1867 - Taylor, R. The Age of New Zealand - [Text] p 1-26

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  1867 - Taylor, R. The Age of New Zealand - [Text] p 1-26
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Author of "New Zealand and its Inhabitants."

IT is an interesting subject of inquiry, to ascertain how far those grand geological epochs which chronicle the preadamite history of the northern hemisphere of our planet, apply to the southern; whether their characteristic deposits are as clearly to be traced on the one side of the globe, as they are on the other; and, if not, how many of them can be proved to extend over its entire surface.

We may reasonably suppose that some of those great convulsions which, at different times, have shattered and altered the solid framework of the earth, have not been equally extensive in their effects; that they have been more severely felt in one part than in another. This would especially have been the case if they did not arise from causes of sufficient magnitude to affect the entire globe at once.

In the primary formations it is natural to expect a general agreement; for when the first crust was formed over an incandescent orb, the crystaline or unstratified rocks would be everywhere the same, and experience proves that this

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is the case. Hence, it is to be inferred that, in its cooling state, when the first solid deposits were made, there was one simultaneous process going on throughout the world. Its solid crust, however, being formed, every subsequent convulsion has been more or less local. Alterations in the polarity of the earth, arising from external sources, may have changed the relative position of sea and land in different parts, and vast internal powers may have likewise been displayed, upheaving one region and depressing another, denuding lands or filling up seas, and these must be regarded as the chief agents which have effected all the later changes of our planet.

Several of the grand deposits of the northern hemisphere are totally wanting in the southern. In New Zealand, it is doubtful whether the lias age has been passed. The secondary sandstone, which is seen in Australia, is now in a state of deposition in these isles. The grand mass of the southern half of the globe is still submerged; hence the lands which survived that great cataclysm and remained above the sea-level, seem to have escaped many of those later convulsions which have successively occurred in other parts of the earth since that event took place, and may, therefore, be expected to present the peculiarities of the age preceding the last destruction which they underwent, and to bear a closer resemblance to it in the characteristic features of these fauna and sylva.

The lias may be termed the bird age. It was during that period they seem to have been the chief creatures of the earth, and to have attained their greatest development; the footmarks of those found impressed on the sandstone of Connecticut were eighteen inches long, with a

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stride of fully six feet, indicating a bird thrice as large as the ostrich.

Remains of the bird age are still to be seen more or less throughout the southern hemisphere, every part of which has its living representative of the struthious family, or has had within a comparatively recent period. South America having the rhea or nandus; South Africa, its ostrich; Australia, the emu; the East Indian Isles, the cassowary; New Guinea, the muruk; the Mauritius had its dodo; and Madagascar, the aepyornis maximus, whose egg equalled a dozen of the ostrich's, being 15 inches long by 9 in width. But the bird age survives more particularly in New Zealand, which appears to have been the head quarters of the apterix up to the present period. Already the remains of thirteen species have been found, all of which have had a very recent existence:--1. The Dinornis Giganteus, in size and height rivalling the cameleopard, and probably resembling it in its habits, feeding on the tops of the young cabbage palms. 2. The D-Elephantopus, whose thick massive frame nearly approached in size that of the elephant. 3. The D-Robustus. d. The D-Crassus. 5. The D-Curtus, which must have been fully 9 feet high. G. The D-Didiformis, a bird four feet high. 7. The D-Strathoides. 8. D-Casaurinus. 9. D-Rheides 10. D-Gracilis, and the Palapteryx Ingens, P-Geranoides, and the Aptornis Otidiformis.

The islands still possess, at least, two living species of the apertix, and in addition to these it had, and most probably still has, the notornis. Mr. Mantell found all these kinds, with their eggshells, in the native ovens, evidently proving that they were contemporaneous with man. The Maori speak of the gigantic Moa as having been

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hunted by their fathers, and songs of their exploits with it are still preserved. A solitary feather of the moa--the last prized relic possessed--was said to have been buried with the chief Te Rauparaha. The bones of these ancient races of birds are still abundant, and the recent state of many of them clearly proves that they have lived within the last half century, and that they long survived the dodo.

