe prosperous.

The Gaucho who told me this said that in the time of peace he had witnessed this scene and that he and others used to wait till the Indians had passed by for the sake of stealing from Walleechu, the offerings.


Putin dupa venirea primaverii, am ajuns la faimosul copac pe care indienii il numesc altarul lui Walleechu. E pozitionat pe o parte inalta a campiei si este un reper vizibil de la mare departare. Imediat ce un trib de indieni il vad, incep sa strige aratandu-si astfel respectul. Copacul in sine este scund, cu multe ramuri si spinos: chiar deasupra radacinii are un diametru de aproximati 3 picioare [1 metru].  Nu sunt alti copaci in apropiere, si a fost intr-adevar primul copac pe care l-am vazut; ulterior am intalnit cativa de acelasi fel, dar nu erau comuni. Pentru ca era iarna, copacul nu avea frunze si in locul lor erau multi spini de care erau suspendate diferitele ofrande cum ar fi : tigari, paine, carne, bucati de material textil etc.

Indienii saraci, neavand ceva mai bun, desira un fir din poncho-urile lor si le leaga de copac. Indienii mai bogati sunt obisnuiti sa toarne alcool si mate intr-o gaura si sa impinga fumul de tigara in sus, pentru a oferi toate multumirile posibile catre Walleechu. Pentru a completa imaginea copacul era inconjurat de oasele albite ale cailor ce au fost sacrificati. Toti indienii, indiferent de varsta si sex trimit ofrande; ei cred ca astfel caii nu le vor obosi si ca ei insisi vor trai mai bine.

Localnicul ce imi spunea acestea, mi-a povestit ca in timp de pace a fost martorul unor scene asemanatoare si ca el si altii obisnuiau sa astepte pana cand indienii plecau cu scopul de a fura ofrandele lui Walleechu.

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Rio de Janeiro – Planaria


The existence of a division of the genus Planaria which inhabits the dry land, interested me much. These animals are of so simple a structure, that Cuvier has arranged them with the intestinal worms, though never found within the bodies of other animals.

Numerous species inhabit both salt and fresh water; but those to which i allude were found even in the drier parts of the forrest beneath logs of rotten wood, on which i believe they fed. In general  form they resemble little slugs but are very much narrower in proportion and several of the species are beatifully colored with longitudinal stripes.

Their structure is very simple, near the middle of the under, or crawling surface there are two small transverse slits, from the anterior one of which a funnel shaped and highly irritable mouth can be protruded.

For some time after the rest of the animal was completely dead from the effects of salt water or any other cause, this organ still retained its vitality. 

I found no less than twelve different species of terrestrial Planariae in different parts of the southern hemisphere. Some specimens, which i obtained at Van Dieman’s Land, i kept alive for nearly two months feeding them on rotten wood. Having cut one of them transversaly into two nearly equal parts, in the course of a fortnight both had the shape of perfect animals. I had, however, so divided the body that one of the halfs contained both the inferior orifices and the other, in consequence, none.

In the course of 25 days from the operation, the more perfect half could not half been distinguished from any other specimen. The other had increased much in size and towards it’s posterior end a clear space was formed in the parenchymatous mass in which rudimentary cup-shaped mouth could clearly be distinguished; on the under surface, however, no corresponding slit was yet open. If the increased heat of the weather as we approached the ecuator had not destroyed all the individuals there can be no doubt that this last step would have completed its structure.

Although so well-known an experiment it was interesting to watch the gradual production of every essential organ, out of the simple extremity of another animal. It is extremely difficult to preserve these Planariae; as soon as the cessation of life allows the ordinary laws of change to act their entire bodies become soft and fluid, with a rapidity which i have never seen equalled.


Ma interesa existenta unei diviziuni a genului Planaria. Aceste animale au o structura atat de simpla incat Cuvier i-a aranjat impreuna cu viermii intestinali, desi nu au fost gasiti niciodata in corpul altori animale.

Numeroase specii traiesc atat in apa sarata cat si in apa dulce, dar cele la care ma refer au fost gasite chiar si in cele mai uscate parti ale padurii, sub trunchiuri putrezite de copaci, cu care cred ca se hraneau. Ca forma generala seamana cu mici limacsi, dar sunt mai ingusti si cateva specii sunt colorate cu dungi longitudinale.

Structura lor e foarte simpla, la mijlocul suprafetei pe care se tarasc, sunt doua mici taieturi transversale iar din cea anterioara se vede o gura puternic iritabila in forma de con.

Chiar si la un timp dupa ce animalul a murit datorita efectelor apei sarate sau altor cauze, acest organ continua sa-si mentina vitalitatea.

Am gasit nu mai putin de 12 specii diferite de Planarii terestre in diferite parti ale emisferei sudice. Pentru mai bine de doua luni am pastrat vii cateva dintre specimenele obtinute din Van Dieman’s Land, pe care le-am hranit cu lemn putrezit. Atunci cand am taiat transversal in parti egale un specimen, ambele parti aveau forma unui animal perfect dupa numai o noapte. Totusi, eu divizasem corpul in asa fel incat una dintre jumatati continea ambele orificii inferioare si cealalta, in consecinta, niciunul.

Dupa 25 de zile de la operatie, jumatatea care continea orificiile nu putea fi distinsa de orice alt specimen. Cealalta crescuse mult in marime si catre partea posterioara se putea observa un spatiu in masa parenchimatoasa in care o gura in forma de cupa putea fi usor distinsa; pe suprafata inferioara, nu exista nici o deschizatura. Daca temperatura crescuta, din zona ecuatorului nu ar fi distrus indivizii nu am nici un dubiu ca acest ultim pas ar fi completat structura.

Desi e un experminet bine-cunoscut a fost interesant de urmarit productia graduala a fiecarui organ esential, din extremitatea unui alt animal. Este extrem de dificil sa conserv aceste Planarii; imediat ce incetarea vietii permite procesele naturale ale schimbari, corpurile lor devin moi si fluide cu o rapiditate pe care nu am mai vazut-o pana acum.


Am vrut sa arat si partea efectiva de lucru a lui Darwin in expeditie, micutele animale cu care se juca au fost supuse la diverse experimente, care desi cu nimic spectaculoase l-au ajutat sa inteleaga capactiatea de regenerare a unor specii.

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