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TO SCIENCE LECTURERS.

over in silence, as though they were utterly unknown to THURSDAY, DECEMBER 22, 1892.

him. Mr. Dixon states that he is “equally cognizant of

the researches of Weissemann” (sic) and others, which, MR. C. DIXON ON BIRD-MIGRATION.

except that Dr. Weismann, we think, would deny his

having made any, we do not take upon ourselves to gainMigration of Birds: an Attempt to reduce Avian

say, though our older writers are utterly ignored, and we Season-Flight to Law. By Charles Dixon. (London :

have a shrewd suspicion that the anonymous author of Chapman and Hall, 1892.)

the “Disco urse on the Emigration of British Birds," pubMONG prevalent fallacies there are few more mis

| lished at Salisbury more than one hundred years ago, 1 chievous than that which holds a man to be an was, from actual observation, more familiar with the thority on a subject because he has written a book

main facts than Mr. Dixon is-all flourishes about out it. If the subject be one concerning which the

“avian fly-lines ” and “season-flight” notwithstandingientific hold divers opinions, or even hesitate to deliver

and therefore would have been more competent than he opinion at all, so much is to the good of such an - to bring our knowledge of Migration within the limits uthor, for he will be able to pose all the more securely of order or to reduce it to Law.

the character of a savant-though after all that only Now this is exactly what in our opinion Mr. Dixon has gnifies a "knowing one." If the author can boast of not done. What the “ Law of Migration," of which we ome two, three, or even half-a-dozen works already pub- | read he re and on the title-page, may be it passes us to shed, the fallecy becomes almost insuperable, notwith- , dis cover. The phrase is full of sweetness, but its elucitanding that in zoological works of a popular nature, it dation, if we may say so, fails in light. So also is that S scarcely too hard to say that those who write the most about bringing our knowledge • within the limits of cnow the least. Nevertheless it remains the duty of the

order," though that may be here taken to mean a disserconscientious reviewer to be instant in season with his

tation within the limits of 300 pages or thereabouts protest against this general confounding of author with

containing something on the origin and descent of birds, authority. We have read several of Mr. Charles Dixon's ' a good deal about the precession of the equinoxes and the works, but hitherto we have been so fortunate that we have eccentricity of the earth's orbit, but still more about been able to keep in petto the judgment we have formed glacial epochs. Concerning the “Law of Migration” it of them. It is not given, however, even to reviewers to

is pointless. Let our author at once speak for himselt struggle against fate, and it has been ordained that we | in what seems to be a sort of summary of his faith, should have to criticize his recent volume, the title of though it is long and not reserved to the end of his which may be read above. To the first sentence of his i volume :preface—" There is no branch of Ornithology more popular than that which treats of the Migration of Birds”.

“We will now conclude by following in detail the migra

tion of some single species, say from its Post-Pliocene we offer no strong objection, and rejoice that there is

glacial initiation to the present day, in order clearly to one spot of ground, be it never so small, that we may demonstrate Why the habit [of migration] has been occupy in common; but (woe it is!) that here we must acquired, and How it is practised. part company, for the very next sentence contains a | “We will select the Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa staternent which we would willingly let pass as a harm

grisola) for the purpose. It is one of our best known

summer migrants, and one whose present geographical less exaggeration, were it not intensified by the words

distribution admirably illustrates the phenomenon of which follow-and" after that, the dark"!

Migration. When the Sub-Polar regions of the northern Mr. Dixon's acquaintance with the subject he has hemisphere last enjoyed a warm, almost semi-tropical selected is shown by the beginning of his second para climate--one of the mild periods of the Glacial Epochgraph—"Notwithstanding the immense popularity and

the Spotted Flycatcher inhabited in one unbroken area

the Arctic woodlands from the Atlantic to the Pacific. importance of Migration, strange as it may seem,

