The Origin of Species

By Charles Darwin; Gillian Beer | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XII
GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION -- continued

Distribution of fresh-water productions--On the inhabitants of oceanic islands--Absence of Batrachians and of terrestrial Mammals--On the relation of the inhabitants of islands to those of the nearest mainland--On colonisation from the nearest source with subsequent modification--Summary of the last and present chapters.

As lakes and river-systems are separated from each other by barriers of land, it might have been thought that fresh-water productions would not have ranged widely within the same country, and as the sea is apparently a still more impassable barrier, that they never would have extended to distant countries. But the case is exactly the reverse. Not only have many fresh-water species, belonging to quite different classes, an enormous range, but allied species prevail in a remarkable manner throughout the world. I well remember, when first collecting in the fresh waters of Brazil, feeling much surprise at the similarity of the fresh-water insects, shells, etc., and at the dissimilarity of the surrounding terrestrial beings, compared with those of Britain.

But this power in fresh-water productions of ranging widely, though so unexpected, can, I think, in most cases be explained by their having become fitted, in a manner highly useful to them, for short and frequent migrations from pond to pond, or from stream to stream; and liability to wide dispersal would follow from this capacity as an almost necessary consequence. We can here consider only a few cases. In regard to fish, I believe that the same species never occur in the fresh waters of distant continents. But on the same continent the species often range widely and almost capriciously; for two river-systems will have some fish in common and some different. A few facts seem to favour the possibility of their occasional transport by accidental means; like that of the live fish not rarely dropped by whirlwinds in India, and the vitality of their ova when

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