صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

THE

NATURAL HISTORY REVIEW:

QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF BIOLOGICAL SCIENCE.

Reviews and Notices.

1.—THE ZOOLOGY OF BRITISH INDIA. (1.) CATALOGUE OF THE MAMMALIA IN THE MUSEUM OF THE

ASIATIC SOCIETY OF BENGAL. By Edward Blyth, Curator,

Calcutta, 1863. (2 ) THE BIRDS OF INDIA, being a Natural History of all Birds

known to inhabit Continental India. By T. C. Jerdon, Surgeon

Major, Madras Army, 3 vols. 8vo. Calcutta, 1862-4. (3.) THE REPTILES OF BRITISH INDIA. By Dr. Albert Günther.

London, 1864. Published for the Ray Society, by Robert Hardwicke.

WHATEVER other advantages may have resulted to civilization from the British occupation of the Indian Peninsula, it cannot be said that the established authorities of our kith and kin in that country hare as yet done much for the benefit of the Natural Sciences. A whole host of private collectors and amateurs have, it is true, worked long and laboriously on different branches of Indian Zoology and Botany. But up to the present time we look in vain for anything like an attempt to reduce into order the mass of materials thus accumulated, and to combine them into a Natural History of British India—such as has been prepared by other European Governments, in the case of similar foreign dependencies. :

It would, nevertheless, appear that the governmental mind of India is at length awakening to the fact that it is the part of an enlightened administration, if not to take such matters in hand altogether, at least to suffer others to do so, and in certain cases even to mete out some slight encouragement to their labours, The “Flora Indica' of Drs. Hooker and Thompson, which some

N.H.R.-1865.

В

years ago was refused all assistance, is now promised substantial aid. Dr. Jerdon, who has undertaken the very arduous task of preparing a set of Mammals of the Natural History of the Vertebrate Animals, specially adapted for India, is, as we learn from the preface of the portion relating to the Birds, now complete, permitted to draw his full pay as Surgeon-Major while engaged in editing his work. So that we must allow that what with the advancing position occupied by Science of late years, and, perhaps we should add, under the influence of the hitherto unheard of event of a surplus in the Indian Exchequer, things are looking a little more bright for the Naturalist in British India.

It is indeed with no small satisfaction we are able to call the attention of our readers at one time to three different publications on the Zoology of India-one relating to the Mammals, a second to the Birds, and a third to the Reptiles; which, although of very different orders of merit as regards the information they contain and the labour bestowed upon them, will each alike serve as a basis for some general remarks upon those parts of the Fauna of British India of which they treat.

To begin with the Mammals—Mr. Blyth's recently issued cata

relate solely to the Mammals of India, but is, in fact, a list only of those of which specimens are contained in the Museum of the Asiatic Society of Bengal at Calcutta. This well known Institution, which has done so much for the progress of the Natural Sciences in our Eastern possessions, acquired the services of Mr. Blyth as its Curator in 1841. At that time, as may be seen by reference to the 10th volume of the Society's Journal,* the collection of Mammals in the Society's Museum was meagre indeed, consisting only of some thirty specimens. How laboriously the new Curator set to work to develope the collections under his care—how the civil and military officials of every part of our Indian Empire were pressed into the service of Natural History, and induced to contribute specimens to the Museum and facts to the Journal of the Society—is well known to every Naturalist, who has paid attention to the Zoology of the East. The value of the contributions made by Mr. Blyth to our knowledge of the Natural History of India, during the twenty-four years of his

* Catalogue of Mammalia in the Museum of the Asiatic Society. T.C. Pearson. Journ. A. S. B. x. p. 660.

By

curatorship of the Asiatic Society's Museum is a matter of history, and we believe few occurrences have given greater satisfaction amongst the friends of science than the well-earned pension bestowed upon him by the Indian Government, upon his recent return in broken health and with shattered constitution to this country.

When Mr. Blyth arrived at Calcutta, the Society's collection of Mammals consisted, as we have already said, of some 30 or 40 speci. mens, which might, as we have been told, have been all arranged on a moderate sized table. Before his departure, as the present catalogue tells us, the collection embraced 585 species of Mammals—many of them represented by large and well-selected series of specimens of different sexes and ages, and from different localities. The fault of the collection now is, we believe, that it is too crowded, and that the proper care of it weighs too heavily upon the finances of the Society. This evil, as we learn from the recent numbers of the Society's Journal, is proposed to be remedied by the transfer of the whole of the Museum to the Government upon certain conditions, whereby a new building will be obtained, and the collection will form the nucleus of a Public Museum of Natural History for British India. For this purpose the Society's collection will be of the utmost value, as containing a very large number of typical specimens of every class. The series of Indian Mammals, to which our catalogue refers, although not quite complete, is very nearly so. As we turn over its pages we propose to call our readers' attention to the principal features of the Mammal-fauna of the Indian Peninsula, as they are thus brought before us, neglecting, for the present, the specimens from other parts of the world.