Probably it was a resident species becoming partially no work has hitherto been devoted expressly to its

nocturnal during the Polar night ; food was abundant ; discussion." He is therefore not aware of the essays of its conditions of life were easy, and it multiplied apace, Schlegeland of Marcel de Serres, which (whatever we may and became a dominant, firmly established species during now think of them) were in their time “crowned” by the

the thousands of years that it dwelt in this Sub-Polar scientific society that published them, and though he

habitat. So matters continued until the slow precession

of the equinoxes, in conjunction with increasing eccenstraightway proceeds to name the works of Professor

tricity of the earth's orbit, began to have a marked inPalmén and Herr Gätke, it is to complain of them that

fluence on the climate, and gradually the fair forests and they " have only dwelt upon a portion of the subject." the verdant plains were devastated by the ever-increasFar be it from us to say that Mr. Dixon has not read their ing cold. Age after age the Spotted Flycatcher was works, but really there is nothing to show that his know

driven slowly south ; summer after summer grew colder

and shorter, the periods of Polar darkness more severe. ledge of them is more than may be picked up from the

At last matters became so serious that the birds began to extracts which have been translated into English and leave their northern haunts in autumn, probably because publisbed in this country, or that he has read them their food became scarce as the various insects either to any purpose-that of Herr Gätke especially, because, retreated south or began to hibernate. Further and when further on (pp. 181-186) he comes to deal with it further southward these annual journeys had to be taken, more particularly, be regards it as if it were a mere

until the Flycatcher at last found its way during winter

into Africa, Persia, Arabia, India, China, and even the record of captures or reputed captures of birds in Heli

Philippines and the Moluccas. Summer after summer goland, speaking of it with contempt, and the original and the belt of breeding-ground became wider and wider, rather peculiar views on migration of its author are passed and vast numbers of individuals became separated from

the rest of the species by the lofty mountain ranges, the but who knows that it did ? To begin with, we end deserts, and other physical barriers, which would effectu what proof is there of the existence on the earth izë ally assist a forest or woodland haunting species. More

Muscicapa grisola “when the Sub-Polar regions and and more severe became the winters, longer and longer ; the glaciers descended lower and lower, exterminating

northern hemisphere last enjoyed a warm, almos: or driving before them all living things. At last the

tropical climate "? That its ancestors then lived at Spotted Flycatcher, or the form which then represented not doubt, but who can tell us what they wer: this species, came to be divided into two enormous What is meant by its “becoming partially does colonies-an African one and a Chinese one-the indi

during the Polar night”? If so its eyes must sinza viduals of each being completely isolated from each other,

undergone a considerable change, and that would ad summer and winter alike. During the ages that this state of things continued, the Flycatchers became

be unattended by a corresponding change in others segregated into two species, owing primarily to the i the bird's structure. But still it is a pleasing su absence of any intermarriage; the easiern race became that “its conditions were easy” in those mille smaller, the tail shorter, and the breast-streaks broader ; | and we hope Mr. Dixon may be right, though for et or the western race became larger, with a longer tail and

part we cannot help fearing that the struggle for era narrow breast-streaks. It is almost impossible to say

must have already begun. Certainly it set in at iz which form now most closely resembles the ancestral species ; but such are the present differences between

those terrible glaciers drove the poor bird besar the two races known to ornithologists respectively as with the effect- Mr. Dixon, we think, is to blame Muscicapa grisola (the Western and British form) and giving us the geographical details (wbich of courses Muscicupa griseisticta (the Eastern form). Such was

be known to him) of the process-of dividing these the state of things at the close of this Inter-Glacial

or the form which represented it, and may be prec Period. " Then came the gradual immigration north again, as

| (though this is not mentioned) to have by that t:: precession and lower eccentricity initiated a milder

rid of its owls' eyes, “into two enormous colonie climate. Age after age the journey in the spring became

African one and a Chinese one." These were so longer. Certain routes to and fro came to be recognized that inter-marriage between the individuals of the highways of passage ; and so imperceptibly did the portions was impossible, the remarkable consequent northern breeding grounds expand that the birds became

which was that “the Eastern race became smaller regular migrants, looking upon the movement north to higher and cooler latitudes each spring as an undertaking

the Western-a character distinctive indeed of the never to be missed. Warmer and warmer became the

races, the Pygmies excepted, now inhabiting the southern haunts, stimulating and widening migration lands--but with “the tail shorter ”-a contrats Aight to the cooler temperatures prevailing near the character, since the long tail of a Celestial is the edges of the retreating glaciers, where a suitable breeding important part of him. We are also told that climate could only be found. “Let us confine our attention solely to the birds that

almost impossible to say which form now most bred in the British Islands. In the Præ-Glacial ages

resembles the ancestral species," an unexpected comics this area formed part of Continental Europe ; a rich and

of ignorance (the “almost” is good) after so much fertile corner, abounding in insect life, full of haunts the mation, but one to which we see the necessity of te Flycatcher loved. After the banishment of its race However, what is the upshot of all this? And box 1 and the exile of its ancestors in Africa, the northern

