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The geological works of Hugh Miller have excited the great- 
est interest, not only among scientific men, but also among 
general readers. There is in them a freshness of conception, 
a power of argumentation, a depth of thought, a purity of 
feeling, rarely met with in works of that character, which 
are well calculated to call forth sympathy, and to increase the 
popularity of a science which has already done so much to 
expand our views of the Plan of Creation. The scientific 
illustrations published by Mr Miller are most happily com- 
bined with considerations of a higher order, rendering both 
equally acceptable to the thinking reader. But what is in a 
great degree peculiar to our author is the successful combi- 
nation of Christian doctrines with pure scientific truths. On 
that account his works deserve peculiar attention. His ge- 
neralizations have nothing of the Vagueness which tob often 
characterize the writings of those authors who have attempted 
to make the results of science subservient to the cause of re- 
ligion. Struck with the beauty of Mr Miller's works, it has 
for some time past been my wish to see them more exten- 
sively circulated in this country ; and I have obtained leave 



from the author to publish an American edition of his 
" Foot-prints of the Creator," for which he has most liberally 
furnished the publishers with the admirable woodcuts of the 

While preparing some additional chapters, and various 
notes illustrative of certain points alluded to incidentally in 
this work, it was deemed advisable to preface it with a short 
biographical notice of the author. I had already sketched 
such a paper, when I became acquainted with a full memoir 
of this remarkable man, containing most interesting details 
of his earlier life, written by that eminent historian of the 
" Martyrs of Science," the great natural philosopher of Scot- 
land. It has occurred to me that, owing to the frequent 
references which I could not avoid to my own researches, 
I had better substitute this ample Biography for my short 
sketch, with such alterations and additions as the connection 
in which it is brought here would require. I therefore pro- 
ceed to introduce our author with Sir David Brewster's own 
words : — 

Of all the studies which relate to the material universe, 
there is none, perhaps, which appeals so powerfully to our 
senses, or which comes into such close and immediate contact 
with our wants and enjoyments, as that of Geology. In our 
hourly walks, whether on business or for pleasure, we tread 
with heedless step upon the apparently uninteresting objects 
which it embraces ; but could we rightly interrogate the 
rounded pebble at our feet, it would read us an exciting 
chapter on the history of primeval times, and would tell us 
of the convulsions by which it was wrenched from its parent 
rock, and of the floods by which it was abraded and trans- 
ported to its present humble locality. In our visit to the 
picturesque and the sublime in nature, we are brought into 
closer proximity to the more interesting phenomena of Geo- 
logy. In the precipices which protect our rock-girt shores, 

. i 


which flank our mountain glens, or which variegate our low- 
land valleys, and in the shapeless fragments at their base, 
which the lichen colours, and round which the ivy twines, 
we see the remnants of uplifted and shattered beds, which 
once reposed in peace at the bottom of the ocean. Nor does 
the rounded boulder, which would have defied the lapidary's 
wheel of the Giant Age, give forth a less oracular response 
from its grave of clay or from its lair of sand. Floated by 
ice from some Alpine summit, or hurried along in torrents 
of mud and floods of water, it may have traversed a quarter 
of the globe, amid the crash of falling forests, and the death 
shrieks of the noble animals which they sheltered. The 
mountain range, too, with its catacombs below, along which 
the earthquake transmits its terrific sounds, reminds us of 
the mighty power by which it was upheaved; while the 
lofty peak, with its cap of ice, or its nostrils of fire, places in 
our view the tremendous agencies which have been at work 
beneath us. 

But it is not merely amid the powers of external nature 
that the once hidden things of the earth are presented to our 
view. Our temples and our palaces are formed from the 
rocks of a primeval age, — bearing the very ripple-marks of 
a pre-Adamite ocean, — grooved by the passage of the once 
moving boulder, and embosoming the relics of ancient life, 
and the plants by which it was sustained. Our dwellings, 
too, are ornamented with the variegated limestones, — the 
indurated tombs of molluscous life, — and our apartments 
heated with the carbon of primeval forests, and lighted with 
the gaseous element which it confines. The obelisk of gra- 
nite, and the colossal bronze which transmit to future ages 
the deeds of the hero and the sage, are equally the produc- 
tion of the earth's prolific womb ; and from the green bed 
of the ocean has been raised the pure and spotless marble, to 
mould the divine lineaments of beauty, and perpetuate the 


expressions of intellectual power. From a remoter age, and 
a still greater depth, the primary and secondary rocks have 
yielded a rich tribute to ijie chaplet of rank and to the pro- 
cesses of art 

Exhibiting, as it peculiarly does, almost all those objects 
of interest and research, Scotland has been diligently studied 
both by native and foreign observers ; and she has sent into 
the geological field a distinguished group of inquirers, who 
have performed a noble feat in exploring the general struc- 
ture of the earth, in deciphering its ancient monuments, and 
in unlocking those storehouses of mineral wealth, from which 
civilized man derives the elements of that gigantic power 
which his otherwise feeble arm wields over nature. 

The occurrence of shells on the highest mountains, and 
the remains of plants and animals, which the most superficial 
observer could not fail to notice in the rocks around him, 
< have for centuries commanded the attention and exercised 
the ingenuity of every student of nature. But though sparks 
of geological truth were from time to time elicited* by specu- 
lative minds, it was not till the end of the last century that 
its great lights broke forth, and that it took the form and 
character of one of the noblest of the sciences. Without 
undervaluing the labours of Werner, and other illustrious 
foreigners, or those of our southern countrymen, Mitchell and 
Smith, at the close of the last century, we may characterize 
the commencement of the present as the brightest period of 
geological discovery, and place its most active locality in the 
northern metropolis of our island. It was doubtless from 
the Royal Society of Edinburgh, as a centre, that a great 
geological impulse was propagated southward ; and it was by 
the collision of the Wernerian and Huttonian views, the an- 
tagonist theories of water and of fire, that men of intellec- 
tual power were summoned from other studies, and that 
grand truths, which fanaticism and intolerance had hitherto 


abjured, rose triumphant over the ignorance and bigotry of 
the age. The Geological Society of London, which doubt- 
less sprung from the excitement in the Scottish metropolis, 
entered on the new field of research with a faltering step. 
The prejudices of the English mind had been marshalled with 
illiberal violence against the Huttonian doctrines. Infidelity 
and atheism were charged against their supporters ; and had 
there been a Protestant Inquisition in England at that period 
of general political exitement, the geologists of the north 
would have been immured in its deepest dungeons. 

Truth, however, marched apace; and though her simple 
but majestic procession be often solemn and slow, and her vo- 
taries few and dejected, yet on this, as on every occasion, she 
triumphed over the most inveterate prepossessions, and finally 
took up her abode in those very halls and institutions where 
she had been persecuted and reviled. When their science 
had been thus acquitted of the charge of impiety and irreli- 
gion, the members of the Geological Society left their humble 
and timid position of being the collectors only of the mate- 
rials of faJbwre generalizations, and became at once the most 
successful observers of geological phenomena, and the boldest 
asserters of geological truth. 

In this field of research, in which the physical as well as 
the intellectual frame of the philosopher is made tributary to 
science, two of our countrymen, — Sir Roderick Murchison 
and Sir Charles Lyell, — have been among our most active 
labourers. From the study of their native glens, these dis- 
tinguished travellers, like the Humboldts and the Yon Buchs 
of the Continent, have passed into foreign lands, exploring the 
north and the south of Europe, and extending their labours 
to the eastern ranges of the Ural and the Timan, and to the 
Apallachians and the Alleghanies in the far west But while 
our two countrymen were interrogating the strata of other lands, 
many able and active labourers had been at work in their own. 


Among the eminent students of the structure of the earth, 
Mr Hugh Miller holds a lofty place, not merely from the dis- 
covery of new and undescribed organisms in the Old Red 
Sandstone, but from the accuracy and beauty of his descrip- 
tions, the purity and elegance of his composition, and the 
high tone of philosophy and religion which distinguishes all 
his writings. Mr Miller is one of the few individuals in the 
history of Scottish science who have raised themselves above 
the labours of an humble profession, by the force of* their 
genius and the excellence of their character, to a compara- 
tively high place in the social scale. Mr Telford, like Mr 
Miller, followed the profession of a stone-mason, before his 
industry and self-tuition qualified him for the higher func- 
tions of an architect and an engineer. And Mr Watt and 
Mr Rennie rose to wealth and fame without the aid of a 
university education. But, distinguished as these individuals 
were, none of them possessed those qualities of mind which 
Mr Miller has exhibited in his writings ; and, with the ex- 
ception of Burns, the uneducated genius which has done ho- 
nour to Scotland during the last century has never displayed 
that mental refinement, and classical taste, and intellectual 
energy, which mark all the writings of our author. We wish 
that we could have gratified our readers with an authentic, 
and even detailed narrative of the previous history of so re- 
markable a writer, and of the steps by which his knowledge 
was acquired, ani the difficulties which he encountered In 
its pursuit ; but though this is not, to any great extent, in 
our power, we shall at least be able, chiefly from Mr Miller's 
own writings, to follow him throughout his geological career. 

Mr Miller was born at Cromarty, of humble but respectable 
parents, whose history would have possessed no inconsiderable 
interest, even if it had not derived one of a higher kind from 
the genius and fortunes of their child. By the paternal side 
he was descended from a race of seafaring people, whose fa- 



mily burying-ground, if we judge from the past, seems to be 
the sea. Under its green waves his father sleeps ; his grand- 
father, his two granduncles, one of whom sailed round the 
world with Anson, lie also there ; and the same extensive 

• cemetery contains the relics of several of his more distant re- 
latives. His father was but an infant of scarcely a year old 
at the death of our author's grandfather, and had to com- 
mence life as a poor ship-boy ; but such was the energy of 
his mind, that, when little turned of thirty, he had become 

' the master and owner of a fine large sloop, and had built 

i himself a good house, which entitled his son to the franchise 
on the passing of the Reform BilL Having, unfortunately, 
lost his sloop in a storm, he had to begin the world anew, 

k and he soon became master and owner of another, and would 
have thriven, had he lived ; but the hereditary fate was too 

,' strong for him; and when our author was a little boy of five 
summers, his father's fine new sloop foundered at sea in a 

, terrible tempest, and he and his crew were never more heard 

} o£ Mr Miller had two sisters younger than himself both 
of whom died ere they attained to womanhood His mother 
experienced the usual difficulties which a widow has to en- 

' counter in the decent education of her family ; but she strug- 
gled honestly and successfully, and ultimately found her re- 
ward in the character and fame of her son. It is from this 

> excellent woman that Mr Miller has inherited those senti- 
ments and feelings which have given energy to his talents as 
the defender of revealed truth, and the champion of the 
Church of his fathers. She was the great-grand-daughter of 
a venerable man, still well known to tradition in the north 
of Scotland as Donald Roy of Nigg, — a sort of northern 
Peden, who is described in the history of our Church as the 
single individual who, at the age of eighty, when the Presby- 
tery of the district had assembled in the empty church for the 

purpose of inducting an obnoxious presentee, had the courage 


to protest against the intrusion, and to declare " that the blood 
of the people of Nigg would be required at their hands, if they 
settled a man to the walls of that church." Tradition has 
represented him as a seer of visions, and a prophesier of pro- 
phecies ; but whatever credit may be given to stories of this 
kind, which have been told also of Knox, Welsh r and Ruther- 
ford, this ancient champion of Non-Intrusion was a man of 
genuine piety, and the savour of his ennobling beliefs and his 
strict morals has survived in his family for generations. If 
the child of such parents did not receive the best education 
which his native town could afford, it was not their fault, nor 
that of His teacher. The fetters of a gymnasium are not 
easily worn by the adventurous youth who has sought and 
found his pleasures among the hills and on the waters. They 
chafe the young and active limb that has grown vigorous 
under the blue sky, and never known repose but at midnight 
The young philosopher of Cromarty was a member of this 
restless community ; and he had been the hero of adventures 
and accidents among rocks and woods, which are still remem- 
bered in his native town. The parish school was therefore 
not the scene of his enjoyments ; and while he was a truant, 
and, with reverence be it spoken, a dunce, while under its 
jurisdiction, he was busy in the fields and on the sea-shore in 
collecting those stores of knowledge Which he was born to dis- 
pense among his fellow-men. He escaped, however, from 
school, with the knowledge of reading, writing, and a little 
arithmetic, and with the credit of uniting a great memory 
with a little scholarship. Unlike his illustrious predecessor, 
Cuvier, he had studied Natural History in the fields and 
among the mountains ere he had sought for it in books ; 
while the French philosopher had become a learned natu- 
ralist before he had even looked upon the world of Nature. 
This singular contrast it is not difficult to explain. With a 
sickly constitution and a delicate frame, the youthful Cuvier 




wanted that physical activity which the observation of Na- 
ture demands. Our Scottish geologist* on the contrary, in 
vigorous health, and with an iron frame, rushed to the rock* 
and the sea-shore in search of the instruction which was not 
provided for him at school, and which he could find no books 
to supply. 

After receiving this measure of education, Mr Miller set 
out in February 1821 with a heavy heart, as he himself con- 
fesses, " to make his first acquaintance with a life of labour 
and restraint :" — 

" I was but a slim, loose- jointed boy at the time, fond of the pretty 
intangibilities of romance, and of dreaming when broad awake ; and, wo- 
ful change ! I was now going to work at what Burns has instanced in 
his ' Twa Dogs' as one of the most disagreeable of all employments, — to 
work in a quarry. Bating the passing uneasiness occasioned by a few 
gloomy anticipations, the portion of my life which had already gone by 
had been happy beyond the common lot. I had been a wanderer among 
rocks and woods, — a reader of curious books, when I could get them, — 
a gleaner of old traditionary stories ; and now I was going to exchange 
all my day-dreams and all my amusements for the kind of life in which 
men toil every day that they may be enabled to eat, and eat every day 
that they may be enabled to toiL The quarry in which I wrought lay 
on the southern shore of a noble inland bay, or frith rather (the Bay of 
Cromarty), with a little clear stream on the one Bide, and a thick fir 
wood on the other. It had been opened in the Old Red Sandstone of 
the district, and was overtopped by a huge bank of diluvial clay, and 
which rose over it in some places to the height of nearly thirty feet.'' — 
Old Bed Sandstone, p. 4. 

After removing the loose fragments below, picks, and 
wedges, and levers were applied in vain by our author and 
his brother workmen to tear up and remove the huge strata 
beneath. Blasting by gunpowder became necessary. A mass 
of the diluvial clay came tumbling down, " bearing with it 
two dead birds, that in a recent storm had crept into one of 
the deeper fissures, to die in the shelter." "While admiring 
the pretty cock goldfinch, and the light-blue and grayish- 
yellow woodpecker, and moralizing on their fate, the work- 


men were ordered to lay aside their tools ; and thus ended the 
first day's labour of our young geologist The sun was then 
sinking behind the thick fir wood behind him, and the long 
dark shadows of the trees stretching to the shore. Notwith- 
standing his blistered hands, and the fatigue which blistered 
them, he found himself next morning as light of heart as his 
fellow-labourers, and able to enjoy the magnificent scenery 
around him, which he thus so beautifully describes : — 

" There had been a smart frost during the night, and the rime lay 
white on the grass as we passed onwards through the fields ; but the sun 
rose in a clear atmosphere, and the day mellowed as it advanced into one 
of those delightful days of early spring which give so pleasing an earnest 
of whatever is mild and genial in the better half of the year. All the 
workmen rested at mid-day, and I went to enjoy my half hour alone on 
a mossy knoll in the neighbouring wood, which commands through the 
trees a wide prospect of the bay and the opposite Bhore. There was not 
a wrinkle on the water, nor a cloud in the sky ; and the branches were 
as moveless in the calm as if they had been traced on canvas. From a 
wooded promontory that stretched half-way across the frith there as- 
cended a thin column of smoke. It rose straight on the line of a plum- 
met for more than a thousand yards ; and then, as reaching a thinner 
stratum of air, spread out equally on every side, like the foliage of a 
stately tree. Ben Wevis rose to the west, white with the yet unwasted 
snows of winter, and as sharply defined in the clear atmosphere as if all 
its sunny slopes and blue retiring hollows had been chiselled in marble. 
A line of snow ran along the opposite hills ; all above was white, and all 
below was purple." — Old Red Sandstone, pp. 6, 7. 


In raising from its bed the large mass of strata which the 
gunpowder had loosened, on the surface of the solid stone, 
our young quarrier descried the ridged and furrowed ripple- 
marks which the tide leaves upon every sandy shore, and he 
wondered what had become of the waves that had thus fret- 
ted the solid rock, and of what element they had been com- 
posed. His admiration was equally excited by a circular de- 
pression in the sandstone, " broken and flawed in every di- 
rection, as if it had been the bottom of a pool recently dried 
up, which had shrunk and split in the hardening." And be- 





fore the day closed, a series of large stones had rolled down 
from the clay, " all rounded and water-worn, as if they had 
been tossed in the sea or the bed of a river for hundreds of 
years." Was the clay which enclosed them created on the 
rock upon which it lay ? No workman ever manufactures a 
half-worn article ! — were the ejaculations of the geologist at 
his alphabet 

Our author and his companions were soon removed to an 
easier wrought quarry, and one more pregnant with interest, 
which had been opened " in a lofty wall of cliffs that over- 
hangs the northern shore of the Moray Frith," Here the 
geology of the district exhibited itself in section. 

"We see in one place the primary rock, with its veins of granite and 
quartz, — its dizzy precipices of gneiss, and its huge masses of hornblende ; 
we find the secondary rock in another, with its bed of sandstone and 
shale, — its spars, its clays, and its nodular limestones. We discover the 
still little known but highly interesting fossils of the Old Bed Sandstone 
in one deposition ; we find the beautifully preserved shells and lignites 
of the lias in another. There are the remains of two several creations at 
once before us. The shore, too, is heaped with rolled fragments of al- 
most every variety of rock, — basalts, ironstones, hypersthenes, porphy- 
ries, bituminous shales, and micaceous schists. In short, the young geo- 
logist, had he all Europe before him, could hardly choose for himself a 
better field. I had, however, no one to tell me so at the time, for geo- 
logy had not yet travelled so far north ; and so, without guide or voca- 
bulary, I had to grope my way as I best might, and find out all its 
wonders for myself. But so slow was the process, and so much was I 
a seeker in the dark, that the facts contained in these few sentences were 
the patient gatherings of years.'' — Old Red Sandstone, pp. 9, 10. 

In this rich field of inquiry our author encountered, al- 
most daily, new objects of wonder and instruction. In one 
nodular mass of limestone he found the beautiful ammonite, 
like one of the finely sculptured volutes of an Ionic capital 
Within others, fish-scales and bivalve shells ; and in the centre 
of another he detected a piece of decayed wood. Upon quit- 
ting the quarry for the building upon which the workmen 
were to be employed, the workmen received half a holiday, and 


our young philosopher devoted this valuable interval to search 
for certain curiously-shaped stones, which one of the quarriers 
told him resembled the heads of boarding-pikes, and which, 
under the name of thunderbolts, were held to be a sovereign 
remedy for cattle that had been bewitched On the shore two 
miles off, where he expected these remarkable bodies, he found 
deposits quite different either from the sandstone cliffs or the 
primary rocks further to the west They consisted of " thin 
strata of limestone, alternating with thicker beds of a black slaty 
substance," which burned with a bright flame and a bitumi- 
nous odour. Though only the eighth part of an inch thick, each 
layer contained thousands of fossils peculiar to the Lias, — 
scallops and gryphites, ammonites, twigs and leaves of plants, 
cones of pine, pieces of charcoal, and scales of fishes, — the 
impressions being of a chalky whiteness, contrasting strik- 
ingly with their black bituminous lair. Among these frag- 
ments of animal and vegetable life, he at last detected * his 
thunder-bolt in the form of a belemnite, the remains of a kind 
of cuttle-fish long since extinct 

In the exercise of his profession, which " was a wander- 
ing one," our author advanced steadily, though slowly and 
surely, in his geological acquirements. 

" I remember/' says he, " passing direct on one occasion from the 
wild western coast of Ross-shire, where the Old Bed Sandstone leans at 
a high angle against the prevailing quartz rock of the district to where, 
on the southern skirts of Mid-Lothian, the mountain limestone rises amid 
the coaL I have resided one season on a raised beach on the Moray 
Frith. I have spent the season immediately following amid the ancient 

f unites and contorted schists of the central Highlands. In the north 
have laid open by thousands the shells and lignites of the Oolite ; in 
the south I have disinterred from their matrices of stone or of shale the 
huge reeds and tree ferns of the Carboniferous period. ... In the 
north there occurs a vast gap in the scale. The Lias leans unconform- 
ably against the Old Bed Sandstone ; there is no Mountain Limestone, no 
Coal Measures, none of the New Bed Marls or Sandstones. There are 
at least three entire systems omitted. But the upper portion of the scaie 
is well-nigh complete. In one locality we may pass from the Lower to 


the Upper Lias, in another from the Inferior to the Great Oolite, and 
onward to the Oxford Clay and the Coral Bag. We may explore in a 
third locality beds identical in their organisms with the Wealden of Sus- 
.sex. In a fourth we find the flints and fossils of the Chalk. The lower 
part of the scale is also well-nigh complete. The Old Bed Sandstone is 
amply developed in Moray, Caithness, and Boss and the Grau wacke very 
extensively in Banffshire. But to acquaint one's self with the three miss- 
ing formations, — to complete one's knowledge of the entire scale, by fill- 
ing up the hiatus, — it is necessary to remove to the south. The geology 
of the Lothians is the geology of at least two-thirds of the gap, and per- 
haps a little more ; the geology of Arran wants only a few of the upper 
beds of the New Bed Sandstone to fill it entirely." — Old Bed Sandttone, 
pp. 13-17. 

After haying spent nearly fifteen years in the profession 
of a stone-mason, Mr Miller was promoted to a position more 
suited to his genius. When a bank was established in his 
native town of Cromarty, he received the appointment of ac- 
countant ; and he was thus employed for five years in keep- 
ing ledgers and discounting bills. When the contest in the 
Church of Scotland had come to a close, by the decision of 
the House of Lords in the Auchterarder case, Mr Miller's 
celebrated letter to Lord Brougham attracted the particular 
attention of the party which was about to leave the Estab- 
lishment ; and he was selected as the most competent person 
to conduct the "Witness" newspaper, the principal metropoli- 
tan organ of the Free Church, The great success which this 
journal has met with is owing, doubtless, to the fine articles, 
political, ecclesiastical, and geological, which Mr Miller has 
written for it. In the few leisure hours which so engrossing 
an occupation has allowed him to enjoy he has devoted him- 
self to the ardent prosecution of scientific inquiries ; and we 
trust the time is not far distant when the liberality of his 
country, to which he has done so much honour, will allow 
him to give his whole time to the prosecution of science. 

Geologists of high character had believed that the Old, Red 
Sandstone was defective in organic remains ; and it was not 


till after ten years' acquaintance with it that Mr Miller dis- 
covered it to be richly fossUiferous. The labours of other ten 
years were required to assign to its fossils their exact place 
in the scale. 

Among the fossils discovered by our author, tiiePtericktht/8 
or winged fish is doubtless the most remarkable. He had 
disinterred it so early as 1831, but it was only in 1838 that 
he " introduced it to the acquaintance of geologists." It was 
not till 1831 that Mr Miller began to receive assistance ip 
his studies from without In the Appendix to Messrs Ander- 
son of Inverness's admirable " Guide to the Highlands and 
Islands of Scotland," which "he perused with intense inte- 
rest," he found the most important information respecting the 
geology of the North of Scotland ; and, during a correspond- 
ence with the accomplished authors of that work, many of 
his views were developed and his difficulties removed. In 
1838 he communicated to Dr Malcolmson of Madras, then 
in Paris, a drawing and description of the Pterichthys. His 
letter was submitted to Agassiz, and subsequently a restored 
drawing was communicated to the Elgin Scientific Society. 
The great naturalist, as well as the members of the provincial 
society, were surprised at the new form of life which Mr Miller 
had disclosed ; and some of them, no doubt, regarded it with 
a sceptical eve. " Not many months after, however, a true 
bona fide Pterichthys was turned up in one of the newly-dis- 
covered beds of Nairnshire." In his last visit to Scotland, 
Agassiz found six species of the Pterichthys, three of which, 
and the wings of a fourth, were in Mr Miller's collection. 

This remarkable animal has less resemblance than any other 
fossil of the Old Red Sandstone to anything that now exists. 
When first brought to view by the single blow of a hammer, 
there appeared on a ground of light-coloured limestone the 
effigy of a creature, fashioned apparently out of jet, with a 
body covered with plates, two powerful- looking arms articu 


lated at the shoulders, a head as entirely lost in the trunk as 
that of the ray (or skate), and a long angular tail, equal in 
length to a third of the entire figure^ Its general resem- 
blance is to the letter T, — the upper part of the vertical line 
being swelled out, and the lower part ending in an angular 
point, the two horizontal portions being, in the opinion of 
Agassiz, organs of locomotion. To this remarkable fossil M. 
Agassiz has given the appropriate name of Pterickihy* Millen. 
An account of it, accompanied with two fine specimens, was 
communicated to the Geological Section of the British Asso- 
ciation at Glasgow in September 1840 ; and the most ample 
details, with accurate drawings, were afterwards published in 
1841, in Mr Miller's first work, " The Old Red Sandstone," 
which was dedicated to Sir Roderick Murchison, who was born 
on the Old Bed Sandstone of the north, in the same district 
as Mr Miller, and whose great acquirements and distinguished 
labours are known all over the world among scientific men. 
This admirable work has already passed through three edi- 
tions. From the originality and accuracy of its descriptions, 
and the importance of the researches which it contains, it has 
obtained for its author a high reputation among geologists ; 
while, from the elegance and purity of its style, and the force 
and liveliness of its illustrations, it has received the highest 
praise from its more general readers.* 

Although we have been obliged, from the information 
which it contains of our author's early studies, to mention 
the " Old Bed Sandstone" as if it had been his first work ; 

* Mr Miller is the author also of " Scenes and Legends of the North 
of Scotland," 1 vol. 8vo ; " A Letter from one of the Scotch People to 
the Bight Honourable Lord Brougham and Vaux, on the Opinions ex- 
pressed by his Lordship in the Auchterarder Case ;" and " The Whig- 
ism of the Old School, as exemplified in the Past History and Present 
Position of the Church of Scotland." The second of these works is well 
characterized by Mr Gladstone as " an able, elegant, and masculine pro- 



yet so early as 1830, after he had made his first fossil disco- 
veries at Cromarty, he composed a paper on the subject (his 
first published production), which appeared as one of the chap- 
ters of a small legendary and descriptive work, entitled " The 
Traditional History of Cromarty," which did not appear till 
1835. This chapter, entitled "The Antiquary of the World," 
possesses a high degree of interest. After describing the 
scene around him in its pictorial aspect, and under the warm 
associations which link it with existing life, he surveys it 
with the cool eye of an " antiquary of the world," studying 
its once buried monuments, and deciphering the alphabet of 
plants and animals, the hieroglyphics which embosom the his- 
tory of past times and of successive creations. The gigantic 
Ben We vis, with its attendant hills, rose abruptly to the west ; 
the distant peaks of Ben Yaichard appeared in the south ; 
and fax to the north were descried the lofty hills of Suther- 
land, and even the Ord-hill of Caithness, Descending from 
the towers of nature's lofty edifice, he surveys its ruins, its 
broken sculptures, and its half-defaced inscriptions, as exhi- 
bited in certain ichthyic remains of the Lower Old Red Sand- 
stone which had then no name, and which were unknown to 
the most accomplished geologists. Among these he specially 
notices " a confused bituminous-looking mass that had much 
the appearance of a toad or frog," thus shadowing forth in 
the morning twilight the curious Pterickthys, which he was 
able afterwards, in better specimens, to exhibit in open day. 
As we have already referred with some minuteness to the 
fossils which our author had at this time discovered in the 
great charnel-house of the old world, we shall indulge our 
readers with a specimen of the noble sentiments which they 
inspired, and of the beautiful language in which these senti- 
ments are clothed. 


But let us quit this wonderful city of the dead, with all its reclining 
obelisks, and all it* sculptured tumuli, the memorials of a race that exist 


only in their tombs. And yet, ere we go, it were well, perhaps, to in- 
dulge in some of those serious thoughts which we so naturally associate 
with the solitary burying-ground and the mutilated remains of the de- 
parted. Let us once more look around us, and say whether, of all men, 
the geologist does not stand most in need of the Bible, however much he 
may contemn it in the pride of speculation. We tread on the remains of 
organized and sentient creatures, which, tfaoogh more numerous at one 
period than the whole family of man, have long since ceased to exist : the 
individuals perished one after one ; their remains served only to elevate 
the floor on which their descendants pursued the various instincts of their 
nature, and then sunk, like the others, to form a still higher layer of soil; 
and now that the whole race has passed from the earth, and we see the 
Miimala of a different tribe occupying their places, what survives of them 
but a mass of inert and senseless matter, never again to be animated by 
the mysterious spirit of vitality, — that spirit which, dissipated in the air, 
or diffused in the ocean, can, like the sweet sounds and pleasant odours 
of the past, be neither gathered up nor recalled I And O, how dark the 
analogy which would lead us to anticipate a similar fate for ourselves I 
As individuals, we are but as yesterday ; to-morrow we shall be laid in 
our graves, and the tread of the coming generation shall be over our 
heads. Nay, have we not seen a terrible disease sweep away, in a few 
years, more than eighty millions of the race to which we belong ? and can 
we think of this, and say that a time may not come when, like the fossils 
of these beds, our whole species shall be mingled with the soil, and when, 
though the sun may look down in his strength on our pleasant dwellings 
and our green fields, there shall be silence in all our borders, and desola- 
tion in all our gates, and we shall have no thought of that past which it 
is now our delight to recall, and no portion in that future which it is now 
our very nature to anticipate? Surely it is well to believe that a widely 
different destiny awaits us ; that the God who endowed us with those 
wonderful powers which enable us to live in every departed era, every 
coming period, has given us to possess these powers for ever ; that not 
only does he number the hairs of our heads, but that his cares are ex- 
tended to even our very remains ; that our very bones, instead of being 
left, like the exuviae around us, to form the rocks and clays of a future 
world, shall, like those in the valley of vision, be again clothed with 
muscle and sinew ; and that our bodies, animated by the warmth and 
vigour of life, shall again connect our souls to the matter existing around 
us, and be obedient to every impulse of the will. It is surely no time, 
when we walk amid the dark cemeteries of a departed world, and see 
the cold blank shadows of the tombs falling drearily athwart the way, — 
it is surely no time to extinguish the light given us to shine so fully and 
so cheerfully on our own proper path, merely because its beams do not 


enlighten the recesses that yawn around us. And 0, what more unworthy 
of reasonable men than to reject so consoling a revelation on no juster 
quarrel than, when it unveils to us much of what could not otherwise be 
known, and without the knowledge of which we could not be other than 
unhappy, it leaves to the invigorating exercise of our own powers what- 
ever, in the wide circle of creation, lies fully within their grasp ! " — The 
Antiquary of the World^ pp. 56-68. 

The next work published by Mr Miller was entitled " First 
Impressions of England and its People,"* — a popular and in- 
teresting volume, which has already gone through two editions, 
and which may be read with equal interest by the geologist, 
the philanthropist, and the general reader. It is full of know- 
ledge and of anecdote, and is written in that attractive style 
which commands the attention even of the most incurious 

This delightful work, though only in one volume, is equal 
to three of the ordinary type, and cannot fail to oe perusea 
with high gratification by all classes of readers. It treats of 
every subject which is presented to the notice of an accom- 
plished traveller while he visits the great cities and romantic 
localities of merry England. We know of no tour in Eng- 
land written by a native in which so much pleasant reading 
and substantial instruction are combined ; and though we are 
occasionally stopped in a very delightful locality by a preci- 
pice of the Old Bed Sandstone, or frightened by a disinterred 
skeleton, or sobered by the burial-service over Palaeozoic 
graves, we soon recover our equanimity, and again enter upon 
the sunny path to which our author never fails to restore us. 

Mr Miller's new work, the " Foot-prints of the Creator," 
of which we publish now another edition, authorized by the 
writer, is very appropriately dedicated to Sir Philip Grey 
Egerton, Bart, MP. for Cheshire, — a gentleman who pos- 
sesses a magnificent collection of fossils, and whose skill and 

* London, 1847. pp. 409. 


acquirements in this department of Geology is known and ap- 
preciated both in Europe and America. The work itself is 
divided into fifteen chapters, in which the author treats of 
the fossil geology of the Orkneys, as exhibited in the vicinity 
of Stromness ; of the development hypothesis, and its conse- 
quences ; of the history and structure of that remarkable fish, 
the Asterolepis ; of the fishes of the Upper and Lower Silu- 
rian rocks ; of the progress of degradation, and its history ; 
of the Lamarckian hypothesis of the origin of plants, and its 
consequences ; of the marine and terrestrial floras ; and of 
final causes, and their bearing on geological history. In the 
course of these chapters Mr Miller discusses the development 
hypothesis, or the hypothesis of natural law, as maintained 
by Lamarck and by the author of the u Vestiges of Creation," 
and has subjected it, in its geological aspect, to the most 
rigorous examination. Driven by the discoveries of Lord 
Rosse from the domains of astronomy, where it once seemed 
to hold a plausible position, it might have lingered with the 
appearance of life among the ambiguities of the Palaeozoic for- 
mations ; but Mr Miller has, with an ingenuity and patience 
worthy of a better subject, stripped it even of its semblance 
of truth, and restored to the Creator, as Governor of the uni- 
verse, that power and those functions which he was supposed 
to have resigned at its birth 

Having imposed upon himself the task of examining in de- 
tail the various fossiliferous formations of Scotland, our author 
extended his inquiries into the mainland of Orkney, and re- 
sided for some time in the vicinity of the busy seaport town 
of Stromness, as a central point from which the structure of 
the Orkney group of islands could be most advantageously 
studied. Like that of Caithness, the geology of these islands 
owes its principal interest to the immense development of the 
Lower Old Bed Sandstone formation, and to the singular 
abundance of its vertebrate fossils. Though the Orkneys 

contain only the third part of the Old Bed Sandstone, which 
but a few years ago was supposed to be the least productive 
in fossils of any of the geological formations, yet it furnishes, 
according to Mr Miller, more fossil fish than every other geo- 
logical system in England, Scotland, and Wales, from the 
Coal Measures to the Chalk inclusive. It is, in short, " the 
land offish," and " could supply with ichthyolites, by the 
ton and by the ship-load, the museums of the world." Its 
various deposits, with the curious organisms which they in- - 
close, have been upheaved from their original position against 
a granitic axis, about six miles long and one broad, " forming 
the great back-bone of the western district of the island 
Pomona ; and on this granitic axis, last jambed in between 
a steep hill and the sea, stands the town of Stromness." 

The mass or pile of strata thus uplifted is described by Mr 
Miller aa a three-barred pyramid resting on its granite base, 
exhibiting three broad tiers, — red, black, and gray, — sculp- 
tured with the hieroglyphics on which its history is recorded 
The great conglomerate base on which it rests, covering from 
10,000 to 15,000 square miles, from the depth of from 100 
to 400 feet* consists of rough sand and water-worn pebbles ; 
and above this have been deposited successive strata of mud, 
equal in height to the highest of our mountains, now con- 
taining the remains of millions and tens of millions of fish 
which had perished in some sudden and mysterious catas- 

In the examination of the different beds of the three-barred 
formation, our author discovered a well-marked bone, like a 
petrified large roofing nail, in a grayish-coloured layer of 
ird flag, about 100 yards oyer the granite, and about 160 
et over the upper stratum of the conglomerate. This sin- 
liar bone, which Mr Miller has represented in a figure, was 
robably the oldest vertebrate organism yet discovered in 
irkney. It was 6g inches long, 2^ inches across the bead, 


and 3-10ths of an inch thick in the stem, and formed a cha- 
racteristic feature of the Asterolepis, as yet the most gigantic 
of the ganoid fishes, and probably one of the first of the Old 
Red Sandstona In his former researches, our author had 
found that all of the many hundred ichthyolites which he had 
disinterred from the Lower Old Red Sandstone were com- 
paratively of a small size, while those in the Upper Old Red 
were of great bulk ; and hence he had naturally inferred, 
that vertebrate life had increased towards the close of the 
system,— that, in short, it began with an age of dwarfs, and 
ended with an age of giants ; but he had thus greatly erred, 
like the supporters of the development system, in founding 
positive conclusions on merely negative evidence ; for here, 
at the very base of the system, where no dwarfs were to be 
found, he had discovered one of the most colossal of its giants. 

After this most important discovery, Mr Miller extended 
his inquiries easterly for several miles along the bare and un- 
wooded Lake of Stennis, about fourteen miles in circumfer- 
ence, and divided into an upper and lower sheet of water by 
two long promontories jutting out from each side, and nearly 
meeting in the middle. The sea enters this lake through the 
openings of a long rustic bridge ; and hence the lower divi- 
sion of the lake " is salt in its nether reaches, and brackish 
in its upper ones ; while the higher division is merely brackish 
in its nether reaches, and fresh enough in its upper ones to 
be potable." The fauna and flora of the lake are therefore 
of a mixed character, the marine and fresh-water animals 
having each their own reaches, though each kind makes cer- 
tain encroachments on the province of the other. 