The bird preceded the animal; and so in New Zealand, with the exception of a diminutive rat, no other land animal has been found, thus presenting a remarkable resemblance in this respect to the lias age.

About three years ago, the fossil remains of a Saurian were sent from Nelson to Professor Owen, pronounced it to be a plesiosaurus. Since that period, the discovery has been made of a living representative of that ancient race of reptiles, which proves that however diminished in size, the peculiar type of its family still survives in New Zealand.

This marine lizard was found near the Mangonui harbour about the end of 1864. When first seen it was quite fresh and perfect, having been apparently brought on shore by some sea birds to be there devoured at their leisure. The colour of the skin was of a silvery grey, inclining to green. The flesh was semi-transparent, suffused with a reddish hue, and resembled that of a fish; it smelt strongly of the sea. The tail was long and narrow, being fully six inches in length; the jaws were like two flat bones or bills, apparently without teeth, or, if there were any, they had been attached by a cartilage, as sharks' teeth; and if there were any, have totally disappeared. One jaw was broken; its skin was scaleless; having a soft fishy

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skin, it is highly probable that this reptile was entirely marine, and not amphibious; and, therefore, that it had paddles and not feet; unfortunately it was not secured at once, but left until the following day, when it was found greatly mutilated and reduced to a mere skeleton. A large portion of the skull was gone, as well as the legs and tail. There are still, however, two singular appendages remaining, which hang down on either side of the head like fins or ears. The skeleton is strongly formed, and the neck long. It seems very closely to resemble a Plesiosaurus. The Mangonui harbour is shallow, and its bottom is covered with a species of zostera, on which it is highly probable it fed; from the soft slimy character of its skin it does not appear to have been amphibious. When this saurian was perfect it must have been more than two feet long. I obtained the skeleton from the Rev. T. Duffus, who discovered it on his land at the Hihi, Mangonui. The natives called it He Muritai (sea breeze), but this might only mean that it was a waif of the sea, and a proof that they were strangers to it.

Its dimensions are as follows: -

Length of head.............. 4 1/2 inches.
" of body.............. 4 1/2 "
" of body to pelvis...... 6 "
" of pelvis ............ 3 "
" of tail................6 "

Total length......... 2 feet

Greatest circumference of body.. 10 inches.

From the general presence of wingless birds on every continent, and on almost every lone island as well, in the southern hemisphere, we have strong proof of a grand continent having existed in the

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bird era, from the destruction of which the New Zealand Isles escaped, and so preserved their inhabitants. As the disrupted fragments of that continent, widely severed from other lands, they received none of the varied races of animals which later epochs called into existence in other parts of the globe.

The marsupial races of animals still surviving in Australia may likewise be regarded as remnants of an antique creation, which has elsewhere ceased to exist. The largest species of reptiles and saurians now remaining are chiefly to be found in the southern latitudes, and of the pachydermata as well: the elephant, rhinoceros, hippopotamus, and the sole existing species of the tapir, an order of which Europe has only the pig now to represent it. Indeed, an ancient type of animal organisation seems to run through the various lands and islands in the southern hemisphere.

This applies to the sea as well--many kinds of fish and shells being either identical or more nearly allied to the carboniferous than to those of the present age. In particular may be mentioned the placoids, which form the first order of fishes in the arrangement of Professor Agassiz. They are characterised by having their skin covered irregularly with plates of enamel, often of considerable dimensions, and sometimes indeed to small points, like the shagreen on the skin of many sharks, and the prickly tooth-like tubercles on the skin of rays. All the cartilaginous fishes, with the exception of the sturgeon, belong to this order, which includes the skates, rays, dogfish, and sharks.

Fish of this order are very numerous in the southern hemisphere, and of formidable dimensions. The Cestracion Philippi or Port Jackson

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shark may he adduced as an example. Of this fish Hugh Miller says:--"It is a creature that to the dorsal spines and shagreen-covered skin of the common dogfish adds a mouth terminal at the snout, not placed beneath as in most other sharks, and a palate covered with a dense pavement of crushing teeth, which better illustrates the order as it first appeared in creation than any of our British placoids."