“law” illustrated by it ? Setting aside the vagars journey at first did not extend further than the edges of the glaciers on the Mediterranean coasts of Europe. But

which we have just commented, it reads to us as as these disappeared, and a warmer climate began to

merely an amplification of suggestions that were ! prevail in higher latitudes, the annual summer flight was tively and cautiously submitted in these columes increased. Every century the northern breeding range than eighteen years ago (NATURE, vol. x. pp. 416 and had increased, creeping slowly across France ; higher and The partiality of birds for their old homes was thet. higher with the growing vegetation ; nearer and nearer to the haunts of old. During the slow, gradual elevation

(so far as we know) for the first time, pointed out a and submergence that isolated Albion from the rest of

possible factor in establishing migratory habit; 17 Europe during Post-Glacial time, the regular spring

another (and equally for the first time), the growings journey across the sea berame wider and wider ; but with gence of breeding and feeding areas through the the intense and inherited love of home in their tiny causes was briefly and clearly set forth by Mr. WH breasts, the individuals that were born and bred in this

Notwithstanding Mr. Dixon's assertions, he does district never failed to return each year. For 60,000 years or more has this species now crossed the sea, returning

to have advanced the question one bit, but he is every season, not only to our islands, but each pair of whelmed it in a flow of words with a great dea individuals, as long as they live, come back to the exact and apparently always will be, incapable of prout locality of their previous nests. This long journey, and elsewhere throughout this volume we are brave gradually growing longer and longer during thousands of face one of that school of biologists, the growth years, until it is now at least a thousand miles in length,

years, which may be called the Assertive F has grown to be a deeply-rooted custom sanctioned by the practice of ages of experience and need, and looked

respects it is a very nice one to join. You have a upon now as part of the Flycatcher's very existence !” to say what first comes into your head, (pp. 58 62).

goes well. Everybody that differs from you is a

some extent this school resembles that Dogs This, we think, is Mr. Dixon at his best, and we are which a few naturalists here and there still re anxious that our readers should so see him. He goes on inasmuch as the dissentient from either was to call it a “ thoroughly demonstrable instance,” which with the same contempt. The Dogmatists have shows what his idea of a demonstration is. We do not day, but if we look back upon their doings, we deny that all may have happened as he here prescribes, 1 that in most cases they had something to go upor

ot entirely assertion. They were very fond of facts, amply sufficient in every respect is to be found in the ndoubtedly preferred founding their dogmatism varying places of Earth's [sic] orbital eccentricity in comthem-indeed, nothing could be more distasteful bination with the precession of the equinoxes "—this to suppose each dogma had not a sound basis. statement being immediately followed by a passage, the ost cases the worst of which they can even now be application, or even the meaning, of which is not easy to :d is that the facts were often above their compre understand :in, or were understood in the wrong sense. But

“That these majestic phenomena are in any conceivmen would have scorned the grounding of their able way connected with the migratory movements of is upon imagination. They were perfectly aware i birds seems utterly impossible ; but in them the habit it had not then been so neatly put) that “Imagina has its root; and the simple season-flight of a Cuckoo or i the fire of Discovery: the best of servants though

a Nightingale to and fro between the shores of Africa and orst of masters." Now the Assertive school, of which

England is inseparably and directly connected with the

erratic movement of a planet in its orbit ; nay, with the s country Mr. Dixon, if he was not the joint-invent

constitution of a universe !" ay be looked upon as a chief leader, rests nearly all agination. It matters little whether there is reason

This note of admiration is our author's own : far be it d their assertions or not, and generally, we regret to

from us to impair its influence. here is none. Conjectures follow upon conjectures