In the marine and lacustrine floras of the lake, Mr Miller 
observed changes still more palpable. At the entrance of the 
sea, the Fucus nodosus and Fucu8 vesicuhsus flourish in tneir 
proper form and magnitude. A little farther on the lake, 
the F. nodosus disappears, and the F. vesiculosus, though 


continuing to exist for mile after mile, grows dwarfish and 
stunted, and finally disappears, giving place to rushes and 
other aquatic grasses, till the lacustrine has entirely dis- 
placed the marine flora. From these two important facts,— 
the existence of the fragment of Asterolepis in the lower nag- 
stones of the Orkneys, and of the " curiously mixed semi- 
marine, semi-lacustrine vegetation in the Loch of Stennis," 
which our author regards as bearing directly on the develop- 
ment hypothesis, — he takes occasion to submit that hypothesis 
to a severe examination, and to point out its consequences, 
—its incompatibility with the great truths of morality and 
revealed religion. According to Professor Oken, one of the 
ablest supporters of the development theory, " there are two 
kinds of generation in the world,— the creation proper, 
and the propagation that is sequent thereon, or the original 
and secondary generation. Consequently, no organism has 
been created of larger size than an infusorial point. No or- 
ganism is, or ever has been created, which is not microscopic. 
Whatever is large has not been created, but developed. Man 
has not been created, but developed." Hence it follows that 
during the great geological period, when race after race was 
destroyed, and new forms of life called into being, " nature 
had been pregnant with the human race," and that immor- 
tal and intellectual Man is but the development of the Brute, 
— itself the development of some monad or mollusc, which 
has been smitten into life by the action of electricity upon 
a portion of gelatinous matter. 

If the development theory be true, " the early fossils ought 
to be very small in size," and " very low in organization." 
In the earliest strata we ought to find only " mere embryos 
ejia foetuses ; and if we find instead the f ullgr own and mature^ 
then must we hold that the testimony of geology is not only 
not %n accordance with the theory, but in positive opposition 
to it" Having laid this down as the principle by which the 

HT70& HTTiMflL 

question is to be derided, our author proceeds to consider 
" what are the fonts." The Asterolepis of Stromness seems 
to be the oldest organism yet discovered in the most ancient 
geological system of Scotland in which vertebrate remains 
occur. It is probably the oldest Ctalacanth that the world 
has yet produced; for there is no certain trace of this family 
in the great Silurian system, which lies underneath, and on 
which, according to our existing knowledge, organic exist- 
ence first began," " How, then," asks Mr Miller, " on the 
two relevant points, — bulk and organization, — does it an- 
swer to the demands of the development hypothesis % Was 
it a mere foetus of the finny tribe, of minute size and imper- 
fect embryonic faculty % Or was it of at least the ordinary 
bulk, and, for its class, of the average organization V 

In order to answer these questions, Mr Miller proceeds U 
his third chapter to give the recent history of the Astero- 
lepis ; in his fourth*, to ascertain the cerebral development of 
the earlier vertebrata ; and in his fifth chapter, to describe 
the structure, bulk, and aspect of the Asterolepis. In the 
rocks of Russia certain fossil remains had been long ago dis- 
covered, of such a singular nature as to have perplexed La- 
marck and other naturalists. Their true place among fishes 
was subsequently ascertained by M Eichwald, a living na- 
turalist ; and Sir Roderick Murchison found that they were 
ichthyolites of the Old Red Sandstone. Agassiz gave them 
the name of Chelonichthys ; but in consequence of very line 
specimens having been found in the Old Red Sandstone of 
Russia, which Professor Asmus of Dorpat sent to the British 
Museum, and which exhibited star-like markings, he aban- 
doned his name of Chelonichthys, and adopted that of Astero- 
lepis, or star-scale, which Eichwald had proposed. Many 
points, however, respecting this curious fossil remained to be 
determined ; and it was fortunate for science that Mr Miller 
was enabled to accomplish this object by means of a variety 


of excellent specimens which he received from Mr Robert 
Dick, "an intelligent tradesman of Thurso, one of those 
working men of Scotland, of active curiosity and well-de- 
veloped intellect, that give character and standing to the 
rest 1 ' Agassiz had inferred, from very imperfect fragments, 
that the AsUrolepU was a strongly-helmed fish of the Ccela- 
ccmth8 f or hollow-spine family, — that it was probably a flat- 
headed animal, — and that the discovery of a head or of a jaw 
might prove that the genus Dendrodus did not differ from it 
All these conjectures were completely confirmed by Mr Miller, 
after a careful examination of the specimens of Mr Dick. 

Before proceeding to describe the structure of the gigantic 
Asterolepis, Mr Miller devotes a long and elaborate chapter 
to the subject of the cerebral development of the earlier ver- 
tebrata, in order to ascertain in what manner their true brains 
were lodged, and to discover the modification which the cra- 
nium, as their protecting box, received in subsequent periods. 
This inquiry, which he has conducted with great skill and 
ability, is not only highly interesting in itself but will be found 
to have a direct bearing on the great question which it is his 
object to discuss and decide. 

The facts and reasonings contained in this chapter will, 
we doubt not* shake to its very base the bold theory of Pro- 
fessor Oken, which has been so generally received abroad, and 
which is beginning to find supporters even among the solid 
thinkers of our own country. In the "Isis" of 1 81 8, Professor 
Lorenz Oken has given the following account of the hypo- 
thesis to which we allude : — "In August 1806," says he, " I 
made a journey over the Hartz. I slid down through the 
wood on the south side, and straight before me, at my 
very feet, lay a most beautiful blanched skull of a hind. I 
picked it up, turned it round, regarded it intensely ; — the 
thing was done. 'It is a vertebral column,' struck me 
like a flood of lightning, 4 to the marrow and bone ;' and 


since that time the skull has been regarded as a vertebral 

This remarkable hypothesis was at first received with en- 
thusiasm by the naturalists of Germany, and, among others, 
by Agassiz, who, from grounds not of a geological kind, has 
more recently rejected it It has been adopted by our dis- 
tinguished countryman Professor Owen, and forms the cen- 
tral idea in his lately published and ingenious work " On the 
Nature of limbs." The conclusion at which he arrives, that 
the fore-limbs of the vertebrata are the ribs of the occipital 
bone or vertebra set free, and (in all the vertebrata higher 
in the scale than the ordinary fishes) carried down along the 
vertebral column by a sort of natural dislocation, is a deduc- 
tion from the idea that startled Professor Oken in the forest 
of the Hartz. Whatever support this hypothesis might have 
expected from Geology has been struck from beneath it by 
this remarkable chapter of Mr Miller's work ; and though 
anatomists may for a while maintain it under the influence 
of so high an authority as Professor Owen, we are much mis- 
taken if it ever forms a part of the creed of the geologist 
Mr Miller, indeed, has, by a most skilful examination of the 
heads of the earliest vertebrata known to geologists, proved 
that the hypothesis derives no support from the structure 
which they exhibit; and Agassiz has even upon general prin- 
ciples rejected it as untenable. 

Mr Miller's next chapter, on the structure, bulk, and as- 
pect of the Asterolepis, is, like that which precedes it, the 
work of a master, evincing the highest powers of observation 
and analysis. Its size in the larger specimens must have 
been very great ; and from a comparison of the proportion 
of the head in the ganoids to the length of the body, which 
is sometimes as one to five, or one to six, or one to six and 
a half, or even one to seven, our author concludes that the 
total length of the specimens in his possession must have been 

• •• 


at least eight feet three inches, or from nine feet nine to nine 
feet ten inches. The remains of an Asterolepis found by 
Mr Dick at Thurso indicate a length of from twelve feet five 
to thirteen feet eight inches ; and one of the Russian speci- 
mens of Professor Asmus must have been from eighteen to 
twenty -three feet long. " Hence," says Mr Miller, "in the 
not unimportant circumstance of size, the most ancient Coe- 
lacanths jet known, instead of taking their places, agreeably 
to the demands of the development hypothesis, among the 
sprats, sticklebacks, and minnows of their class, took their 
place among its huge basking sharks, gigantic sturgeons* and 
bulky swordfishes. They were giants, not dwarfs." Again, 
judging by the analogies which its structure exhibits to that 
of fishes of the existing period, the Asterolepis must have been 
a fish high in the scale of organization. 

A specimen of Asterolepis discovered by Mr Dick among 
the Thurso rocks, and sent to Mr Miller, exhibited the sin- 
gular phenomenon of a quantity of thick tar lying beneath 
it, which stuck to the« fingers when lifting the pieces of rock. 
"What had been once the nerves, muscles, and blood of this an- 
cient ganoid, still lay under its bones," — a phenomenon which 
our author had previously seen beneath the body of a poor 
suicide, whose grave in a sandy bank had been laid open by 
the encroachments of a river, the sand beneath it having been 
" consolidated into a dark-coloured pitchy mass," extending 
a full yard beneath the body. In like manner, the animal 
juices of the Asterolepis had preserved its remains, by " the 
pervading bitumen, greatly more conservative in its effects 
than the oil and gum of an old Egyptian undertaker." The 
bones; though black as pitch, retained to a considerable de- 
gree the peculiar qualities of the original substance, in the 
same manner as the adipocere of wet burying-grounds pre- 
serves fresh and green the bones which it incloses. 

In support of his anti-development views, Mr Miller de- 

HUGH yrr^w^ X^IX. 

votes his next and *&£& chapter to the recent history, order, 
and size of the fishes of the Upper and Lower Silurian rocks. 
Of these ancient formations, the hone-bed of the Upper Lud- 
low rocks is the only one which, besides defensive spines of 
fish, contains teeth, fragments of jaws, and shagreen points; 
whereas in the inferior deposits defensive spines alone are 
found. The species discovered by Professor Phillips in the 
Wenlock shale were microscopic; and the author of the 
" Vestiges" took advantage of this insulated fact to support 
his views, by pronouncing the little creatures to which the 
species belonged as the foetal embryos of their class. Mr 
Miller has, however, even on this ground, defeated his op- 
ponent. By comparing the defensive spines of the Onchus 
Murehisoni of the Upper Ludlow bed with those of a recent 
Spinax Acanthias, or dog-fish, and of the Cestracion Phil- 
lipph or Port-Jackson shark, he arrives at the conclusion, 
that the fishes to which the species belonged must be all of 
considerable size ; and in the following chapter on the high 
standing of the pktcoids, he shows that the same early fishes 
were high in intelligence and organization. 

In his ninth chapter, on the " History and Progress of De- 
gradation," our author enters upon a new and interesting sub- 
ject The object of it is to determine the proper ground on 
which the standing of the earlier vertebrate should be de- 
cided, namely, the test of what he terms homological sym- 
metry of organization. In nature there are monster families, 
just as there are in families monster individuals, — men 
without feet, hands, or eyes, or with them in a wrong place, 
sheep with legs growing from their necks, ducklings with 
wings on their haunches, and dogs and cats with more legs 
than they require. We - have thus, according to our author 
— 1, monstrosity through defect of parts ; 2, monstrosity 
through redundancy of parts ; and, 3, monstrosity through dis- • 
placement of parts. This last species, united in some cases 



with the other two, our author finds curiously exemplified in 
the geological history of the fish, which he considers better 
known than that of any other division of the vertebrata ; and 
he is convinced that ft is from a survey of the progress of de- 
gradation in the great ichthyic division that the standing of 
the kingly fishes of the earlier periods is to be determined. 

In the earliest vertebrate period, namely, the Silurian, 
our author shows that the fishes were homologically symme- 
trical in their organization, as exhibited in the placoids. In 
the second great ichthyic period, that of the Old Red Sand- ' 
stone, he finds the first example in the class of fishes, of mon- 
strosity by displacement of parts. In all the ganoids of the 
period there is the- same departure from symmetry as would 
take place in man if his neck was annihilated, and the arms 
stuck to the back of the head. In the Coccosteus and Pter- 
ichthys of the same period he finds the first example of de- 
gradation through defect, the former resembling a human 
monster without hands, and the latter, one without feet. 
After ages and centuries have passed away, and then after 
the termination of the Palaeozoic period, a change takes place 
in the formation of the fish tail " Other ages and centuries 
pass away, during which the reptile class attains to its fullest 
development in point of size, organization, and number ; and 
then, after the times of the cretaceous deposits have begun, 
we find yet another remarkable monstrosity of displacement 
introduced among all the fishes of one very numerous order, 
and among no inconsiderable proportion of the fishes of ano- 
ther. In the newly-introduced Ctenoids (Acanthopterygii), 
and in those families of the Cycloids which Cuvier erected 
into the order Malacopterygii stMrachiati, the hinder limbs 
are brought forward and stuck on to the base of the previously 
misplaced fore limbs. All the four limbs, by a strange mon- 
strosity of displacement^ are crowded into the place of the 
extinguished neck. And such, in the present day, is the 


prevalent type amoog fishes. Monstrosity through defect is 
also found to increase ; so that the snake-like apoda, or feet- 
wanting fishes, form a numerous order, some of whose genera 
are devoid, as in the common eels and the congers, of only 
the hinder limbs, while in others, as in the genera Murcena 
and Synbrcmchus, both hinder and fore limbs are wanting." 
From these and other facts our author concludes that, as in 
existing fishes we find many more proofs of the monstrosity, 
both from displacement and defect of parts, than in all the 
other three classes of the vertebrata, and as these monstro- 
sities did not appear early, but late, " the progress of the race 
as a whole, though it still retains not a few of the higher 
forms, has been a progress, not of development from the low 
to the high, but of degradation from the high to the low." 
An extreme example of the degradation of distortion .super- 
added to that of displacement may be seen in the flounder, 
plaice, halibut, or turbot, — fishes of a family of which there is 
no trace in the earlier periods. The creature is twisted half 
round and laid on its side. The tail, too, is horizontal. Half 
the features of its head are twisted to one side, and the other 
half to the other; while its wry mouth is in keeping with its 
squint eyes. One jaw is straight, and the other like a bow ; 
and while one contains from four to six teeth, the other con- 
tains from thirty to thirty-Hve, 

Aided by facts like these, an ingenious theorist might, as 
our author remarks, " get up as unexceptionable a theory of 
degradation as of development," But however this may be, 
the principle of degradation actually exists, and " the history 
of its progress in creation bears directly against the assump- 
tion that the earlier vertebrata were of a lower type than the 
vertebrata of the same ichthyic class which exist now." 

In his next and tenth chapter, our author controverts, with 
bib usual power, the argument in favour of the development 
hypothesis drawn from the predominance of the brachiopods 

xxxil mraH miller 

among the Silurian molluscs. The existence of the highly- 
organized cephalopoda in the same formation, not only neu~ 
tralizes this argument, but authorizes the conclusion that an 
animal of a very high order of organization existed in the 
earliest formation. It is of no consequence whether the ce- 
phalopods or the braohiopods were most numerous. Had 
there been only one cuttle-fish in the Silurian seas, and a 
million of brachiopods, the fact would equally have overturned 
the development system. 

In the same chapter, Mr Miller treats of the geological 
history of the fossil flora, which has been pressed into the 
service of the development hypothesis. On the authority of 
Adolphe Brongniart, it was maintained that, previous to the 
age of the Lias, " Nature had failed to achieve a tree, and 
that the rich vegetation of the Goal Measures had been ex- 
clusively composed of magnificent immaturities of the vege- 
table kingdom, of gigantic ferns and club-mosses that attained 
to the size of forest trees, and of thickets of the swamp-loving 
horse-tail family of plants." True exogenous trees, however, 
do exist of vast size, and in great numbers, in all the coal- 
fields of our own country, as has been proved by Mr Miller. 
Nay, he himself discovered in the Old Red Sandstone, lignite, 
which is proved to have formed part of a true gymnosper- 
mous tree, represented by the pines of Europe and America, 
or more probably, as Mr Miller believes, by the Araucarians 
of Chili and New Zealand. This important discovery is 
pregnant with instruction. The ancient conifer must have 
waved its green foliage over dryland; and it is not probable 
that it was the only tree in the primeval forest " The ship 
carpenter," as our author observes, " might have hopefully 
taken axe in hand to explore the woods for some such stately 
pine as the one described by Milton, — 

' Hewn on Norwegian hills, to be the mast 
Of some great admiral. ' " 

• •• 


Viewing this olive leaf of the Old Bed Sandstone as not at 
all devoid of poetry, our author invites us to a voyage from 
the latest formation up to the first zone of the Silurian for- 
mation, thus passing from ancient to still more ancient scenes 
of being, and finding, as at the commencement of our voy- 
age, a graceful intermixture of land and water, continent, 
river, and sea. 

But though the existence of a true placoid, a real verte- 
brated fish, in the Cambrian Limestone of Bala, and of true 
wood at the base of the Old Bed Sandstone, are utterly in- 
compatible with the development hypothesis, its supporters, 
thus driven to the wall, may take shelter under the vague 
and unquestioned truth that the lower plants and animals 
preceded the higher, and that the order of creation was fish, 
reptiles, birds, mammalia, quadrumana, and man. From this 
resource, too, our author has cut off his opponents, and pro- 
ceeds to show that such an order of creation, " at once won- 
derful and beautiful," does not afford even the slightest pre- 
sumption in favour of the hypothesis which it is adduced to 

This argument is carried on in a popular and amusing dia- 
logue in the eleventh chapter. Mr Miller shows in the 
clearest manner, that "superposition is not parental rela- 
tion," or that an organism lying above another gives us no 
ground for believing that the lower organism was the parent 
of the higher. The theorist, however, looks only at those 
phases of truth which are in unison with his own views; and 
when truth presents no such favourable aspect, he finally 
wraps himself up in the folds of ignorance and ambiguity, — 
the winding-sheet. of error refuted and exposed. We have 
not yet penetrated, says he, in feeble accents, to the forma- 
tions which represent the dawn of being, and the simplest 
organism may yet be detected beneath the lowest fossiliferous 
rocks. This undoubtedly may be, and Sir Charles Lyell and 


Mr Leonard Horner are of opinion that such rocks may jet 
be discovered ; while Sir Roderick Murchison, and Professor 
Sedgwick, and Mr Miller, are of an opposite opinion. But 
even were such rocks discovered to-morrow, it would not 
follow that their organisms gave the least support to the de- 
velopment hypothesis. In the year 1837, when fishes were 
not discovered in the Upper Silurian rocks, the theorist would 
have rightly predicted the existence of lower fossiliferous 
beds; but when they are discovered, and their fossils exa- 
mined, they furnish the strongest argument that could be 
desired against the theory they were expected to sustain. 
This fact, no doubt, is so far in favour of the supposition that 
there may be still lower fossil-bearing strata; but, as Mr 
Miller observes, " The pyramid of organized existence, as it 
ascends into the bypast eternity, inclines sensibly towards 
its apex, — that apex of ' beginning 1 in which, on far other 
than geological grounds, it is our privilege to believe. The 
broad base of the superstructure planted on the existing scene 
stretches across the entire scale of life, animal and vegetable; 
but it contracts as it rises into the past : man, — the quadra- 
mana, — the quadrupedal mammal, — the bird,— and the rep* 
tile, — are each in succession struck from off its breadth, till wo 
at length see it with the vertebrata, represented by only the fish, 
narrowing, as it were, to a point ; and though the clouds of 
the upper region may hide its apex, we infer, from the decli- 
nation of its sides, that it cannot penetrate much farther into 
the profound." 

In our author's next chapter, — the twelfth of the series, — 
he proceeds to examine the " Lamarckian hypothesis of the 
origin of plants, and its consequences." 

In his thirteenth chapter, on "The Two Floras, Marine 
and Terrestrial," he has shown that all our experience is op- 
posed to the opinion that the one has been transmuted into 
the other. If the marine had been converted into terrestrial 


vegetation, we ought to have, in the Lake of Stennis, for ex- 
ample, plants of an intermediate character between the algte 
of the sea and the monocotyledons of the lake. But no such 
transition plants are found. The algse, as our author observes, 
become dwarfish and ill-developed. They cease to exist as 
the water becomes fresher, "until at length we find, instead 
of the brown, rootless, fiowerless fucoids and conferva of the 
ocean, the green, rooted, flowering flags, rushes, and aquatic 
grasses of the fresh water. Many thousands of years have 
failed to originate a single intermediate plant" The same 
conclusion may be drawn from the character of the vegeta- 
tion along the extensive shores of Britain and Ireland. No 
botanist has ever found a single plant in the transition state. 
The/ourteenth chapter of the "Foot-prints" will be perused 
with great interest by the general reader. It is a power- 
ful and argumentative exposure of the development hypothe- 
sis, and of the manner in which the subject has been treated 
in the ''Vestiges." Whether we consider it in its nature, 
in its history, or in the character of the intellects with whom 
it originated, or by whom it has been received and supported, 
Mr Miller has shown that it has nothing to recommend itJ 
It existed as a wild dream before Geology had any being asl 
a science. It was broached more than a century ago by De\ 
Maillet, who knew nothing of the geology even of his day. 1 
In a translation of his "Telliamed," published in 1750, Mr [ 
Miller finds very nearly the same account given of the ori- ' 
gin of plants and animals as that in the " Vestiges," and in 
which the sea is described as that " great and fruitful womb 
of nature in which organization and life first begin." Lamarck, 
though a skilful botanist and conchologist, was unacquainted 
with Geology ; and as he first published his development hy- 
pothesis in 1802 (an hypothesis identical with that of the 
" Vestiges"), it is probable that he was not then a very skil- 
ful zoologist Nor has Professor Oken any higher claims to 



geological acquirements. He confesses that he wrote the first 
edition of his work in a kind of inspiration I and it is not 
difficult to estimate the intelligence of the inspiring idol that 
announced to the German sage that the globe was a vast crys- 
tal, a little flawed in the facets, and that quartz, feldspar, and 
mica, the three constituents of granite, were the hail-drops of 
heavy showers of stone that fell into the original ocean, and 
accumulated into rocks at the bottom 1 ' 

Such is the unscientific parentage of the theories promul- 
gated in the " Vestiges." But the author of this work ap- 
peals in the first instance to science. Astronomy, Geology, 
Botany, and Zoology, are called upon to give evidence in his 
favour; but the astronomer, geologist, botanist, and zoolo- 
gist, all refuse him their testimony, deny his premises, and 
reject his results. " It is not/' as Mr Miller happily observes, 
"the illiberal religionist that casts him off; — it is the induc- 
tive philosopher." Science addresses him in the language of 
the possessed : — " The astronomer I know, and the geologist 
I know ; but who are ye V Thus left alone in a cloud of 
star-dust, or in brackish water between the marine and ter- 
restrial flora, he " appeals from science to the want of it>" 
casts a stone at our scientific institutions, and demands a jury 
of " ordinary readers," as the only " tribunal" by which " the 
new philosophy is to be truly and righteously judged." 

The last and fifteenth chapter of Mr Miller's work, "On 
the Bearing of Final Causes on Geologic History," if read 
with care and thought, will prove at once delightful and in- 
structive. The principle of final causes, or the conditions of ex- 
istence, affords a wide scope to our reason in Natural History, 
but especially in Geology. It becomes an interesting inquiry, 
if any reason can be assigned why at certain periods species 
began to exist, and became extinct after the lapse of lengthened 
periods of time ; and why the higher classes of being succeeded 
the lower in the order of creation. The incompleteness of 



geological science, however, does not permit as to remove, for 
the present, the veil which hangs over this mysterious chrono- 
logy ; but our author is of opinion that in about a quarter 
of a century, in a favoured locality like the British islands, 
geological history " will assume a very extraordinary form." 

It is a singular fact, which will yet lead to singular re- 
sults, that Cuvier's arrangement of the four classes of verte- 
brate animals should exhibit the same order as that in which 
they are found in the strata of the earth. In the Juh, the 
average proportion of the brain to the spinal cord is only as 
2 to 1. In the reptile, the ratio is as 2^ to 1. In the bird, 
it is as 3 to 1. In the 7nam%mcdia y it is as 4 to 1 ; and in 
man, it is as 23 to 1. No less remarkable is the foetal pro- 
gress of the human brain. It first becomes a brain resem- 
bling that of a fish ; then it grows into the form of that of 
a reptile ; then into that of a bird ; then into that of a mam- 
miferous quadruped ; and finally it assumes the form of a 
human brain; "thus comprising in its foetal progress an 
epitome of geological history, as if man were in himself a 
compendium of all animated nature, and of kin to every crea- 
ture that lives." 

With these considerations, Mr Miller has brought his 
subject to the point at which science, in its onward progress, 
now stands. It is to embryology we are in future to look 
for further information upon the most intimate relations 
which exist between all organized beings. We may fairly 
entertain the hope that the time is not far when we shall not 
only fully understand the plan of creation, but even lift some 
corner of the veil which has hitherto prevented us from form- 
ing adequate ideas of the first introduction of animal and ve- 
getable life upon earth, and of the changes which both king- 
doms have undergone in the succession of geological ages. 

Cambridge, September 1850. 


Moke than half-a-dozen years have now elapsed since a new 
edition of the " Foot-prints of the Creator" came into re- 
quisition, and yet since that time it has failed to be reprinted. 
Under these circumstances, it becomes necessary to state the 
reasons for this long delay, as well as those which now render 
it both practicable and desirable that it should once more be 
brought before the public. I think it may be safely averred, 
that the chief cause of its disappearance lay in the failing 
health of its author. He was not able to keep up with the 
demands of the time. It hail so happened that one of those 
alternations in the progress of discovery which are common 
enough, although we do not always notice them, had just 
occurred in connection with this book. There are ebbs and 
flows in the history of every science, which take place on the 
line where the great ascertained facts of the past and those of 
the future meet, and where, for the moment, they present an 
appearance of confusion and conflict. Some such phenomenon, 


on a more remarkable scale than usual, had just taken place in 
the history of Geology. The evidence of almost all the first 
English authorities in regard to certain fish-spines and de- 
fences said to be found in the regions of Lower Siluria had 
broken down. They had mistaken portions of Crustacea for 
portions of fish. * Accordingly, nearly a whole chapter of the 
" Foot-prints," founded upon these supposed discoveries, had 
to be erased, and some portion of the work re-written. " I 
must omit that chapter," said the author, " and strengthen 
the general argument" But pressure of other work, an 
increasingly irritable brain, and severe attacks of inflamma- 
tion of the lungs, to which he was subject in his latter years, 
prevented these intentions from being fulfilled. I think, 
too, that he was partly influenced by a desire to wait, in 
order to see what direction the progress of real discovery 
was likely to take. Was the Upper Ludlow bone-bed, at 
the top of the Silurians, to be the final resting-place where 
ichthyic life had its first beginnings] or was discovery of a 
more solid kind again to take its course downwards 1 Might 
not this chapter be soon supplanted by another, when geolo- 
gists, guarded against erroneous conclusions by former mis- 
takes, would be able to prove the earlier introduction of 
fish by evidence quite unimpeachable 9 Alas ! were his hand 
now engaged on the task before me, a very noble chapter 
would doubtless have been written, in lieu of that which he 
intended to effaca It is true that re-discovery does not 
progress very rapidly, but it moves surely in the direction 
he anticipated. Many hundred feet below the Upper Lud- 

• See Mr Salter's Note, p. 815. 


low bone-bed, with the Aymestry Limestone intervening, lie 
the Lower Ludlow rocks; and there, in 1859, the Rev. Mi 
Lee of Caerleon, in company with Mr Lightbody of Ludlow, 
found a Pteraspis, — a genus closely allied to the Cephalaspis, 
— in the quarries of Leintwardine, Herefordshire. Regard- 
ing this, the Rev. Mr Symonds of Fendock writes me, — 
" I visited the quarry, at the request of Sir C. Lyell, and 
was shown the spot from which the specimen was procured, 
by Mr Lightbody. There can be no doubt about the strata 
belonging to the Lower Ludlow rocks of Murchison, and 
some characteristic fossils are imbedded in the same slab 
which contains the Pteraspis."* 

Not only from this, but owing to some other circumstances, 
which we shall presently endeavour to explain, the family 
of the CephalaspidsB have risen into much more importance 
than they possessed at the date of the " Foot-prints." Ce- 
phalaspis ornatus, and Auchenaspis, another closely-allied 
genus, were found in another Ludlow bed, occupying a rather 
higher level than the original one, before the publication of 
Sir Roderick Murchison's last edition of " Siluria." (See 
" Siluria," p. 155.) In the tilestones or transition beds be- 
tween the Siluria and the Old Red, Cephalaspis and Pteraspis 
again appear. " In Shropshire," says Sir R. Murchison, in 
recounting many instances of the same nature, — " in Shrop- 

* " No one," says Mr Symonds, in a quite recent work, entitled " Old 
Bones, or Notes for Young Naturalists," " save the geologist, who knows 
the thickness of the Upper Ludlow shales, and the Aymestry limestone 
which intervenes between the site of the deposition of the Pteraspis 
truncates and that of the Pteraspis Ludensis, can adequately comprehend 
how much the discovery of this little fish antedates the period during 
which fish have now been proved to have existed on our planet." 


shire we find, in ascending from the tilestones into the marls 
and sandstones, with concretions of argillaceous limestones 
(and the same phenomenon re-occurs near Kington, in Here- 
fordshire), that other species of Pteraspis occur, as well as 
other species of Cephalaspis, and particularly the C. Lyelli ; 
and thus we are conducted at once into the great formation 
which, in parts of Scotland, also contains the same species." * 
Other characteristic organisms, — the large crustacean Ptery- 
gotus gigas, for example, with its egg-packets, long known by 
the name of Parka decipiens, — are found associated with 
the Cephalaspidse, and tell the same story. These facts, the 
reader will perceive, prove two things : first* that the Ce- 
phalaspidse, which include Cephalaspis, Pteraspis, and Auch- 
enaspis, are unquestionably, as geological discovery at pre- 
sent stands, the earliest forms of vertebrate life ; secondly, 
that they and the Pterygoti, <fcc, connect Siluria not with the 
Old Red Sandstones of Cromarty and Caithness, prolific of 
ganoid fish, but with the Old Red of Forfarshire, where 
Cephalaspi and Pterygoti are abundant ; consequently regu- 
lating the succession of the Old Red Sandstone beds. So 
that the Cephalaspis beds, wherever they occur, as in Forfar- 
shire, constitute the Lower Old Red ; and those of the Dip- 
teri and Pterichthyi, &c, must move upwards to occupy 
the middle place. That this arrangement was the true 
one, the author of the "Foot-prints" suspected before he 
wrote his " Testimony of the Rocks." In the latter work, 
in treating of the less known fossil floras of Scotland, after 
saying that he deemed the evidence of his old reading not so 

# See Note B, p. 802. 


conclusive as it was fifteen years ago, — but giving, neverthe- 
less, his reasons in its favour, — he goes on to say, " It must, 
however, be stated, on the other hand, that the crustaceans of 
the gray tilestones of Forfar and Kincardine not a little re- 
semble those of the Upper Silurian and red tilestone beds of 
England ; and that, judging from the ichthyodorulites in both, 
their fishes must have been at least genetically allied. The 
crustaceans of the Upper Silurian of Lesmahagow, too, seem 
certainly much akin to those of the Forfarshire tilestones." 

It is not, however, the positions of the different forma- 
tions of the Old Bed which are of greatest importance as 
affecting the conclusions of the " Foot-prints," but the real 
place and standing of the earliest known fish, whatever that 
may be. It is for the present a member of the Cephalaspian 
family. Again, in a few years, it may be some ichthyo- 
lite whose name we do not know ; or, in the course of an- 
other few years thereafter, the true placoids may again have 
the start in the race for precedence, thereby bringing the 
" Footprints" literally right, like the hand of a dial coming 
round again to the hour. Whatever the reigning family may 
be which takes its place as first, — if we wish to test it by 
the development hypothesis,— it must submit to be put to 
the question, as the author of the " Foot-prints" questions 
the Asterolepis of Stromness, — " How, on the two relevant 
points, — bulk and organization, — does it answer to the de- 
mands of that hypothesis 1 Was it a mere foetus of the 
finny tribe, of minute size and imperfect embryonic faculty 1 
or was it of at least the ordinary bulk, and* for its class, of 
the average organization?" On these points the reader 
may partly judge for himself, by turning to the Notes, and 


inspecting the plate which is there given, and which forma, 
as nearly as may be, a restoration of the Cephalaspis. The 
only part which seems at all doubtful is the tail I have 
been shown the specimen from which the engraving was 
taken by the gentleman in whose possession it is, — Mr Pow- 
rie of Reswallie, one of the best collectors and geologists in 
Forfarshire. The indications of a large and powerful tail 
are unmistakeable ; but most unfortunately the quarryman 
who disinterred the slab in which this fine specimen was 
found, and which showed at first only the foremost part of 
the skull, did not make sufficient allowance for the size of the 
animal, when reducing the slab to a portable size, and a great 
part of the tail was consequently cut away. The plates of the 
head, the pectoral fins, and the eye-orbits, are all as distinct 
as if freshly cut by the tool of the engraver out of wood or 
stone. In a second specimen, the capsules of the eyes are 
preserved. The whole body in the larger specimen is closely 
covered with apparently very strong scales of a rhomboids! 
form. Here, then, there is no longer need of guess-work 
from spines, teeth, and pieces of shagreen, but an absolute 
form, which the most unpractised eye may discern to be no 
foetus or half-developed crustacean, but a fish in all respects 
as perfectly organized after its kind as any fish — the lepi- 
dosteus, for example— of the present day. Nor is it among 
the lower orders of existing fishes that the first comparative 
anatomists seek its analogues. Both Professor Owen and 
Professor Huxley, though differing in their ideas of classifi- 
cation, find these in the Siluroids, — an order of teleostean or 
bony fishes. The first of those great authorities, follow- 
ing Agaseiz, retains the ganoid order intact, as adopted by 



Hugh Miller in the " Foot-prints" and his other works. 
But this Owen divides into two sub-orders, viz., plaoo-ga- 
noids, or ganoids covered with plates; and lepido-ganoids, 
or those covered with scales. In the former he places the Ce- 
phalaspidse, including PteraspisLudensis, — the earliest known 
fish, — Coccosteus, Pterichthys, Asterolepis, <fcc. The lepido- 
ganoids include the Acanthodes, Diplacanthus, Cheiracan- 
thus, and Cheirolepis ; likewise the Ccelacanths, as Glypto- 
lepis, Phyllolepis, and the Holoptychida. 

Professor Huxley, on the other hand, demurs altogether 
to Agassiz's ganoid order, as it at present stands. He ex- 
cludes from it the Siluroids (the analogues of the Cephalaspi- 
d«), asserting that they are in no respect different from Tele- 
ostei or true bony fishes, and says that the true ganoids are in- 
termediate between the Teleostei and Elasmobranchii, or what 
are commonly called cartilaginous fishes. In this he follows 
Johannes Miiller, "since whose researches," he says, "the 
term Ganoidei has been received in a very different sense by 
the great mass of naturalists." The term is restricted by 
Huxley to six genera of existing fishes ; but as the charac- 
teristics depend on certain peculiarities of the brain, of the 
optic nerve, the aorta, <fec., they must for ever remain undis- 
ceraible by the great mass of readers, to whom Agassiz's 
classification has the great advantage of being simple and 
easy of comprehension. Indeed, whether any classification is 
possible which, in the nice gradation of nature's handiworks, 
shading off in all directions, does not include some anomalies, 
remains to be seen. With regard to these differences of 
opinion. Sir Philip Egerton writes me (with a kind permis- 
sion to quote from his letter) as follows : — " I am of opinion 


that the balance of evidence is in favour of the ganoid affini- 
ties [of the Cephalaspidse] ; but I do think that there are 
sufficient grounds for dividing the ganoids of Agassis, and 
adopting M'Coy's term Placostei^ or Owen's Placo-Ganoidei 
T prefer the latter, as Placostei is used by the Germans as 
synonymous with Placoid&L In this case, the Cephalaspides 
would form a family of the placo-ganoid sub-order." 

Whether we abide by Agass&s arrangement, modified by 
Professor Owen's subdivisions, or, with Professor Huxley, 
desire to adopt a more recondite and exclusive style of classi- 
fication, for whose gradual development we must patiently 
wait until farther researches and clearer evidence will have 
brought it to light, — in any case it is worthy of remark, 
that Professor Huxley in no way endeavours to exclude the 
Cephalaspidae from the true ganoids, in order to degrade them, 
but precisely the contrary. On this point his opinion is un- 
doubtedly entitled to great weight Let us hear what he 
says : — 

"Without doubt, there is a singularly close resemblance 
in the structure of the dermal plates, between Cephalaspis and 
Megalichthys, — the last being very probably a true ganoid ; 
but the point of difference is noteworthy ; — it is precisely the 
characteristic ganoid layer which is absent in Cephalaspis. 
On the other hand, the arrangement of the hard tissues in 
Pteraspis reminds one almost as strongly of Ostracion, an 
undoubted teleostean. The existing fishes to which Cepha- 
laspis presents the nearest resemblance in form, — viz., Lori- 
caria and Callichthys, — are Siluroid teleosteans, and not 

* See the latter part of Note C, p. 309. 

