Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub
[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][graphic]

1 3 5 7 9 11 14 The lengths in the table arc gieen in millimetres, which arc here reduced to inches for the means.

Yin. 1.—Variations of Laorrta muralis.

[table][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

Neck

Lacerta deserti NTM' Body

- Hind Legs

Twmii ——m Tail

Length of Head Nmbbhu* taken as the standard in each of the aboee-named species

Flo. 2.—Variation of Lizards.

each specimen are then laid down in the same manner at convenient distances apart for comparison; and we see that their variations bear no definite relation to those of the body, and not much to those of each other. With the exception of No. 5, in which all the parts agree in being large, there is a marked independence of each part, shown by the lines often curving in opposite directions; which proves that in those specimens one part is large while the other is small. The actual amount of the variation is very great, ranging from one-sixth of the mean length in the neck to considerably more than a fourth in the hind leg, and this among only fourteen examples which happen to be in a particular museum.

To prove that this is not an isolated case, Professor Milne Edwards also gives a table showing the amount of variation in the museum specimens of six common species of lizards, also taking the head as the standard, so that the comparative variation of each part to the head is given. In the accompanying diagram (Fig. 2) the variations are exhibited by means of lines of varying length. It will be understood that, however much the specimens varied in size, if they had kept the same proportions, the variation line would have been in every case reduced to a point, as in the neck of L. velox which exhibits no variation. The different proportions of the variation lines for each species may show a distinct mode of variation, or may be merely due to the small and differing number of specimens; for it is certain that whatever amount of variation occurs among a few specimens will be greatly increased when a much larger number of specimens are examined. That the amount of variation is large, may be seen by comparing it with the actual length of the head (given below the diagram) which was used as a standard in determining the variation, but which itself seems not to have varied.1

Variation among Birds.

Coming now to the class of Birds, we find much more copious evidence of variation. This is due partly to the fact that Ornithology has perhaps a larger body of devotees than any other branch of natural history (except entomology); to the moderate size of the majority of birds; and to the circum

1 Ann. des Sci. Nat., torn. xvi. p. 50.
£

stance that the form and dimensions of the wings, tail, beak, and feet offer the best generic and specific characters and can all be easily measured and compared. The most systematic observations on the individual variation of birds have been made by Mr. J. A. Allen, in his remarkable memoir: "On the Mammals and Winter Birds of East Florida, with an examination of certain assumed specific characters in Birds, and a sketch of the Bird Faunse of Eastern North America," published in the Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard College, Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1871. In this work exact measurements are given of all the chief external parts of a large number of species of common American birds, from twenty to sixty or more specimens of each species being measured, so that we are able to determine with some precision the nature and extent of the variation that usually occurs. Mr. Allen says: "The facts of the case show that a variation of from 15 to 20 per cent in general size, and an equal degree of variation in the relative size of different parts, may be ordinarily expected among specimens of the same species and sex, taken at the same locality, while in some cases the variation is even greater than this." He then goes on to show that each part varies to a considerable extent independently of the other parts; so that when the size varies, the proportions of all the parts vary, often to a much greater amount. The wing and tail, for example, besides varying in length, vary in the proportionate length of each feather, and this causes their outline to vary considerably in shape. The bill also varies in length, width, depth, and curvature. The tarsus varies in length, as does each toe separately and independently; and all this not to a minute degree requiring very careful measurement to detect it at all, but to an amount easily seen without any measurement, as it averages one-sixth of the whole length and often reaches one-fourth. In twelve species of common perching birds the wing varied (in from twenty-five to thirty specimens) from 14 to 21 per cent of the mean length, and the tail from 1.V8 to 23'4 per cent. The variation of the form of the wing can be very easily tested by noting which feather is longest, which next in length, and so on, the respective feathers being indicated by the numbers 1, 2, 3, etc., commencing with the outer one. As an example of the irregular variation constantly met with, the following occurred among twenty-five specimens of Dendrceca coronata. Numbers bracketed imply that the corresponding feathers were of equal length.1

[merged small][table]

Here we have five very distinct proportionate lengths of the wing feathers, any one of which is often thought sufficient to characterise a distinct species of bird; and though this is rather an extreme case, Mr. Allen assures us that "the comparison, extended in the table to only a few species, has been carried to scores of others with similar results."

Along with this variation in size and proportions there occurs a large amount of variation in colour and markings. "The difference in intensity of colour between the extremes of a series of fifty or one hundred specimens of any species, collected at a single locality, and nearly at the same season of the year, is often as great as occurs between truly distinct species." But there is also a great amount of individual variability in the markings of the same species. Birds having the plumage varied with streaks and spots differ exceedingly in different individuals of the same species in respect to the size, shape, and number of these marks, and in the general aspect of the plumage resulting from such variations. "In the common

1 See Winter Birds of Florida, p. 206, Table F.

« AnteriorContinuar »