The mako, another species of shark, ranging between 19° and 38° south latitude, which is much sought after by the New Zealanders on account of its teeth--their favorite ear ornaments--seems to be identical with one of those whose teeth are found so abundantly in the Isle of Sheppey and in other parts of Britain.

The Carcharius Megalodon, belonging to the red crag, is also found in New Zealand, living as well as in a fossil state. The Tuatini, a shark of genus squatina, abounding on the New Zealand shores, with a large head like that of the tadpole, and mouth placed at the apex of the muzzle, and not underneath, having a body tapering to the tail, it is remarkable for the form of its teeth, each one being composed of six sharp points, like so many separate ones fixed in the same block, inclined inwards as a saw. This destructive fish is often found twelve feet long; its teeth are identical with those found in the London clay.

The rays also are remarkable for their great size, some having been seen in Sydney harbour not much less than five feet across the back. One kind is armed with a long tail bristling with spines, and beneath it a sting identical with that of the Pleurocanthus, figured by Hugh Miller, found in the coal measures of Great Britain, which he justly remarks must have been used as a weapon of

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torture as well as of defence, instances of death from its sting not being uncommon. The peculiar form of this fish adapt it for shallow waters, where it abounds; the natives when fording these sometimes touch one of them, the fish immediately elevates its tail and strikes the assailant with the sting, which is concealed in a kind of case beneath, and lubricated with a poisonous slimy matter.

Many of the shells likewise of the southern hemisphere are identical with the fossil ones of Britain. There are several species of the Terebratula, which are found both in a living and fossil state in New Zealand, Such is also the case with the annularia australis, which is found in the London clay. The Typhis Pungens of the Eocene belongs to the living shells of New Zealand. The Lingula Anatina is named from its resemblance to a duck's bill, a singular shell, being the only known bivalve that is pedunculated, unless it be the terebratula. This is an Australian shell, found in Moreton Bay and in the Phillipines; Hugh Miller not unaptly likened it to a wooden spade with a handle. The Trigonia, the characteristic shell of the Oolite, still lives in Sydney harbour. The Volvaria Bulloides, of the Eocene, is also a living shell of the southern hemisphere, and many others might be adduced; but sufficient have been mentioned to show that organisms belonging to remote ages, which have long been extinct in one hemisphere, still exist in the other, and that those grand convulsions which caused their destruction in one part of the globe did not reach the other, or if they did, in such a modified way as not entirely to destroy the characteristic forms of that period.

If such be the correct inference it will be corroborated by the flora and sylva of these countries

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which have escaped such destructions. They will present a general resemblance to the vegetation of the earth peculiar to that period preceding those geological changes, and this will be found to be the case. Many of the singular forms of vegetable life belonging to the carboniferous age of Britain, but no longer clothing its surface, still survive in these southern lands.

The earth's earliest garment was most probably that of cryptogamous or cellular plants; the fern, the moss, and the lichen preceded the nobler forms of vegetable life. This, then, may be justly termed the fern age of New Zealand, since nearly nine-tenths of its surface, particularly of the northern island, is thus covered, and perhaps no other country possesses such a variety, 120 species have been already classified. The fern trees of New Zealand are of several species, and so abundant as to form a striking feature of the New Zealand landscape. They are found in every part of these islands, even as far south as Stewart's Island. They frequently attain a height of nearly fifty feet, and some are occasionally found branched.

The vast number of beautiful mosses jungermania, hepatica, and lichens, and especially Lycopodia, likewise form a distinguishing feature of the New Zealand flora.