BT MRS MILLER. xlvii. 

ganoids ; and if we take the immediate allies of Cephalaspis , 
and Pteraspis, — viz., Coccosteus and Pterichthys, — their ana- 
logies with Siluroids, such as Bagrus and Doras, are as strong 
as those with Accipenser (one of his six true ganoids). A 
careful consideration of the facts, then, seems to me to prove 
only the necessity of suspending one's judgment That Ce- 
phalaspis and Pteraspis are either ganoids or teleosteans ap- 
pears certain ; hut to which of these orders they belong there 
is no evidence to show. If this evidence is valid, it is clear 
that the ordinary assumption that the earliest fishes belonged 
to low types of organization falls to the ground, whatever 
may be the relative estimation in which the different orders 
of fishes are held." — (Contribution by Professor Huxley to 
the Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society for August 

Professor Pander, again, as the reader will see by turning 
to Note C, p. 309, wishes to erect the Gephalaspidte into 
& distinct family, and its nearest allies, the Pterichthys, 
Coccosteus, <fec. into another, to be entitled Placodermata, 
From all this we learn, first, that the era of a classification 
in this department perfectly satisfactory to naturalists has 
not yet arrived ; but that, whatever their opinions on that 
head may be, the earliest known fishes not only show no signs 
of imperfection in their organization, but that the tokens of 
a still higher organization than any displayed by the ganoids 
of the third period of vertebrate existence, — those of the 
Middle Old Red, where the author of the " Foot-prints," 
according to the evidence of his day, supposed that ganoid 
life had its beginning, — their nearer approach, in fact, to 
the true bony fishes of the present day, — is precisely the 


point which occasions the disagreement of fossil anatomists 
as to their actual standing. In point of brain, they are 
not so highly organized as the placoids, their immediate suc- 
cessors ; but it is only in the race of discovery that these 
placo-ganoids have gained the advantage by a single stage; 
and presumptive evidence favours the supposition that placoid 
and ganoid life took their rise together. How far back into 
the Silurians this may have been, it is as yet impossible to 
say. It may be mentioned, by the way, that too many genera 
were originally erected out of the placoid remains found in 
the Upper Ludlow bone-bed. A few, too, have proved spu- 
rious ; but no doubt whatever is entertained regarding some, 
accompanied as they are by pieces of shagreen, which prac- 
tised eyes, when assisted by the microscope, cannot fail to 
distinguish from the outer dermal coverings of the plates of 
ganoid fish or crustaceans. 

The reader already acquainted with the "Foot-prints" 
may have made another observation on some of the opinions 
we have submitted to him, viz., that the principle embodied 
in the chapter entitled "Bank Dependent on Brain, not 
Bone," bids fair to be very generally adopted. Twelve years 
ago, when the " Foot-prints" was written, the author had no 
authority to fall back upon. But now, as we have seen, Pro- 
fessor Huxley considers it' an essential point in the classifi- 
cation of fishes, and Professor Owen has boldly adopted it 
in regard to the mammalia, though he extends it for the pre- 
sent no farther. The mammalia he distinguishes as perfect- 
brained, convolute-brained, smooth-brained, loose-brained ;* 

* See the Rev. W. S. Symonds' recent work, before mentioned, in 
which Owen's system is admirably condensed. 


so that what twelve years ago was contended for in order to 
maintain some standing ground against the errors of the 
" Vestiges," is now coming into use as a first principle of 

In undertaking, in present circumstances, to bring before 
the public a new edition of the " Foot-prints," it was difficult 
to determine whether the chapter on the Silurians ought to 
be omitted, according to the expressed intention of its author, 
or no. On this head I consulted Sir Philip Egerton, to 
whom the work was originally dedicated, and his advice 
ran as follows : — " I am clearly of opinion that the text 
should stand intact, and that such explanations and emenda- 
tions as are required in consequence of recent discovery should 
be given in notes, or in an introductory chapter. No doubt, 
had the author lived, he could not have consented to a new 
edition without making such corrections as were called for, 
in consequence of the break-down of the evidence communi- 
cated to him by others (for he was not responsible for the 
facts), on which the arguments are based. But in posthu- 
mous editions, I am of opinion that no alterations of moment 
should be allowed in the original text Besides, to omit this 
chapter would be to suppress one of the most powerful and 
lucid arguments in the whole book ; and to re-unite it, no 
man living is competent. It is only with reference to the 
Lower Silurian that the argument fails ; and, after all, the 
chapter may be prophetic. I see no reason to lead one to 
suppose that fish remains may not be found below the Upper 
Silurian." On this advice— valuable every way — I have 
acted ; and for all reasons it is satisfactory, both to my- 
self and to the public, that every transaction, as it were, bo- 



tween us in regard to these posthumous volumes should be 
open and above board* Where the opinions of the present 
time differ from those of a few years ago, I wish that the 
grounds of this change should be apparent, in order that the 
reader may in all cases judge for himself 

There are now appended to this work two papers, in the 
form of addresses to Societies, — the Royal Physical of Edin- 
burgh, and the British Association, — which contain remarks 
of a more recent date than the " Foot-prints," upon the struc- 
ture of the ancient ganoids. They seem to have been in 
some sort supplementary to the " Foot-prints," and would 
no doubt have been embodied in the new edition which the 
author contemplated. I was not aware of the existence of 
these papers until Sir Philip Egerton, in preparing his notes 
on the fishes of the Old Bed, made inquiries whether Hugh 
Miller had left any other details on the subject than were 
to be found in his published writings. Search was made 
among certain old repositories, and these lectures found, 
which, it is hoped, will prove of great interest and of some 
value to geologists, and to those who like to follow the 
science into its minuter details. Some repetitions may per- 
haps be involved ; but the reader will excuse these, as it is 
impossible altogether to avoid them without destroying the 
unity of the addresses. Sir Philip Egerton thus expresses 
himself regarding them : — " I have read carefully and 'with 
great interest the manuscripts you have sent me. That on the 
structure and relations of the earlier ganoids seems to have 
been read before some Society. It is a paper of great inte- 
rest, and would be a most valuable and interesting addition 
to the reprint of the " Foot-prints." Tou will find a passage 


marked * * which describes the true nature of the vertebral 
anatomy of Coccosteus. The other paper was read to the 
geological section of the British Association at Edinburgh in 
1849. As only a short abstract of the latter is given in the 
volume of the Association, it ought by all means to be printed 
in full in your new volume ; the more so that it is in itself a 
kind of supplement to the "Foot-prints." As specimens 
are frequently alluded to, and as woodcuts to such an extent 
would be very expensive, it would suffice to state in a note 
that the specimens described are now in the Museum of the 
University." These suggestions have been attended to, and 
I merely quote from the letter to show the source from 
which they are derived. 

These remarks by the author of the " Foot-prints" on the 
structural peculiarities of the earlier ganoids embrace, as 
the reader will perceive, both the placo and the lepido-ga- 
noids of Owen, — a distinction which the author had not 
learnt to make, and to which we cannot^ of course, now tell 
how far he would have adhered. But the value of the 
close and minute observations remain the same, and the more 
so as it is happily almost confined to structure, and only 
incidentally glances at the relations of place or position. 
Hereby the alterations in relative position only impart ad- 
ditional value to the observations, as enhancing the import- 
ance of the subject. Members of the great ganoid order 
of Agassiz have, as we have said, been found in the Upper 
Ludlow bed, accompanying the placoids, and likewise many 
hundred feet below it> as yet unaccompanied by other ichthyic 
remains. The sam e remarkable family passes upwards through 
the transition beds, and finds an ample development in the 



Lower Old Red Sandstone ; but it there comes to an end, so far 
as we know. Other ichthyic forms, however, appear in that 
creation, binding together the Lower system with those that 
follow. The lepido-ganoids of Owen appear In the shape 
chiefly of the Acanthodes, which, however, diffei specificaUy 
from those of Cromarty and Caithness (the Middle Old Red/ 
This discovery of the Acanths, &c., as contemporaries of the 
Cephalaspis, has but very recently taken place, and was un- 
known to Hugh Miller. They likewise are not signs, but 
things, so very plain that a child may take delight in ex 
amining them. I have seen some in the collection of Mr 
4 Powrie of Reswallie, of which the minute and beautiful scales, 
the tins, the hungry-looking open jaws full of hooked teeth, 
may be all microscopically examined And the ocean of the 
Lower Old Red seems to have swarmed, too, with its tinny 

The Rev. Hugh Mitchell of Craig, near Montrose, — a 
most successful collector in this new field, — thus writes me : 
— " Over a wide district we have detected the indications 
of an extensive fossil fauna, and even flora. Cephalaspis 
Lyelli used to be the only complete form of fossil fish known 
from our rocks ; but> besides another species of Cephalaspid, 
we possess complete forms of Acanthodes, — Climalius and 

" We have, besides, with the single exception of the Pteras- 
pis, found all the species recorded from the equivalent rocks 
in England, which are either named from spines, such as 
Onchus, Ctenacanthus, or from jaws with anchylosed teeth, 
such as Plectrodus. But we have many, very many unnamed 
spines and scattered scales, which indicate many discoveries jet 


to be made in our district. Among the Crustacea we have 
numerous forms of the genera Pterygotus and Jfiwrypterus, of 
the family of the Eurypteridae, and others unnamed. Of our 
flora I can say nothing but that it is entirely unlike that of 
the Caithness beds. Some of our genera range upwards, or 
at least are found in the Caithness beds, — Acanthodes and 
Diplacanthus,r — thus binding them all together into one sys- 
tem. You will remember how strenuously Hugh Miller 
contended for the Old Bed Sandstone being assigned a posi- 
tion, not as a formation, but as a system, in the geological 
scheme ; and I should think that the enormous depth of our 
Forfarshire strata, — some 10,000 feet, — containing, besides, 
an abundant and characteristic Palaeontology, fully estab 
lishes that opinion. 

" The effect, therefore, of recent discoveries is to confirm 
in all respects the opinions of Hugh Miller, with the simple 
substitution of Middle for Lower, and vice versa ; and in 
his graphic descriptions — (and, alas ! from no other pen do 
such descriptions come now) — he would have had to people 
the waters of the period with other forms of life besides the 
Cephalaspis and the Pterygotus." 

To one other novelty I shall allude before closing this part 
of the subject, and that is, the discovery by that most invalu- 
able pioneer of science, Mr Charles Peach, of true bony ver- 
tebrae in other forms of ganoid fish besides the Coccosteus. 
The reader will have observed that, in a quotation given from 
a letter of Sir Philip Egerton's, he alludes to a passage in the 
supplementary papers, as describing the true nature of the 
vertebral anatomy of Coccosteus, — that is, it had not ossified 
vertebral centra, but a persistent notochord, with bony opo- 


physes. Now, whether the skeletons discovered in Caithness 
by Mr Peach resembled Coccosteus in this, or whether they 
had truly ossified vertebral centra, we are as yet not acquainted 
with the data upon which to decide; but the discovery appears, 
at any rate, to be a bona fide one. My friend Mr Symonds 
writes, — " Mr Peach has found a fish allied to the Dipterus, 
with well-ossified vertebrae, in the Middle Old Bed of the north 
of Scotland. Sir P. Egerton has examined the specimen, and 
writes me word that it is so." I£ indeed, these vertebrae are 
well ossified, there is here a complete revolution in our ideas of 
the ganoids of the Old Red. . For, if we find some with bony 
skeletons, the law, hitherto accepted as invariable, that the hard 
indestructible dermo-skeletons of that period were necessarily 
connected with frail, perishable, cartilaginous vertebrae, cease* 
to be. "We should, indeed, almost accept it as presumptive 
evidence that all might have possessed bony skeletons, which 
have only not been preserved, did we not find, as Professor 
Huxley clearly shows, that among the six forms which he 
accepts as true ganoids in the present day there are amazing 
differences in this respect " In this small group,*' he says, 
"Nature seems to have amused herself with working out 
every possible variety of endo-skeleton and exo-skeleton. 
Lepidosteus has a greatly-developed exo-skeleton, and the 
most Salamandroid vertebra known among fishes. Polypte- 
rus has an equally well-developed exo-skeleton, and a well- 
ossified but piscine vertebral colunjn," <fcc. <fcc. "With such 
living examples before us, what can we say, but that it is 
not easy to set limits to the discursive powers of Nature, or 
rather, of Nature's God % 

Nothing very new, we believe, has appeared in behalf of 


the theories of the "Vestiges" since the publication of the 
" Foot-prints," unless we accept in that light Mr Darwin's 
book on the " Origin of Species." While we wish to speak 
of this work with the respect due to an accomplished na- 
turalist, we must express our belief that it labours under twd 
disadvantages. Its style is very much less lucid than that 
of the "Vestiges," and so it is less fitted to become widely 
popular ; and it likewise suffers from the want of implicit 
faith on the part of its author. This latter defect probably 
arises from the scientific character of his mind, which makes 
his theories, in so far as he ventures to carry them out, partly 
the result of personal investigations, and not altogether of 
hearsay evidence. 

Mr Darwin seems to believe, or to wish to believe, in the 
thorough transmutation of species, — that any one species, how 
different soever it may be, can, by a gradual process within 
the lapse of ages, be changed into any other species, without 
regard to the element to which it may have belonged. " See- 
ing/' says he, "that we have flying birds and mammals, fly- 
ing insects of the most diversified types, and formerly had 
flying reptiles, it is conceivable that flying-fish, which now 
glide far through the air, slightly rising and turning by the 
aid of their fluttering fins, might have been modified into 
perfectly winged animals. If this had been effected, who 
would have ever imagined that in an early transitional state 
they had been inhabitant of the open ocean, and had used 
their incipient organs of flight exclusively, as far as we know, 
to escape being devoured by other fishes 1" 

Mr Darwin, however, does not believe, with the author of 
the "Vestiges," that all life has been developed from micro- 



scopic cells, — that the fundamental form of organic being is a 
cell having new cells forming within itself In that axiom, 
per se, there may be doubtless some physiological truth, which, 
rightly accepted, need in no way interfere with the great facts 
and mysteries of creation, varied through space and time 
even ad infinitum. The cell which contains the future oak, 
and that which contains the future human being, may be as 
essentially distinct in their kinds, and may no less require an 
intelligent deviser, and the forthputting of creative power, 
than the grown oak and mature human being. They are, if 
possible, more wonderful, as being more beyond imitation by 
any contrivance of art. By the creation of microscopic cells 
God may originate new species when it pleases Him, or, ex- 
ceptionally, by the creation of full-grown, individuals. The 
fact of creative power implies an absence of limit to creative 
power. If we believe that God has created a single micro- 
scopic cell, containing the germ of a single species, within 
the past eternity, we must be as philosophically right in be- 
lieving that he can repeat that act at intervals of ages, years, 
hours, or moments, — that He may be so occupied now, if not 
on this planet, in some other part of space. 

But Mr Darwin's efforts at belief do not lie in this direc- 
tion. He imagines a series of strata, not pre-Adamite sim- 
ply, but what, for want of another word, we may term pre- 
geological, in which the types of all living organisms had 
their primeval habitat " If my theory be true," he says, 
" it is indisputable that, before the lowest Silurian stratum 
was deposited, long periods elapsed, — as long as, or probably 
far longer than, the whole interval from the Silurian age to 
the present day ; and that, during these vast yet quite un- 


known periods of time, the world swarmed with living crea- 
tures." Again, " Why do we not find great piles of strata 
beneath the Silurian system, stored with the remains of the 
progenitors of the Silurian groupes of fossils ? For cer- 
tainly, on my theory, such strata must somewhere have been 
deposited at these ancient and utterly unknown epochs in the 
world's history 1" 

We cannot answer why, except by the simple assertion, 
grounded on fact, that Nature reveals to us no such thing. 
But if the imagination go thus far, it may be allowed to 
go a little farther. What kind of beings inhabited those 
primeval strata ? Were they perfectly developed after their 
kind, or only rudimentary ? Were their organs of vision, 
for example, adapted to their modes of life, like those of 
the trilobite, — the ancient inhabitant of a really ancient 
ocean ? or had they but the very beginnings of eyes, striving 
after a structural adaptation 1 If the first were the case, 
where is the use of that laboured hypothesis which requires 
us to believe that not only living creatures as they exist, but 
all their organs, are the result of a process of transmutation, 
which gradually brings them nearer to perfection. * " He 
who will go thus far," says Mr Darwin, " ought not to hesi- 
tate to go farther, and to admit that a structure even as per- 
fect as the eye of an eagle might be formed by natural se- 
lection, although in this case he does not know any of the 
transitional grades. 'His reason ought to conquer his ima- 
ginationj though I have felt the difficulty far too keenly to 
be surprised at any degree of hesitation in extending the prin- 
ciple of natural selection to such startling lengths." 

Was, then, this ancient repository of progenitive life, — 


this representative of chaos and old night, — filled only with 
strange rudimentary beings, framed after a pattern unknown 
to living nature, or to any of the successive geological epochs 1 
Must our reason conquer our imagination so far as to believe 
in this! Or may we not be permitted to ask if the mental 
process would not be exactly reversed? In order to be able 
to believe it, must not imagination have wholly conquered 
reason ! 

And were those odd uncomfortable creatures governed by 
laws different from those which have obtained ever since ? 
For, otherwise, how could the transmutation of species be 
made more manifest in them than in those with which we are 
acquainted ? But if the laws of nature have not changed, — 
if their attribute is to remain constant and invariable, — then 
it is not easy to perceive any necessity for such pre-geological 
strata, seeing that we ought to be able to turn for a demonstra- 
tion equally complete, to the things around us. There is surely 
something egregiously false in a theory which has both to sup- 
plant real by supposititious facts, and to come into collision with 
that attribute of law without which man's reason would be 
useless and his researches vain. And it must be remem- 
oered that Mr Darwin confesses, with an incomprehensible 
candour, that these imaginations are not mere outworks of his 
theory, which he can afford to have struck off, but that they 
are absolutely essential to it. We may be permitted here par- 
ticularly to call the attention of the reader to that part of the 
" Foot-prints" entitled " The Bearing of the Experience Ar- 
gument/' and likewise to that most pregnant passage in the 
chapter following (p. 24 6), beginning, " It is not true that 
human observation has not been spread over a period suffi- 


ciently Extended to fiirnish the necessary data for testing the 
development hypothesis." We think the reader will not fail 
to see that these passages apply at least as much to the 
" Origin of Species" as to the " Vestiges of Creation." 

Furthermore, whether, with the " Vestiges," we adopt the 
opinion that the principle of life originated in a single ceU, 
from which all subsequent life was evolved by the agency 
of magnetism, or imagine, with Mr Darwin, some undisco- 
vered matrix replete with progenitive forms of life, is of 
little consequence, so far as a heresy against Christianity 
and the immortality of the soul is concerned. I think we 
may say likewise of both, as M. Agassiz asserts of the for- 
mer in his admirable remarks on the "Foot-prints,"* that 
they equally involve a heresy against the inductive philo- 
sophy. To prove these three positions is, indeed, the ob- 
ject of the "Foot-prints;" nor can we see that the train 
of reasoning therein expanded is at all impaired by any one 
fact or fancy embodied in the work on the origin of spe- 
cies. Yet, in so far as Mr Darwin bases his reasoning 
on facts, and not on the absence of them, insomuch as it 
embraces a series of observations on the elasticity of spe- 
cies, or their capabilities of expanding into varieties, — an 
elasticity with which the Creator has, for the wisest pur- 
poses, endowed them, — -just in so far is Mr Darwin's work 
a valuable acquisition to the natural historian. Neverthe- 

* M. Agassiz, in those remarks on the "Foot-prints" and sketch of 
the life of the author published in America, which we have thought 
would prove very acceptable to the 'English reader, has acknowledged 
his obligations to Sir David Brewster, and has borrowed largely from a 
sketch by that distinguished philosopher, which appeared in the " North 
British Review." 


less, we should much like to see it met in detail by some able 
living writer. So far as the principle of natural selection, 
upon which he relies for the accomplishment of his theory, 
depends upon natural causes, it might be shown that natural 
selection works greatly more against the transmutation of 
species than it operates in its favour ; while there are various 
barriers in the shape of laws which Mr Darwin acknowledges 
to be aU but insuperable, and which it would be no difficult 
matter to prove are not almost, but altogether so. 

Again, it could be clearly shown that) when the cause of 
this natural selection is occult, not natural and obvious, 
— when it is a mysterious something, operating in all cases 
for the good of the species, — if it is not an Intelligent 
Cause, in which all the mental faculties which produce de- 
sign as a result are actively engaged, then it must be synony- 
mous with magnetism, which of all natural powers is the most 
hidden in its operations. This is a blind power, analogous 
to instinct, and admitted to act selfishly, and exclusively 
for the benefit of its possessor. Such a position can surely 
be best met> not by details of special design, which Mr Dar- 
win throws more daringly, openly, and avowedly overboard 
than even the author of the "Vestiges," — and herein is 
his work especially dangerous, — but by such considerations 
of special adaptation as are set forth, for example, in Dr 
M'Cosh's admirable work on " Typical Forms and Special 
Ends in Creation." "We allude to such chapters as " Adap- 
tation of Inorganic Objects to Animals and Plants," and 
" Special Adjustments needed in order to the Harmony of 
Cosmical Bodies." " If it could be proved," says Mr Darwin, 
' that any part of any one species had been formed for the 


exclusive good of another species, it would annihilate my 
theory, for such could not have been produced through natu- 
ral selection," Such a writer as Dr M'Cosh, we believe, could 
meet this, and other positions of the same kind, of which &is 
book is full, both in their details and on more general grounds, 
so as to do good service to the cause of science and religion. 

But the most efficient protest against this blind exclu- 
sive theory, which would inaugurate the reign of selfishness 
throughout nature, is to be found in the human heart 
Childhood recognises a Father in Heaven in the daily 
blessings of its little life ; and the more enlightened the 
mind unsophisticated by special theory becomes, the more 
is it brought into harmony with this first lesson of the heart 
As the eyes of the understanding are opened day by day, the 
magnificent adaptations of Nature press forward evermore, as 
parts of " one stupendous whole." 

The only theory this, capable of a true expansion from 
the day when man enters upon this mortal scene, until that 
upon which he bids it an everlasting farewell. 




BABT., If. P., 7.R.8. & O.S. 

To you, Sir, as our highest British authority on fossil fishes, I take the 
liberty of dedicating this little volume. In tracing the history of Crea- 
tion, as illustrated in that ichthyic division of the vertebrata which is at 
once the most ancient and the most extensively preserved, I have intro- 
duced a considerable amount of fact and observation, for the general 
integrity of which my appeal must lie, not to the writings of my friends 
the geologists, but to the strangely significant record inscribed in the 
rocks, which it is their highest merit justly to interpret and faithfully to 
transcribe. The ingenious and popular author whose views on Creation 
I attempt controverting, virtually carries his appeal from science to the 
want of it. I would fain adopt an opposite course ; and my use, on this 
occasion, of your name, may serve to evince the desire which I entertain, 
that the collation of my transcripts of hitherto uncopied portions of the 
geologic history with the history itself, should be in the hands of men 
qualified, by original vigour of faculty, and the patient research of years, 
either to detect the erroneous or to certify the true. Further, I feel 
peculiar pleasure in availing myself of the opportunity furnished me by 
the publication of this little work, of giving expression to my sincere 
respect for one who, occupying a high place in society, and deriving his 


descent from names illustrious in history, has wisely taken up the true 
position of birth and rank in an enlightened country and age ; and who, 
in averting, by his modest, persevering labours, his proper standing in 
the scientific world, has rendered himself first among his countrymen in 
an interesting department of Natural Science, to which there is no aris- 
tocratic or " royal road." 

I have the honour to be, Sir, 

With admiration and respect, 

Your obedient humble Servant, 

HUGH 'MTT.T.ira 


There are chapters in this little volume which will, 1 am 
afraid, be deemed too prolix by the general reader, and 
which jet the geologist would like less were there any por- 
tion of them away. They refer chiefly to organisms not 
hitherto figured nor described, and must owe their modi- 
cum of value to that very minuteness of detail which, by 
critics of the merely literary type, unacquainted with fossils, 
and not greatly interested in them, may be regarded as a 
formidable defect^ suited to overlay the general subject of 
the work. Perhaps the best mode of compromising the 
matter may be to intimate, as if by beacon, at the outset, 
the more repulsive chapters ; somewhat in the way that the 
servants of the Humane Society indicate to the skater who 
frequents in winter the lakes in the neighbourhood of Edin- 
burgh, those parts of the ice on which he might be in dan- 
ger of losing himself I would recommend, then, readers 
not particularly palaeontologicaJ, to pass but lightly over the 
whole of my fourth and fifth chapters, with the latter half 





of the third, marking, however, as they skim the pages, the 
conclusions at which I arrive regarding the bulk and orga- 
nization of the extraordinary animal described, and the data 
on which these are founded. My book, like an Irish land- 
scape dotted with green bogs, has its portions on which it 
may be perilous for the unpractised surveyor to make any 
considerable stand, but across which he may safely take his 
sights and lay down his angles. 

It will,. I trust, be found, that in dealing with errors 
which, in at least their primary bearing, affect questions of 
science, I have not offended against the courtesies of scien- 
tific controversy. True, they are errors which also involve 
moral consequences. There is a species of superstition 
which inclines men to take on trust whatever assumes the 
name of science, and which seems to be a re-action on the 
old superstition, that had faith in witches, but none in Sir 
Isaac Newton, and believed in ghosts, but failed to credit 
the Gregorian calendar. And, owing mainly to the wide 
diffusion of this credulous spirit of the modern type, as little 
disposed to examine what it receives as its ancient unreason- 
ing predecessor, the development doctrines are doing much 
harm on both sides of the Atlantic, especially among intelli- 
gent mechanics, and a class of young men engaged in the 
subordinate departments of trade and the law, And tbe 
harm thus considerable in amount must be necessarily more 
than merely considerable in degree. For it invariably hap- 
pens, that when persons in these walks become materialists, 
they become also turbulent subjects and bad men. That 
belief in the existence after death, which forms the distin- 
guishing instinct of humanity, is too essential a part of man's 


moral constitution not to be missed when away ; and so, 
when once fairly eradicated, the life and conduct rarely fail 
to betray its absence. But I have not, from any considera- 
tion of the mischief thus effected, written as if arguments, 
like cannon-balls, could be rendered more formidable than 
in the cool state, by being made red-hot I have not even 
felt, in discussing the question, as if I had a man before me 
as an opponent ; for though my work contains numerous re- 
ferences to the author of the " Vestiges," I have invariably 
thought on these occasions, not of the anonymous writer of 
the volume, of whom I know nothing, but simply of an in- 
genious, well-written book, unfortunate in its facts, and not 
always very happy in its reasonings. Further, I do not 
think that pakBontological fact, in its bearing on the points 
at issue, is of such a doubtful complexion as to leave the geo- 
logist, however much, from moral considerations, in earnest 
in the matter, any very serious excuse for losing his temper. 

In my reference to the three great divisions of the geo- 
logic scale, I designate as Palceozoic all the fossiliferous rocks, 
from the first appearance of organic existence down to the 
close of the Permian system ; all as Secondary, from the 
close of the Permian system, down to the close of the Cre- 
taceous deposits ; and ail as Tertiary, from the close of the 
Cretaceous deposits down to the introduction of man. The 
woodcuts of the volume, of which at least nine-tenths of 
the whole represent objects never figured before, were drawn 
and cut by Mr John Adams of Edinburgh, with a degree 
of care and skill which has left me no reason to regret 
my distance from the London artists and engravers. So 
far at least as the objects could be adequately represented 


en woody and in the limited space at Mr Adams* command, 
their truth is such that I can safely recommend them to 
the palaeontologist In the accompanying descriptions, and 
in my statements of geologic fact in general, it will, I hope, 
be seen that I have not exaggerated the peculiar features 
on which I have founded, nor rendered truth partial in 
order to make it serve a purpose. Where I have reasoned 
and inferred, the reader will of course be able to judge 
for himself whether the argument be sound or the deduction 
just ; and to weigh, where I have merely speculated, the 
probability of the speculation : but as, in at least same of my 
statements of fact* he might lie more at my mercy, I have 
striven in every instance to make these adequately repre- 
sentative of the actualities to which they refer. And so, if 
it be ultimately found that on some occasions I have misled 
others, it will, I hope, be also seen to be only in cases in 
which I have been mistaken myself The first or popular 
title of my work, " Foot-prints of the Creator," I owe to Dr 
Hetherington, the well-known historian of the Church of 
Scotland. My other various obligations to my friends, lite- 
rary and scientific, the reader will find acknowledged in the 
body of the volume, as the occasion occurs of availing my- 
self of either the information communicated, or the organ- 
ism, recent or extinct, lent me or given. 















CIENT TREE ......... 177 








NOTES . 301 

ROCKS, UPPER AND LOWER*' » , ... 815 







1. Internal ridge of hyoid plate of A sterolepis ... 7 

2. Shagreen of Raia clavata, — of Sphagodus . . . 27 

3. Scales of Acanthodes sulcatus : — shagreen of ScyUium itellare 28 

4. Scales of Cheiracanthut microUpidotu* :— shagreen of Spinax 

Acanthias 29 

5. Section of shagreen of ScyUium stellare .—of scales of Cheir- 

acanthut microlepidotus 30 

6. Scales of Otteolepis microlepidotus ;— of an undescribed species 

of Glyptolepis 31 

7. Osseous points of Placoid Cranium S3 

8. Osseous centrum of Spinax Acanthias : — of Raia clavata . 39 

9. Portions of caudal fin of Chevracanthus :— of Cheirokpis . 42 

10. Upper surface of cranium of Cod 44 

11. Cranial buckler of Coccosteus 46 

12. Cranial buckler of Osteolepis 47 

13. Upper part of head of Osteolepu 49 

14. Under part of head of Osteolepu 51 

IP Head of Osteolepis, seen in profile 52 

16. Cranial buckler of Diplopterua 53 

17. Ditto 54 

18. Ditto (portion of) 55 

19. Palatal dart-head, and group of palatal teeth, of Diplopterus 56 

20. Cranial buckler of Dipterus 58 

21. Base of cranium of Dipterus 53 

22. Under jaw of Dipterus ■ . 59 

23. Longitudinal section of head of Dipterus . . . . 61 

24. Section of vertebral centrum of Thornback . . . 64 

25. Dermal tubercles of AsteroUpis 67 

26. Scales of A sterolepis 68 

27. Portion of carved surface of scale . . . . . 68 

28. Cranial buckler of A sterolepis ...... 69 

29. Inner surface of cranial buckler of A sterolepis . . 71 

30. Key-stone shaped plate in cranial buckler of A sterolepis . 73 




31. Plates of cranial buckler of Asterolepis .... 74 

32. Outer side of portion of under jaw of Asterolepi* . . 75 

33. Inner side of portion of under jaw of Asterolepi* . . 76 

34. Portion of transverse section of reptile tooth of Asterolepis 77 

35. Section of jaw of Asterolepi* 78 

36. Under jaw of young Asterolepi* 81 

37. Palatal plate of Asterolepi* ....... 83 

38. Maxillary bone ? 84 

39. Inner surface of operculum of A sterolepis .... 85 

40. Hyoid plate 86 

41. Nail-like bone of hyoid plate 87 

42. Non-descript latero-hyoidal plate of Asterolepi* ... 88 

43. Shoulder plate of A sterolepis 89 

44. Dermal bones of Asterolepi* 90 

45. Clavicle and latero-cerebral plate of Asterolepi* ... 91 

46. Internal bones of Asterolepi* 92 

47. Internal bones of some unknown fish .... 92 

48. Ischium of A sterolepis . 93 

49. Joint of ray of Thornback : — of A sterolepis ... 95 

50. Coprolites of A sterolepis 95 

51. Hyoid plate of Thurso Asterolepis 101 

52. Hyoid plate of Russian Asterolepis 103 

53. Spine of Spinax Acanthias : — fragment of Onondago spine 120 

54. Tail of Spinax Acanthias : — of Ichthyosaurus Tenuirostris . 146 

55. Port-Jackson Shark (Cestracion PhUlippi) . . . 151 

56. Tail of Osteolepis 168 

57. Tail of Lepidosteus Ossein 169 

68. Tail of Perch 170 

59. Progress of degradation 170 

60. Altingia excelsa (Norfolk Island Pine) . . . . 184 

61. Fucoids of the Lower (Middle) Old Red Sandstone . . 187 

62. Two species of Old Red Fucoids 138 

63. Fern 1 of the Lower (Middle) Old Red Sandstone . . 189 

64. lignite of the Lower (Middle) Old Red Sandstone . . 192 

65. Internal structure of Lignite of Lower (Middle) Old Red Sand- 

stone 194 

66. Cephalaspis Lyelli 306 

67. Restoration of Cephalaspis 308 



hen engaged in prosecuting the self-im- 
posed task of examining in detail the 
various fossiliferous deposits of Scotland, 
I extended my exploratory ramble, about 
two years ago, into the mainland of Ork- 
ney, and resided for some time in the 
vicinity of Stromness. This busy seaport town forms that spe- 
cial centre, in this northern archipelago, from which the struc- 
ture of the" entire group can be most advantageously studied. 
The geology of the Orkneys, like that of Caithness, owes its 
chief interest to the immense development which it exhi- 
bits of one formation, — the Old lied Sandstone, — and to the 
extraordinary abundance of its vertebrate remains. It is not 
too much to affirm that, in the comparatively small portion 
which this cluster of islands contains of a system regarded only 
a few years ago as the least fossiliferous in the geologic scale, 
there are more fossil fish enclosed than in every other geologic 
system in England, Scotland, and Wales, from the Coal Mea- 
sures to the Chalk inclusive. Orkney is emphatically to the 
geologist what a juvenile Shetland poetess designates her 



country, in challenging for it a standing independent of the 
" land of Cakes," — a " Land of Fish ;" and, were the trad© 
once fairly opened up, could supply with ichthyolites, by the 
ton and the ship-load, .the museums of the world. Its va- 
rious deposits, with all their strange organisms, have been 
uptilted from the bottom against a granitic axis, rather more 
than six miles in length by about a mile in breadth, which 
forma the great backbone of the western district of Pomona; 
and on this granitic axis — feat jammed in between a steep 
hill and the sea — stands the town of Stromness, Situated 
thus at the bottom of the upturned deposits of the island, it 
occupies exactly such a point of observation as that which 
the curious eastern traveller would select, in front of some 
huge pyramid or hieroglyphic-covered obelisk, as a proper site 
for his tent; It presents, besides, not a few facilities for 
studying, with the geologic phenomena, various interesting 
points in physical science of a cognate character. Besting 
on its granitic base, in front of the strangely sculptured pyra- 
mid of three broad tiers — red, black, and gray — which the 
Old Red Sandstone of these islands may be regarded as fonn- 
■' — ;, it is but a short half-mile from the Great Conglomerate 
the formation, and scarcely a quarter of a mile more from 
> beds of its flagstone deposit ; while an hour's sail on the 
a hand opens to the explorer the overlying arenaceous de- 
nt of Hoy, and an hour's walk on the other introduces him 
the Loch of Stennis, with its curiously mixed flora and 
ma. But of the Loch of Stennis and its productions more 

The day was far spent when I reached Stromness ; but as 
lad a fine bright evening still before me, longer by some 
ree or four degrees of north latitude than the midsummer 
enings of the south of Scotland, I set out, hammer in hand, 
examine the junction of the granite and the Great Con- 
rcnerate, where it has been laid bare by the sea along the 


low promontory which forms the western boundary of the 
harbour. The granite here is a ternary of the usual com-* 
ponents, somewhat intermediate in grain and colour between 
the granites of Peterhead and Aberdeen ; and the Conglo- 
merate consists of materials almost exclusively derived from 
it, — evidence enough of itself, that when this ancient me- 
chanical deposit was in course of forming, the granite — ex- 
actly such a compound then as it is now — was one of the 
surface rocks of the locality, and much exposed to disinte- 
grating influences. This Conglomerate base of the Old Red 
Sandstone of Scotland, which presents, over an area of many 
thousand square miles, such an identity of character, that 
specimens taken from the neighbourhood of Lerwick, in Shet- 
land, or of Gamrie, in Banff, can scarce be distinguished from 
specimens detached from the hills which rise over the Great 
Caledonian Valley, or from the cliffs immediately in front of 
the village of Contin, seems to have been formed in a vast 
oceanic basin of primary rock,_a Paleozoic Hudson's or 
Baffin's Bay, — partially surrounded, mayhap, by primary con- 
tinents, swept by numerous streams, rapid and headlong, and 
charged with the broken debris of the inhospitable regions 
which they drained. The graptolite-bearing grauwacke of 
Banffshire seems to have been the only fossiliferous rock that 
occurred throughout the entire extent of this ancient northern 
basin ; and its few organisms now serve to open the sole vista 
through which the geological explorer to the north of the 
Grampians can catch a glimpse of an earlier period of exist- 
ence than that represented by the ichthyolites of the Lower 
Old Red Sandstone.* 

Very many ages must have passed ere, amid waves and 
currents, the water-worn debris which now forms the Great 

* [Since the discovery of Maclurea and other Silurian foims in the 
North-West Highlands, by Mr C. Peach, this is no longer the case. — 
See -Appendix, A.] 


Conglomerate could have accumulated over tracts of sea- 
bottom from ten to fifteen thousand square miles in area, to 
its present depth of from one to four hundred feet At 
length, however, a thorough change took place ; but we can 
only doubtfully speculate regarding its nature or cause. The 
bottom of the Palaeozoic basin became greatly less exposed. 
Some protecting circle of coast had been thrown up around 
it ; or, what is perhaps more probable, it had sunk to a pro- 
founder depth, and the ancient shores and streams had re- 
ceded, through the depression, to much greater distances. 
And, in consequence, the deposition of rough sand and rolled 
pebbles was followed by a deposition of mud. Myriads of 
fish, of forms the most ancient and obsolete, congregated on 
its banks or sheltered in its hollows ; generation succeeded 
generation, millions and tens of millions perished myste- 
riously by sudden death ; shoals after shoals were annihi- 
lated ; but the productive powers of nature were strong, and 
the waste was kept up. But who among men shall reckon 
the years or centuries during which these races existed, and 
this muddy ocean of the remote past spread out to unknown 
and nameless shores around them ? As in those great cities 
of the desert that lie uninhabited and waste, we can but con- 
jecture their term of existence from the vast extent of their 
cemeteries, we only know that the dark, finely-grained 
schists in which they so abundantly occur must have been 
of comparatively slow formation, and that yet the thickness of 
the deposit more than equals the height of our loftiest Scot- 
tish mountains. It would seem as if a period equal to that 
in which all human history is comprised might be cut out of 
a corner of the period represented by the Lower* Old Red 

* [It is the opinion of Sir Roderick Murchison. that what had hitherto 
been considered the lowest of the Old Bed occupies the middle place in 
that formation ; likewise, that the whole three formations are represented 
in Orkney. — See Appendix, B.] 