The typical Quadrumana are represented in India by species of three different types—namely, the genera Hylobates, Macacus and Semnopithecus. Of the Gibbons (Hylobates) no species occurs in the Peninsula of India proper. On the eastern side of the bay of Bengal, however, two of this genus are found-the H. hoolook and the H. lar. The former is the prevalent species in Arracan, and " extends thence over all the hill-ranges of Sylhet and Assam,” whilst the White-handed Gibbon (H. lar), also found in Assam, ranges southwards down the Malayan Peninsula to Malacca.

Of the Macaques, the well known “ Toque,” or Bonnet-Monkey (M. radiatus) is a common inhabitant of the forests of Southern India, ranging on the Coromandel side as far north as the Godavery. In Ceylon this species is replaced by the nearly allied M. pileatus, commonly, but incorrectly, called the “ Chinese” Bonnet-monkey. In Southern India also, we find the singular"Lion-Monkey" (Macacus silenus), often said to be from Ceylon, but of which the true home is “ Travancore and Cochin, and the Malabar ghâts as high as Goa.” In Central India and Bengal the Rhesus-monkey (M. rhesus), 80 common in European menageries is the only species of this form, unless the varieties distinguished by Hodgson* be deemed worthy of . a higher rank than what is generally accorded to them.

The genus Semnopithecus or Presbytes is better represented in Continental India, if we accept the claims of the various “ distinguishable races” of the S. entelles to be considered as specifically distinct. The true Hoonuman or Sacred Monkey, S. entellus (verus) of Mr. Blyth’s writings, is found only in Bengal and Upper India. In Southern India it is replaced by S. priamus of the Coromandel coast, and S. hypoleucus of the Malabar ghâts, in the Subhimalayan region by S. schistaceus. In Southern India is also found the distinct species S. cucullatus of the Nilgiris, Pulneys and Malabar ghâts. On the eastern side of the bay of Bengal, Mr. Blyth's S. pileatus appears to be a northern outlier of the S. cristatus of Sumatra. In Ceylon, besides the continental S. priamus, which is common in the north and east, we meet with S. thersites, S. ursinus, and S. cephalopterus. The former of these belongs to the true entellus group, the two latter are quite distinct, and more nearly allied to S. maurus. So that in British India we have some seven or eight representatives (belonging to two sections) of this group of Quadrumana.

The Lemuridæ are represented in India by two outlying strag. glers of this Æthiopian group, quite distinct in their geographical range, and although often united under one generic head, equally so in organization. The slender Loris (Loris gracilis) is found in Ceylon and Southern continental India. In Bengal, however, the only representative of this family is the Nyticebus tardigradus, or Slow Loris, which, like so many other animals of this district, is little more than a northern form of the scarcely separable N. javanicus.

The next great group of Mammals, following the arrangement of Mr. Blyth's catalogue, is very extensively diffused in our Indian doininions, as in most other parts of the world. But the Chiroptera

[ocr errors]

are at present in such a state of confusion both as regards genera and species—that we shall content ourselves by merely stating that Mr. Blyth records the existence of three Frugivorous* Bats in Continental India, and enumerates the names of about thirty-five others belonging to the Insectivorous families of the group.

Of the Carnivora of India, although many of the genera are still in a state of confusion, almost rivalling that of the Bats, and little creditable to Naturalists, we can speak rather more at length. The Indian Canidæ consist, according to Mr. Blyth's catalogue, of the Cuon ruiilans — the “Dhob” or “Wild Dog," as it is commonly called, the Canis pallipes, or Indian Wolf, the Jackal (C. aureus) and a fox, Vulpes bengalensis. Four other species of the latter genus are also recorded as inhabiting the Subhimalayan and north-western districts, but some of these require further examination. One species only of Hyena is found in India-namely, the widely diffused H. striata, which appears to have diffused itself from the true focus of this group in Africa throughout South-western Asia, and though not general in Lower Bengal, to extend its wanderings occasionally even to the gates of Calcutta. The more typical Viverridæ of India consist of the Viverra zibetha, or Indian Civet-still kept in cages in many parts of the country for the supply of the drug whence it obtains its name-as is likewise the Rasse Viverricula malaccensis, a smaller animal of the same type, and several species of Paradoxurus. In the same group, Mr. Blyth arranges the Subhimalayan representative of the genus Prionodon ; a small, but very bold and rapacious quadruped resembling Herpestes and Viverra in many particulars, but in its short close fur and other characters showing an affinity to the true Felidæ. The very singular Binturong (Artictis) likewise ranges from Sumatra along the hills of the Indian peninsula into Assam, and even as far north as Nepal, according to Mr. Blyth, while some seven species of Herpestes complete the list of Indian Viverridæ. The typical Felidæ which follow next in Mr. Blyth's catalogue are well represented in British India, at least 10 or 11 species of Felis being more or less common in various parts of the country-amongst which are the largest and finest forms of the genus, such as the Lion, now nearly extinct except in the

* Pteropus medius, Temm. (generally called erroncously P. cilwurilsii) Pt. leschenanltii aud Cynopterus marginatus.

« السابقةمتابعة »