The largest known representative of the gigantic Lepidodendrom is the Lycopodium densum of New Zealand, which attains the height of fully four feet, having a stiff woody stem half an inch in diameter, and so tough and strong that formerly the natives converted it into fishhooks. There appears to be also a general resemblance between the aquatic plants of New Zealand and the fossil ones of the carboniferous age of Britain. The

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Calamites, and especially the stigmaria to the roots of the raupo (typha augustiflora), these often extend several feet, forming a tube of one or two inches in diameter, covered by a strong silicious skin, with rings at regular distances, and a fringe of stiff fibres, with a circular dome-shaped termination. In calcareous waters, these roots are often found with their forms impressed in the deposit, closely resembling the fossil stigmaria and Calamites of Britain. Stigmaria Fycoides, figured in "Miller's Testimony of the Rocks," appears to be only the dried-up footstalk of one of our palms or fern trees, to both of which it bears a close resemblance.

The next most ancient covering of the earth was composed of Monocotyledonous plants, with their parallel-veined leaves. They are endogenous in growth, or increase from within, as the palms, lillies, grasses, &c.

The simple blade of grass may be regarded as the type of a large portion of New Zealand plants, and, indeed, of the southern hemisphere as well; the lofty bamboo and useful sugar-cane are representatives of an order peculiarly belonging to it, and which are but gigantic forms of grass. The cane, perhaps, is one of the earliest types of the tree. In the manner of growth, its leaf and flower, it is but a grass; its shoots can scarcely be termed branches, they spring both from the roots and joints the same as in a tuft of grass. In the tropical Indian isles it has its chief development, and it terminates in New Zealand, where it is found in size little exceeding that of a strong stalk of grass. In the coal measures of Britain various fossil forms of the cane abound.

The Arica sapida or Nikau palm also belongs to the same age, and in a remarkable manner

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agrees with those found in the British coal-fields by being singularly marked with annual rings. The Cycas and Zamia, which are British fossils, have now their living representatives only in the southern hemisphere. The tree palm is a branchless tree. The Ti dracena or Cordyline Stricta remains so until it has flowered; its leaf, like that of the young palm, is a simple blade of grass, and its top is but a tuft of those grassy blades produced to a large size; as it increases the first leaves fall, and then a stem is gradually formed, which continues to grow until it attains a height of nearly twenty feet, when a flower stalk is thrust out from the centre of the shoot which it divides, and thus causes a second to arise, and so makes another branch; each succeeding year multiplies these shoots, and so in process of time the tree is as full of branches as any other, and finally attains a height of nearly one hundred feet, with a diameter of about five, thus becoming a gigantic grass tree; the wood of this tree, like the palm, is composed of a mass of parallel vascular fibres. This tree also, like the cane, seems to be one of the earliest type; it belongs to a very numerous family in New Zealand, and one which pervades the entire range of the southern hemisphere; it is a connecting link between the yucca and aloe, and appears to bear a general resemblance to the Lepidodendron and Sigillaria. The same simple form is seen in the Xanthorrhoea or grass tree, in the Phormium tenax, in the Arthopodium cirrhatum, the Dianella, and in the many kinds of Astelia. Epiphytes either loading the trees of the forest with their weight or flourishing in swamps. The various asters which enliven the central plains with their daisy-shaped flowers, the climbing kiekie (Freycinetia Banksii), the raupo (Typha augustifolia), the toitoi (Lepidosperma elatio), the

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arundo Australis, which ranges over the pampas of South America as well as over the plains of New-Zealand, the Mata arundo, a reed bearing a red grain, coated with a strong silicious skin; and to these must be added the extensive family of Epacridious plants with their carnation shaped leaves, of which the Dracophyllum latifolium attains the size of a tree. These in general appear to be dispersed throughout the southern hemisphere, and to bear a strong resemblance to those of the carboniferous age.