Sandstone, and be scarce missed when away : nay, for every year 
during which man has lived upon earth, it is not improbable 
that the Pterichthys and its contemporaries may have lived 
a century. Their last hour, however, at length came. Over 
the dark-coloured ichthyolitic schists so immensely developed 
in Caithness and Orkney there occurs a pale-tinted, unfossi- 
liferous sandstone, which in the island of Hoy rises into 
hills of from fourteen to sixteen hundred feet in height; and 
among the organisms of those newer formations of the Old 
Red, not a species of ichthyolite identical with the species 
entombed in the lower sehists has yet been detected. In the 
blank interval which the arenaceous deposit represents, tribes 
and families perished and disappeared, leaving none of their 
race to succeed them, that other tribes and families might 
be called into being, and fall into their vacant places in the 
onward march of creation. 

Such, so far as the various hieroglyphics of the pile have 
yet rendered their meanings to the geologist, is the strange 
story recorded on the three-barred pyramid of Stromness. I 
traced the formation upwards this evening along the edges 
of the upturned strata, from where the Great Conglomerate 
leans against the granite, till where it merges into the ich- 
thyolitic flagstone ; and then pursued these from older and 
lower to newer and higher layers, desirous of ascertaining at 
what distance over the base of the system its more ancient 
organisms first appear, and what their character and kind. 
And, embedded in a grayish-coloured layer of hard flag, 
somewhat less than a hundred yards over the granite, and 
about a hundred and sixty feet over the upper stratum of 
the Conglomerate, I found what I sought, — a well-marked 
bone, — in all probability the oldest vertebrate remain yet 
discovered in Orkney. What, asks the reader, was the cha- 
racter of this ancient organism of the Palaeozoic basin ? 

As shown by its cancellated texture, palpable to the naked 


eye, and still more unequivocally by the irregular complexity 
of fabric "which it exhibits under the microscope, — by its 
speck-like life-points or canaliculi, that remind one of air- 
bubbles in ice, — its branching channels, like minute veins, 
through which the blood must once have flown, — and its 
general groundwork of irregular lines of corpuscular fibre, 
that wind through the whole, like currents in a river studded 
with islands, — it was as truly osseous in its composition as 
the solid bones of any of the reptiles of the Secondary or the 
quadrupeds of the Tertiary periods. And in form it closely 
resembled a large roofing-nail. With this bone our more 
practised palaeontologists are but little acquainted, for no re- 
mains of the animal to which it belonged have yet been dis- 
covered in Britain to the south of the Grampians, nor, except 
in the Old Red Sandstone of Russia, has it been detected 
anywhere on the Continent. Nor am I aware that, save 
in the accompanying woodcut (fig. 1), it has ever been 
figured. The amateur geologists of Caithness and Orkney 
have, however, learned to recognise it as the "petrified nail." 
The length of the entire specimen in this instance was five 
seven-eighth inches, the transverse breadth of the head two 
inches and a quarter, and the thickness of the stem nearly 
three-tenth parts of an inch. This nail-like bone formed a 
characteristic portion of the Asterolepis, — so far as is yet 
known, the most gigantic ganoid of the Old Red Sandstone. 
There were various considerations which led me to regard 
the " petrified nail" in this case as one of the most interest- 
ing fossils I had ever seen ; and, before quitting Orkney, to 
pursue my explorations farther to the south, I brought two 
intelligent geologists of the district,* to mark its place and 
character, that they might be able to point it out to geolo- 
gical visitors in the future, or, if they preferred removing it 

* Dr George Garson, Stromness, and Mr William Watt, jun., SkaiU. 


to their town museum, to indicate to them the stratum in 
which it had lain, It showed me, among other things, how 

Fig. 1. 

* j 


(One-third the natural size, linear.) 

unsafe it is for the geologist to base positive conclusions on 
merely negative data. Founding on the fact that, of many 
hundred ichthyolites of the Lower [Middle] Old Red Sand- 
stone which I had disinterred and examined, all were of com- 
paratively small size, while in the Upper Old Bed many of 
the ichthyolites are of great mass and bulk, I had inferred 
that vertebrate life had been restricted to minuter forms at 
the commencement than at the close of the system. It had 
begun, I had ventured to state in the earlier editions of a 
little work on the " Old Red Sandstone," with an age of 
dwarfs, and had ended with an age of giants. And now, 
here, unaccompanied by aught to establish the contemporary 
existence of its dwarfs, — which appear, however, in an over- 

* Figured from a Thurso specimen, slightly different in its proportions 
from the Stromness specimen described. 


lying bed about a hundred feet higher up, — was there un- 
equivocal proof of the existence of one of the most colossal 
of its giants. But not unfrequently in the geologic field has 
the practice of basing positive conclusions on merely nega- 
tive grounds led to a misreading of the record. From evi- 
dence of a kind exactly similar to that on which I had built, 
it was inferred, some two or three years ago, that there had 
lived no reptiles during the period of the Coal Measures. 

I extended my researches, a few days after, in an easterly 
direction from the town of Stromness, and walked for several 
miles along the shores of the Loch of Stennis, — a large lake 
about fourteen miles in circumference, bare and treeless, like 
all the other lakes and lochs of Orkney, but picturesque of 
outline, and divided into an upper and lower sheet of water 
by two low, long promontories, that jut out from opposite 
sides, and so nearly meet in the middle as to be connected 
by a thread-like line of road, half-mound, half-bridge. " The 
Loch of Stennis," says Mr David Vedder, the sailor-poet of 
Orkney, "is a beautiful Mediterranean in miniature." It 
gives admission to the sea by a narrow strait, crossed, like 
that which separates the two promontories in the middle, by 
a long rustic bridge ; and, in consequence of this peculiarity, 
the lower division of the lake is salt in its nether reaches 
and brackish in its upper ones, while the higher division is 
merely brackish in its nether reaches, and fresh enough in its 
upper ones to be potable. Yiewed from the east, in one of 
the long, clear, sunshiny evenings of the Orkney summer, it 
seems not unworthy the eulogium of Yedder. There are 
moory hills and a few rude cottages in front; and in the 
background, some eight or ten miles away, the bold, steep 
mountain masses of Hoy ; while on the promontories of the 
lake, in the middle distance, conspicuous in the landscape, 
from the relief furnished by the blue ground of the sur- 
tounding waters, stand the tall gray obelisks of Stennis, — 


one group on the northern promontory, the other on the 

south, — 

" Old even beyond tradition's breath." 

The shores of both the upper and lower divisions of the 
lake were strewed, at the time I passed, by a line of wrack, 
consisting, for the first few miles from where the lower loch 
opens to the sea, of only marine plants, then of marine plants 
mixed with those of fresh-water growth, and then, in the 
upper sheet of water, of lacustrine plants exclusively. And 
the fauna of the loch is, I was informed, of as mixed a cha- 
racter as its flora, — the marine and fresh- water animals hav- 
ing each their* own reaches, with certain debateable tracts 
between, in which each kind expatiates with more or less 
freedom, according to its* specific nature and constitution, — 
some of the sea-fish advancing far on the fresh water, and 
others, among the proper denizens of the lake, encroaching 
far on the salt. The common fresh-water eel strikes out, I 
was told, farthest into the sea- water ; in which, indeed, re- 
versing the habits of the salmon, it is known in various places 
to deposit its spawn. It seeks, too, impatient of a low tem- 
perature, to escape from the cold of winter, by taking refuge 
in water brackish enough, in a climate such as ours, to resist 
the influence of frost Of the marine fish, on the other hand, 
I found that the flounder got greatly higher than any of the 
others, inhabiting reaches of the lake almost entirely fresh. 
I have had an opportunity elsewhere of observing a curious 
change which fresh water induces in this fish. In the brack- 
ish water of an estuary, the animal becomes, without dimi- 
nishing in general size, thicker and more fleshy than when in 
its legitimate habitat, the sea ; but the flesh loses in quality 
what it gains in quantity ; — it grows flabby and insipid, and 
the margin-fins lack always their strip of transparent fat But 
the change induced in the two floras of the lake,— marine 
and lacustrine, — is considerably more palpable and obvious 


than that induced in its two faunas. As I passed along 
the strait through which it gives admission to the sea, I 
found the commoner fucoids of our sea-coasts streaming in 
great luxuriance in the tideway, from the stones and rocks of 
the bottom. I marked, among the others, the two species of 
kelp-weed so well known to our Scotch kelp-burners — Fucus 
nodosus and Fucus vesiculosus, — flourishing in their uncur- 
tailed proportions ; and the not inelegant Halidrys sUiquosa, 
or " tree in the sea," presenting its amplest spread of pod and 
frond. A little farther in, Halidrys and Fucus nodosus dis- 
appear, and Fucus vesiculosus becomes greatly stunted, and 
no longer exhibits its characteristic double rows of bladders. 
But for mile after mile it continues to exist, blent with some 
of the hardier confervae, until at length it becomes as dwarfish, 
and nearly as slim of frond, as the confervae themselves ; and 
it is only by tracing it through the intermediate forms that 
we succeed in convincing ourselves that, in the brown stunted 
tufts of from one to three inches in length, which continue 
to fringe the middle reaches of the lake, we have in reality 
the well-known Fucus before us. Rushes, flags, and aquatic 
grasses may now be seen standing in diminutive tufts out of 
the water ; and a terrestrial vegetation at least continues to 
exist, though it can scarcely be said to thrive, on banks covered 
by the tide at fulL The lacustrine flora increases, both in 
extent and luxuriance, as that of the sea diminishes ; and in 
the upper reaches we fail to detect all trace of marine plants : 
the algae, so luxuriant of growth along the straits of this 
" miniature Mediterranean," altogether cease ; and a semi- 
aquatic vegetation attains, in turn, to the state of fullest de- 
velopment anywhere permitted by the temperature of this 
northern locality. A memoir descriptive of the Loch of 
Stennis, and its productions, animal and vegetable, such as 
old Gilbert White of Selborne could have produced, would 
be at once a very valuable and curious document, important 


to the naturalist, and not without its use to the geological 

I know not how it may be with others ; but the special 
phenomena connected with Orkney that most decidedly bore 
fruit in my mind, and to which my thoughts have most fre- 
quently reverted, were those exhibited in the neighbourhood 
of Stromness. I would more particularly refer to the charac- 
teristic fragment of Asterolepis which I detected in its flag- 
stones, and to the curiously mixed, semi-marine, semi-lacus- 
trine vegetation of the Loch of Stennis. Both seem to bear 
very directly on that development hypothesis, — fast spread- 
ing among an active and ingenious order of minds, both in 
Britain and America, and which has been long known on 
the Continent, — that would fain transfer the work of crea- 
tion from the department of miracle to the province of natu- 
ral law, and would strike down, in the process of removal, 
all the old landmarks, ethical and religious. 




Every individual, whatever its species or order, begins and 
increases until it attains to its state of fullest development, 
under certain fixed laws, and in consequence of their opera- 
tion. The microscopic monad develops into a foetus, the 
foetus into a child, the child into a man ; and, however mar- 
vellous the process, in none of its stages is there the slightest 
mixture of miracle ; from beginning to end, all is progres- 
sive development, according to a determinate order of things. 
Has Nature, during the vast geologic periods, been pregnant, 
in like manner, with the human race ? and is the species, like 
the individual, an effect of progressive development, induced 
and regulated by law ? The assertors of the revived hypo- 
thesis of Maillet and Lamarck reply in the affirmative. Nor, 
be it remarked, is there positive atheism involved in the be- 
i lief God might as certainly have originated the species by 
4 a law of development, as he maintains it by a law of deve- 
\ lopment ; the existence of a First Great Cause is as perfectly 
compatible with the one scheme as with the other ; and it 
may be necessary thus broadly to state the fact, not only in 
justice to the Lamarckians, but also fairly to warn their non- 
geological opponents, that in this contest the old anti-atheistic 
arguments, whether founded on the evidence of design, or on 


the preliminary doctrine of final causes, cannot be brought 
to bear. 

There are, however, beliefs, in no degree less important to 
the moralist, or the Christian than even that in the being of 
a God, which seem wholly incompatible with the develop- 
ment hypothesis. If, daring a period so vast as to be scarce 
expressible by figures, the creatures now human have beenV 
rising, by almost infinitesimals, from compound microscopic 
cells, — minute vital globules within globules, begot by elec- ' 
tricity on dead gelatinous matter, — until they have at length 
become the men and women whom we see around us, we must 
hold either the monstrous belief, that all the vitalities, whether 
those of monads or of mites, of fishes or of reptiles, of birds 
or of beasts, are individually and inherently immortal and 
undying, or that human souls are not so. The difference be- 
tween the dying and the undying, — between the spirit of the 
brute that goeth downward, and the spirit of the man that 
goeth upward, — is not a difference infinitesimally, or even 
atomically, small. It possesses all the breadth of the eternity 
to come, and is an infinitely great difference. It cannot, if I 
may so express myself, be shaded off by infinitesimals or 
atoms ; for it is a difference which — as there can be no class 
of beings intermediate in their nature between the dying and 
the undying — admits not of gradation at alL What mind 
regulated by the ordinary principles of human belief can pos- 
sibly hold that every one of the thousand vital points which 
swim in a drop of stagnant water are inherently fitted to 
maintain their individuality throughout eternity 1 Or how 
can it be rationally held that a mere progressive step, in it- 
self no greater or more important than that effected by the 
addition of a single brick to a house in the building state, or 
of a single atom to a body in the growing state, could ever 
have produced immortality? And yet, if the spirit of a 
monad or of a mollusc be not immortal, then must there either 


have been a point in the history of the species at which a 
dying brute,^-differing from its oflfepring merely by an infe- 
riority of development, represented by a few atoms, mayhap 
by a single atom, — produced an undying man, or man in his 
present state must be a mere animal, possessed of no immor- 
tal soul, and as irresponsible for his actions to the God before 
whose bar he is, in consequence, never to appear, as his pre- 
sumed relatives and progenitors the beasts that perish. Nor 
will it do to attempt escaping from the difficulty, by alleging 
that God at some certain link in the chain might have con- 
verted a mortal creature into an immortal existence, by breath- 
ing into it a " living soul /' seeing that a renunciation of any 
such direct interference on the part of Deity in the work of 
creation forms the prominent and characteristic feature of 
the scheme, — nay, that it constitutes the very nucleus round . 
which the scheme has originated. And thus, though the de- 
velopment theory be not atheistic, it is at least practically tan- 
tamount to atheism. For, if man be a dying creature, re- 
stricted in his existence to the present scene of things, what 
does it really matter to him, for any one moral purpose, 
whether there be a God or no ? If in reality on the same 
religious level with the dog, wol£ and fox, that are by nature 
atheists, — a nature most properly coupled with irresponsibi- 
lity, — to what one practical purpose should he know or be- 
lieve in a God whom he, as certainly as they, is never to meet 
as his Judge ? or why should he square his conduct by the 
requirements of the moral code, farther than a low and con- 
venient expediency may chance to demand ?* 

* The Continental assertors of the development hypothesis are greatly 
more frank than those of our own country regarding the "life after 
death," and what man has to expect from it. The individual, they tell 
us, perishes for ever ; but then, out of his remains there spring up other 
vitalities. The immortality of the soul is, it would seem, an idle figment, 
for there really exists no such things as souls ; but is there no comfort in 
being taught, instead, that we are to resolve into monads and maggots t 


Nor does the purely Christian objection to the development 
hypothesis seem less, but even more, insuperable than that 
derived from the province of natural theology. The belief 
which is perhaps of all others most fundamentally essential 
to the revealed scheme of salvation, is the belief that " God 
created man upright," and that man, instead of proceeding 
onward and upward from this high and fair beginning, to a 
yet higher and fairer standing in the scale of creation, sank, 
and became morally lost and degraded And hence the ne- 
cessity for that second dispensation of recovery and restora- 
tion which forms the entire burden of God's revealed mes- 
sage to man. If, according to the development theory, the 
progress of the " first Adam" was an upward progress, the 
existence of the " second Adam," — that " happier man," ac- 
cording to Milton, whose special work it is to " restore" and 
" regain the blissful seat" of the lapsed race, — is simply a 
meaningless anomaly. Christianity, if the development theory 
be true, is exactly what some of the more extreme Moderate 
divines of the last age used to make it, — an idle and un- 
sightly excrescence on a code of morals that would be perfect 
were it away. 

Job solaced himself with the assurance that, even after worms had de- 
stroyed his body, he was in the flesh to see God. Had Professor Oken 
been one of his comforters, he would have sought to restrict his hopes to 
the prospect of living in the worms. " If the organic fundamental sub- 
stance consist of infusoria/' says the Professor, " so must the whole orga- 
nic world originate from infusoria. Plants and n-niTnala can only be me- 
tamorphoses of infusoria. This being granted, so also must all organiza- 
tions consist of infusoria, and, during their destruction, dissolve into the 
same. Every plant, every animal, is converted by maceration into a 
mucous mass ; this putrefies, and the moisture is stocked with infusoria. 
Putrefaction is nothing else than a division of organisms into infusoria, 

— a reduction of the higher to the primary life Death is 

no annihilation, but only a change. One individual emerges out of an- 
other. Death is only a transition to another life, — not into death. This 
transition from one life to another takes place through the primary con* 
dition of the organic, or the mucus." — Physio-Philosophy, pp. 187-189. 


I may be in error in taking this serious view of the mat* 
ter ; and, if so, would feel grateful to the man who could 
point out to me that special link in the chain of inference 
at which, with respect to the bearing of the theory on the 
two theologies — natural and revealed — the mistake has taken 
place. But if I be in error at all, it is an error into which 
I find not a few of the first men of the age, — represented, as 
a class, by our Professor Sedgwicks and Sir David Brewsters, 
— have also fallen ; and until it be shown to be an error, and 
that the development theory is in no degree incompatible 
with a belief in the immortality of the soul, in the responsi- 
bility of man to God as the final Judge, or in the Christian ' 
scheme of salvation, it is every honest man's duty to protest 
against any ex parte statement of the question that would 
insidiously represent it as ethically an indifferent one, or as 
unimportant in its theologic bearing, save to " little religious 
sects and scientific coteries." In an address on the fossil 
flora, made in September last by a gentleman of Edinburgh 
to the St Andrew's Horticultural Society, there occurs the 
following passage on this subject : — " Life is governed by 
external conditions, and new conditions imply new races; but 
then, as to their creation, that is the i mystery of mysteries? 
Are they created by an immediate fiat and direct act of the 
Almighty ) or has He originally impressed life with an elas- 
ticity and adaptability, so that it shall take upon itself new 
forms and characters, according to the conditions to which it 
shall be subjected 1 Each opinion has had, and still has, its 
advocates and opponents ; but the truth is, that science, so far 
as it knows, or rather so far as it has had the honesty and 
courage to avow, has yet been unable to pronounce a satis- 
factory decision. Either way, it matters little, physically or 
morally ; either mode implies the same omnipotence, and 
wisdom, and foresight, and protection ; and it is only your 
little religious sects and scientific coteries which make a po- 


iher about the matter, — sects and coteries of which it may 
be justly said, that they would almost exclude God from the 
management of his own world, if not managed and directed 
in the way that they would have it." Now, this is surely a 
most unfair representation of the consequences, ethical and 
religious, involved in the development hypothesis. It is not 
its compatibility with belief in the existence of a First Great 
Cause that has to be established, in order to prove it harmless ; 
but its compatibility with certain other all-important beliefs, 
without which simple Theism is of no moral value whatever, — 
a belief in the immortality and responsibility of man, and in 
the scheme of salvation by a Mediator and Redeemer. Dis- 
sociated from these beliefs, a belief in the existence of a God 
is of as little ethical value as a belief in the existence of the 
great sea-serpent. 

Let us see whether we cannot determine what the testi- 
mony of Geology on this question of creation by development 
really is. It is always perilous to under-estimate the strength 
of an enemy ; and the danger from the development hypo- 
thesis to an ingenious order of minds, smitten with the novel 
fascinations of physical science, has been under-estimated very 
considerably indeed. Save by a few studious men, who to 
the cultivation of Geology and the cognate branches add some 
acquaintance with metaphysical science, the general corre- 
spondence of the line of assault taken up by this new school 
of infidelity with that occupied by the old, and the conse- 
quent ability of the assailants to bring, not only the recently 
forged, but also the previously employed artillery into full 
play along its front, has not only not been marked, but even 
not so much as suspected. And yet, in order to show that 
there actually is such a correspondence, it can be but neces- 
sary to state, that the great antagonist points in the array of 
the opposite lines are simply the law of development versus 
the miracle of creation. The evangelistic Churches cannot, 



in consistency with their character, or with a due regard to the 
interests of their people, slight or overlook a form of error at 
once exceedingly plausible and consummately dangerous, and 
which is telling so widely on society, that one can scarce travel 
by railway or in a steamboat, or encounter a group o£ intelli- 
gent mechanics, without finding decided trace of its ravages. 
But ere the Churches can be prepared competently to deal 
with it, or with the other objections of a similar class which 
the infidelity of an age so largely engaged as the present in 
physical pursuits will be from time to time originating, they 
must greatly extend their educational walks into the field of 
physical science. The mighty change which has taken place 
during the present century in the direction in which the 
minds of the first order are operating, though indicated on 
the face of the country in characters which cannot be mis- 
taken, seems to have too much escaped the notice of our theo- 
logians. Speculative theology and the metaphysics are cog- 
nate branches of the same science ; and when, as in the last 
and the preceding ages, the higher philosophy of the world 
was metaphysical, the Churches took ready cognizance of the 
fact, and, in due accordance with the requirements of the 
time, the battle of the Evidences was fought on metaphysical 
ground. But, judging from the preparations made in their 
colleges and halls, they do not now seem sufficiently aware, — • 
though the low thunder of every railway, and the snort of 
every steam-engine, and the whistle of the wind amid the 
wires of every electric telegraph, serve to publish the fact, — • 
that it is in the departments of physics, not of metaphysics, 
that the greater minds of the age are engaged, — that the 
Lockes, Humes, Kants, Berkeleys, Dugald Stewarts, and 
Thomas Browns, belong to the past, — and that the philoso- 
phers of the present time, tall enough to be seen all the world 
over, are the Humboldts, the Aragos, the Agassizes, the Lie- 
bigs, the Owens, the Herschels, the Bucklands, and the 


Brewsters. In that educational coarse through which, in 
this country, candidates for the ministry pass, in preparation 
for theii; office, I find every group of great minds which has 
in turn influenced and directed the mind of Europe for the 
last three centuries, represented, more or less adequately, 
save the last. It is an epitome of all kinds of learning, with 
the exception of the kind most imperatively required, because 
most in accordance with the genius of the time. The restor- 
ers of classic literature, — the Buchanans and Erasmuses, — we 
see represented in our Universities by the Greek and what 
are termed the Humanity courses ; the Galileos, Boyles, 
and Newtons, by the Mathematical and Natural Philosophy 
courses ; and the Lockes, Kants, Humes, and Berkeleys, by 
the Metaphysical course. But the Cuviers, the Huttons, 
the Cavendishes, and the Watts, with their successors, the 
practical philosophers of the present age, — men whose achieve- 
ments in physical science we find marked on the surface of 
the country in characters which might be read from the 
moon, — are not adequately represented ; — it would be per- 
haps more correct to say, that they are not represented at 
all ; * and the clergy, as a class, suffer themselves to linger 
far in the rear of an intelligent and accomplished laity, — a 
full age behind the requirements of the time. Let them 
not shut their eyes to the danger which is obviously coming. 
The battle of the Evidences will have as certainly to be fought 
on the field of physical science, as it was contested in the last 
age on that of the metaphysics. And on this new arena the 

* I trust that at least by and by there may be an exception claimed, 
from the general, but, I am sure, well-meant, censure of this passage, 
in favour of the Free Church of Scotland. It has got as its Professor of 
Physical Science, — thanks to the sagacity of Chalmers,— Dr John Flem- 
ing, a man of European reputation ; and all that seems further neces- 
sary, in order to secure the benefits contemplated in the appointment, is, 
that attendance on his course should be rendered imperative on all Free 
Church candidates for the ministry. 


combatants will have to employ new weapons, which it will 
be the privilege of the challenger to choose. The old, op- 
posed to these, would prove but of little avaiL In an age 
of muskets and artillery, the bows and arrows of an obsolete 
school of warfare would be found greatly less than sufficient^ 
in the field of battle, for purposes either of assault or defence. 
" There are two kinds of generation in the world," says 
Professor Lorenz Oken, in his " Elements of Physio-Philo- 
sophy ;" " the creation proper, and the propagation that is 
sequent thereupon,— or the generatio originaria and secun- 
daria. Consequently, no organism has been created of larger 
size than an infusorial point. No organism is, nor ever has 
one been created, which is not microscopic. Whatever is 
larger has not been created, but developed. Man has not 
been created, but developed." Such, in a few brief dogmatic 
sentences, is the development theory. What* in order to 
establish its truth, or even to render it in some degree pro- 
bable, ought to be the geological evidence regarding it ? The 
reply seems obvious. In the first place, the earlier fossils 
ought to be very small in size ; in the second, very law in 
organization. In cutting into the stony womb of nature, in 
order to determine what it contained mayhap millions of ages 
ago, we must expect, if the development theory be true, to 
look upon mere embryos and foetuses. And if we find, in- 
stead, the full-grown and the mature, then must we hold that 
the testimony of Geology is not only not in accordance with 
the theory, but in positive opposition to it Such, palpably, 
is the principle on which, in this matter, we ought to decide. 
What are the facts ? 
/ The oldest organism yet discovered in the most ancient 
\ geological system of Scotland in which vertebrate remains 
J occur, seems* to be the Asterolepis of Stromness. After the 

* [This seems w characteristic of the caution of the author. The Ce- 
phalaspidce, and even the Acanthidce. take precedence of the Asterolepis 


explorations of many years over a wide area, I have detected 
none other equally low in the system ; nor have I ascertained 
than any brother-explorer in the same field has been more 
fortunate. It is, up to the present time, the most ancient 
Scotch witness of the great class of fishes that can in this case 
be brought into court ; nay, it is in all probability the oldest 
ganoid witness the world has yet produced ; for there appears 
no certain trace of this order of fishes in the great Silurian 
system which lies underneath, and in which, so far as geolo- 
gists yet know, organic existence first began. How, then, 
on the two relevant points — bulk and organization— does it 
answer to the demands of the development hypothesis % Was 
it a mere foetus of the finny tribe, of minute size, and imper- 
fect, embryonic faculty ? Or was it of at least the ordinary 
bulk, and, for its class, of the average organization % May I 
solicit the forbearance of the non-geological reader should 
my reply to these apparently simple questions seem unneces- 
sarily prolir. and elaborate ? Peculiar opportunities of obser- 
vation, and the possession of a set of unique fossils, enable 
me to submit to our palaeontologists a certain amount of in- 
formation regarding this ancient ganoid, which they will deem 
at once interesting and new ; and the bearing of my state- 
ments on the general argument will, I trust, become apparent 
as I proceed. 

(See prefatory remarks.) A description of Cephala8p%8 t as that which 
now seems to be the most ancient vertebrate witness the world has yet 
produced, is subjoined in Appendix, C. The A sterolepis appears to have 
the advantage over its predecessors only in point of bulk.] 




It had been long known to the continental naturalists, that 
in certain Russian deposits, very extensively developed, there 
occur in considerable abundance certain animal organisms ; 
but for many years neither their position nor character could 
be satisfactorily determined By some they were placed too 
high in the scale of organized being; by others too low. 
Kutorga, a writer not very familiarly known in this country, 
described the remains as those of mammals ; — the Russian 
rocks contained, he said, bones of quadrupeds, and, in espe- 
cial, the teeth of swine : whereas Lamarck, a better known 
authority, though not invariably a safe one, — for he had a 
trick of dreaming when wide awake, and of calling his dreams 
philosophy, — assigned to them a place among the corals. 
They belonged, he asserted, as shown by certain star-like 
markings with which they are fretted, to the Polyparia. He 
even erected for their reception a new genus of Astrea, which 
he designated, from the little rounded hillock which rises in 
the middle of each star, the genus Monticidaria. It was left 
to a living naturalist, M. Eichwald, to fix their true position 
zoologically among the class of fishes, and to Sir Roderick 
Murchison to determine their position geologically as ich- 
thyolites of the Old Red Sandstone. 


Sir Roderick, on his return from his great Russian cam- 
paigns, in which he fared far otherwise than Napoleon, and 
accomplished more, submitted to Agassiz a series of fragments 
of these gigantic Ganoids ; and the celebrated ichthyologist, 
who had been introduced little more than a twelvemonth be- 
fore to the Pterickthy8 of Cromarty, was at first inclined to 
regard them as the remains of a large cuirassed fish of the 
Cephalaspian type, but genetically new. Under this impres- 
sion he bestowed upon the yet unknown ichthyolite, of which 
they had formed part, the name Chdonichthys, from the re- 
semblance borne by the broken plates to those of the cara- 
pace and plastron of some of the Chelonians. At this stage, 
however, the Russian Old Red yielded a set of greatly finer 
remains than it had previously furnished ; and of these, casts 
were transmitted by Professor Asmus of the University of 
Dorpat to the British and London Geological Museums, and 
to Agassiz. " I knew not at first what to do," says the ich- 
thyologist, " with bones of so singular a conformation that I 
could refer them to no known type." Detecting, however, 
on their exterior surfaces the star-like markings which had 
misled Lamarck, and which he had also detected on the lesser 
fragments submitted to him by Sir Roderick, he succeeded in 
identifying both the fragments and bones as remains of the 
same genus ; and on ascertaining that M. Eichwald had be- 
stowed upon it, from these characteristic sculpturings, the 
generic name Asterolepisy or star-scale, he suffered the name 
which he himself had originated to drop. Even this second 
name, however, which the ichthyolite still continues to bear, 
is in some degree founded in error. Its true scales, as I shall 
by and by show, were not stelliferous, but fretted by a pecu- 
liar style of ornament, consisting of waved anastomosing ridges, 
breaking atop into angular-shaped dots, scooped out internally 
like the letter V; and were evidently intermediate in their 
character between the scales which cover the Glypiolepis and 


those of the Holoptychius. And the stellate markiugs which 
M. Eichwald graphically describes as minute paps rising out 
of the middle of star-like wreaths of little leaflets, were re- 
stricted to the dermal plates of the head. 

Agassi* ultimately succeeded in classing the bones which 
had at first so puzzled him into two divisions, — interior and 
dermal ; and the latter he divided yet further, though not 
without first lodging a precautionary protest, founded on the 
extreme obscurity of the subject, into cranial and opercular. 
Of the interior bones he specified two, — a super-scapular bone 
(mprchscapulaire), — that bone which in osseous fishes com- 
pletes the scapular arch or belt, by uniting the scapula to the 
cranium ; and a maxillary or upper jaw-bone. But his world- 
wide acquaintance with existing fishes could lend, him no as- 
sistance in determining the places of the dermal bones : they 
formed the mere fragments of a broken puzzle, of which the 
key was lost Even in their detached and irreducible state, 
however, he succeeded in basing upon them several shrewd 
deductions. He inferred, in the first place, that the Astero- 
lepis was not, as had been at first supposed, a cuirassed fish, 
which took its place among the Cephalaspians, but a strongly- 
helmed fish of that Celacanth family to which the Holopty- 
chius and Glyptolepis belong ; in the second, that, like seve- 
ral of its bulkier congeners, it was in all probability a broad, 
fiat-headed animal ; and, in the third, that as its remains are 
found associated in the Russian beds with numerous detached 
teeth of large size, — the boar-tusks of Kutorga, — which pre- 
sent internally that peculiar microscopic character on which 
Professor Owen has erected his Dendrodic or tree-toothed 
family of fishes, — it would in all likelihood be found that botli 
bones and teeth belonged to the same group. " It appeals 
more than probable," he said, " that one day, by the discovery 
of a head or an entire jaw, it will be shown that the genei-a 
Dendrodus and Asterolepis form but one." As we proceed, 


the reader will see how justly the ichthyologist assigned to 
the Asterolepts its place among the Celacanths, and how en- 
tirely his two other conjectures regarding it have been con- 
firmed. " I have had in general," he concluded, " but small 
and mutilated fragments of the creature's bones submitted to 
me, and of these, even the surface ornaments not well pre- 
served; but I hope the immense materials with which the 
Old Red Sandstone of Russia has furnished the savans of that 
country will not be lost to science ; and that my labours on 
this interesting genus, incomplete as they are, will excite more 
and more the attention of geologists, by showing them how 
ignorant we are of all the essential facts concerning the his- 
tory of the first inhabitants of our globe." 

I know not what the savans of Russia have been doing for 
the last few years ; but, mainly through the labours of an in- 
telligent tradesman of Thurso, Mr Robert Dick, — one of those 
working men of Scotland of active curiosity and well-deve- 
loped intellect, that give character and standing to the rest, 
— I am enabled to justify the classification and confirm the 
conjectures of Agassiz. Mr Dick, after acquainting himself 
in the leisure hours of a laborious profession, with the shells, 
insects, and plants of the northern locality in which he re- 
sides, had set himself to study its geology ; and with this view 
he procured a copy of the little treatise on the Old Red Sand- 
stone to which I have already referred, and which was at 
that time, as Agassiz' s Monograph of the Old Red fishes had 
not yet appeared, the only work specially devoted to the 
palaeontology of the system, so largely developed in the neigh- 
bourhood of Thurso. With perhaps a single exception, — 
for the Thurso rocks do not yet seem to have yielded a 
Pterichthys, — he succeeded in finding specimens, in a state 
of better or worse keeping, of all the various ichthyolites 
which I had described as peculiar to the Lower Old Red 
Sandstone. He found, however, — what I had not described, 


— the remains of apparently a very gigantic ichthyolite ; and, 
communicating with me through the medium of a common 
friend, he submitted to me, in the first instance, drawings 
of his new set of fossils ; and ultimately, as I could arrive 
at no satisfactory conclusion from the drawings, he with great 
liberality made over to me the fossils themselves. Agassiz's 
Monograph was not yet published ; nor had I an opportu- 
nity of examining, until about a twelvemonth after, the casts 
in the British Museum of the fossils of Professor Asmus. Be- 
sides, all the little information, derived from various sources, 
which I had acquired respecting the Russian Chelonichthys, — 
for such was its name at the time, — referred it to the cui- 
rassed type, and served but to mislead. I was assured, for 
instance, that Professor Asmus regarded his set of remains as 
portions of the plates and paddles of a gigantic Pterichthys, 
of from twenty to thirty feet in length. And so, as I had 
recognised in the Thurso fossils the peculiarities of the Ho- 
loptychian (Celacanth) family, I at first failed to identify 
them with the remains of the great Russian fish. All the 
larger bones sent me by Mr Dick were, I found, cerebral ; 
and the scales associated with these indicated, not a cuirass- 
protected, but a scale-covered body, and exhibited, in their 
sculptured and broadly imbricated surfaces, the well-marked 
Celacanth style of disposition and ornament But though 
I could not recognise in either bones or scales the remains 
of one ichthyolite more of the Old Red Sandstone, "that 
could be regarded as manifesting as peculiar a type among 
fishes as do the Ichthyosauri and Plesiosauri among rep- 
tiles,"* I was engaged at the time in a course of inquiry 
regarding the cerebral development of the earlier vertebrata, 
that made me deem them scarce less interesting than if I 
could Ere, however, I attempt communicating to the reader 

* AgaBste?8 description of the Pterichthys, as quoted by Humboldt in 
his Cosmos. 


the result of my researches, I must introduce him, in order 
that he may be able to set out with me to the examination 
of the Asterolepi* from the same starting-pointy to the Cela- 
canth family, — indisputably one of the oldest, and not the 
least interesting, of its order. 

So far as is yet known, all the fishes of the earliest fossili- 
ferous system belonged to the placoid or " broad-plated" 
order, — a great division of fishes, represented in the existing 
seas by the Sharks and Rays, — animals that to an internal 
skeleton of cartilage unite a dermal covering of points, plates, 
or spines of enamelled bone, and have their gills fixed The 
dermal or cuticular bones of this order vary greatly in form, 
according to the species or family ; in some cases they even 
vary, according to their place, on the same individual. Those 
button-like tubercles, for instance, with an enamelled thorn, 
bent like a hook, growing out of the centre of each, which 
run down the back and tail, and stud the pectorals of the 
thorn-back {Raia clavata), differ very much from the smaller 
thorns, with star-formed bases, which 
roughen the other parts of the crea- 
ture's body; and the bony points 
which mottle the back and sides of a - m 
the sharks are, in most of the known 
species, considerably more elongated 
and prickly than the points which 
cover their fins, belly, and snout. 
The extreme forms, however, of the b 
shagreen tubercle or plate seem to 

be those of the upright prickle or *• Shagreen of the Thornback 

,, i-i i n .i {Raia clavata.) 

spine on the one hand, and of the b . Shagreen of Sphagodus,— 

plant-laid, rhomboidal, scale-shaped a P^coid of the Upper 

i ,i .i i™ . Silurian. 

plate on the other. The minuter 

* From Murchison's " Silurian System.' 