Though we have confined our remarks to the earlier are put forward for the most part as if they were part of Mr. Dixon's book, we have already devoted a good is deductions from observation. It is not so many

deal of space to him. There is, however, another point s since some words, that seem very applicable here

on which we must say a few words. He has thrown out addressed to a scientific audience :

a direct challenge to NATURE, and we should be sorry ve have had enough of the untrained writer of not to meet it. That he believes in migration the whole 's, the jerry-builder of unfounded hypotheses whose

volume shows; but there is yet left in his mind a cranny cumber our field of work." I

| wherein lurks what we may perhaps call a “pious Dixon, with his long string of previous books, mav | opinion” in favour of torpidity—as a luxury in which r to being termed a writer of this kind; but he a lazy bird may occasionally indulge, even though that nly needs to be taught the meaning of the word bird may be one possessing powers of flight far beyond able" and its derivatives. When he has learned it the average. He is very severe on an anonymous ps he will use it in its fit sense. With him, at reviewer in these columns in that the “ Theory," we uise nt, it is in many cases to be rendered “possible,” Mr. Dixon's word, of Torpidity “was subjected by him in not a few impossible would be the true equiv- | to the bitterest ridicule and denounced as folly." There

Now according to all etymologists, and the harm- | upon he favours us (pp. 12, 13) with another version Irudges known as dictionary-makers, “probable” | (substantially, let us say at once, the same as the les something that can be proved. Any reader of

| original, but with fewer details) of the story told by the ge intellect will be able to calculate how seldom this Duke of Argyll in these pages (NATURE, vol. xv. pp. 527, py word is correctly used by Mr. Dixon. It has 528) to say nothing of some other observations, quite been a custom in certain fevers to affix an ice-cap irrelevant, as it seems to us, communicated by his Grace

patient's head whereby the burning brow is cooled, to him. But further than this, he cites as an additional ome temporary relief afforded ; but of late years, as witness in defence of the impeached “ Theory," Dr.

well all know, there has sprung up a small group Elliott Coues, who is said to give it “all the support of his iters to whom ice on the brain, instead of being a authority as an ornithologist of the highest eminence." ng remedy, is a direct incentive to acts and dicts Now we have a great respect for that gentleman, but his ring upon lunacy. On behalf of the Glacial Epoch, | vast reputation fails to hypnotize us, and such support ost-Pliocene Glacial Epoch, to be very particular, | as he gave has already been the subject of comment in ist protest against its being constantly paraded as these pages (NATURE, vol. xx. p. 2). He will hardly be eatest event in the history of the globe, to which comforted to learn that the supposition there made has momentous effects all others must give place. That been amply confirmed of late by Mr. Hartert, who informs luced considerable changes and especially in the us (Cat. B. Brit. Mus. vol. xvi. p. 481) that the British phical distribution of plants and animals none can | Museum contains five specimens of Chætura pelagica from but that it is accountable for all that Mr. Dixon Central America, beside the one before noticed from Mexico its charge is hardly likely, and is most decidedly --proving that its range is much about what might have robable,” since means of proof are wanting. But been expected. Thus all the argument based on Dr. ixon, with others of the Assertive school, is not con Coues's statement, that this species was “not known to in his statements, and is apt to forget on one page winter anywhere out of the United States, nor is it found

has written on a preceding one. For instance, anywhere in them at that season,” falls to the ground, as told (p. 33) that “ From the commencement of this we are sure that gentleman will readily admit. We Epoch, the Migration of birds, as we see it at the allow that it has been very naughty of naturalists if they time, was probably initiated”; and yet, only a few did prepare this pitfall for Mr. Dixon ; but that is not 'ther on, our author declares “ that we do not re our business, and we cannot imagine they did it intenren the occurrence of one Glacial Epoch to account tionally. It is not unlikely that the Chimney-Swift flew Migration of birds,” and (p. 34) that “such a cause out of shot, or too fast for them to bring it down, but * Association for the Advancement of Science. Edinburgh, 1892.

they bave at last succeeded in “grassing” their bird, [ the President of Section H (NATURE, vol. xlvi. p. 379). with a result so disastrous to the “ Theory." One chance

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