The coniferous trees (of this hemisphere) likewise resemble those of the coal measure, their leaves having a primitive type in being parallel veined. The Dammaras are now only found in a line extending from Borneo to New Zealand. About six species are known, including the D. Orientalis (the pitch pine of Amboyna), and the D. Australis (the Kauri of New Zealand), both of which are worthy of notice on account of the immense quantity of valuable resin they produce; some lumps of "kauri gum," as it is called, being of enormous size, and of more than a hundred pounds in weight. The locality of the Dammaras is generally in deep vallies, with a pipeclay soil, which renders the ground retentive of moisture, and therefore always humid. The quantity of matter formed round the stem of the kauri by its leaves and debris is so great as frequently to be six or eight feet deep, which gives it the appearance of rising from the apex of a pyramid, thus shewing how a stratum of vegetable mould may have been formed in the carboniferous age, and how the fossil resin known as amber has been deposited. The network character of the roots of New Zealand trees, which run along the ground and do not penetrate any depth, also resemble the character of primitive

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forests. In a similar way to the gum copal of South Africa the kauri resin is found throughout the range of the New Zealand coal measures. In the Waikato coal it is met with in small nodules, highly coloured and transparent; but in the Massacre Bay coal in large lumps, chiefly opaque, and filled with iron pyrites. The noble Araucaria, which figures in the British coal measures, and was doubtless then the monarch of that primeval forest, is now confined to the southern hemisphere. The number of species belonging to this beautiful coniferous family is very limited. Two only have been found in South America, one being in the Brazils (A. Braziliensis), and the other in Chili (A. Imbricata), two in Australia (A. Cunninghamii, commonly known as the Moreton Bay pine), and (A. Bidwellia, or the hunga hunga, whose large seeds are eaten by the natives), and one in Norfolk Island (A. Excelsa). More kinds may be discovered amongst the Indian Isles, but at present these are nearly all we are acquainted with. Alluding to this tree, Hugh Miller says:--"Though marked by certain peculiarities of structure, they bore, as is shown by the fossil trunks of Granton and Craigleith, the familiar outlines of true coniferous trees, and would mayhap have differed no more in appearance from their successors of the same order that now live in our forests than these differ from the conifers of New Zealand or New South Wales." Mudie, in his sketch of conifers, makes the following pertinent remarks on the Araucaria:--"They are all local trees, and with the exception of the first species (A. Imbricata) they are all confined within a small compass, and not far from the same parallel, that is about 23° or 24° south latitude. Though no conclusion has been hitherto drawn from it, it is a curious fact that there should be a well-defined and rather

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singular genus of plants ranged round the parallel of nearly the southern tropic, and at wide distances from each other, whilst not one of these bears much resemblance to any other vegetable of the district in which it is found." The same also applies to the Dammaras; but when we view these as belonging to an ancient type of tree which figured in the carboniferous age of Britain, it then bears strong testimony in support of the theory here advanced.

There are many plants and trees which seem to be widely spread throughout the southern hemisphere. Of these is the Casurina, which is found in most of the South Sea isles as well as in Australia. The Fuchsia Excorticata and the Betula Tawai, common to Tierra del Fuego as well as New Zealand; the Veronicas, so numerous in the latter islands, are also found in many of the isles to the north, on the tops of mountains, where they obtain a similar climate; the Dracena, and many others, are thus widely dispersed, which can only be accounted for by supposing that these are fragmentary portions of a flora having once had a continental range which geological convulsions have since destroyed. To this effect are the remarks of Dr. Hooker:--

"Enough is here given to show that many of the peculiarities of each of the three grand areas of land in the southern latitudes are representative ones, affecting a botanical relationship as strong as that which prevails throughout the lands within arctic and north temperate zones, and which is not to be accounted for by any theory of transport or variation, but which is agreeable to the hypothesis of all being members of a once more extensive flora, which has been broken up by geological and climatic causes."

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The primitive character of the New Zealand flora, likewise, is very striking in the rudimentary appearance of many of its plants and flowers; so much so, that the observer can scarcely fail to regard them as embryo forms, to be perfected at some future period; thus, we see the miniature representative of the dandelion, with its own peculiar leaf and flower; the buttercup, every flower varying in the number of its petals, from one up to nine; the diminutive daisy, the harebell, willow-plant, speedwell, persecaria, the scentless violet, St. John's wort, and other familiar flowers, are readily recognised as the original types of their more perfect descendants in the other hemisphere. So, likewise, with the fruits of New Zealand, if there are no stone pears or plums here, as in Australia, in their place appear the outward forms of fruit, covered with a skin beautiful, with its purple bloom, of most inviting appearance, but in reality, containing nothing but a large stone kernel.