Fig. 8. 

thorns of the ray (fig. 2, a) exemplify the extreme of the 
prickly type ; the fins, abdomen, and anterior part of the 
head of the spotted dog-fish (Scyllium stellare) are covered 
by lozenge-shaped little plates, which glisten with enamel, 
and are so thickly set that they cover the entire surface of 
the skin (fig. 3, b) ; and these seem equally illustrative of the 
scale-like form. They are shagreen points passing into osseous 
scales, without, however, becoming really such ; though they 
approach them so nearly in the shape and disposition of their 
upper discs, that the true scales, also osseous, of the Acan- 
thodes sulcalus (fig. 3, a), a ganoid of the Coal Measures, 

can scarce be distinguished from 
them, even when microscopically 
examined. It is only when seen in 
section that the distinctive differ- 
ence appears. The true scale of the 
Acanth, though considerably elevat- 
ed in the centre, seems to have been 
planted on the skin; whereas the 
scale-like shagreen of the dog-fish is 

elevated over it on an osseous pedicle 

a. Scales of AcantKodes sul- r , , ,, //5 e \ , 

catus. or footstalk (fig. o, a), as a mushroom 

b. Shagreen of Scyllium stel- ig elevated over the sward Oil its 

stem ; and the base of the stal$: is 
found to resemble in its stellate cha- 
racter that of a shagreen point of the prickly type. The ap- 
parent scale is, we find, a bony prickle bent at right angled 
a little over its base, and flattened into a rhombodial disc 

In small fragments of shagreen (Jag. 2, o), which have been 
detected in the bone-bed of the Upper Ludlow Bocks (Upper 
Silurian), and constitute the most ancient portions of this 
substance known to the palaeontologist, the osseous tubercles 
are, as in the minuter spikes of the ray, of the upright thoru- 

lare. (Snout). 
(Mag. eight diameters.) 





like type : they merely serve to show that the placoids of 
the first period possessed, like those of the existing seas, an 
ability of secreting solid bone on their, cuticular surfaces ; and 
that, though at least such of them as have bequeathed to us 
specimens of their dermal armature possessed it in the form 
farthest removed from that of their immediate successors, the 
ganoidal fishes, they resembled them not less in the substance 
of which their dermoskeletal, than in that of which their 
endoskeletal, parts were composed ; for the internal skeleton 
in both orders, during these early ages, seems to have been 
equally cartilaginous, and the cuticular skeleton equally osse- 
ous. In the ichthyolitic formation 
immediately over the Silurians, — 
that of the Lower Old Red Sand- 
stone, — the ganoids first appear; and 
the members of at least one of the 
families of the deposit, the Acanths, 
— a family rich in genera and species, 
— seem to have formed connecting 
links between this second order and 
their placoid predecessors. They 

were covered with true scales (fig. 4, « , - ^ . ^ 

x ° 7 a. Scales of Ckewacanthus 

a), and their free gills were protect- Microlepidotus. 

ed by gill-covers ; and so they must h. Shagreen of SpinaxAcan- 
r j J i • i i x thia*. (Snout.) 

be regarded as real ganoids j but as ^^ > 

the shagreen of the spotted dog-fish 

nearly approaches, in form and character, to ganoidal scales, 
without being really such, the scales of this family, on the 
other hand, approached equally near, without changing their 
nature, to the shagreen of the placoids, especially to that of 
the spiked dog-fish (Spinax Accmthias). (Fig. 4, b.) We 
even find on their under surfaces what seems to be an ap- 
proximation to the characteristic footstalk. They so consi- 
derably thicken in the middle from their edges inwards (fig. 

Fig. 4. 




Fig. 5. 5, c), as to terminate in their centres 

in obtuse points. With these sha- 
a green-like scales, the heads, bodies, 

and fins of all the species of at least 
two of the Acanth genera, — Oheir- 
acanthus and Diplacanlhus, — were 
as thickly covered as the heads, bo- 
dies, and fins of the sharks are with 
». Section of shagreen of their shagreen; and so slight was 

b. Under surface of do, the de S^ e of fabrication, that the 

c. Section of scales of Chtir- portion of each scale overlaid by the 
acanthus Microlepidotus. two scales in i mme di a te advance of 

~ r .*.•.. .v it did not exceed the one-twelfth 
(Mag. eight diameters.) 

part of its entire area. In the scale 
of the Cheiracanthu3 we find the covered portion indicated 
by a smooth, narrow band, that ran along its anterior edges, 
and which the furrows that fretted the exposed surface did 
not traverse. It may be added, that both genera had the 
anterior edge of their fins armed with strong spines, — a cha- 
racteristic of several of the placoid families. 

In the Dipterian genera Osteolepis and Diplopterus, the 
scales were more unequivocally such than in the Acanths, 
and more removed from shagreen. The under surface of 
each was traversed longitudinally by a raised bar, which at- 
tached it to the skin, and which in the transverse section 
serves to remind one of the shagreen footstalk. They are, 
besides, of a rhombodial form ; and, when seen in the finer 
specimens, lying in their proper places on what had been once 
the creature's body, they seem merely laid down side by side 
in line, like those rows of glazed tiles that pave a cathedra] 
floor ; but on more careful examination, we find that each 
little tile was deeply grooved on its higher side and end (for 
it lay diagonally in relation to the head), like the flags of a 
stone roof (fig. 6, a), — that its lateral and anterior neigh* 



Fig. a. 

boars impinged upon it along these grooves to the extent of 
about, one-third its area, — and 
that it impinged, in turn, to the 
same extent, on the scales that 
bordered on it posteriorly and 
latero-posteriorly. Now, in the 
Oelacanth family (and on this spe- 
cial poiut the foregoing remarks 
are intended to bear), the scales, 
which were generally of a round 
or irregularly oval form (fig, 6, 
b), overlapped each other to as 
great an extent as in any of the 
existing fishes of the Cycloid or 
Ctenoid orders, — to as great an 
extent, for instance, as in the carp, 
salmon, or herring. In a slated 
roof there is no part on whicb 
the slates do not lie double, and 
along the lower edge of each tier 
they lie triple ;— there is more of "■ Scala tf j£g* U M{cr ° l * 
slate covered than of slate seen : b. ScaUi of an undescribed ipe- 
whereas in a tile-roof, the co- cies of GlyptolepU.' 

vered portion is restricted to a (&* " Q S la BCftlea ""g- two d '»- 
. ... meters, — the others nat. size.) 

small strip running along the top 

and one of the edges of each tile, and the tiles do not lie 

double in more than the same degree in which the slates lie 

triple. The scaly cover of the two genera of Dipteriuus to 

which I have referred was a pover on the (tfe-roof principle ; 

and this is an exceedingly common characteristic of the scales 

of the ganoids. The scaly cover of the Celacantbs, on the 

* These scales, which occur in a detached state, in a stratified clay of 
the Old Red Sandstone, near Cromarty, preBent for their size a largra 
extent of cover than the scales of any other ganoid. 


other hand, was a cover on the slate-roof principle ; — there 
was in some of their genera about one-third more of each 
scale covered than exposed ; and this is so rare a ganoidal 
mode of arrangement, that, with the exception of the Dip- 
tents, — a genus which, though it gives its name to the Dip- 
terian sept, differed greatly from every other Dipterian, — I 
know not, beyond the limits of the ancient Celacanth family^ 
a single ganoid that possessed it The bony covering of the 
Celacanths was farthest removed in character from shagreen, 
as that of their contemporaries the Acanths approximated to 
it most nearly : they were, in this respect, the two extremes 
of their order ; and, did we find the Celacanths in but the 
later geological formations, while the Acanths were restricted 
to the earlier, it might be urged by assertors of the develop- 
ment hypothesis, that the amply imbricated slate-like scale 
of the latter had been developed, in the lapse of ages, from the 
shagreen tubercle, by passing in its downward course — broad- 
ening and expanding as it descended — through the minute, 
scarcely imbricated discs of the Acanths, and the more amply 
imbricated tile-like rhombs of the Dipterians and Palaeonisci, 
until it had reached its full extent of imbrication in the fa- 
miliar modern type exemplified in both the Celacanths and 
the ordinary fishes. But such is not the order which nature 
has observed ; — the two extremes of the ganoidal scale appear 
together in the same early formation ; both become extinct 
at a period geologically remote ; and the ganoidal scales of the 
existing state of things which most nearly resemble those of 
ancient time are scales formed on, the intermediate or tile- 
roof principle. 

The scales of the Celacanths were, in almost all the genera 
which compose the family, of great size, — in some species, of 
the greatest size to which this kind of integument ever at- 
tained. Of a .Celacanth of the Coal Measures, the Holop- 
tychius Hibberti, the scales in the larger specimens were oo- 


casionally from five to six inches in diameter. Even in the 
Eoloptychiu8 Nobilissimua, in an individual scarcely exceeding 
two and a half feet in length, they measured from an inch and 
a half to an inch and three quarters each way. In the splen- 
did specimen of this last species in the British Museum, there 
occur but fourteen scales between the ventrals, though these 
lie low on the creature's body, and the head ; and in a spe- 
cimen of a smaller species, — the Holoptychius Anderson^ — 
but about seventeen. The exposed portion of the scale was 
in most species of the family curiously fretted by intermingled 
ridges and furrows, pits and tubercles, which were either 
boldly relieved, as in the Holoptychius, or existed, as in the 
Glyptolepis, as slim, delicately chiselled threads, lines, and 
dots. The head was covered by strong plates, which were 
roughened with tubercles either confluent or detached, or 
hollowed, as in the Bothriolepis, into shallow pits. The jaws 
were thickly set with an outer range of true fish-teeth, and 
more thinly with an inner range of what seem reptUe-teeih, 
that stood up, tall and bulky, behind the others, like officers 
on horseback seen over the heads of their foot-soldiers in 
front The double fins, — pectorals and ventrals, — were cha- 
racterized each by a thick scale-covered centre, fringed by the 
rays ; and they must have borne externally somewhat the 
form of the sweeping paddles of the Ichthyosaurian genus,— 
a peculiarity shared also by the double fins of the Diptems. 
The single fins, in all the members of the family of which 
specimens have been found sufficiently entire to indicate the 
fact, were four in number, — an anal, a caudal, and two dorsal 
fins ; and, with the exception of the anterior dorsal, which 
was comparatively small, and bent downwards along the back, 
as if its rays had been distorted when young,* they were all 
of large size. They crowded thickly on the posterior portion, 

* A peculiarity which also occurs in the anterior dorsal of the Dip- 


of the body, the anterior dorsal opposite the ventrals, and 
the posterior dorsal opposite the anal fin. The fin-rays of 
ihe various members of the family, and such of their spinous 
processes as have been detected, were hollow tubular bones ; 
or rather, like the larger pieces in the framework of the pla- 
coids, they were cartilaginous within, and covered externally 
by a thin osseous crust or shell, which alone survives ; and 
to this peculiarity they owe their family name, Celacanth, 
or " hollow-spine." The internal hollow, t. e., cartilaginous 
centre, was, however, equally a characteristic of the spinous 
processes of the Coccosteus. In their general proportions, the 
true Celacanths, if we perhaps except one species, — the Glyp- 
tolepis Microlepidotus, — were all squat, robust, strongly-built 
fishes, of the Dirk Hatterick or Balfour-of-Burley type ; and 
not only in the larger specimens gigantic in their proportions, 
but remarkable for the strength and weight of their armour, 
even when of but moderate stature. The specimen of Ho- 
loptychms Nobilissimus in the British Museum could have 
measured little more than three feet from snout to tail when 
most entire ; but it must have been nearly a foot in breadth, 
and a bullet would have rebounded flattened from its scales. 
And such was that ancient Celacanth family, of which the 
oldest of our Scotch ganoids, — the Asterolepis of Stromness, 
-^-formed one of the members, and which for untold ages has 
had no living representative. 

Let us now enter on our proposed inquiry regarding the 
cerebral development of the earlier vertebrata, and see whe- 
ther we cannot ascertain after what manner the first true 
brains were lodged, and what those modifications were which 
their protecting box, the cranium, received in the subsequent 
periods. Independently of its own special interest, the in- 
quiry will be found to have a direct bearing on our general 





It is held by a class of naturalists, some of them of the high- 
est standing; that the skulls of the vertebrata consist, like the 
columns to which they are attached, of vertebral joints, com- 
posed each, in the more typical forms of head, as they are in 
the trunk, of five parts or elements, — the centrum or body, 
the two spinous processes which enclose the spinal cord, and 
the two ribs. These cranial vertebrae, foui in number, cor- 
respond, it is said, to the four senses that have their seat in 
the head. There is the nasal vertebra, the centrum of which 
is the vomer, its spinal processes the nasal and ethmoid bones, 
and its ribs the upper jaws ; there is the ocular vertebra, the 
centrum of which is the anterior portion of the sphenoid bone, 
its spinal processes the frontals, and its ribs the under jaws ; 
there it the lingual vertebra, the centrum of which is the pos- 
terior sphenoid bone, its spinal processes the parietals, and 
its ribs the hyoid and branchial bones, — portions of the ske- 
leton largely developed in fishes ; and, lastly, there is the au« 
ditory vertebra, the centrum of which is the base of the oc- 
cipital bone, and its spinal processes the occipital crest, and 


which in the osseous fishes bears attached to it, as its ribs, 
the bones of the scapular ring. And the cerebral segments 
thus constructed we find represented in typical diagrams of 
the skull, as real vertebrae. Professor Owen, in his lately 
published treatise on "The Nature of Limbs," — a work 
charged with valuable fact, and instinct with philosophy, — 
figures, in his draught of the archetypal skeleton of the ver- 
tehrata, the four vertebrae of the head, in a form as unequivo- 
cally such as any of the vertebrae of the neck or body. 

Now, for certain purposes of generalization, I doubt not 
that the conception may have its value. There are in all 
nature and in all philosophy certain central ideas of general 
bearing, round which, at distances less or more remote, the 
subordinate and particular ideas arrange themselves, 


Cycle and epicycle, orb in orb." 

In the classifications of the naturalist, for instance, all species 
range round some central generic idea ; all genera round some 
central idea, to which we give the name of order ; all orders 
round some central idea of class ; all classes round some 
central idea of division ; and all divisions round the anterior 
central idea which constitutes a kingdom. Sir Joshua Rey- 
nolds forms his theory of beauty on this principle of central 
ideas. " Every species of the animal, as well as of the vege- 
table creation," he remarks, " may be said to have a fixed or 
determinate form, towards which nature is continually inclin- 
ing, like various lines terminating in a centre ; or it may be 
compared to pendulums vibrating in different directions over 
one central point, which they all cross, though only one of 
their number passes through any other point." He instances, 
in illustrating his theory, the Grecian beau ideal of the human 
nose, as seen in the statues of the Greek deities. It formed 
a straight line ; whereas all deformity of nose is of a convex 
or concave character, and occasioned by either a rising above 


or a sinking below this medial line of beauty. And it may 
be of use, as it is unquestionably of interest, to conceive, after 
this manner, of a certain type of skeleton, embodying, as it 
were, the central or primary type of all vertebral skeletons, 
and consisting of a double range of rings, united by the bodies 
of the vertebrae, as the two rings of a figure 8 are united at 
their point of junction ; the upper ring forming the enclosure 
of the brain, — spinal and cephalic; the lower that of the 
viscera, — respiratory, circulatory, and digestive. Such is the 
idea embodied in Professor Owen's archetypal skeleton. It 
is a series of vertebrae composing double rings, — their brain- 
rings comparatively small in the vertebrae of the trunk, but 
of much greater size in the vertebrae of the head. But it 
must not be forgotten, that central ideas, however necessary 
to the classification of the naturalist, are not historic facts. 
"We may safely hold with the philosophic painter, that the 
outline of the typical human nose is a straight line ; but it 
would be very unsafe to hold, as a consequence, that the first 
men had all straight noses. And when we find it urged by 
at. least one eminent assertor of the development hypothesis, 
— Professor Oken, — that light was the main agent in develop- 
ing the substance of nerve, — that the nerves, ranged in pairs, 
in turn developed the vertebrae, each vertebra being but " the 
periphery or envelope of a pair of nerves," — and that the 
nerves of those four senses of smell, sight, taste, and hearing, 
which, according to the Professor, "make up the head," ori- 
ginated the four cranial vertebrae which constitute the skull, 
— it becomes us to test the central idea, thus converted into 
a sort of historic myth, by the realities of actual history. What, 
then, let us inquire, is the real history of the cerebral develop- 
ment of the vertebrata, as recorded in the rocks of the earlier 
geologic periods 1 

Though the vertebrata existed in the ichthyic form through- 
out a part of the vastly extended Silurian period, we find in 


that system no remains of the cranium :* the Silurian fishes 
seem, as has been already said (page 27), to have been exclu- 
sively placoid, and the purely cartilaginous box, formed by 
nature for the protection of the brain in this order, has in no 
case been preserved. Teeth, and, in at least one or two in- 
stances, the minute jaws over which they were planted, have 
been found, but no portion of the skull. We know, however, 
that in the fishes of the same order which now exist, the 
cranium consists of one undivided piece of a cartilaginous 
substance, set thickly over its outer surface with minute poly- 
gonal points of bone (fig. 7), composed 
internally of star-like rays, that radiate 
from the centre of ossification, and that 
present, in consequence, seen through a 
microscope, the appearance of the poly 
gonal cells of a coral of the genus Astrea. 
Osseous points of placoid The pattern induced is that of stars set 

cranium, f within polygons. Along the sides or top 

(Mag. twelve diameters.) „,.,, . f. , , 

of this unbroken cranial box, that exhi- 
bits no mark of suture, we find the perforations through, 
which the nerves of smell, sight, taste, and hearing passed 
from the brain outwards, and see that they have failed to 
originate distinct vertebral envelopes for themselves : they 
all lodge in one- undivided mansion-house, and have merely 
separate doors. We find, further, that the homotypal ribs 
of the entire cranium consist, not of four, but simply of a 
single pair, attached to the occiput, and which serves both 
to suspend the jaws, upper and nether, in their place under 
the middle of the head, and to lend support to the hyoid and 
branchial framework ; while the scapular ring we find exist- 
ing, as in the higher vertebrata, not as a cerebral, but as a 

* This, as the reader knows, is no longer the case, the Cephalaspian 
cranium being most beautifully preserved, 
f From the head of Rata clavata. 


cervical or dorsal appendage. In the wide range of the ani- 
mal kingdom, there are scarce any two pieces of organization 
that less resemble each other in form than the vertebrae of 
the placoids resemble their skulls ; and the difference is not 
merely external, but extends to even their internal construc- 
tion. In both skull and vertebrae we detect an union of 
bone and cartilage ; but the bone of each vertebra forms an 
internal continuous nucleus, round which the cartilage is 
arranged; whereas in the skulls it is the cartilage that is 
internal, and the bone is spread in granular points over it 
If we dip the body of one of the dorsal vertebrae of a herring 
into melted wax, and then withdraw it, we will find it to re- 
present in its crusted state the vertebral centrum of a pla- 
coid, — soft without and osseous within ; but in order to re- 
present the placoid skull, we would have first to mould it 
out of one unbroken piece of wax, and then to cover it over 
with a priming of bone-dust. And such is the effect of this 
arrangement, that, while the skull of a placoid exposed to 
a red heat falls into dust, from the circumstance that the 
supporting framework on which the granular bone was ar- 
ranged perishes in the fire, the vertebral centrum, whose in- 
ternal framework is itself bone, and so not perishable, comes 
out in a state of beautiful entireness, — resembling in the 
thornback a squat sand-glass, elegantly fenced round by the 
lateral pillars (fig. 8, b) ; and in the dog- F - g 

fish (a) a more elongated sand-glass, in 
which the lateral pillars are wanting. 
Such are the heads and vertebral joints 
of the existing placoids; and such, rea- a j 

soiling from analogy, seem to have been a. Osseous centrum of 
the character and construction of the b . %ZJ££% 
heads and vertebral joints of the pla- ■&*«* clavata. 

coids of the Silurian period. < Nat ' *"•> 

The most ancient brain-bearing craniums that have come 


down to us in the fossil state are those of the ganoids of 
the Lower Red Sandstone;* and in these fishes the true 
skull appears to have been as entirely a simple cartilaginous 
box, as that of the placoids of either the Silurian period or 
of the present time, or of those existing ganoids, the stur- 
geons. In the Old Bed genera Cheiracanthus and Diplacan- 
thu8, though the heads are frequently preserved as amorphous 
masses of coloured water, we detect no trace of internal bone, 
save perhaps in the gill-covers of the first-named genus, which 
were fringed by from eighteen to twenty minute osseous rays. 
The cranium -seems to have been covered, as in the shark 
family, by skin, and the skin by minute shagreen-like scales; 
and all of the interior cerebral framework which appears un- 
derneath exists simply as faint impressions of an undivided 
body, covered by what seem to be osseous points, — bony 
molecules, it is probable, which encrusted the cartilaga The 
jaws, in the better specimens, are also preserved in the same 
doubtful style ; and this state of keeping is the common one 
in deposits in which every true bone, however delicate, pre- 
sents an outline as sharp as when it occupied its place in the 
living animal The dermal or skeleton of both genera, which 
consisted, as has been shown (pages 28, 29), of shagreen-like 
osseous scales and slender spines, both brilliantly enamelled, 
is preserved entire ; whereas the interior framework of the 
head exists as mere point-speckled impressions ; and the in- 
ference appears unavoidable, that parts which so invariably 
differ in their state of keeping now, must have essentially 
differed in their substance originally. 

Now in the CJieiracanthus we detect the first faint indi- 
cations of a peculiar arrangement of the dermal skeleton, in 

* That these remarks apply to fish of an earlier date, the placo-ganoids 
of the Silurian, imparts to them an additional interest. The reader may 
be very safe in regarding these two kinds of brain, the plaooid and the 
ganoid, as Silurian contemporaries.— L. M. 


relation to certain parts of the skeleton within, which — 
greatly more developed in some of its contemporaries — led 
to importanfresults in the general structure of these ganoids, 
and furnishes the true key to the character of the early ga- 
noidal head. In such of the existing placoids as I have had 
an opportunity of examining, the only portions of the dermal 
skeleton of bone which conform in their arrangement to por- 
tions of the interior skeleton of cartilage are the teeth, which 
are always laid on a base of skin right over the jaws. There 
is also an approximation to arrangement of a corresponding 
kind, though a distant one, in those hook-armed tubercles of 
certain species of rays which run along the vertebral column. 
But in the shagreen by which the creatures are covered I have 
been able to detect no such arrangement Whether it occurs 
on the fins, the body, or the head, or in the scale form, or 
in that of the prickle, it manifests the same careless irregu- 
larity. And on the head and body of the Cheiraccmthus, 
and on all its fins save one, the shagreen-like scales, though 
laid down more symmetrically in lines than true shagreen, 
manifested an equal absence of arrangement in relation to 
the framework within. On that one fin, however, — the cau- 
dal, — the scales, passing from their ordinary rhomboidal to 
a more rectangular form, ranged themselves in right lines 
over the internal rays (fig. 9, a), and imparted to these such 
strength as a splint of wood or whalebone fastened over a 
fractured toe or finger imparts to the injured digit, — a pro- 
vision which was probably rendered necessary in the case of 
this important organ of motion, from the circumstance that 
it was the only fin which the creature possessed that was not 
strengthened and protected anteriorly by a strong spine. In 
the Cheirolepisy — a contemporary fish, characterized, like its 
congeners the Cheiracanthus and Diplacanthus, by shagreen- 
like scales, but in which the spines were wanting, — we find 
a farther development of the provision. In all the fins the 


richly-enamelled dermal covering was arranged in lines over 
the rays (fig. 9, 6) ; and the scale, which 
assumes in the fins, like the scales on the 
tail of the C/ieirocanihus, though some- 
what more irregularly, a rectangular 
a shape, is so considerably elongated, that 

it assumes for its normal character as a 
scale, that of the joint of an external ray. 
A similar arrangement of external pro- 
tection takes place in this genus over the 
bones of the head : the cartilaginous jaws 
receive their osseous dermal covering, 
and, with these, the hyoid bones, the 
opercules, and the cranium. And it is 
in these dermal plates, which covered an 
interior skull, of which, save in one ge- 
*■ 'J*! $J^f nus-*-the Diptenu— not a vestige re-. 
thiuS mains in any of the Old Bed fishes thus 

b ' ^farf&toSSj Pn>*«ted, that we first trace what seem to 
Cummingia. be the homologues of the cranial hones of 

<M * 8 " ta£u diame ' the osseolls fishes,— at least their homo- 
logues so far as the cviicular can represent 
the internal. They appear for the first time, not as modified 
spinous processes, broadened, as in the carpace of the Chelo- 
nianfijinto osseous plates, but like those corneous external plates 
of this order of reptiles (known in one species as the tortoise- 
shell of commerce), the origin of which is purely cuticular, and 
which evince so little correspondence in their divisions with 
the sutures of the hones on which they rest, that they have 
been instanced, in their relation to the joinings beneath, as ad- 
mirable illustrations of the cross-banding of the mechanician. 

* The darker upper patch in this figure indicates a portion in which 
the scales of the fins in the fossil state still retain their enamel ; the 
lighter, a portion from which the enamel has disappeared. 


In the heads of the osseous fishes, the cranium proper, 
though consisting, like the skulls of birds, reptiles, and mam- 
mals, of several bones, exists from snout to nape, and from 
mastoid to mastoid, as one unbroken box ; whereas all the 
other bones of the head, such as the maxillaries and inter- 
maxillaries, the lower jaws, the opercular appendages, the 
branchial arches, and the branchiostegous rays, are connected 
but by muscle and ligament, and fall apart under the putre- 
factive influences, or in the process of boiling. This unbroken 
box, which consists, in the cod, of twenty-five bones, is the 
homology* of that cranial box of the placoids which consists 
of one entire piece, and the homotype, according to Oken, 
of the bodies and spinal processes of four vertebra ; while 
the looser bones, which drop away, represent their ribs.' The 
upper surface of the box, — that extending from the nasal bone 
to the nape, — is the only part over which a dermal buckler 
could be laid, as it is the only part with which the external 
skin comes in contact ; and so it is between this upper sur- 
face and the cranial bucklers of the early ganoids that we 
have to institute comparisons. For it is a curious fact, that, 
with the exception of the Old Red genera Acanthodu8> Cheir- 
acanthu8 y and Diplacantkus,* all the ganoids of the period in 
which ganoids first appear have dermal bucklers placed right 
over their true skulls, and that these, though as united in their 
parts as the bones proper to the cranium in quadrupeds and 
fishes, are composed of several pieces, furnished each with its 
independent centre of ossification. The Dipterians, the Ce- 
lacanths, the Cephalaspians, and at least one genus placed 
rather doubtfully among the Acanths, — the genus Cheirolepis, 
— all possessed cranial bucklers, extending from the nape ; x> 
the snout, in which the plates, various, in the several genera, 
in form and position, were fast soldered together, though in 
every instance the lines of suture were distinctly marked. 

* The Acanths of the Coal Measures possess the cranial buckler. 


On each side of this external cranium, the various cerebral 
plates, like the corresponding cerebral ribs in the osseous 
fishes, were free, at least not anchvlosed together ; and some 
of their number unequivocally performed, in part at least, 
the functions of two of these cerebral ribs, viz, the upper 
and under jaws, with those of the opercular appendages 
attached to the latter. In the cod, as in most other osse- 
ous fishes, the upper portion of the cranium consists of tbir- 
teeu bones, which represent, however, only seven bones in 
the human skull, — the nasal, the frontal, the two parietal, 
Kg. 10. 

A, Occipital bone. F, F, Posterior frontalt. 

B, B, E, E, Mattoid bona. 

C, C, C, Superior frontal. 2, 2, Eye-orbite. 

I, Natal bane. ft, a, Par*>ceipital bona. 

D, D, Anterior frontal. 

* Professor Owen, in fixing the homologies of the ichthyic head, 
differs considerably from Cuvier ; but his view seems to be the cor- 
red one. It will, however, be seen, that in my attempted comport- 


the occipital, and one-half the two temporal bones. And 
whereas in man, and in most of the mammals, there are four 
of these placed in the medial line, — the four which, accord- 
ing to the assertors of the vertebral theory, form the spinal 
crests of the four cerebral vertebrae, — in the cod there are but 
three. The super-occipital bone, A (fig. 10), pieces on to the 
superior frontal, 0, C, ; and the parietals, B, B, which in 
the human subject form the upper and middle portions of 
the cranial vault, are thrust out laterally and posteriorly, and 
take their places, in a subordinate capacity, on each side of 
the super-occipital This is not an invariable arrangement 
among fishes. In the carp genus, for instance, the parietals 
assume their proper medial place between the occipital and 
frontal bones ; but so very general is the displacement, that 
Professor Owen regards it as characteristic of the great ich- 
thyic class, and as the first example in the vertebrata, reckon- 
ing from the lower forms upwards, of a sort of natural dislo- 
cation among the bones, — "a modification," he remarks, 
" which, sometimes accompanied by great change of place, 
has tended most to obscure the essential nature of parts, and 
their true relations to the archetype." 

Of all the cerebral bucklers of the first ganoid period, that 
which best bears comparison with the cranial front of the cod 
is the buckler of the Coccosteus (fig. 11.) The general pro- 
son of the divisions of the ancient ganoid cranium with those of the 
craniums of existing fishes, the points at issue between the two great na- 
turalists are not involved, otherwise than as mere questions of words. 
The matter to be determined, for instance, is not whether plate A in the 
skulls of the cod and Coccosteus be the homologue of a part of the occipi- 
tal or that of a part of the parietal bones, but whether plate A in the 
Ooccosteus be the homologue of plate A in the cod. The letters em- 
ployed I have borrowed from Agassiz's restoration of the Coccosteus ; 
whereas the figures intimate divisions which the imperfect keeping of 
the specimens on which the ichthyologist founded did not enable him to 



portions of this portion of the ancient Cephalaspian head* 
differ very considerably from those of the corresponding part 

rig. u. 

a a 


a, a, Point* of attachment to the cuirau which covered the upper part 

of the creature* a body. 

in the modern cycloid one ; but in their larger divisions, the 
modern and the ancient answer bone to bona Three osse- 
ous plates in the Coccosteus, A, C, I, the homologues appa- 
rently of the occipital, frontal, and nasal bones, range along 
the medial line. The apparent homologues of the parietals, 
B, B, occupy the same position of lateral displacement as the 
parietals of the cod, and of so many other fishes. The pos- 
terior frontals, F, and the anterior frontals, D, also occupy 
places relatively the same, though the latter, which are of 
greater proportional size, encroach much further, laterally and 
posteriorly, on the superior frontal, C, C, C, and sweep en- 
tirely round the upper half of the eye-orbits, 2, 2. The ap- 
parent homologue of the mastoid bone, E, which also occu- 

* This designation is worthy of remark, as coinciding with Professor 
Huxley's most recent researches. (See previous quotation.) He says 
likewise, in a letter to me, " Fishes such as Cephalaspis, Pteraspis (and 
I may now add Coccosteus), present certain features of resemblance to the 
SUuroids, which are Teleostean fish." — L. M. 


pies its proper place, joins posteriorly to a little plate, a, im- 
perfectly separated in most specimens from the parietal, but 
which seems to represent tie par-occipital bone ; and it is a 
curious circumstance, that as, in many of the osseous fishes, 
it is to these bones that the forks of the scapular arch are at- 
tached, they unite in the Coccoetetu in furnishing, in like man- 
ner, a point of attachment to the cuirass which covered the 
upper part of the creature's body. Of the true internal skull 
of the GoccotteuB there remains not a vestige. Like that of 
the sturgeon, it must have been a perishable, cartilaginous 

In the Oateolepis, — an animal the whole of whose external 
head I have, at an expense of some labour, and from the exa- 
mination of many specimens, been enabled to restore, — the 
cranial buckler (fig. 1 2) was divided in a more arbitrary style ; 

Fig. 12. 

and we nod that an element of uncertainty mingles with our 
inferences regarding it, from the circumstance that some of 
its lines of division, especially in the frontal half (C), were not 


real 3utures, but formed merely a kind of surface-tatooing, re- 
sorted to as if for purposes of ornament The cranial buck- 
ler of the Asterolepis exhibited, as I shall afterwards have oc- 
casion to show, a similar peculiarity ; both had their pseudo- 
sutures, resembling those false joints introduced by the archi- 
tect into his rusticated basements, in order to impart the ne- 
cessary aspect of regularity to what is technically termed the 
coursing and banding of the fabric. We can, however, de- 
termine, notwithstanding the induced obscurity, that the buck- 
ler of the Osteolepis was divided transversely in the middle 
into two main parts or segments,— an occipital part> A, and 
a frontal part, ; and that the occipital segment seems to in- 
clude, with the super-occipital, the parietal plates, and the frontal 
segment to comprise, with its own proper plates, not only the 
nasal plate, but also the representative of the anterior part of 
the vomer. All, however, is obscure. Bat in our uncer- 
tainty regarding the homologies of the divisions of this der- 
mal buckler, let us not forget the homology of the buckler it- 
self, as a whole, with the upper surface of the true cranium 
in the osseous fishes. Though frequently crushed and broken, 
it exists, in all the finer specimens of my collection, as a 
symmetrically arranged collocation of enamelled plates, as 
firmly united into one, though they all indicate their distinct 
centres of ossification, as the corresponding surface of the 
cranium in the carp or cod. The lateral curves in the fron- 
tal part, immediately opposite the lozenge-shaped plate in the 
centre, show the position of the eyes, which were placed in 
this genus, as in some of the carnivorous turtles, immediately 
over the mouth, — an arrangement common to almost all the 
ganoids of the Old Red Sandstona The nearly semicircular 
termination of the buckler formed the creature's snout ; and 
in the Osteolepis, as in the Glyptolepis and the Diplopterus, 
it was armed on the under side, like the vomer of so many 
of the osseous fishes, with sharp teeth. Some of my speci- 



mens indicate the nasal openings a little in advance of the 
eyes. The nape of the creature was covered by three de- 
tached plates (9, 9, 9, fig. 13), which rested upon anterior 
dorsal scales, and whose homologues, in the osseous fishes, may 
possibly be found in those bones which, uniting the shoulder- 
Fig 13. 


bones to the head, complete the scapular belt or ring. The 
operculum we find represented by a single plate (8), which 
had attached to it, as its sub-operculum, a plate (1 3) of nearly 
equal size (see figs. 14 and 15.) Four small plates (2, 4, 5) 
formed the under curve of the eyes, described in many of the 
osseous fishes by a chain of small bones or ossicles ; a consi- 
derably larger plate (6) occupied the place of the pre-opercu- 
lar bone ; while the intermaxillaries had their representatives 
in well-marked plates (3, 3), which, in the genera Osteolepis, 
Diplopteru8, and Gh/ptolepis, we find bristling so thickly with 
teeth along their lower edges, as to remind us of the minia- 
ture saws employed by the joiner in cutting out circular holes. 
These external intermaxillaries did not, as in the perch or cod, 
meet in front of the nasal bone and vomer, but joined on at 
the side, a little in advance of the eyes, leaving the rounded 



termination of the cranial buckler, which, like the intermaxil- 
laries, was thickly fringed with teeth, to form, as has been 
already said, the creature's snout. 

The under jaws (10), — strongly-marked bones in at least 
all the Dipterian and Celacanth genera, — we find represented 
externally by massy plates, bearing, like those of the upper 
jaw, their range of teeth. As shown in a well-preserved 
specimen of the lower jaw of Holoptychius, in my possession, 
they were boxes of bone enclosing a bulky nucleus of car- 
tilage, which, in approaching towards the condyloid process, 
where great strength was necessary, was thickly traversed by 
osseous cancelli, and passed at the joint into true bone. It is 
in the under jaws of the earlier ganoids that we first detect 
a true union of the external with the internal skeleton, — of 
the bony plates and teeth, which were mere plates and teeth of 
the skin, with the osseous, granular walls, which enclosed at 
least all the larger pieces of the cartilaginous framework of 
the interior. The jaws of the rays and sharks, formed of 
cartilage, and fenced round on their sides and edges by their 
thin coverings of polygonal, bony points, are wholly internal 
and skin-covered ; whereas the teeth, which rest on the soft 
cuticular integument right over them, are as purely dermal 
as the surrounding shagreen. Teeth and shagreen may, we 
find, be alike stripped off with the skin. Now, in the ear- 
lier ganoidal jaw, two sides of the osseous box which it com- 
posed, — its outer and under sides, — were mere dermal plates, 
representative of the skin of the placoids, or of their sha- 
green ; while the other two, — its upper and inner sides, — 
seem to have been developments of the interior osseous walls 
which covered the endoskeletal cartilage. Nor is it unworthy 
of notice, that the reptile fishes of the period had their ichthyic 
teeth ranged along the edge of an exterior dermal plate, which 
covered the outer side of the jaw ; whereas their reptile teeth 
were planted on a plate, apparently of interior development^ 



which covered its upper edge. It is further worthy of remark, 
that -while the teeth of the dermal plate, — themselves also der- 
mal, seem as if they had grown out of it, and formed part of it, 
— just as the teeth of the piacoids grow out of the skin on 
which they rest, — the reptile teeth within rested in shallow 
pits, — the first faint indications of true sockets. 