In our swamps may be seen a cyperaceous plant, which attains a height of nearly five feet. It is composed of a number of grassy stems, cemented together in one mass, apparently by a resinous gum, and thus presenting the form of a tree. This may be regarded as the simplest form of a rudimentary tree; and next to it is the Xanthorea hastilis, which also belongs to the same natural order; this plant, however, differs from the former, in having the mass of fibres, which forms the stem, covered with a bark, and thus makes it one step nearer to a tree. The Ti dracena has likewise a fibrous stem and a soft bark; so, also, the Nikau palm.

Much more might be said on this subject, but sufficient has been adduced to show the ancient

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and primitive character of the New Zealand flora, and its singular resemblance to that of the carboniferous age, in the opposite regions of the globe.

To this effect, Dr. Hooker, speaking of the Australian flora, says:--"That its origin is referable to another period of the world's history, from that which contemporaneously peopled the rest of the globe with its existing vegetation." It has been a general idea that Australia and New Zealand are of very recent formation; that, in fact, the same process has been going on in them, which is still to be seen in many of the South Sea Islands, whose barren surface, when raised above the reach of the ocean, gradually becomes clothed with vegetation, through the agency of birds carrying seeds, or to the drifting of the waves; but this will not account for the peculiarities of these countries which have been alluded to, their characteristic flora still indicating an anciently wide-spread range, from being found on remote spots, far separated from New Zealand, and bearing a close resemblance to that of the carboniferous age; their distinctive fauna, also, being that of the same epoch, and their fossils likewise belonging to it.

These wingless birds--whence could they have come, if this be not an ancient country? Does not this necessitate the supposition of New Zealand having once formed a part of a grand continent? We have likewise to observe the remarkable formation of all the islands to the north. Japan, the Philipines, and especially the little island distinctively called the Island of Pines, which, although of such a limited extent, is still covered with a coniferous tree peculiar to it, which, from their height, render it a regular land-mark. So,

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also, Norfolk Island, where the noble Arucaria, which thence derives its name, is only to be found within its contracted limits; and the little adjacent island, called Philip Island, which, though a mere rock of the ocean, is rendered remarkable by its having a parrot peculiar to it, allied to the Kakapo of New Zealand. Lord Howe's Island and the Auckland Isles, Chatham, and many others, might be noticed as containing portions of the flora and fauna of New Zealand, although so widely separated from it; and thus contributing their united testimony to their having been anciently parts of one and the same continent.

Dr. Sclater's deductions on Madagascar and the Mascarena Islands, &c., so fully agree with these views that I here insert them: -

1. "Madagascar has never been connected with Africa as it at present exists. This would seem probable from the absence of certain all pervading Ethiopian types in Madagascar, such as Antelope, Hippopotamus, Felix, &c. But, on the other hand, the presence of Lemurs in Africa renders it certain that Africa, as it at present exists, contains land that once formed part of Madagascar.

2. "Madagascar and the Mascarena Islands (which are universally acknowledged to belong to the same category) must have remained for a long epoch separated from every other part of the globe, in order to have acquired the many peculiarities now exhibited in their mammal fauna--e. g., Lemur, chiromys, eupleres, centetes, &c., to be elaborated by the gradual modification of pre-existing forms.

3. "Some land connexion must have existed in former ages between Madagascar and India, whereon the original stock, whence the present

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Lemuridae of Africa, Madagascar, and India are descended, nourished.

4. "It must be likewise allowed that some sort of connexion must also have existed between Madagascar and land which now forms part of the new world, in order to permit the derivation of the centetinae from a common stock with the solenodon, and to account for the fact that the Lemuridae, as a body, are certainly more nearly allied to the weaker forms of American monkeys than to any of the siniridae of the old world."