That space included within the arch formed by the sweep 
of the under jaws, which we find occupied in the osseous 
fishes by the hyoid bones and the branchiostegous rays, was 
filled up externally, in the Dipterians and Celacanths, and 
in at least two genera of Cephalaspians, by dermal plates ; in 
some genera, such as the Diplopterus, by three plates ; in 
others, such as the Hohptychius and Glyptolepis^ by two ; 
and in the Asterolepis, as we shall afterwards see, by but a 
single plate. In the Osteol&pis these plates were increased to 

Fig. 14. 


five in number by the little plates 14, 14 (fig. 14), which, 
however, may have been also present in the Diplopterus, though 

* The jaws (10, 10), which exhibit in the print their greatest breadth, 
would have presented in the animal, seen from beneath, their narrow 
under-edges, and have nearly fallen into the line of the sub-opercular 
plates (13, 13). 


my ajiecimens fail to show them. The general arrangement 
was of much elegance, — an elegance, however, which, in the 
accompanying restorations, the dislocation of the free plates, 
drawn apart to indicate their detached character, somewhat 
tends to obscure. But the position of the eyes must have 
imparted to the animal a sinister, reptile-like aspect The 
profile (fig. 15), the result, not of a chance-drawn outline, arbi- 

n*. 16. 

trarily filled up, but produced by the careful arrangement in 
their proper places of actually existing plate, serves to show 

how perfectly the dermoskeletal parts of the creature were 
developed. Some of the animals with which we are beat 
acquainted, if represented by but their cuticular skeletons, 
would appear simply as sets of hoofs and horns : even the 
tortoise or pengolin would present about the head and limbs 
their gaps and missing portions. But the dermoskeleton of 
the Osteolepis, composed of solid bone, and burnished with 
enamel, exhibited the outline of the fish entire, and, with the 
exception of the eye, the filling up of all its external parte. 
Presenting outside, in its original state, no fragment of skin 
or membrane, and with even its most flexible organs sheathed. 
in enamelled bone, the Osteolepis must have very much re- 
sembled a fish carved in ivory ; and, though so effectually 
covered, it would have appeared, from the circumstance, that 


it wore almost all its bone outside, as naked as the human 

The cranial buckler of the Diploptervs (fig. 1 6) somewhat 

Kg. 16. 


resembled that of its fellow-dipterian the Osteolepis, but ex- 
hibited greater elegance of outline. My first perfect speci- 
men, which I owe to the kindness of Mr John Miller of 
Thurso, an intelligent geologist of the north, reminded me, 
as it glittered in jet-black enamel on its ground of pale gray, 
of those Roman cuirasses which one sees in old prints, im- 
paled on stakes, as the central objects in warlike trophies 
formed of spoils taken in battle. The rounded snout repre- 
sented the chest and shoulders, the middle portion the waist, 
and the expansion at the nape the piece of dress attached, 
which, like the Highland kilt> fell adown the thighs. The 
addition of a fragment of a sleeve, suspended a little over the 
eye-orbits, 2, 2, seemed all that was necessary in order to 
render the resemblance complete. But as I disinterred the 
buried edges of the specimen with a graver, the form, though 
it grew still more elegant, became less that of the ancient 
coat of armour : the snout expanded into a semicircle ; the 
eye-orbits gradually deepened ; and the entire fossil became 
not particularly like anything but the thing it once was, — 
the cranial buckler of the Diplopterus. The print (fig, 17) 


exhibits its true form. It consists of two main divisions, 
occipital (A) and frontal (C, fig. 1 6) ; and in each of these 


we find a pair of smaller divisions, with what seem to be in- 
dications of yet further division, marked, not by lines, but 
by dots ; though I have hitherto failed to determine whether 
the plates which these last indicate possess their independ- 
ent centres of ossification. Not unfrequently, however, has 
the comparative anatomist to seek the analogues of two bones 
in one ; rior is it at least more difficult to trace in the faint 
divisions of the cranial buckler of the Diplopterus, the ho- 
mologues of the occipital, frontal, parietal, and nasal bones, 
than to recognise the representatives of the carpals of the 
middle and ring finger in man in the cannon bone of the 
fore leg of the ox. I may mention in passing, that the little 
central plate of the frontal division (1, fig. 16), which so 
nearly corresponds with that of the Oateolepis, occurred, 
though with considerable variations of form and homology, 
and some slight difference of position, in all the ganoids of 
the Old Bed Sandstone whose craniums were covered with 
an osseous buckler, and that its place was always either im- 


mediately between the eyes, or a very little over them. Its 
never-failing recurrence shows that it must have had soma 
meaning, though it may be difficult to say what* In the 
Coccosteus it takes the form of the male dovetail, which united 
the nasal plate or snout to the plate representative of the su- 

* I had the pleasure, in the autumn of 1SS0, of introducing Professor 
Owen and Sir Philip Egarton to my collection. Both gentlemen ex- 
pressed a desire of seeing the little plate referred to here, as exhibited in 
the cranial buckler of the Diploptenu, and I submitted it to their in- 
spection in a specimen which — wholly detached from the rock — exhibits 
it both in the outer and inner surface of the buckler. " It is exactly as 
I had thought," said the distinguished comparative anatomist to Sir 
Philip, " a prolongation of the brain extended downwards from the 
brain-pan proper, and bore at its termination the pineal gland, which 
rested imm ediately under the little plate, and had its place indicated tiy 
it." The revelation struck me as fraught with a startling interest. A 
disciple of that ancient school of anatomy which regarded this gland aa 
the seat of the soul would have said that the ever-recurring plate which 
had attracted my notice marked the exact point where the toul of an 
ancient fish of the Old Bed Sandstone took its stand, — like the man sta- 
tioned a-head on the outlook in a vessel,— to will and direct the crea- 
ture's course. During my subsequent exploratory labours among the 
rocks of Caithness I kept the remark of Professor Owen in view, and 
succeeded in procuring, through the kindness of Mr Dick, part of a cra- 
nium of Diplopterut, which illustrates, and— so far at least as the solid 
and less perishable parts of an organism can confirm bo occult a conclu- 
sion regarding the soft and perishable ones — confirms it. In the speci- 

Fig. 18. 

n figured (No. 18), the occipital and parietal portions of the buckler 
re been removed by a singularly delicate operator, — the slowly disin- 



Kg. 19. 

perior frontal Of the cartilaginous box which formed the 
interior skull of either Osteclepu or Diplopterus, or, with but 
one exception, of the interior skulls of any of their contem- 
poraries, no trace, as I have said, has yet been detected. The 
solitary exception in the case is, however, one of singular in- 

In a collection of miscellaneous fragments sent me by Mr 

Dick from the rocks of Thurso, I de- 
tected patches of palatal teeth ranged 
in nearly the quadratures of circles, 
and which radiated outwards from the 
rectangular angle or centre (fig. 19, 
b). And with the patches there oc- 
curred plates exactly resembling the 
barbed head of a dart (a), with which 
I had been previously acquainted, 
though I had failed to determine 
their character or place. The excel- 
lent state of keeping of some of Mr 
Dick's specimens now enabled me to 
trace the patches with the dart-head, 
and several other plates, to a curious piece of palatal me- 
chanism, ranged along the base of a ganoidal cranium, covered 
externally by a brightly enamelled buckler, and to ascertain 

tegrating wear of the surf, — and exhibits, in consequence, the walls of the 
brain-chamber lying underneath, with a narrow cavity or passage run- 
ning downwards from the chamber towards the little central plate. And 
along this passage, the prolongation of the brain, which terminated in 
the pineal gland, seems to have descended. The reader will of course 
Bee to what the evidence here actually amounts. A witness of credit 
states that there once ran a certain prolongation of a certain organ, long 
since reduced to dust, from one indicated point to another, and this in a 
direction in which it had not been previously known that there existed a 
passage for its transmission. An opportunity of observation occurs, how - 
ever, — that furnished by the organism here figured,— and the required 
passage is found running in the indicated direction. 

a. Palatal dart-head. 

b. Group of palatal teeth. 


the order in which patches and plates occurred. And then, 
though not without some labour, I succeeded in tracing the 
buckler with which they were associated to the Diptem*, — 
a fish which, though it has engaged the attention of both 
Cuvier and Agassiz, has not yet been . adequately restored. 
It is on an ill-preserved Orkney specimen of the cranial 
buckler of this ganoid that the ichthyologist has founded his 
genus Polyphr actus ; while groupes of its palatal teeth from 
the Old Red of Russia he refers to a supposed placoid, — the 
Ctenodus. But in the earlier ages of pakeontological re- 
search, mistakes of this character are wholly unavoidable. 
The palaeontologist who did avoid them would be either very 
unobservant* or at once very rash and very fortunate in his 
guesses. If, ere an entire skeleton of the Ichthyosaurus had 
turned up, there had been found in different localities, in the 
Liasic formation, a beak like that of a porpoise, teeth like 
those of a crocodile, a head and sternum like those of a lizard, 
paddles like those of a cetacean, and vertebrae like those of a 
fish, it would have been greatly more judicious, and more in 
accordance with the existing analogies, to have erected, pro- 
visionally at least, places specifically, or even generically se- 
parated, in which to range the separate pieces, than to hold 
that they had all united in one anomalous genus ; though 
such was actually the fact. And Agassiz, in erecting three 
distinct genera out of the fragments of a single genus, has in 
reality acted at once more prudently and more intelligently 
than if he had avoided the error by rashly uniting parts which 
in their separate state indicate no tie of connection. 

The cranial buckler of the Dipterus (fig. 20) was, like 
that of the Diplopterus, of great beauty. In some of the 
finest specimens we find the enamel ornately tatooed, within 
the more strongly-marked divisions, by delicately traced lines, 
waved and bent, as if upon the principle of Hogarth ; and 
though the lateral plates are numerous and small, and defy 


ilie homologies, we may trace in those of the central line. 
Fig. 20. 

from the snout to the nape, what seem to be the representa- 
tives of the frontal, parietal, and occipital bones, — the pane- 
Fig. 21. 


tals ranging, as in the skull of the carp, and in that of moat 
of the mammals, in their proper place in the medial line. 
But the under surface of the cranium, armed, as on the upper 
surface, -with plates of bone, exhibited an arrangement still 
more peculiar (fig. 21). In rectangular patches of palatal 
teeth, its curious dart-like bone, placed immediately behind 
these, and attached, as the dart-head is attached to the handle, 
to a broad lozenge-shaped plate, with two strong osseous pro- 
cesses projecting on either side, forms such a t&ut ensemble as 
is unique among fishes. Even here, however, there may be 
traced at least a shade of homological resemblance to the 
bones which form the base of the osseous skulL The single 
lozenge-shaped plate (A), with its dart-head, occupies the place 
of the basi-occipital bone; the posterior portion of the vomer 
seems represented by a strong bony ridge, extending towards 
the snout ■ two separate bones, each bearing one of the an- 
gular patches of teeth, correspond to the sphenoid bone and 
its alas ; and, attached laterally to each of these, there is the 
strong projecting bone, on which the lower jaw appears to 
have hinged, and which apparently represents the lower part 
of the temporal bone. Not less singular was the form of the 
creature's under jaw (fig. 22). I know no other fish-jaw, 
Fig. 22. 

whether of the recent or the extinct races, that might be so 
readily mistaken for that of a quadruped. It exhibits not 
only the condyloid, but also the coronoid processes ; and, 


save that it broadens on its upper edges, where in mammals 
the grinders are placed, so as to furnish field enough for an- 
gular patches of teeth, which correspond with the angular 
patches in the palate, it might be regarded, found detached, 
as at least a reptilian, if not mammalian, bone. The dispo- 
sition of the palatal teeth of the Dipterus will scarce Ml to 
remind the mechanist of the style of grooving resorted to in 
the formation of mill-stones for the grinding of flour ; nor is 
it wholly improbable that, in correspondence with the rota- 
tory motion of the stones to which the grooving is specially 
adapted, jaws so hinged may have possessed some such power 
of lateral motion as that exemplified by the human subject 
in the use of the molar teeth. 

The protection afforded by the osseous covering of both the 
upper and under surface of the cranium of this ichthyolite 
has resulted, in several instances, in the preservation, though 
always in a greatly compressed state, of the cranium itself, 
and the consequent exhibition of two very important cranial 
cavities, the brain-pan proper, and the passage through which 
the spinal cord passed into the brain. In the sturgeon the 
brain occupies nearly the middle of the head ; and there is a 
considerable part of the occipital region traversed by the spine 
in a curved channel, which, seen in profile, appears wide at 
the nape, but considerably narrower where it enters the brain- 
pain, and altogether very much resembling the interior of a 
miniature hunting-horn. And such exactly was the arrange- 
ment of the greater cavities in the head of the Dipterus. The 
portion of the cranium which was overlaid by what may be 
regarded as the occipital plate was traversed by a cavity shaped 
like a Lilliputian bugle-horn ; while the hollow in which the 
brain was lodged lay under the two parietal plates, and the 
little elliptical plate in the centre. The accompanying print 
(fig. 23), though of but slight show, may be regarded by the 
reader with some little interest, as a not inadequate repre- 


sentation of the most ancient brain-pan on which human eye 
has yet looked, — as, in short, the type of cell in which, my- 

Fig. 23. 


riads of ages ago, in at least one genus, that mysterious sub- 
stance was lodged on whose place and development so very 
much in the scheme of creation was destined to depend. The 
specimen from which the figure is taken was laid open late- 
rally by chance exposure to the waves on the shores of Thurso ; • 
another specimen, cut longitudinally by the saw of the lapi- 
dary, yields a similar section, but greatly more compressed in 
the cavities; on which, of course, as unsupported hollows, 
the compression to which the entire cranium had been ex- 
posed chiefly acted. When the top and bottom of a box are 
violently forced together, it is the empty space which the box 
encloses that is annihilated in consequence of the violence. 

It is deserving of notice, that the analogies of the cranial 
cavities in this ancient ganoid should point so directly on 
the cranial cavities of that special ganoid of the present time 
which unites a true skull of cartilage to a dermal skull of 
osseous plates, — a circumstance strongly corroborative of the 
general evidence, negative and positive, on which I have con- 
cluded that the true skulls of the first ganoids were also car- 
tilaginous. It is further worthy of observation, that in all 
the sections of the cranium of Dipterus which I have yet 
examined, the internal line is continuous, as in the placoids, 
from nape to snout, and that the true skull presents no trace 
of those cerebral vertebrae of which skulls are regarded by 
Oken and his disciples as developments. Historically at 
least, the progress of the ichthvic head seems to have been 


a progrees from simple cartilaginous boxes to cartilaginous 
boxes covered with osseous plates, that performed the func- 
tions, whether active or passive, of internal bones ; and then 
from external plates to the interior bones which the plates 
had previously represented, and whose proper work they had 

The principle which rendered it necessary that the divi- 
sions which exist in the dermal skulls of the first ganoids 
should so closely correspond with the divisions which exist 
in the internal skulls of the osseous fishes of a greatly later 
period, does not seem to lie far from the surface. Of the 
solid parts of the ichthyic head, a certain set of pieces afford 
protection to the brain and cerebral nerves, and to some of the 
organs of the senses, such as those of seeing and hearing ; 
while another certain set of pieces constitute the framework 
through which an important class of functions, manducatory 
and respiratory, are performed. The protective bones of 
merely passive function are fixed, whereas the bones of active 
function, such as the jaws, the osseous framework of the 
opercules, and the hyoid bones, are to the necessary extent 
free, i. e. capable of independent motion. Of course, the de- 
tached character necessary to the free cerebral bones would 
be equally necessary in cerebral plates united dermally to the 
pieces of the cartilaginous framework which performed in 
the ancient fish the functions of these free bones; and hence 
jaw plates, opercular plates, and hyoid plates, whose homolo- 
gical relation with recent jaws and opercular and hyoid bones 
cannot be mistaken. They were operative in performing 
identical mechanical functions, and had to exist, in conse- 
quence, in identical mechanical conditions. And an equally 
simple, though somewhat different principle, seems to have 
regulated the divisions of the fixed cranial bucklers of the 
Old Red ganoids, and to have determined their homologies 
with the fixed cerebral bones of the osseous fishes. 


These cranial bucklers, extending from nape to snout, pro- 
tected the exposed upper surface of the cartilaginous skull, 
and conformed to it in shape, as a helmet conforms to the 
shape of the head, or a breast-plate to the shape of the chest 
And as the cartilaginous heads resembled in general outline 
the osseous ones, the buckler which covered their upper sur- 
face resembled in general outline the upper surface of the 
osseous skulL It was in no case entirely a flat plate ; but 
in every species rounded over the snout, and in most species 
at the sides ; and so, in order that its characteristic propor- 
tions might be preserved throughout the various stages of 
growth in the head which it covered, it had to be formed 
from several distinct centres of ossification, and to extend in 
area around the edges of the plates originated from these. 
The workman finds no difficulty in adding to the size of a 
piece of straight wall, whether by heightening or lengthening 
it ; but he cannot add to the size of a dome or arch without 
first taking it down, and then erecting it anew on a larger 
scale. In the domes and arches of the animal kingdom, the 
problem is solved by building them up of distinct pieces, few 
or many, according to the demands of the figure which they 
compose, and then rendering these pieces capable of increase 
along their edges. It is on this principle that the Oystidea, the 
Echinidae, the Chelonian carapace and plastron, and the skulls 
of the osseous vertebrata, are constructed. It is also the 
principle on which the cranial bucklers of the ancient ganoids 
were formed.* And from the general resemblance in figure 

* In all probability it is likewise the principle of the placoid skull. 
The numerous osseous points by which the latter is encrusted, each 
capable of increase at the edges, seem the minute bricks of an ample 
dome. It is possible, however, that new points may be formed in the 
interstices between the first formed ones, as what anatomists term the 
vriquetra or Wormiana form between the serrated edges of the lam- 
doidal suture in the human skull ; and that the osseous surface of the 
cerebral dome may thus extend, as the dome itself increases in size, not 



of these bucklers to the upper surface of the osseous skull, 
the separate ports necessary for the building up of the one 
were anticipated, by many ages, in the building up of the 
other ; just as we find external arches of stone which were 
erected two thousand years ago, constructed on the same 
principle, and relatively of the same parts, as internal arches 
of brick built in the present age. Doubtless, however, with 
this mechanical necessity for correspondence of parts in the 
formation of corresponding erections, there may have mingled 
that regard for typical resemblance which seems so marked 
a characteristic of the style, if I may so express myself 11. 
which the Divine Architect gives expression to his ideas. 
The external osseous buckler He divided after the general 
pattern which was to be exemplified, in latter times, in the 
divisions of the internal osseous skull ; as if in illustration 
of that "ideal exemplar" which dwelt in his mind from 
eternity, and on the palpable existence of which sober science 
has based deductions identical in their scope and bearing with 
some of the sublimest doctrines of the theologian. " The re- 
cognition," says Professor Owen, " of an ideal exemplar for 

Fig. 24. 

through the growth of the previously existing pieces, — the minute bricks 
of my illustration, — but through the addition of new ones. Equally in 

either case, however, that essential difference 
between the placoid skull and the placoid verte- 
brata to which I have referred appears to hinge 
on the circumstance, that while the osseous nu- 
cleus of each vertebral centrum could form, in 
even its most complicated shape, from a tingle 
point, the osseous walls of the cranium had to be 
formed from hundreds. The accompanying dia- 
gram serves to show after what manner the ver- 
tebral centrum in the ray enlarges with the 
growth of the animal, by addition of bony mat- 
ter external to the point in the middle, at which ossification first begins. 
The horizontal lines indicate the lines of increment in the two internal 
cones which each centrum comprises, and the vertical ones the lines of 
increment in the lateral pillars. 



the vertebrated animals, proves that the knowledge of such 
a being as man existed before man appeared ; for the Divine 
Mind which planned the archetype also foreknew all its modi- 
fications. The archetypal idea was manifested in the flesh, 
under divers such modifications, upon this planet, long prior 
to the existence of those animal species that actually exem- 
plify it" 

But while we find place in that geological history in which 
every character is an organism, for the " ideal exemplar" of 
Professor Owen, we find no place in it for the vertebra- 
developed skull of Professor Oken. The true genealogy of the 
head runs in an entirely different line. The nerves of the 
cerebral senses did not, we find, originate cerebral vertebrae, 
seeing that the heads of the first and second geologic periods 
had their cerebral nerves, but not their cerebral vertebrae; and 
that what are regarded as cerebral vertebrae appear for the 
first time, not in the early fishes, but in the reptiles of the 
Coal formation. That line of succession through the fish in- 
dicated by the Continental assertor of the development hypo- 
thesis, is a line cut off All the existing evidence conspires 
to show that the placoid heads of the Silurian system were, 
like the placoid heads of the recent period, mere cartilagi- 
nous boxes ; and that there existed ganoidal heads, that to 
the internal cartilaginous box added external plates of bone, 
the homologues, apparently — so far at least as the merely 
cuticular could be representative of the endoskeletal — of the 
opercular, maxillary, frontal, and occipital bones in the osse- 
ous fishes of a long posterior period, — fishes that were not 
ushered upon the scene until after the appearance of the reptile 
in its highest forms, and of even the marsupial quadruped. 





With the reader, if he has accompanied me thus far, I shall 
now pass on to the consideration of the remains of the Astero* 
lepis. Our preliminary acquaintance with the cerebral pecu- 
liarities of a few of its less gigantic contemporaries will be 
found of use in enabling us to determine regarding a class of 
somewhat resembling peculiarities which characterized this 
hugest ganoid of the [Middle] Old Red Sandstone. 

The head of the Asterolepis, like the heads of all the other 
Celacanth, and of all the Dipterians, was covered with osse- 
ous plates, — its body with osseous scales ; and, as I have 
already had occasion to mention, it is from the star-like 
tubercles by which the cerebral plates were fretted that M. 
Eich.1p.ald bestowed on the creature its generic name. Agas- 
siz has even erected species on certain varieties in the pattern 
of the stars, as exhibited on detached fragments ; but I am 
far from being satisfied that we are to seek in their peculi- 
arities of style the characters by which the several species 
were distinguished. The stellar form of the tubercle seems 
to have been its normal or most perfect form, as it was also, 
with certain modifications, that of the tubercle of the Coc- 
costeus and PtericMhys ; but its development as a complete 
star was comparatively rare : in most cases the tubercles ex- 
isted without the rays, — frequently in the insulated pap-like 


shape, but not rarely confluent, or of an elongated or bent 
form ; and when to these the characteristic rays were added, 
the stara produced were of a rather eccentric order, — stars 
somewhat resembling the shadows of stars seen in water. In- 
dividual specimens have already been found, on which, if we 
recognise the form of the tubercle as a specific character, se- 
veral species might be erected. The 
accompanying woodcut (fig. 25) re- . ! " 

presents, from a Thurso specimen, ^^^^^^^E- 

what seems to be the true normal a 
pattern of these cerebral carvings. 
Seen in profile (6), the tubercles re- 
semble little hillocks, perforated at , c^s^3g£if^£*|fe» 
their bases by single lines of thickly- ~ 

set caves ; while seen from above (a), dermal tubercles of Aster o- 

the narrow piers of bone by which .,, . " 

r J (Mag. two diameters.) 

the caves are divided take the form 

of rays. The palaeontologist will scarce fail to recognise in this 
print the coral MonticuUkria of Lamarck, or to detect, in at 
least the profile, the peculiarity which suggested the name. 

The scales which covered the creature's body (fig. 26) were, 
in proportion to its size, considerably smaller and thinner than 
those of the Holoptychius, which, however, they greatly re- 
semble in their general style of sculpture. Each, on the lower 
part of its exposed field, was, we see, fretted by longitudinal 
anastomosing ridges, which, in the upper part, brea£ into de- 
tached angular tubercles, placed with the apex downwards, and 
hollowed, leaf-like, in the centre \ while that covered portion 
which was overlaid by the scales immediately above we find 
thickly pitted by microscopic hollows, that give to this part 
of the field, viewed under a tolerably high magnifying power, 
a honeycombed appearance. The central and lower parts of 
the interior surface of the scale (a) are in most of the speci- 
mens irregularly roughened; while a broad, smooth band. 


which runa along the top and sides, and seems to have fur- 
nished the line of attachment to the creature's body, is coin- 
Fig 28. 

b. Exterior tarfiwt. 

paratively smooth. The exterior carvings, though they de- 
Fig. 27. mand the assistance of the lens to see them 
aright, are of singular elegance and beauty ; as 
perhaps the accompanying woodcut (fig. 27), 
which gives a magnified view of a portion of 
the scale immediately above (b), from the middle 
of the honeycombed field on the right side, to 
where the anastomosing ridges bend gracefully 
in their descent, may in some degree serve to 
show. I have seen a richly inlaid coat of mail, 
which was once worn by the puissant Charles 
the Fifth; but its elaborate carvings, though they 
oabvb£ sea- belonged to the age of Benvenuto Cellini, were 

wtOM ot scalb. rU( j e jjjjj unfinished compared with those which 

(Mag. four dia- , , , , 

mate™.) fretted the armour of the Aaterolepin. 


The creature's cranial buckler, which was of great size and 
strength, might well be mistaken for the carapace of some Che- 
lonian fish of no inconsiderable bulk. The cranial bucklers of 
the larger Dipterians were ample enough to have covered the 
corresponding part in the skulls of our middle-sized market- 
fish, such as the haddock and whiting ; the buckler of a Coc 
eosteas of the extreme size would have covered, if a little 
altered in shape, the upper surface of the skull of a cod ; but 
the cranial buckler of Asterolejris, from which the accom- 
panying woodcut was taken (fig. 28), would have considerably 

Fig. 28. 

(One-fifth nftt. size, linear.) 

more than covered the corresponding part in the skull of a 
large horse; and I have at least one specimen in my collec- 
tion whicl. would have fully covered the front skull of an 
elephant. In the smaller specimens, the buckler somewhat 
resembles a labourer's shovel divested of its handle, and sorely 
rust-eaten along its lower or cutting edge. It consisted of 


plates, connected at the edges by flat squamous sutures, or, 
as a joiner might perhaps say, glued together in bevelled 
joints. And, in consequence of this arrangement, the same 
plates which seem broad on the exterior surface appear com- 
paratively narrow on the interior one, and vice versa : the 
occipital plate (a), which, running from the nape along the 
centre of the buckler, occupies so considerable a space on its 
outer surface, exhibits inside a superficies reduced at least 
oue-hal£ Like nine-tenths of its contemporaries, the Astero- 
lepis exhibits the little central plate between the eyes ; but 
the eye-orbits, unlike those of the Coccosteus, and of all the 
Dipterian genera, which were half-scooped out of the cranial 
buckler, half-encircled by detached plates, were placed com- 
pletely within the field of the buckler, — a circumstance in 
which they resemble the eye orbits of the Pterickbhys, and, 
among existing fish, those of the sea-wolf. The character- 
istic is also a distinctive one in Ouvier's second family of the 
Acanthopterygii, — " the fishes with hard cheeks." A deep 
line immediately over the eyes, which, however, indicated no 
suture, but seems to have been merely ornamental, forms a 
sort of rudely tatooed eyebrow ; the marginal lines parallel 
to the lateral edges of the buckler were also mere tatooings ; 
but all the others indicated joints which, though more or less 
anchylosed, had a real existence. So flat was the surface, 
that the edge of a ruler rests upon it, in my several speci- 
mens, both lengthwise and across ; but it was traversed by 
two flat ridges, which, stretching from the corners of the la- 
tero-posterior, i. e. parietal plates (b 9 b), converged at the little 
plate between the eyes ; while along the centre of the de- 
pressed angle which they formed, a third ridge, equally flat 
with the others, ran towards the same point of convergence 
from the nape. The three ridges, when strongly relieved by 
a slant light, resemble not inadequately an impression, on a 
large scale, of the Queen's broad arrow. 


The inner surface of the cranial buckler of AaterolepU (fig. 
2D),— -that which rested on the cartilaginous box which form- 
Fig. 29. 

ed the creature's interior skull, — stands out in bolder relief 
from the stone than its outer surface, and forms a more pic- 
turesque object. Like the inner surfaces of the bucklers of 
Coccoeteue and PlericlUhya, but much mora thickly than these, 
it was traversed by minute channelled markings, somewhat 
resembling those stria) which may be detected in the natter 
bones of the ordinary fishes, and which seem in these to be 
mere interstices between the osseous fibres. And in the 
plates, as in the bones, they radiate from the centres of ossi- 
fication, which are comparatively dense and massy, towards 
the thinner overlapping edges. These radiating lines are 
equally well marked in the cerebral bones of the human fcetuK. 
The three converging ridges on the outer surface we find on - 
the inner surface also, — the lateral ones a little bent in the 
middle, but so directly opposite those outside, that the thick- 


ening of the buckler which takes place along their line is at 
least as much a consequence of their inner as of their outer 
elevation over the general platform. A fourth bar ran trans- 
versely along the nape, and formed the cross beam on which 
the others rested ; for the three longitudinal ridges may be 
properly regarded as three strong beams, which, extending 
from the transverse beam at the nape to the front, where they 
converged like the spokes of a wheel at the nave, gave to 
the cranial roof a degree of support of which, from its great 
flatness, it may have stood in need. In cranial bucklers in 
which the average thickness of the plates does not exceed 
three eighth parts of an inch, their thickness in the centre of 
the ridges exceeds three quarters. The head of the largest 
crocodile of the existing period is defended by an armature 
greatly less strong than that worn by the Asterolepis of the 
Lower Old Eed Sandstone. Why this ancient ganoid should 
have been so ponderously helmed we can but doubtfully 
guess : we only know, that when nature arms her soldiery, 
there are assailants to be resisted, and a state of war to be 
maintained. The posterior central plate, the homologue ap- 
parently of the occipital bone* was curiously carved into an 
ornate massive leaf, like one of the larger leaves of a Corin- 
thian capital, and terminated beneath, where the stem should 
have been, in a strong osseous knob, fashioned like a pike- 
head. Two plates immediately over it, the homologues of 
the superior frontal bone, with the little plate which, perched 
atop in the middle, lay between the creature's eyes, resem- 
bled the head and breast in the female figure at least not 
less closely than those of the " lady in the lobster ;" the pos- 
terior frontal plates in which the outer and nether half of the 
eye-orbits were hollowed formed a pair of sweeping wings ; 
and thus in the centre of the buckler we are presented with 
the figure of an angel, robed and winged, and of which the 
large sculptured leaf forms the body, traced in a style in no 


degree more rude than we might expect to see exemplified 
on the lichen-encrusted shield of some ancient tombstone of 
that House of Avenel which bore as its arms the effigies of 
the Spectre Lady. Children have a peculiar knack in de- 
tecting such resemblances ; and the discovery of the angel in 
the cranium of the AsterolepU I owe to one of mine.* 

* The gap shown in the cranial buckler, in advance of the little plate 
between the eyes (fig. 29), I was unable to fill from actual observation 
at the time when the drawing was made ; and as I was unwilling to 
venture on an arbitrary restoration, I suffered the space to remain un- 
occupied in the print, as in the specimen from which it had been taken. 
I succeeded, however, shortly after, in disinterring from the rocks of 
Thurso a well-marked detached specimen of the keystone-shaped plate 
by which the gap had been filled ; and in the course of the following 
winter I received from my friend Mr Dick a fiae cranial buckler, nearly 
sntire, in which the plate occupied its proper place. It will be seen 
from the accompanying wood-cut (fig. 30), which represents the little 

Fig. 30. 

detached plate on both sides, that it was not without its share of nice 
carpentry, — scarping and mitring, as a joiner would say, — on the edges 
which came in contact with the three adjacent plates. I may be per- 
mitted to record here a brief anecdote connected with this subject, illus- 
trative of the quickness of eye possessed by one of the most distinguished 
of English geologists. The gap in the print had struck the eye of Pro- 
fessor Sedgwick as unnatural : it was not the proper finish, he argued ; 
and when in autumn last (that of 1850) he visited my collection, accom- 
panied by Sir Roderick Murchison and Dr John Fleming, he brought the 
volume with him to compare the print with the original. Ere his visit, 
however, I had procured both the detached plate figured above and the 
specimen from Mr Dick, which exhibited it lying in its proper place ; and 
I referred him to the latter as the true authority for determining how 
nature had given the last finish to the cranial buckler of the Asterolepis. 
" Ay !" he exclaimed, as he eagerly knelt down to examine the specimen, 
and passed his fingers over the keystone-like plate, — " Ay, this is a finish 
of the right kind ! — this will do." 



It is on this inner side of the cranial buckler, where there 
are no such pseudo-joinings indicated as on the external sur- 
face, that the homologies of the plates of which it is composed 
can be best traced. It might be well, however, ere setting 
one's self to the work of comparison, to examine the skulls 
of a few of the osseous fishes of our coasts, and to mark how 
very considerably they differ from one another in their lines 
of suture and their general form. The cerebral divisions of 
the conger-eel, for instance, are very unlike those of the had- 
dock or whiting ; and the sutures in the head of the gurnard 
are dissimilarly arranged from those in the head of the perch. 
And after tracing the general type in the more anomalous 
forms, and finding, with Cuvier, that in even these the " skull 
consists of the same bones, though much subdivided, as the 
skulls of the other vertebrata," we will be the better qualified 
for grappling with the not greater anomalies which occur in 
the cranial buckler of the Asterolepis. The occipital plate, 

Fig. 31. 


A 9 a, a (fig. 31), occupies its ordinary place opposite the 
centre of the nape ; the two parietals, B, B, rest beside it in 


their usual ichthyic position of displacement ; the superior 
frontal we find existing, as in the young of many animals, in 
two pieces, C, C ; the nasal plate 1*, placed immediately in 
advance of it, is flanked, as in the cod, by the anterior front- 
als, D, D ; the posterior frontals, F, F, which, when viewed, 
as in the print, from beneath, seem of considerable size, and 
describe laterally and posteriorly about one-half the eye-orbits, 
have their area on the exterior surface greatly reduced by 
the overriding squamose sutures of the plates to which they 
join ; and lastly, two of these overlying plates, E, E,— which, 
occurring in the line of the lateral bar or beam, are of great 
strength and thickness, and lie for two-thirds of their length 
along the parietals, and for the remaining third along the su- 
perior frontals, — represent the mastoid bones. Such, so far 
as I have been yet able to read the cranial buckler of the 
Asterolepis, seem to be the homologies of its component plates. 
There were no parts of the animal more remarkable than 
its jaws. The under jaws, — for the nether maxillary con- 
sisted, in this fish, as in the placoid fishes, and in the quad- 
rupeds generally, of two pieces joined in the middle, — were, 
like those of the Holoptychiics, boxes of bone, which enclosed 
central masses of cartilage. The outer and under sides were 
thickly covered with the characteristic star-like tubercles ; 
and along the upper margin or lip there ran a thickly-set row 
of small broadly-based teeth, planted as directly on the edge 

Fig. 32. 


(One-half nat. size). 


of the exterior plate as iron spikes on the upper edge of a 
gate {fig. 32). Mr Parkinson expresses some wonder, in his 
■work on fossils, that, in a fine ichthyolite in the British Mu- 
seum, not only the teeth should have been preserved, but also 
the lip* ; but we now know enough of the construction of 
the ancient ganoids to cease wondering. The lips were 
formed of as solid hone as the teeth themselves, and had as 
fair a chance of being preserved entire j just as the metallic 
rim of a cogged wheel has ss fair a chance of being preserved 
as the metallic cogs that project from it Immediately be- 
hind the front row, — in which the teeth present the ordinary 
ichthyic appearance, — there ran a thickly-set row of huge rep- 
tile teeth, based on an interior platform of bone, which formed 
the top of the cartilage-enclosing box composing the jaw. 
These were at once bent outwards and twisted laterally, some- 
what like nails that have been drawn out of wood by the 
claw of a carpenter's hammer, and bent awry with the wrench 
(tig. 33). They were furrowed longitudinally from point to 

Fig. S3. 

(One-half nat. size.) 

base by minute thickly-set stri» ; and were furnished late- 
rally, in most of the specimens, though not in all, with two 
sharp cutting edges, The reptile had as yet no existence in 
creation j but we see its future coming symbolized in the den- 


tition of this ancient ganoid : it, as it were, snows us the 
crocodile lying entrenched behind the fish. The interior 
structure of these reptile teeth is very remarkable. In the 
longitudinal section we find numerous cancel]!, ranged length- 
wise along the outer edges, hut much crossed, net-like, within, 
— greatly more open towards the base than at the point, — 
and giving place in the centre to a hollow space, occasionally 
traversed by a few slim osseous partitions. In the transverse 
section these cancelli are found to radiate from the open cen- 
tre towards the circumference, like the spokes of a wheel from 
the nave ; and each spoke seems as if, like Aaron's rod, it 
had become instinct with vegetative life, and had sprouted 
into branch and blossom. Seen in a microscope of limited 
field, that takes in, as in the accompanying print (fig. 34), 

not more than a fourth part of the section, the appearance 
presented is that of a well-trained wall-tree. And hence the 


generic name Dendrod-us, given by Professor Owen to teeth 
found detached in the deposits of Moray, when the creatures 
to which they had belonged were still unknown, — a name, 
however, which will, I suspect, be found synonymous rather 
with that of a family than of a geuus ; for, so far as I have 
yet examined, I find that the dendrodio or tree-like tooth 
was, in at least the Old Bed Sandstone, a characteristic of all 
the Celacanth family. I may mention, however, as a curious 
subject of inquiry, that the Celscanths of the Coal Measures 
seem to have had their reptile teeth formed of pure ivory, — 
a substance which I have not yet detected among the reptile- 
fish of the Old Bed Towards the base of the reptile teeth 
of Aaterolepu, the interstices between the branches greatly 
widen, as in the branches of a tree in winter divested of its 
foliage (fig. 3 j, c) ; the texture also opens towards the base 
iu thejfoA-teeth outside ( 
in which, however, the 
pattern In the trans- 
verse section is greatly 
less complex and ornate 
than that which the 
reptile teeth exhibit 
When cut across near 

A. Section of ja!To~f AtieroUpit. the point, they appear 
c. Beptile tooth <u shotcn in tectum. eac |i ^ a thick rine 
a, b, and c. Rme ,if ichthyio teeth in der- , . , B 

mol plate of jaw. \°), traversed by lines 

B. Magnified representative! of i&thgic that radiate towards the 

teeth, a and 1. « A. 

centre ; when cut across 

about half-way down, they somewhat resemble, seen under a 
high magnifying power, those cast-iron wheels on which the 
engineer mounts his railway carriages (a). In the longitu- 
dinal section their line of junction with the jaw is marked 
by numerous openings, but by no line of division, and they 
appear as thickly dotted by what were once canaliculi, or 

Fig. 35. 





life-points, as any portion of the dermal bone on which they 

It seems truly wonderful, when one considers it> to what 
minute and obscure ramifications that variety of pattern which 
nature so loves to maintain is found to descend. It descends 
in the fishes, both recent and extinct, to even the microscopic 
structure of their teeth ; and we find, in consequence not 
less variety of figure in the sliced fragments of the teeth of 
the ichthyolites of a single formation, than in the carved 
blocks of an extensive calico print- yard. Each species has 
its own distinct pattern, as if, in all the individuals of which 
it consisted, the same block had been employed to stamp it ; 
and each genus its own general type of pattern, as if the 
same radical idea, variously altered and modified, had been 
wrought upon in all. In the Dendrodie (Celacanth 1) family, 
for instance, it is the radical type, that from a central nave 
there should radiate, spoke-like, a number of arborescent 
branches; but in the several genera and species of the fa- 
mily, the branches belong, if I may so express myself, to 
different shrubs, and present dissimilar outlines. It has 
appeared to me that at least a presumption against the 
transmutation of species might be based on those inherent 
peculiarities of structure which are thus found to pervade 
the entire texture of the framework of animals. If we find 
erections differing from one another merely in external form, 
we have no difficulty in conceiving how, by additions and 
alterations, they might be brought to exhibit a perfect uni- 
formity of plan and aspect : transmutation, — development, — 
progression — (if one may use such terms), — seem possible in 
such circumstances. But if the buildings differ from each 
other, not only in external form, but also in eveiy brick and 
beam, bolt and nail, no mere scheme of external alteration 
could ever induce a real resemblance. Every brick would 
have to be taken down, and every beam and bolt removed. 


The problem could not be wrought by the remodelling of 
an old house : the only mode of solving it would be by the 
erection of a new one. 

There is one important characteristic of the jaws of this 
ancient ganoid, which, although common to the jaws of some 
of the other and better-known Palaeozoic Celacanths, such as 
the Holoptychius, seems to have hitherto escaped the notice 
of ichthyologists. Cuvier, in his description of the generic 
peculiarities of the alligator, specifies, as one of the most re- 
markable, a certain mechanical arrangement through which 
the fourth tooth in the lower jaw is received, when the mouth 
closes, into a deep cavity hollowed in the upper jaw for its 
reception. A similar peculiarity occurs in the jaws of the 
Lepidosteus, and forms one of the links with the Sauiians 
which establish its herpetological relationship. . " The inter- 
maxillary of the Lepidosteus" says Agassiz, "is a small bone, 
pierced with two holes for the admission of the anterior pro- 
jecting teeth of the lower jaw." Now, it is an interesting 
circumstance, that in the Aaterolepis, the huge reptile teeth 
which stand up over and behind the ichthyic ones were re- 
ceived, as in the alligators and the Lepidosteus, into deep 
cavities hollowed in the opposite jaws ; but the arrangement^ 
instead of being restricted to two teeth, as in the recent rep- 
tile, or to a small group of teeth, as in the existing reptile- 
fish, pervaded the entire jaw. All the large teeth had deep 
cavities hollowed to receive them, as the scabbard receives 
the sword ; and these scabbard-like hollows occurred in most 
cases so close beside the reptile teeth of the opposite jaw, 
that each tooth formed one of the sides of each hollow ; and 
the base of the teeth springing from the same level as the 
bottom of the hollows, bore the appearance of teeth placed 
in sockets twice too big for them.* I may add, that there 

* Some of the reptile teeth of the Holvptychii of the Goal Measures, aa 
shown in specimens from Gilmerton and Bardie House, had great depth 


were certain curious irregularities of dentition in the Aster- 
olepisj which seemed to have had a considerable range, and 
which make the jaws of one individual differ a good deal in 
appearance from those of another of the same species. In 
some specimens we see recipient pits or sockets that have no 
reptile teeth growing up beside them ; while in others, the 
too wide socket^ one-half of which usually remains a recipient 
pit, we find occupied to the full by a second tooth, growing 
up so close beside the ordinary one, that their points stand 
scarce a line apart The double tooth formed in this manner, 
when, as in the figured specimen (fig. 36), unaccompanied by 

Fig. 36. 


(Nearly nat. size.) 

a recipient pit, must have been accommodated in the oppo- 
site jaw by a recipient pit unaccompanied by a tooth ; and 
thus the pit without tooth and the double tooth without pit 
were answering and mutually accommodating irregularities. 
There are instances, however, in which the double tooth had 

of apparent socket ; and a reptilian relationship has been deduced from 
this peculiarity. The deduction, however, though apparently just, would 
be perhaps more direct were it founded rather on the existence of the re- 
cipient hollow, than of the socket beside the hollow ; for the depth of 
the socket seems to have been dependent on the depth of the hollow, and 
proportioned to it. If the reptile tooth rose high over the edge of the 
jaw in which it was placed, it was necessary that the recipient hollow in 
the opposite jaw should be correspondingly deep, — just as a long sword 
requires a deep scabbard to sheath it in ; and if the hollow was deep, the 
socket of the tooth that stood up beside it, and whose base descended to 
its level, had to be correspondingly deep also. 



a recipient pit for the accommodation of a tooth in the oppo- 
site jaw, immediately behind it. Taken altogether, the alli- 
gator-like teeth, with the alligator-like pits hollowed for their 
reception, in the jaws of this ancient fish, bear decided evi- 
dence to its reptilian character and standing. 

There was another striking peculiarity of the jaws of Aster- 
olepis, exemplified in the fine specimen figured here, and in 
some others in my collection, which extended also to the 
creature's palate, and which, in a certain degree, we find ex- 
emplified in the jaws and palates of some of the existing 
placoids. In most of the placoids, the teeth which are ranged 
along the jaw or palate, and the shagreen points spread over 
the skin, seem to* be equally of dermal origin, and can be 
stripped off with the integuments on which they rest. And 
so nearly do they approach in character, that there are cases 
in which they can scarce be distinguished ; — the teeth may 
be taken for shagreen points, or the shagreen points for teeth. 
This is strikingly the case in Cestradon Phittippi (the Port 
Jackson shark). We find immediately within the more cha- 
racteristic pavement teeth of the animal, osseous points of an 
irregularly cruciform shape, that might be mistaken for the 
osseous points, also irregularly cruciform, that form the sha- 
green which covers its back and sides ; and the palate of 
Sqvalina (the angel-fish) bristles as thickly with a shagreen 
hardly distinguishable from that which the creature wears 
outside, as any part of its body. Now, encrusting the palate 
of Dipteru8 y immediately between the angular patches of 
teeth, we find exactly the same glossy enamel as that which 
covers its dermal plates aod scales ; the shin within the 
mouth, if one may so speak, so completely corresponds with 
the shin outside, that we find it bearing the same rich gloss, 
and punctulated with the same microscopic tubes. There 
was, we find, within the mouth of Asterolepis a similar repro- 
duction of dermal peculiarities. It was lined with osseous 

rrs btbtjctcbe, bulk, and aspect. 83 

plates, identical in their character with those which covered 
the head externally, and, like them too, thickly fretted with 
tubercles, which, in the older and larger individuals, assumed 
the normal star-like character, and in both young and old 
manifested a tendency, where they approached the true teeth, 
U> assume, as in fig. 36, tooth-like forms. Fig. 37 represents 
Fig. 87. 



{One-fourth nut. aize, linear.) 

ihe palatal plate of AsleroUpia, roughened with tubercles 
somewhat larger than those of the external plates, but as 
much of the same type as these, as the palatal shagreen of 
Cestracion or Squalina is of the same type as that which 
covers its back and sides. This tendency of dermal tuber- 
cles to assume in some of the ancient ganoids the form of 
teeth, and of teeth to assume in some of the existing placoids 
the appearance of dermal shagreen, throws light on a class 
of what would be otherwise very puzzling peculiarities in the 
dental structure exhibited by not a few of the Old Red Sand- 
stone ichthyolites. The teeth of the genera Coccosteus, As- 
terolepis, Diplopterus, and Cheirolepie, and at least the ichthyic 
teeth of AsleroUpis, Hohptychius, and Glyptolepw, seem to be 


scarce less mere continuations of the osseous plates on which 
they are based, than the external tubercles of these same 
plates. An entirely dissimilar state of things obtains among 
our ordinary fishes of the present time : the teeth are of a 
different formation from the bone on which they rest, and, 
in at least their earlier stages of growth, wholly independent 
of it ; but be it remembered that, as in the existing placoids 
teeth and shagreen are alike of dermal origin, so in not a 
few of the ancient ganoids teeth and tubercles were alike of 
dermo-osseous origin. The plates on which they grew acted 
as portions of jaws and palates ; but they also represented 
skin, and differed very materially, in consequence, from the 
skin-covered jaws of the earlier ganoids. 

Of the upper maxillary bones of the Asterolepis, I only 
know that a considerable fragment of one of the pieces, re- 
cognised as such by Agassiz, has been found in the neigh- 
bourhood of Thurso by Mr Dick, unaccompanied, however, 
by any evidence respecting its place or function. It exhibits 
none of the characteristic tubercles of the dermal plates, but 
is simply a long bent bone, resembling somewhat less than the 
half of an ancient bow of steel or horn, — such a bow as that 
which Ulysses bended in the presence of the suitors. By some 
of the Russian geologists this bone was at first regarded as a 

Fig. 38. 


(One-fourth nat. size, linear.) 

portion of the arm or wing of some gigantic Pterichthys. In 
the accompanying print (fig. 38), I have borrowed the general 


outline from that of a specimen of Professor Aamus, of which 
a cast may be seen in the British Museum ; while the shaded 
portion represents the fragment found by Mr Dick. The 
intermaxillary bones, like the dermal plates of the lower jaw, 
were studded by star-like tubercles, and bristled thickly along 
their lower edges with the ichthyic teeth, flanked by teeth of 
the reptilian character. The opercules of the animal consist- 
ed, as in the sturgeon, of single plates (fig. 39) of great mas- 
siveness and size, thickly tubercled 
outside, without trace of joint or su- 
ture, and marked on their under sur- 
face by channelled lines, that radiate, 
as in the other plates, from the centre 
of ossification. That space along the 
nape which intervened between the 
opercules, was occupied, as in the 
Dipterus and Diplopterug, by three DfNKB surface or omt- 

platea, which covered rather the an- 

, . .. - ,, . j .. .. (One-fifth nat. Bize, linear.) 

tenor portion of the body than the 

posterior portion of the head, and which, in the restoration 
of Onteohpig (fig. 13), appear as the plates, 9, 9, 9. I can 
say scarce anything regarding the lateral plates which lay 
between the inter mamillaries and the cranial buckler, and 
which exist in the OsteolepU, fig. 13, as the plates 2, 4, 5, 6, 
and 7 ; nor do I know how the snout terminated, save that 
in a very imperfect specimen it exhibits, as in the Diploptorua 
and Osteolepis, a rounded outline, and was set with teeth. 

That space comprised within the arch of the lower jaws, 
in which the hyoid bone and branch iostegous rays of the os- 
seous fishes occur, was filled by a single plate of great size and 
strength, and of singular form (fig. 40) ; and to this plate, 
existing as a steep ridge nami ng along the centre of the in- 
terior surface, and thickening into a massy knob at the an- 
terior termination, that nail-shaped organism which I have 


described as one of the most characteristic bones of the Ae- 
tarolepa, belonged. la the Osteolepis, the space correspond- 

Kg. 40. 

(One-ninth nat. aie, linsar.) 

ing to that occupied by this hyoid plate was filled, as shown 
in fig. 1 4, by five plates of not inelegant form ; and the di- 
visions of the arch resembled those of a small Gothic window, 
in which the single central mullion parts into two branches 
atop. In the Holoptychvus and GlyptohpU there were but 
two plates ; for the central mullion, i. e. line of division, did 
not branch atop ; and in the AsterokjAs, where there was no 
line of division, the strong nail-like bone occupied the place 
of the central mullion. The hyoidal armature of the latter 
fish was strongest in the line in which the others were weakest 
Each of the five hyoid plates of the OsUolepU, or of the two 
plates of the GlyptoUpia or Hohptychiua, had its own centre 
of ossification ; and in the single plate of Asterolepia, the 
centre of ossification, as shown by the radiations of the fibre, 
was the nail-hca&. This head, placed in immediate contact 
with the strong boxes of bono which composed the under 
jaw, just where their central joining occurred, seems to have 
lent them a considerable degree of support, which at such a 
juncture may have been not unnecessary. In some of the 
nail-heads, belonging, it is probable, to a different species of 
Asterolepis from that in which the nail figured in page 7, and 



V : 


(One-half nat. size.) 

the plate in the opposite page, occurred, — Fi g- **• 

for its general form is different (tig. 41), — 
there appear well-marked ligamentary im- 
pressions, closely resembling that little 
spongy pit in the head of the human thigh- 
bone to which what is termed the round 
ligament is attached. The entire hyoid- 
plate, viewed on its outer side, resembles 
in form the hyoid-bone, — or cartilage 
rather, — of the spotted dog-fish (ScyUium 
8teUare) ; but its area was at least a hun- 
dred times mere extensive than in the 
largest ScyUium, and, like all the dermal 
plates of the Asterolepis, it was thickly 
fretted by the characteristic tubercles. Tn 
the ray, as in the sharks, the piece of thin 
cartilage of which this plate seems the homologue is a flat, 
semi-transparent disc ; and there is no part of the animal in 
which the progress of those bony molecules which encrust 
the internal framework may be more distinctly traced, as if 
in the act of creeping over what they cover, in slim threads 
or shooting points, and much resembling new. ice creeping 
in a frosty evening over the surface of a pool. 

The two angular terminations of the hyoidal plate, a, a, 
fig. 40, were received, laterally and posteriorly, into angular 
grooves in a massive bone of very peculiar shape (fig. 42), of 
which the tubercled portion, a, a, seems to have swept for- 
wards in the line of the lower jaw, forming the rounded edge 
where the flat under part of the creature's head merged into 
the lateral part of it, as the bottom of a portmanteau merges 
into its sides; while the delicately grooved projection, b f 
struck across towards the point of the hyoidal naiL At the 
termination of this transverse projection nearest the side of 
the head, and where there runs towards it through the tu- 


bercles a deeply tatooed line, e, there occurs what seems to 
be a socket, regarding the use of which I am unable to form 

(One-third nat. size.) 

a conjecture. There are, besides, certain difficulties which 
the structure of this portion of the Asterolepis raises, that I 
am at present unable to lay ; but I can at least record the 
evidence slowly and hesitatingly rendered by the rocks re- 
garding it, though I cannot in every case comprehend, as a 
whole, the meaning which that evidence bears. 

That suite of shoulder-hones that in the osseous fishes forms 
the belt or frame ou which the opercules rest, and furnishes 
the base of the pectorals, was represented in the Asternhpis, 
as in the sturgeon, by a ring of strong osseous plates, which, 
in one of the two species of which trace is to be found among 
the rocks of Thurso, were curiously fretted on their external 
surfaces, and in the other species comparatively smooth. The 
largest, or coracoidian plate of the ring, as it occurs in the 
more ornate species (tig. 43), might be readily enough mis- 
taken, when seen with only its surface exposed, for the ich- 
thyodorulite of some large fish, allied, mayhap, to the Gyr- 
acanthua formoaus of the Coal Measures ; but when detached 


from the stone, the hollow form and peculiar striae of the in- 
terior surface serve to establish its true character as a dermal 

Fig. 43. 


(One-third nat. size, linear.) 

plate. The diagonal furrowings which traversed it, as the 
twisted flutings traverse a Gothic column moulded after the 
type of the Apprentice Pillar in Roslin Chapel, seem to have 
underlaid the edge of the opercule ; at least I find a similar 
arrangement in the shoulder-plates of a large species of Dip- 
topterus, which are deeply grooved and furrowed where the 
opercule rested, as if with the design of keeping up a com- 
munication between the branchiae and the external element, 
even when the gill-cover was pressed closely down upon them. 
And, — as in these shoulder-plates of the Diplopterus the fur- 
rows yield their place beyond the edge of the opercule to the 
punctulated enamel common to the outer surface of all the 
creature's external plates and scales, — we find them yielding 
their place in the shoulder-plates of the Asterolepis to the 
starred tubercles. 

A few detached bones, that bear on their outer surfaces 
the dermal markings, must have belonged to that angular- 
shaped portion of the head which intervened between the 
cranial buckler and the intermaxillary bone; but the key 
for assigning to them their proper place is still to find ; and 
I suspect that no amount of skill on the part of the compa- 
rative anatomist will ever qualify him to complete the work 
of restoration without it I have submitted to the reader 
the cranial bucklers of Jive several genera of the ganoids of 
the Old Red Sandstone ; but no amount of study bestowed 


on these would enable even the moat skilful ichthyologist to 
restore a aixlh ; nor is the lateral area of the head, which 
was, I find, variously occupied in each genus, less difficult to 
restore than the buckler which surmounted it Two of the 
more entire of these dermal bones I have figured (fig. 44, a 
and 6) in the hope of assisting future inquirers, who, were 
I 2 3 

a b 

(One-third nat. tints, linear.) 

they to pick up all the other plates, might yet be unable, 
.acking the figured ones, to complete the whole; The cu- 
riously-shaped plate a, represented in its various sides by the 
figure? 1, 2, 3, is of an acutely angular form in the trans- 
verse section (the external surface, 1, forming an angle which 
varies from thirty to forty-five degrees with the base, 3) ; 
and as it lay, it is probable, when in its original place, im- 
mediately under the edge of the cranial buckler, it may have 
served to commence the line of deflection from tbe flat top of 
the head to the steep descent of the sides, just as what are 
.technically termed the spur-stones in a gable-head serve to 
commence the line of deflection from the vertical outline of 
the wall to the inclined line of the roof, or as the spring- 
■tones of an arch serve to commence the curve. A few in- 


ternal bones in my possession are cations, but exceedingly 
puzzling. The bone a, fig. 40 (of which I possess two speci- 

mens, that, aa indicated by their position in the rock, formed 
parts of the same individual, occurring, the one in its right 
eide, the other in ita left), apparently occupied the place in 
the Aiterolepis of that osseous style which, in fishes such as 
the haddock and cod, we find attached to the suite of shoulder- 
bones, and which, according to Cuvier, ia the analogue of the 
coracoidian bone, and, according to Professor Owen, the ana- 
logue of the clavicle. It curiously exemplifies how thoroughly 
some of the bones in this ancient fish entered into the com- 
position of at once the dermal and the internal skeleton ; for 
while the tubercled portion of the upper part or head of the 
style was unequivocally dermal, the lower or shank portion of 
it, which must hare traversed the muscles of the abdomen, 
was, as shown by its channelled markings, aa certainly inter- 
nal Of the bone b, I only know that it belonged to the aide 
of the head." Fig. e, 46, which is also a fragment, though a 

* Id the earliest editions of this work, the place of the print fig. 16 
wm occupied by the subjoined wood-cut (fig. 47). I have since eacer- 


more considerable one, bears in its thickei and straighter edge 
a groove like that of an ichthyodorulite, which, however, 

(One-third nut. size, linear.) 

the bone itself in no degree resembles. Fig. d \s a. flat bone, j 

of a type common in the skeleton of fishea, but which in 

Fig. 47- tuned, however, that the two fragments of 

bone which the latter presents belonged, not 
to the A ilerolepii, but to some large unnamed, 
undeseribed ganoid, its contemporary. The 
bone a, similar in character and function to 
the corresponding bone a in fig. 45, seems to 
have been the clavicle of the unknown fish ; 
while the bone h, — a mere fragment broken 
at both ends, but exhibiting, in a state of good 
keeping, lateral expansions like those of an 
ancient balbert, — formed, in probably the 
same animal, the analogue of part of that 
beam-like series of bones (consisting of the 
l astb- suboccipital bone, the sphenoid bone, and the 

vomer) which compose in the ordinary fishea ■ 

linear.) tho base of the skull ' 


mammals we find exemplified in but the scapulars. It seems, 
like these, to have furnished the base to which some suite of 
moveable bones was articulated, — in all likelihood that pro- 
portion of the carpal bonelets of the pectoral fins which are 
attached, in the osseous fishes, to its apparent homologue the 
radius. Fig. e, a slim light bone, which narrows and thickens 
in the centre, and flattens and broadens at each end, was pro- 
bably a scapula or shoulder-blade, — a bone which in most 
fishes splices on, as a sailor would say, by squamose jointings 
to the coracoidian bone at the one end, and the super-scapu- 
lar bone at the other. As indicated by its size, it must have 
belonged to a small individual : it is, however, twice as long, 
and about six times as bulky, as the scapula of a large cod. 
Of the bone represented in &g. 48, I have determined, 
from a Cromarty specimen, the place and use : it formed the 

Fig. 48. 


(One-half nat. size, linear.) 

interior base to which one of the ventral fins was attached. 
In all fishes the bones of the hinder extremities are inade- 
quately represented : in none do we find the pelvic arch com- 
plete ; and to that nether portion of it which we do find re- 
presented, and which Professor Owen regards as the homo- 
logue of the os ischium or hip-bone, the homologues of the 
metatarsal and toe-bones are attached, to the exclusion of the 
bones of the thigh and leg. In the Abdominales, — fishes such 
as the salmon and carp, — that have the ventrals placed behind 
the abdomen, in the position analogous to that in which the 


hinder legs of the reptiles and mammals occur, the ischiatio 
bones generally exist as flat triangular plates, with their heads 
either turned inwards and downwards, as in the herring, or 
outwards and downwards, as in the pike ; whereas, in some 
of the cartilaginous fishes, such as the rays and sharks, they 
exist as an undivided cartilaginous band, stretched trans- 
versely from ventral to ventral. And such, with but an up- 
ward direction, appears to have been their position in the 
AsUrolepis. They seem to have united at the narrow neck 
A, over the middle of the lower portion of the abdomen ; 
and to the notches of the flat expansion B, — notches which 
exactly resemble those of the immensely developed carpal 
bones of the ray, — five metatarsal bones were attached, from 
which the fin expanded. It is interesting to find the num- 
ber in this ancient representative of the vertebrata restricted 
to five, — a number greatly exceeded in most of the existing 
fishes, but which is the true normal number of the vertebrate 
sub-kingdom, as shown in all the higher examples, such as 
man, the quadrumana, and in most of the carnaricL The 
form of this bone somewhat resembles that of the analogous 
bone in those fishes, such as the perch and gurnard, cod and 
haddock, which have their ventrals suspended to the scapu- 
lar belt ; but its position in the Cromarty specimen, and that 
of the ventrals in the various specimens of the Celacanth fa- 
mily in which their place is still shown, forbids the suppo- 
sition that it was so suspended, — a circumstance in keeping 
with all the existing geological evidence on the subject, which 
agrees in indicating, that of the low type of fishes that have, 
monster-like, their feet attached to their necks, the Old Red 
Sandstone does not afford a trace. This inferior type, now 
by far the most prevalent in the ichthyic division of the ani- 
mal kingdom, does not seem to have been introduced until 
near the close of the Secondary period, long after the fish had 
been degraded from its primal place in the fore-front of croa- 


lion. la one of my specimens a few fragments of the rays 
are preserved (fig. 49, 6.) They are 
about the eighth part of an inch in. dia- ^ ^ ' ' 

meter ; depressed in some cases in the ^^ ^*^ 

centre, aa if, over the internal hollow , M^K 
formed by the decay of the cartilaginoua ^^^ 

centre, the bony crust of which they are ^Thirnback 
composed had given way ; and, lite the •*■ Singlejoint of my of 
at the joints, and at the processes by which they were at- 
tached to the ischiatic base. It may be proper I should here 
state, that of some of the internal bones figured above I have 
no better evidence that they belonged to the AsteroUpie, than 
that they occur in the same beds with the dermal plates which 
hear the characteristic star-like markings, — that they are of 
Jig. 60. 

(Nat. size.*) 

* One of the Thurso coprolites in my possession is about one-fourth 

longer than the larger of the two specimens figured here, and nearly Varitx 


very considerable size, — and that they formed no part of the 
known fishes of the formation. 

On exactly the same grounds I infer, that certain large 
coprolites of common occurrence in the Thurso flagstones, 
which contain the broken scales of Dipterians, and exhibit a 
curiously-twisted form (fig. 50), also belonged to the Astero- 
lepis ; and from these, that the creature was carnivorous in 
its habits, — an inference which the character of its teeth fully 
corroborates ; and farther, that, like the sharks and rays, and 
some of the extinct Enaliosaurs, it possessed the spiral dispo- 
sition of intestine. Paley, in his chapter on the compensa- 
tory contrivances palpable in the structure of various animals, 
refers to a peculiar substitutory provision which occurs in a 
certain amphibious animal described in the Memoirs of the 
French Academy. "The reader will remember," he says, 
"what we have already observed concerning the intestinal 
canal, — that its length, so many times exceeding that of the 
body, promotes the extraction of the chyle from the aliment, 
by giving room for the lacteal vessels to act upon it through 
a greater spaca This long intestine, whenever it occurs, is 
in other animals disposed in the abdomen from side to side, 
in returning folds. But in the animal now under our notice 
the matter is managed otherwise. The same intention is me- 
chanically effectuated, but by a mechanism of a different kind. 
The animal of which I speak is an amphibious quadruped, 
which our authors call the alopecias or sea-fox. The intes- 
tine is straight from one end to the other ; but in this straight^ 
and consequently short intestine, is a winding, cork-screw, 
spiral passage, through which the food, not without several 
circumvolutions, and, in fact, by a long route, is conducted 
to its exit. Here the shortness of the gut is compensated by 
the obliquity of the perforation. " This structure of intes- 
tine, which all the true placoids possess, and at least the 
Bturiones among existing ganoids, seems to have been an ex- 


ceedingly common one during both the Palaeozoic and Se- 
condary periods. It has left its impress on all the better pre- 
served coprolites of the Coal Measures, so abundant in the 
shales of Eewhaven and Burdie House, and on those of the 
Lias and Chalk. It seems to be equally a characteristic of 
well nigh all the bulkier coprolites of the Old Red Sandstona * 
In these, however, it manifests a peculiar trait, which I have 
failed to detect in any of the recent fishes ; nor have I yet 
seen it indicated, in at least the same degree, by the Carboni- 
ferous or Secondary coprolitic remains. In the bowels which 
moulded the coprolites of Lyme-Regis, of the Chalk, and of 
the Newhaven and Granton beds, a single screw must have 
winded within the cylindrical tube, as a turnpike stair winds 
within its hollow shaft ; and such also is the arrangement in 
the existing sharks and rays ; whereas the bowels which 
moulded the coprolites of the Old Red Sandstone must have 
been traversed by triple or quadruple screws laid closely to- 
gether, as we find the stalk of an old-fashioned wine-glass 
traversed by its thickly-set spiral lines of thread-like china. 
And so, while on the surface of both the Secondary and Car- 
boniferous coprolites there is space between the screw-like 
lines for numerous cross markings that correspond to the 
thickly-set veiny branches which traverse the sides of the re- 
cent placoid bowel, the entire surface of the Old Red copro- 
lites is traversed by the spiral markings. Is there nothing 
strange in the fact that, after the lapse of mayhap millions 
of years, — nay, it is possible, millions of ages, — we should be 
thus able to detect at once general resemblance and special 

* In two of these, in a collection of several score, I have failed 
to detect the spiral markings, though their state of keeping is de- 
cidedly good. There are other appearances which lead me to suspect 
that the Asterolepis was not the only large fish of the Lower Old 
Bed Sandstone ; but my facts on the subject are too inconclusive to 
justify aught more than sedulous inquiry. (First Edition. See Note, 
p. 92.) 



dissimilarity in even the most perishable parts of the most 
ancient of the ganoids ? 

I must advert, in passing, to a peculiarity exemplified in 
the state of keeping of the bones of this ancient ganoid, in 
at least the deposits of Orkney and Caithness. The original 
animal matter has been converted into a dark-coloured bitu- 
men, which in some places, where the remains lie thick, per- 
vades the crevices of the rocks, and has not unfrequently been 
mistaken for coal. In its more solid state it can hardly be 
distinguished, when used in sealing a letter, — a purpose which 
it serves indifferently well, — from black wax of the ordinary 
quality ; when more fluid, it adheres scarce less strongly to 
the hands than the coal-tar of our gas-works and dockyards. 
Underneath a specimen of Asterolepis first pointed out to me 
in its bed among the Thurso rocks by Mr Dick, and which, 
at my request, he afterwards raised and sent me to Edinburgh, 
packed up in a box, there lay a quantity of thick tar, which 
stuck as fast to my fingers, on lifting out the pieces of rock, 
as if I had laid hold of the planking of a newly tarred yawL 
What had been once the nerves, muscles, and blood of this 
ancient ganoid still lay under its bones, and reminded me of 
the appearance presented by the remains of a poor suicide, 
whose solitary grave, dug in a sandy bank in the north of 
Scotland, had been laid open by the encroachments of a river. 
The skeleton, with pieces of the dress still wrapped round it, 
lay at length along the section ; and, for a full yard beneath, 
the white dry sand was consolidated into a dark-coloured 
pitchy moss, by the altered animal matter which had escaped 
from it percolating downwards, in the process of decay. 

In consequence of the curious chemical change which has 
thus taken place in the animal juices of the Asterolepis, its 
remains often occur in a state of beautiful preservation : the 
pervading bitumen, greatly more conservative in its effects 
than the oils and gums of an old Egyptian undertaker/^* 


maintained in their original integrity every scale, plate, and 
bone. They may have been much broken ere they were first 
committed to the keeping of the rock, or in disentangling them 
from its rigid embrace ; but they have, we find, caught no 
harm when under its care. Ere the skeleton of the Bruce, 
disinterred after the lapse of five centuries, was re-committed 
to the tomb, such measures were taken to secure its preser- 
vation, that, were it to be again disinterred, even after as maDy 
morecenturieshadpassed, it might be found retaining unbroken 
its gigantic proportions. There was molten pitch poured over 
the bones, in a state of sufficient fluidity to permeate all the 
pores, and fill up the central hollows, and which, soon har- 
dening around them, formed a bituminous matrix, in which 
they may lie unchanged for a thousand years. Now, exactly 
such was the process to which nature resorted with these 
gigantic skeletons of the Old Red Sandstone. Like the bones 
of the Bruce, they are bones steeped in pitch ; and so tho- 
roughly is every pore and hollow still occupied, that, when 
cast into the fire, they flame like torches. Though black as 
jet, they still retain, too, in a considerable degree, the pecu- 
liar qualities of the original substance. The late Mr George 
Sanderson of Edinburgh, one of the most ingenious lapidaries 
in the kingdom, and a thoroughly intelligent man, made se- 
veral preparations for me, for microscopic examination, from 
the teeth and bones ; and though they were by far the oldest 
vertebrate remains he had ever seen, they exhibited, he in- 
formed me, in the working, more of the characteristics of re- 
cent teeth and bone than any other fossils of the kind he had 
ever operated upon. Recent bone, when in the course of being 
reduced on the wheel to the degree of thinness necessary to 
secure transparency, is apt> under the heat induced by the 
friction, to acquire a springy elasticity, and to start up from 
the glass slip to which it had been cemented ; whereas bone 
in the fossil state usually lies as passive, in such circumstances, 


as the stone which envelopes it Mr Sanderson was, how- 
ever, surprised to find that the bone of the Asterolepis still 
retained its elasticity, and was scarce less liable, when heated, 
to start from the glass, — a peculiarity through which he at 
first lost several preparations. I have seen a human bone 
which had for ages been partially embedded in a mass of adi- 
pocere, partially enveloped in the common mould of a church- 
yard, exhibit two very different styles of keeping. In the 
adipocere it was as fresh and green as if it had been divested 
of the integuments only a few weeks previous ; whereas the 
portion which projected into the mould had become brittle 
and porous, and presented the ordinary appearance of an old 
churchyard bone. And what the adipocere had done for the 
human bone in this case, seems to have been done for the 
bone of the Asterolepis by the animal bitumen. 

The size of the Asterolepis must, in the larger specimens, 
have been very great In all those ganoidal fishes of the 
Old Hod Sandstone that had the head covered with osseous 
plates, we find that the cranial buckler bore a certain definite 
proportion — various in the several genera and species — to 
the length of the body. The drawing-master still teaches his 
pupils to regulate the proportions of the human figure by 
the seven head-lengths which it contains ; and perhaps shows 
them how an otherwise meritorious draftsman,* much em- 
ployed about half an age ago in drawing for the wood-engraver, 
used to render his figures squat and ungraceful by making 
them a head too short Now, those ancient ganoids which 
possessed a cranial buckler may, we find, be also measured by 
head-lengths. Thus, in the Goccosleus decipiem, the length 
of the cranial buckler from nape to snout equalled one-fifth of 
the entire length of the creature from snout to taiL The en- 
tire length of the Glyptolepis was equal to about five one-half 

• The late Mr John Thurston, 




times that of its cranial buckler. The Pterichthys was formed 
in nearly the same proportions. The Diplopterus was fully 
seven times the length of its buckler ; and the Osteolepis from 
six and a half to seven. In all the cranial bucklers of the 
Asterolepis yet found, the snout is wanting. The very fine 
specimen figured in page 71 (fig. 29) terminates abruptly at 
the little plate between the eyes ; the specimen figured in 
page 69 (fig. 28) terminates at the upper line of the eye. 
The terminal portion which formed the snout is wanting in 
both, and we thus lack the measure, or module, as the archi- 
tect might say, by which the proportions of the rest of the 
creature were regulated. We can, however, very nearly ap- 
proximate to it. A hyoid plate in my collection (Jag. 51) is, 
I find, so exactly proportioned in size to the cranial buckler 
(fig. 29), that it might have belonged to the same individual ; 
and by fitting it in its proper place, and then making the ne- 
cessary allowance for the breadth of the nether jaw, which 
swept two-thirds around it, and was surmounted by the snout, 
we ascertain that the buckler, when entire, must have been, 

Tig. 51. 



(One-half the nat. size, linear.) 

* The shaded plate (a), accidentally presented in this specimen, be- 
longs to the upper part of the head. It is the posterior frontal plate F, 
which half -encircled the eye-orbit (see fig. 31) ; and 1 have introduced 
It into the print here, as in none of the other prints, or of my other spe- 
cimens, is its upper surface shown. 


as nearly as may be, a foot in length. If the Asterolepis was 
formed in the proportions of the Coccosteus, the buckler (fig. 
29) must have belonged to an individual five feet in length ; 
if in the proportions of the Pterichthys or Glyptolepis, to an 
individual five and a half feet in length ; and if in those of 
the Diplopterus or Osteolepis, to an individual of from six 
and a half to seven feet in length. Now I find that the 
hyoid plate can be inscribed — such is its form — in a semi- 
circle, of which the nail-shaped ridge in the middle (if we 
strike off a minute portion of the sharp point, usually want- 
ing in detached specimens) forms very nearly the radius, and 
of which the diameter equals the breadth of the cranial buck- 
ler, along a line drawn across at a distance from the nape 
equal to two-thirds of the distance between the nape and the 
eyea Thus, the largest diameter of a hyoid plate which be- 
longed to a cranial buckler a foot in length is, I find, equal 
to seven one-quarter inches, while the length of its nail 
somewhat exceeds three five-eighth inches. The nail of the 
Stromness specimen measures five and a half inches. It 
must have run along a hyoid plate eleven inches in trans- 
verse breadth, and have been associated with a cranial buck- 
ler eighteen one-eighth inches in length ; and the Asterolepis 
to which it belonged must have measured from snout to tail, 
if formed, as it probably was, in the proportions of its brother 
Celacanth the Glyptolepis, eight feet three inches ; and if in 
those of the Diplopterus, from nine feet nine to ten feet six 
inches. This early ganoid was at least as bulky as a large 

It was small, however, compared with specimens of the 
Asterolepis found elsewhere. The hyoid plate figured in page 
86 (fig. 40), — a Thurso specimen which I owe to the kind 
ness of Mr Dick, — measures nearly fourteen inches, and the 
cranial buckler of the same individual, fifteen one fourth 
inches, in breadth. The latter, when entire, must have mea- 


sured twenty-three one-half inches in length ; and the fish to 
which it belonged, if formed in the proportions of the Glyp- 
tolepis, ten feet six inches ; and if in those of the Diplopterva, 
from twelve feet five to thirteen feet eight inches in length. 
Did the shield still exist in its original state as a buckler of 
tough, enamel-crusted bone, it might be converted into a 
Highland target, nearly broad enough to cover the ample 
chest of a Bob Boy or Allan H'Aulay, and strong enough to 
dash aside the keenest broadsword. Another avoid plate 
found by Mr Dick measures sixteen one-half inches in breadth; 
and a cast in the British Museum, from one of the Russian 
specimens of Professor Asmus (fig. 62), twenty-four inches. 
The individual to which this last plate belonged must, if built 
in the shorter proportions, have measured eighteen, and if 
in the longer, twenty-three feet in length. The two hyoid 
Fig. 52. 

plates of the specimen of Holoptychiua in the British Museum 
measure hut four and a half inches along that transverse lice 
in which the Russian Asterolepis measures two feet, and the 
largest Thurso specimen sixteen inches and a half. The 
maxillary bone of a cod-fish two and a half feet from snout 
to tail measures three inches in length. One of the Russian 


maxillary bones in the possession of Professor Asnras mea- 
sures in length twenty-eight inches. And that space cir- 
cumscribed by the sweep of the lower jaw, which it took, in 
the Russian specimen, a hyoid plate twenty-four inches in 
breadth to fill, could be filled in the two-and-a-half-feet cod 
by a plate whose breadth equalled but an inch and a hal£ 
Thus, in the not unimportant circumstance of size, the ancient 
ganoids, instead of taking their places, agreeably to the de- 
mands of the development hypothesis, among the sprats, 
sticklebacks, and minnows of their class, took their place 
among its huge basking sharks, gigantic sturgeons, and bulky 
sword-fishes. They were giants, not dwarfs. 