The anomalies of the mammal fauna of Madagascar can best be explained by supposing that, anterior to the existence of Africa in its present shape, a large continent occupied parts of the Atlantic and Indian oceans, stretching out towards (what is now) America on the west, and to India on the east; that this continent was broken up into islands, of which some became amalgamated with what is now Asia--and that in Madagascar and the Mascarena islands we have existing relics of this great continent.

The age of trees may also be used as a minor proof of antiquity. There are trees in Africa and South America said to be from five to six thousand years old, as the Baobab of the one, and the Taxodium of the other. But in Australia the largest specimens of the vegetable kingdom are to be found. The ficus macrophyllus, called the Moreton Bay fig, is remarkable for its colossal proportions; an example growing on the Manning, exhibited a bulk superior to any of the Baobabs of Africa, or Chestnuts of Etna; in fact, larger than any tree with a single stem which has ever been mentioned by travellers. It is a peculiarity of this tree to throw out buttresses of wood all round the trunk, as they do not grow in contact with

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each other; it would, be unfair to give the measurement of a line drawn round them for the dimensions of the tree: but at six feet from the ground the circumference of the real cylindrical paid of the trunk was sixty-six feet, measured as if the tape had passed through the projecting parts. At the same height, if the buttresses had been included the measurement would have been one hundred and ten feet, and at half the height three hundred feet. "These partitions would have afforded stalls for the horses of a squadron of dragoons." The Australian cedar found at Illawarra is of great size, and may be there seen with a circumference of forty feet.

Nor must the trees of New Zealand be omitted, several of which are remarkable for their size. The kauri has been known to attain a height of two hundred feet with a circumference of forty; this great shaft rising with a very gradual diminution of size to upwards of a hundred feet without a single branch. To estimate the age of such a noble pine, I may state that I have a young kauri in my garden which is not more than an inch in circumference though ten years old; this would give it an age of fully 4,000 years, and yet there are some who have actually thought that it is not a thousand years since these islands first emerged from the ocean depths. There are several, however, of our most eminent geologists who have formed more correct ideas of the age of the southern hemisphere, and this, too, with a very imperfect knowledge of it.

Lyell remarks the similarity of several New Zealand plants to those of the coal measures.

Ansted says:--"It is a remarkable fact, this flora (of the carboniferous period) is found to a great extent, uniform in those parts of the globe

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from which the principal carboniferous fossils have been obtained, and if we wish to compare this ancient flora with those which bear resemblance to it at present, either in the general preponderance of particular plants, or in the total absence of others, we must leave the northern hemisphere, and transport ourselves to the islands in the neighbourhood of our antipodes, where New Zealand and Australia, together with an innumerable multitude of small islands, form almost the only land in the vast area between the tropic of capricorn and the antarctic circle." Whilst such are the conjectures of geologists who never visited these parts, and who wrote when few scientific men had personally inspected them, it is especially satisfactory to have the opinion of one who has actually examined them. Dr. Hochstetter, the geologist of the Austrian expedition, who visited these shores in 1859, speaking of the wingless birds whose fossil remains he was so fortunate as to obtain in great abundance, makes the following remarks:--"These gigantic birds belong to an era prior to the human race, to a post-tertiary period, and it is a remarkably incomprehensible fact of the creation, that, whilst at the very same period in the old world, elephants, rhinoceroses, hippopotami; in South America, gigantic sloths and armadillos; in Australia, gigantic kangaroos, wombats, and dasyurus were living, the colossal forms of animal life were represented in New Zealand by gigantic birds which walked the shores then untrod by the foot of any quadruped."

It remains to be proved whether these gigantic birds have entirely disappeared; if they have, it is only since these islands have been colonized. Not only did Mr. Mantell find the bones of the Moa in the native ovens, but also their eggshells,

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with one end chared, evidently proving that they had been cooked and used as food. Meurant (an old sealer, who was acquainted with this country about forty years ago), stated that he saw the leg of a Moa cooked, that he thought at first it was one of a human being, until they assured him it belonged to a bird.

It is only recently that traces of a living Moa have been observed, rendering it highly probable that this gigantic bird is not yet extinct, and even should it prove to be so, it is certain that it has long survived the Dodo.

While Mr. Brunner, chief surveyor of the Province of Nelson, and Mr. Maling, of the survey department, accompanied by a native, were engaged in surveying on the ranges, between the Riwaka and Takaka valleys, they observed one morning, on going to their work, the footprints of what appeared to be a large bird, whose tracks they followed for a short distance, but lost them at length among rocks and scrub. The size of the footprints, which were well defined wherever the ground was soft, was fourteen inches in length, with a spread of eleven inches at the points of the three toes. The footprints were about thirty inches apart. On examining the bones of the foot of a moa in the Museum, we find the toe to measure, without integuments, eight inches and a half, and these evidently from part of a skeleton of a very large bird: the length of the impression of the toe of the bird in question was ten inches. The native who was in company with Messrs. Brunner and Maling was utterly at a loss to conjecture what bird could have made such a footprint, as he had never seen anything of the land before. The size of these footprints, and the great stride of the supposed bird, has led to a belief that a solitary moa

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may yet be in existence. The district is full of limestone caves of the same character as those in which such a quantity of moa bones were found about two years ago in the neighbouring district of Aorere. It is highly probable that the moa was a night bird, hence the difficulty of ascertaining whether it still survives or not.

The recent existence, therefore, of these birds, the characteristic inhabitants of a post-tertiary period, together with the ancient and primitive character of the flora of these islands, bearing such a singular resemblance to that of the carboniferous age, justifies the conclusion that the southern hemisphere as a whole, and New Zealand in particular, have preserved that state of vegetation and peculiar forms of life which existed in the other half of the globe when similar organizations and conditions prevailed.

(1). That man, in fact, in these regions, stands on a more ancient platform, and is surrounded by far more ancient forms of vegetable and animal life than ever his grand progenitor Adam was at his creation.

(2). That of all the surface of our planet, this is probably the oldest portion, and still preserves, with little change, its primeval condition, from its not having been submerged with the rest of the grand southern continent.

(3). That Australia at a later period was severed from the Asiatic continent, and still possesses the flora and fauna peculiar to that period, and so dissimilar to more recent creations.

(4). That at a still later time, America was severed from Europe and Africa, with its fauna and flora entirely diverse from those of the old world, as it is called, though in reality it is the newest. And thus, that these three are like so

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many steps of descent which bring us from the most recent surface, down to that of the liassic age, and at each of these steps enables us to see in actual existence, what is only elsewhere to be found in a fossil state. That these steps form as it were a geological flight of stairs, which connect the oldest with the most recent platform of the earth, the first and lowest step being New Zealand and some of the neighbouring isles, with their buds; the next Australia and its dependencies, with their marsupial races; then America, with its armadillos, sloths, tapirs, &c.; and, lastly, the platform of Europe, with its new flora and fauna, but including remains of former ones, over which man, the last and chief of all creatures, presides.

(4). That animal and botanic centres are to be viewed as epochs of creation, originally of the widest distribution, and probably commensurate in extent with the surface of the earth, and similar in character, with slight modifications, throughout the world.

(6). That these so-called centres preserve the peculiar condition of each, which, by subsequent convulsions, have been lost in other parts; that thus, whilst some of the grand links in the chain of nature have been lost, many, from the first to the last, are still preserved.

(7). That the southern hemisphere, the greatest portion of which has been submerged, is again rising, and will eventually reveal the long hidden continent, but with superincumbent strata which will more nearly resemble the later formations of the old continent. That the cretaceous deposit will fully make its appearance as it does now to a small extent in the many coral isles which dot the bosom of the Pacific, whose shores are covered with

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oolitic sand, formed by the ceaseless roll of its disintegrated fragments.

There can, therefore, be no doubt, however strange it may appear, that this Britain of the South, the last and newest portion of our Empire, is, in a geological point of view, immeasurably older than the parent isle, and was in being long before

"Britain arose from out the azure main."

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