But what of their organization ? Were they fishes low or 
high in the scale ? On this head we can, of course, deter- 
mine merely by the analogies which their structure exhibits 
to that of fishes of the existing period ; and these point in 
three several directions ; — in two of the number, directly on 
genera of the high ganoid order ; and in the third, on the 
still higher placoids and enaliosaurs. No trace of vertebrae 
has yet been found ; and so we infer — lodging, however, a 
precautionary protest, as the evidence is purely negative, and 
therefore in some degree inconclusive — that the vertebral co- 
lumn of the Asterolepis was, like that of the sturgeon, carti- 
laginous. Respecting its external covering, we positively 
know, as has been already shown, that, like the Lepidosteus 
of America and the Polypterus of the Nile, it was composed 
of strong plates and scales of solid bone ; and regarding its 
dentition, that, as in these last genera, and even more de- 
cidedly than in these, it was of the mixed ichthyic-reptilian 
character, — an outer row of thickly-set fish teeth being back- 
ed by an inner row of thinly-set reptile teeth. And its form 
of coprolite indicates the spiral disposition of intestine com- 
mon to the rays and sharks of the existing period, and of 
the ichthyosauri of the Secondary ages. Instead of being 


as the development hypothesis would require, a fish low in 
its organization, it seems to have ranged on the level of the 
highest ichthyic-reptilian families ever called into existence. 
Had an intelligent being, ignorant of what was going on upon 
earth during the week of creation, visited Eden on the morn- 
ing of the sixth day, he would have found in it many of the 
inferior animals, but no trace of man. Had he returned 
again in the evening, he would have seen, installed in the 
office of keepers of the garden, and ruling with no tyrant 
sway as the humble monarchs of its brute inhabitants, two 
mature human creatures, perfect in their organization, and 
arrived at the full stature of their race. The entire evidence 
regarding them, in the absence of all such information as that 
imparted to Adam by Milton's angel, would amount simply 
to this, that in the morning man was not, and that in the 
evening he was. There of course could not exist, in the cir- 
cumstances, a single appearance to sanction the belief that 
the two human creatures whom he saw walking together 
among the trees at sunset had been " developed from infu- 
sorial points," not created matura The evidence would, on 
the contrary, lie all the other way. And in no degree does 
the geologic testimony respecting the earliest ganoids differ 
from what, in the supposed case, would be the testimony of 
Eden regarding the earliest men. Up to a certain point in 
the geolr^ic scale we find that these ganoids are not ; and 
when they at length make their appearance upon the stage, 
they enter large in their stature and high in their organiza- 




But the system of the Old Red Sandstone represents the se- 
cond, not the first, great period of the world's history. There 
was a preceding period at least equally extended, perhaps 
greatly more so, represented by the Upper and Lower Silu- 
rian formations. And what is the testimony of this morn- 
ing period of organic existence, in which, so far as can yet 
be shown, vitality in the planet which man inhabits, and of 
whose history and productions he knows anything, was first 
associated with matter % May not the development hypothesis 
find a standing in the system representative of this earliest 
age of creation, which it fails to find in the system of the Old 
Red Sandstone ? 

It has been confidently asserted, not merely that it may, 
but that it does. Ever since the publication, in 1839, of Sir 
Roderick Murchison's great work on the Silurian system, it 
had been known that the remains of fishes occur in a bed of 

* This is the chapter referred to in the prefatory remarks as having 
been intended to be remodelled by the author. Those portions which are 
no longer in accordance with fact are enclosed in brackets : the other 
parts may be accepted as correct. — L. M. 


the " Ludlow Rock," — one of the most modern deposits of 
the Upper Silurian division ; [and subsequent discoveries, 
both in England and America, had shown that even the base 
of this division has its ichthyic organisms. But for year 
after year, the lower half of the system — a division more 
than three thousand feet in thickness — had failed, though 
there were hands and eyes busy among its deposits, to yield 
any vertebrate remains. During the earlier half of the first 
great period of organic existence, though the polyparia, ra- 
diata, articulata, and mollusca existed, as their remains tes- 
tified, by myriads, fish had, it was held, not yet entered upon 
the scene ; and the assertors of the development theory 
founded largely on the presumed fact of their absence. " It 
is still customary," says the author of the " Yestiges of Crea- 
tion," in his volume of " Explanations," " to speak of the 
earliest fauna as one of an elevated kind. When rigidly 
examined, it is not found to be so. In the first place, it 
contains no pish. There were seas supporting crustacean 
and molluscan life, but utterly devoid of a class of tenants 
who seem able to live in every example of that element which 
supports meaner creatures. This single fact, that only in- 
vertebrated animals now lived, is surely in itself a strong 
proof that, in the course of nature, time was necessary for the 
creation of the superior creatures. And if so, it undoubted- 
ly is a powerful evidence of such a theory of development as 
that which I have presented. If not, let me hear an equally 
plausible reason for the great and amazing fact, that seas were 
for numberless ages destitute of fish. I fix my opponents 
down to the consideration of this fact, so that no diversion 
respecting high molluscs shall avail them." And how is this 
bold challenge to be met 1] 

It might be rationally enough argued in the case, that the 
author of the "Vestiges" was building greatly more on a 
piece of purely negative evidence, — the presumed absence of 


fish from the Lower Silurian formations, — than purely nega- 
tive evidence is, from its nature as such, suited to bear ; that 
only a very few years had passed since it was known that ver- 
tebrate remains occurred in the Upper Silurian, and only a 
few more since they had been detected in the Old Red Sand- 
stone ; nay, that within the present century their frequent 
occurrence in even the Coal Measures was scarce suspected ; 
and that, as his argument, had it been founded twelve years 
ago on the supposed absence of fishes from the Upper Silu- 
rian, or twenty years ago on the supposed absence of fishes 
from the Old Red Sandstone, would have been quite as 
plausible in reference to its negative data then as to its 
negative data now, so it might now be quite as erroneous 
as it assuredly would have been then. Or it might be 
argued, that the fact of the absence of fish from the Lower 
Silurians, even were it really a fact, would be in no degree 
less reconcileable with the theory of creation by direct act, 
than with the hypothesis of gradual development The fact 
that Adam did not exist during the first, second, third, fourth, 
and fifth days of the introductory week of Scripture narrative, 
furnishes no argument whatever against the fact of his crea- 
tion on the sixth day. And the remark would of course 
equally apply to the non-existence of fishes during the Lower 
Silurian period, had they been really non-existent at the time, 
and to their sudden appearance in that of the Upper. [But 
the objection admits of a greatly more conclusive answer. 
" I fix my opponents down," says the author of the " Ves- 
tiges," " to the consideration of this fact," i. e. that of the 
absence of fishes from the earliest fossiliferous formations. 
And I, in turn, fix you down, I reply, to the consideration 
of the antagonist fact, not negative, but positive, and now, in 
the course of geological discovery, fully established, that fishes 
were not absent from the earliest fossiliferous formations. From 
none of the great geological formations were fishes absent,— 


not even from the formations of the Cambrian division. " The 
Lower Silurian," says Sir Roderick Murchison, in a communi- 
cation with which, in 1847, he honoured the writer of these 
chapters, " is no longer to be viewed as an invertebrate pe- 
riod ; for the Onchus (species not yet decided) has been found 
in the Llandeilo Flags and in the Lower Silurian rocks of 
Bala. In one respect I am gratified by the discovery ; for 
the form is so very like that of the Onchus Murchisoni of the 
Upper Ludlow rock, that it is clear the Silurian system is 
one great natural-history series, as is proved, indeed, by all 
its other organic remains." It may be mentioned further, 
in addition to this interesting statement, that the Bala spine 
was detected in its calcareous matrix by the geologists of the 
Government Survey, and described to Sir Roderick as that 
of an Onchus, by a very competent authority in such matters, 
— Professor Edward Forbes ; and that the annunciation of 
the existence of spines of fishes in the Llandeilo Flags we 
owe to one of the most cautious and practised geologists of 
the present age,— Professor Sedgwick of Cambridge. 

So much for the fact of the existence of vertebrata in the 
Lower Silurian formations, and the argument founded on their 
presumed absence. Let me now refer — their presence being 
determined — to the tests of size and organization. Were these 
Silurian fishes of a bulk so inconsiderable as in any degree 
to sanction the belief that they had been developed shortly 
before from microscopic points % Or were they of a struc- 
ture so low as to render it probable that their development 
was at the time incomplete 1 Were they, in other words, 
the embryos and foetuses of their class ? Or did they, on the 
contrary, rank with the higher and larger fishes of the pre- 
sent time 1 

It is of importance that not only the direct bearing, but 
also the actual amount, of the evidence in this case should 
be fairly stated. So far as it extends, the testimony is clear; 


but it does not extend far. All the vertebrate remains yet 
detected in the Silurian system, if we except the debris of 
the Upper Ludlow bone-bed, might be sent through the Post- 
Office in a box scarcely twice the size of a copy of the " Ves- 
tiges." The naturalist of an exploring party, who, in cross- 
ing some unknown lake, had looked down over the side of 
his canoe, and seen a few fish gliding through the obscure 
depths of the water, would be but indifferently qualified, from 
what he had witnessed, to write a history of aXL its fish. Nor, 
were the some six or eight individuals of which he had caught 
a glimpse to be of small size, would it be legitimate for him 
to infer that only small-sized fish lived in the lake ; though, 
were there to be some two or three large ones among them, 
he might safely affirm the contrary. Now, the evidence re- 
garding the fishes of the Silurian formation very much resem- 
bles what that of the naturalist would be, in the supposed 
case, regarding the fishes of the unexplored lake ; with, how- 
ever, this difference, that as the deposits of the ancient sys- 
tem in which they occur have been examined for years in 
various parts of the world, and all its characteristic organ- 
isms, save the ichthyic ones, found in great abundance and 
fine keeping, we may conclude that the fish of the period 
were comparatively few. The palaeontologist, so feu: as the 
question of number is involved, is in the circumstances, not 
of the naturalist who has only once crossed the unknown lake, 
but of the angler who, day after day, casts his line into some 
inland sea abounding in shell-fish and Crustacea, and, after the 
lapse of months, can scarce detect a nibble, and, after the 
lapse of years, can reckon up all tho fish which he has caught 
as considerably under a score. The existence of this great 
division of the animal kingdom, like that of the earlier rep- 
tiles during the Carboniferous period, did not form a promi- 
nent characteristic of those ages of the earth's history in which 
they began to be.] 


The earliest discovered vertebral remains of the system, 
— those of the Upper Ludlow rock, — were found in digging 
the foundations of a house at Ludford, on the confines of 
Shropshire, and submitted, in 1838, by Sir Roderick Mur- 
chison to Agassiz, through the late Dr Malcolmson of Madras. 
I used at the time to correspond on geological subjects with 
Dr Malcolmson, — an accomplished geologist and a good man, 
too early lost to science and his friends, — and still remember 
the interest which attached on this occasion to his communi- 
cation bearing the Paris post-mark, from which I learned for 
the first time that there existed ichthyic fragments greatly 
older than even the ichthyolites of the Lower Old Red Sand- 
tone, and which made me acquainted with Agassiz' s earliest 
formed decision regarding them. Though existing in an ex- 
ceedingly fragmentary condition, — for the materials of the 
thin dark-coloured layer in which they had lain seemed as if 
they had been triturated in a mortar, — the ichthyologist suc- 
ceeded in erecting them into six genera ; though it may be 
very possible, — as some of these were formed for the recep- 
tion of detached spines, and others for the reception of de- 
tached teeth, — that, as in the case of Dipterus and Asterolepis, 
the fragments of but a single genus may have been multiplied 
into two genera or more. And minute scale-like markings, 
which mingled with the general mass, and were at first re- 
garded as the impressions of real scales, have been since re- 
cognised as of the same character with the scale-like markings 
of the Seraphim of Forfarshire, a huge crustacean. Even ad- 
mitting, however, that a set of teeth and spines, with perhaps 
the shagreen points represented in page 27, fig. 2, b, in addi- 
tion, may have all belonged to but a single species of fish, 
there seem to be materials enough among the remains found, 
for the erection of two species more. And we have evidence 
that at least two of the three kinds were fishes of the placoid 
order (Onchue Mwrchisoni and Onchus tenuistriatusjy and-— 


as the supposed scales must be given up— no good evidence 
that the other kind was not. The ichthyic remains of the 
Silurian system next discovered were first introduced to the 
notice of geologists by Professor Phillips, at the meeting of 
the British Association in 1 842.* They occurred, he stated, 
in a quarry near Hales End, at the base of the Upper Lud- 
low rock, immediately over the Aymestry Limestone, and 
were so exceedingly diminutive, that they appeared to the 
naked eye as mere discoloured spots, but resolved under the 
microscope into scattered groupes of minute spines, like those 
of the CheiraccmthuSj with what seemed to be still more mi- 
nute scales, or perhaps — what in such circumstances could 
scarce be distinguished from scales — shagreen points of the 
scale-like type. [The next ichthyic organism detected in the 
Silurian rocks occurred in the Wenlock Limestone, — a con- 
siderably lower and older deposit, — and was first described in 
the Edinburgh Review for 1845 by a vigorous writer and 
masterly geologist (generally understood to be Professor Sedg- 
wick of Cambridge), as " a characteristic portion of a fish un- 

* " Mr Phillips proceeded to describe some remains of a small fish 
resembling the Ckeiracanthus of the Old Bed Sandstone, scales and spines 
of which he had found in a quarry at Hales End, on the western side of 
the Malverns. The section presented beds of the Old Red Sandstone 
inclined to the west ; beneath these were arenaceous beds of a lighter 
colour, forming the junction with Silurian shales ; these, again, passing 
on to calcareous beds in the lower part of the quarry, containing the 
corals and shells of the Aymestry Limestone, of their agreement with 
which stronger evidence might be obtained elsewhere. He had found 
none of these scales in the junction beds or in the Upper Ludlow shales ; 
but about sixty or one hundred feet lower, just above the Aymestry 
limestone, his attention had been attracted to discoloured spots on the 
surface of the beds, which, upon microscopic examination, proved to be 
the minute scales and spines before mentioned. These remains were only 
apparent on the surface, whilst the ' fish-bed' of the Upper Ludlow rock, 
as it usually occurred, was an inch thick, consisting of innumerable small 
teeth and spines." — Report, in " Atheneeum" for 1842, of the Proceedings 
of ike Twelfth Meeting of British, Association ( Manchester J, 



doubtedly belonging to the Cestraciont family of the placoid 
order." In the American Journal of Science for 1846, Pro- 
fessor Silliman figured, from a work of the States' Surveyors, 
the defensive spine of a placoid found in the Onondago Lime- 
stone of New York, — a rock which occurs near the base of 
the Upper Silurian system, as developed in the Western 
world;* and in the same passage he made reference to a 
mutilated spine detected in a still lower American deposit, 
— the Oriskany Sandstona In the Geological Journal for 
1847 it was announced by Professor Sedgwick, that he had 
found " defences of fishes" in the Upper Llandeilo Flags, and 
by Sir Roderick Murchison, that the " defence of an Onchus" 
had been detected by the geologists of the Government sur- 
vey, in the Limestone near Bala. Sir Roderick referred in 
the same number to the remains of a fish found by Profes- 
sor Phillips in the Wenlock Shale. And such, up to the 
present time, is the actual amount of the evidence with which 
-we have to deal, and the dates of its piecemeal production. 
Let us next consider the order of Us occurrence in the geolo- 
gic scale. 

The better marked subdivisions of the Silurian system, 
as described in the great work specially devoted to it, may 
be regarded as seven in number. An eighth has since been 
added, by the transference of the tilestones from the lower 
part of the Old Red Sandstone group, to the upper part of 
the Silurian group underneath ; but in order the better to 

♦ " This is the lowest position [that of the Onondago Limestone] in 
the State of New York in which any remains have been found higher in 
the scale of organized beings than Crustacea, with the exception of an 
imperfectly preserved fish-bone discovered by Hall in the Oriskany Sand- 
stone. That specimen, together with the defensive fish-bone found in 
this part of the New York system, furnishes evidence of the existence 
of animals belonging to the class vertebrata during the deposition of the 
middle part of the protozoic strata." —American Journal of Science and 
Arts for 1846, p. 63. 




show how ichthyic discovery has in its slow coarse penetrated 
into the depths, I shall retain the divisions recognised as those 
of the system when that course began. The highest or most 



Upper Ludlow. 
Aymettry Limestone. 

Lower Ludlow. 
Wenlock limestone. 

Wenlock Shale. 



Caradoc Sandstone, &c. 

Llandeflo Flags, &c. 




Flynlimmon Group. 

Bala Limestone. 

Snowdon Groan. 

Fish, 1838, (Murchison). 
Fish, 1842, (Phillips). 

Fish, 1845, (Sedgwick). 
Fish, 1846, (Silliman). 

Fish, 1847, (Phillips). 

Fish, 1847, (Sedgwick). 

( Fish, 1847, (Geologist* 
} of Government Sur- 




Note. — We insert the following table of the Upper and Lower Siluriani 
as they are now subdivided, with fish descending to the Lower Ludlow. 
We are indebted for it to the Be v. Mr Symonds of Pendock. — L. M. 

Upper Ludlow. 
Aymestry Limestone. 
Lower Ludlow. 

Wenlock Limestone. 

Wenlock Shales and Wool- ) 
hope Beds. j 

Llandovery Bocks, Upper j 
and Lower. j 

i Caradoc or Bala Bocks 
Llandeilo Flags. 

Lingula Flags. 
Cambrian Bocks. 


Fish, 1838, (Murchison). 


None found. 


j Fish, 1859, (Mr Lee of 
) Caerleon). 


Fish, none. 


... none. 


... none. 


... none> 


... none. 


... none. 


... none. 


modern Silurian deposit, then (No. 1 of the accompanying 
diagram), is the Upper Ludlow rock ; and it is in the su- 
perior strata of this division that the bone-bed discovered in 
1838 occurs; while the exceedingly minute vertebrate re- 
mains described by Professor Phillips in 1842 occur in its 
base. The division next in the descending order, is the Ay- 
mestry Limestone (No. 2) ; the next (No. 3) the Lower Lud- 
low rock ; then (No. 4) the Wenlock or Dudley Limestone 
occurs ; and then, last and oldest deposit of the Upper Silu- 
rian formation, the Wenlock Shale (No. 5). It is in the 
fourth or Wenlock Limestone division that the defensive 
spine described in the Edinburgh Review for 1845 as the 
oldest vertebrate organism known at the time was found ;* 
while the vertebrate organism found by Professor Phillips 
belongs to the fifth or base deposit of the Upper Silurian. 
Further, the American spines of Onondago and Oriskany, 
described in 1846, occurred in rocks deemed contemporary 
with those of the Wenlock division. We next cross the line 
which separates the base of the Upper from the top of the 
Lower Silurian deposits, and find a great arenaceous forma- 
tion (No. 6), known as the Caradoc Sandstones ; while the 
Llandeilo Flags (No. 7), the formation upon which the sand- 
stones rest, compose, according to the sections of Sir Rode- 
rick, published in 1839, the lowest deposit of the Lower Si- 
lurian rocks. And it is in the upper part of this lowest 
member of the system that the ichthyic defences announced 
in 1847 by Professor Sedgwick occur. Vertebrate remains 
have now been detected in the same relative position in the 
seventh and most ancient member of the system that they were 
found to occupy in its first and most modern member ten 
years ago. But this is not alL Beneath the Lower Silurian 
division there occur vast fossiliferous deposits, to which the 

* " The shales alternating with the Wenlock Limestone." {Edirt- 
hurqh Review,) 


name "Cambrian System" was given, merely provisionally, 
by Sir Roderick, but which Professor Sedgwick still retains 
as representative of a distinct geologic period ; and it is in 
these, greatly below the Lower Silurian base-line, as drawn 
in 1839, that the Bala Limestones occur. The Plynlimmon 
rocks (a), — a series of conglomerate, grauwacke, and slate 
beds, several thousand yards in thickness, — intervene between 
the Llandeilo Flags and the Limestones of Bala (6). And, 
of consequence, the defensive spine of the Onchus, announced 
in 1847 as detected in these limestones by the geologists of 
the Government Survey, must have formed part of a fish that 
perished many ages ere the oldest of the Lower Silurian for- 
mations began to be deposited.] 

Let us now, after this survey of both the amount of our 
materials and the order and time of their occurrence, pass 
on to the question of size, as already stated. Did the ich- 
thyic remains of the Silurian system, hitherto examined and 
described, belong to large or to small fishes % The question 
cannot be altogether so conclusively answered as in the case 
of those ganoids of the Lower Old Red Sandstone whose der- 
mal skeletons indicate their original dimensions and form. 
In fishes of the placoid order, such as the sharks and rays, 
the dermal skeleton is greatly less continuous and persistent 
than in such ganoids as the Dipterians and Celacanths ; and 
when their remains occur in the fossil state, we can reason, 
in most instances, regarding the bulk of the individuals of 
which they formed part> merely from that of detached teeth 
)r spines, whose proportion to the entire size of the ani- 
mals that bore them cannot be strictly determined. We 
can, indeed, do little more than infer, that though a large 
placoid may have been armed with but small spines or teeth, 
a small placoid could not have borne very large ones. And 
to this placoid order all the Silurian fish, from the Aymes- 
try Limestone to the Cambrian deposits of Bala inclusive, 


unequivocally belong. It is peculiarly the order of the 

The Ludlow bone-bed contains not only defensive spines, 
but also teeth, fragments of jaws, and shagreen points. Let 
us, then, take the defensive spine as the part on which to 
found our comparison. One of the best marked placoids of 
the Upper Ludlow bone-bed is that Onchus Murchisoni to 
which the distinguished geologist whose name it bears refers, 
in his communication, as so nearly resembling the oldest pla- 
coid yet known, — that of the Bala limestone. And the 
living fishes with which the Onchus Murchisoni must be com- 
pared, says Agassiz, though " the affinity," he adds, " may 
be rather distant," are those of the genera " CestracUm, Cen- 
trina, and Spinax." I have placed before me a specimen of 
recent Spinax, of a species well known to all my readers on 
the sea-coast, the Spinax Acanthias, or common dog-fish, so 
little a favourite with our fishermen. It measures exactly 
two feet three inches in length ; and of the defensive spines 
of its two dorsals, — those spear-like thorns on the creature's 
back immediately in advance of the fins, which so frequently 
wound the fisher's hand, — the anterior and smaller measures 
from base to point an inch and a half, and the posterior and 
larger two inches. I have also placed before me a specimen 
of Cestracion PhiUippi (the Port-Jackson shark), a fish now 
recognised as the truest existing analogue of the Silurian pla- 
coids. It measures twenty-two three-fourth inches in length, 
and is furnished, like Spinax, with two dorsal spines, of which 
the anterior and larger measures from base to point one one- 
half inch, and the posterior and smaller one one-fifth inch. 

* It is to be regretted that the author had not the placo-ganoids of 
the Upper and Lower Ludlow rocks to reason upon, as well as the pla- 
coids. But the inferences from the data he had, — the defensive spines 
and shagreen of the Upper Ludlow, — are not affected thereby. What 
he would have added may be gathered from his remarks elsewhere upon 
the Cephalaspians. — L. M. 




Bat the defensive spine of the Onchits Murchisoni, as exhi- 
bited in one of the Ludlow specimens, measures, though 
Snutdlated at both ends, three inches and five-eighth parts in 
ength. Even though existing but as a fragment, it is, as such, 
learly twice the length of the largest spine of the dog-fish 
inmutilated and entire, and considerably more than twice the 
ength of the largest spine of the Port- Jackson shark. The 
spines detected by Professor Phillips, in an inferior stratum 
f the same upper deposit, were, as has been shown, of 
icroscopic minuteness ; and when they seemed to rest on 
he extreme horizon of ichthyic existence as the most an- 
ient remains of their kind, the author of the " Vestiges" 
vailed himself of the fact He regarded the little crea- 
ures to which they had belonged as the foetal embryos, 
eir class, or — to employ the language of the Edinburgh 
viewer — as " the tokens of Nature's first and half-abortive 
fforts to make fish out of the lower animals.'* From the 
ater editions of his work the paragraph to which the Re- 
iewer refers has, I find, been expunged ; for the horizon has 
greatly extended, and what seemed to be its line of extreme 
/distance has travelled into the middle of the prospect But 
f that the passage should have existed at all is a not uninstruc- 
f tive circumstance, and shows how unsafe it is, in more than 
external nature, to regard the line at which, for the time, the 
landscape closes, and heaven and earth seem to meet, as in 
reality the world's encL The Wenlock specimen, — a group 
of palatal teeth, — though certainly not microscopic, is, I am 
informed by Sir Philip Egerton, of but small size ; whereas 
the contemporary spine of the Onondago Limestone, though 
comparatively more a fragment than the spine of the Upper 
Ludlow 0nchu8 } — for it measures only three inches in length, 
— is at least five times as bulky as the largest spine of Spinax 
Acanthias. Representing one of the massier fishes disporting 
amid the some four or five small ones, of which, in my illustra- 



tion, the naturalist catches a glimpse in fording the unknown 
lake, it at least serves to show that all the Silurian ichthyolites 
must not be described as small, seeing that not only might many 
of its undetected fish have been large, but that some of those 

Fig. 53. 


a. Posterior Spine of Spinax A canthias. b. Fragment of Onondago Spine, 

(Natural Size.) 

which have been detected were actually so. Another Ameri- 
can spine, of nearly the same formation, — for it occurs in a 
limestone, varying from twenty to seventy feet in thickness, 
which immediately overlies that of the Onondago deposit, 
though still more fragmentary than the first, for its length 
is only two three-eighth inches, — maintains throughout a 
nearly equal thickness, — a circumstance in itself indicative 
of considerable size ; and in positive bulk it almost rivals the 
Onondago one. Of the Lower Silurian and Bala fishes no 
descriptions or figures have yet appeared. And such, up to 
the present time, is the testimony derived from this depart- 
ment of Geology, so far as I have been able to determine it, 
regarding the size of the ancient Silurian vertebrata. " No 
organism," says Professor Oken, " is, nor ever has one been 
created, which is not microscopic." The Professor's pupils 
and abettors, the assertors of the development hypothesis, 
appeal to the geological evidence as altogether on their side 
in th* mute ; and straightway a few witnesses enter court. But, 


lo ! among the expected dwarfs, there appear individuals of 
more than the average bulk and stature. 

Still, however, the question of organization remains. Did 
these ancient placoid fishes stand high or low in the scale 1 
According to the poet, " What can we reason but from what 
we know?" We are acquainted with the placoid fishes of 
the present time ; and from these only, taking analogy as our 
guide, can we form any judgment regarding the rank and 
standing of their predecessors, the placoids of the geologic 
periods. But the consideration of this question, as it is spe- 
cially one on which the later assertors of the development 
hypothesis concentrate themselves, I must, to secure the space 
necessary for its discussion, defer till my next chapter. Mean- 
while, I am conscious I owe an apology to the reader for what 
he must deem tedious minuteness of description, and a too 
prolix amplitude of statement It is only by representing 
things as they actually are, and in the true order of their oc- 
currence, that the effect of the partially selected facts and ex- 
aggerated descriptions of the Lamarckians can be adequately 
met True, the disadvantages of the more sober mode are 
unavoidably great. He who feels himself at liberty to ar- 
range his collected shells, corals, and fish-bones into artisti- 
cally designed figures, and to select only the pretty ones, will 
be of course able to make of them a much finer show than he 
who is necessitated to represent them in the order and nu- 
merical proportions in which they occur on some pebbly beach 
washed by the sea. And such is the advantage, in a literary 
point of view, of the ingenious theorist, who, in making figures 
of his geological facts, takes no more of them than suits his 
purpose, over the man who has to communicate the facts as 
he finds them. But the homelier mode is the true one. " Could 
we obtain,'* says a distinguished metaphysician, " a distinct 
and full history of all that has passed in the mind of a child, 
from the beginning of life and sensation till it grows up to 


the use of reason, — how its infant faculties began to work, 
and how they brought forth and ripened all the various no- 
tions, opinions, and sentiments which we find in ourselves 
when we come to be capable of reflection, — this would be a 
treasure of natural history which would probably give more 
light into the human faculties than all the systems of philo- 
sophers about them since the beginning of the world. But 
it is in vain," he adds, " to wish for what nature has not put 
within the reach of our power." In like manner, could wo 
obtain, it may be remarked, a full and distinct account of a 
single class of the animal kingdom, from its first appearance 
till the present time, " this would be a treasure of natural 
history which would cast more light" on the origin of living 
existences, and the true economy of creation, than all the 
theories of all the philosophers " since the beginning of the 
world." And in order to approximate to such a history as 
nearly as possible, — and it does seem possible to approximate 
near enough to substantiate the true readings of the volume, 
and to correct the false ones, — it is necessary that the real 
vestiges of creation should be carefully investigated, and their 
order of succession ascertained. 



We have seen that some of the Silurian placoids were large 
of size : the question still remains, " Were they high in in- 
telligence and organization 1 

The Edinburgh Reviewer, in contending with the author 
of the " Vestiges," replies in the affirmative, by claiming for 
them the first place among fishes. " Taking into account," 
he says, " the brain and the whole nervous, circulating, and 
generative systems, they stand at the highest point of a na- 
tural ascending scale." They are fishes, he again remarks, 
that rank among " the very highest types of their class." 

" The fishes of this early age, and of all other ages pre- 
vious to the Chalk," says his antagonist, in reply, " are, for 
the most part, cartilaginous. The cartilaginous fishes — 
the Chondropterygii of Cuvier — are placed by that naturalist 
as a second series in his descending scale ; being, however, he 
says, ' in some measure parallel to the first? How far this 
is different from their being the highest types of the fish class, 
need not be largely insisted upon. Linnaeus, again, was so 
impressed by the low characters of many of this order, that 
he actually ranked them with worms. Some of the cartila- 
ginous fishes, nevertheless, have certain peculiar features of 
organization, chiefly connected with reproduction, in which 


they excel other fish ; bat such features are partly partaken 
of by families in inferior sub-kingdoms, showing that they 
cannot truly be regarded as marks of grade in their own class. 
When we look to the great fundamental characters, particu- 
larly to the framework for the attachment of the muscles, 
what do we find 1 — why, that of these placoids, — ' the highest 
types of their class,' — it is barely possible to establish their 
being vertebrata at all, the back-bone having generally been 
too shght for preservation, although the vertebral columns of 
later fossil fishes are as entire as those of any other animals. 
In many of them traces can be observed of the. muscles having 
been attached to the external plates, strikingly indicating their 
low grade as vertebrate animals. The Edinburgh Reviewer's 
' highest types of their class' are in reality a separate series 
of that class, generally inferior, taking the leading features of 
organization of structure as a criterion, but when details of 
organization are regarded, stretching farther, both downward 
and upward, than the other series ; so that, looking at one 
extremity, we are as much entitled to call them the lowest, 
as the Reviewer, looking at another extremity, is to call them 
the ' highest of their class.' Of the general inferiority there 
can be no room for doubt. Their cartilaginous structure is, 
in the first place, analogous to the embryonic state of verte- 
brated animals in general The maxillary and intermaxillary 
bones are in them rudimental. Their tails are finned on the 
under side only, — an admitted feature of the salmon in an em- 
bryonic stage ; and the mouth is placed on the under side of 
the head, — also a mean and embryonic feature of structure. 
These characters are essential and important, whatever the 
Edinburgh Reviewer may say to the contrary : they are the 
characters which, above all, I am chiefly concerned in look- 
ing to, for they are features of embryonic progress, and em- 
bryonic progress is the grand key to the theory of develop- 


Such is the ingenious piece of special pleading which this 
most popular of the Lamarckians directs against the standing 
and organization of the earlier fishes. Let us examine it 
somewhat in detail, and see whether the slight admixture of 
truth which it contains serves to do aught more than to ren- 
der current, like the gilding of a counterfeit guinea spread 
over the base metal, the amount of error which lies beneath. 
I know not a better example than that which it furnishes, of 
the entanglement and perplexity in which the meshes of an ar- 
tificial classification, when converted, in argumentative pro- 
cesses, into symbols and abstractions, are sure to involve sub- 
jects simple enough in themselves. 

Fishes, according to the classification of a preponderating 
majority of the ichthyologists that have flourished from the 
earliest times down to those of Agassiz, have been divided 
into two great series, the Ordinary or osseous, and the Chon- 
dropterygii or cartilaginoua And these two divisions of the 
class, instead of being ranged consecutively in a continuous 
line, the one in advance of the other, have been ranged in 
two parallel lines, the one directly abreast of the other. There 
is this farther peculiarity in the arrangement, that the line of 
the cartilaginous series, from the circumstance that some of 
its families rise higher and some sink lower in the scale than 
any of the ordinary fishes, outflanks the array of the osseous 
series at both ends. The front which it presents contains 
fewer genera and species than that of the osseous division ; 
but, like the front of an army drawn out in single file, it ex< 
tends along a greater length of ground. And to this long- 
fronted series of the cartilaginous, or, according to Cuvier, 
Chondropterygicm fishes, the placoid families of Agassiz belong, 
— among the rest, the placoids of the Silurian formations, 
Upper and Lower. But though all the placoids of this latter 
naturalist be cartilaginous fishes, all cartilaginous fishes are 
not placoids. The Sturionidce are cartilaginous, and are, as 


such, rauked by Cuvier among the Chondropterygii, whereas 
Agassiz places them in his ganoid order. Many of the ex* 
tinct fishes, too, such as the Acanthodei, Diplerufe, Cephalas- 
pidaRy were, as we have seen, cartilaginous in their internal 
framework, and yet true ganoids notwithstanding. The prin- 
ciple of Agassiz's classification wholly differs from that of Cu- 
vier and the older ichthyologists; for it is a classification 
founded, not on the character of the internal, but on that of 
the cuticular or dermal skeleton. And while to the geologist 
it possesses great and obvious advantages over every other, — 
for of the earlier fishes very little more than the cuticular 
skeleton survives, — it has this further recommendation to the 
naturalist, that (in so far at least as its author. has been true 
to his own principles), instead of anomalously uniting the 
highest and lowest specimens of their class, — the fishes that 
most nearly approximate to the reptiles on the one hand, and 
the fishes that sink furthest towards the worms on the other, 
— it gathers into one consistent order all the individuals of 
the higher type, distinguished above their fellows by their 
development of brain, the extensive range of their instincts, 
and the perfection of their generative systems. Farther, the 
history of animal existences, as recorded in the sedimentary 
rocks of our planet, reads a recommendation of this scheme 
of classification which it extends to no other. We find that 
in the progress of creation the fishes began to be by groupes 
and septs, arranged according to the principle on which it 
erects its orders.* The placoids came first, the ganoids suc- 
ceeded them, and the ctenoids and cycloids brought up the 
rear. The march has been marshalled according to an ap- 
pointed programme, the order of which it is peculiarly the 
merit of Agassiz to have ascertained. 

* We now need to reverse this order, in so far as the placoids and 
ganoids are concerned, although they may be almost considered — as we 
think they will be ultimately found to be — contemporarie*. — L. AL 


Now, may I request the reader to mark, in the first place, 
that what we have specially to deal with at the present stage 
of the argument are the placoid fishes of the Silurian forma- 
tion. May I ask him to take note, in the second, that the 
long-fronted Chondropterygian series of Cuvier, though it in- 
cludes, as has been already said, the placoid order of Agassiz, 
— just as the red-blooded division of animals includes the 
bimana and quadrumana, — is no more to be regarded as iden- 
tical with the placoids, than the red-blooded animals are to 
be regarded as identical with the apes or with the human fa- 
mily. It simply includes them in the character of one of the 
three great divisions into which it has been separated, — the 
division ranged, if I may so express myself, on the extreme 
right of the line ; its middle portion, or main body, being 
composed of the Stturione8 9 — a family on the general level of 
the osseous fishes ; while, ranged on the extreme left, we find 
the low division of the Suctorii, i. e. Cyclostomi, or lam- 
preys. But with the middle and lower divisions we have 
at present nothing to do ; for of neither of them, whether 
Sturiones or Swctorii y does the Silurian system exhibit a 
trace. Further be it remarked, that the scheme of classi- 
fication which gives an abstract standing to the Chondrop- 
terygii is in itself merely a certain perception of resemblance 
which existed in certain minds, having cartilage for its gene- 
ral idea ; just as another certain perception of resemblance 
in one other certain mind had cuticvlar skeleton for its ge- 
neral idea, and as yet another perception of resemblance in 
yet other certain minds had red blood for its general idea. 
As shown by the disparities which obtain among the sec- 
tion which the scheme serves to separate from the others, it 
no more determines rank or standing than that greatly more 
ancient scheme of classification into " ring-streaked and 
spotted," which served to distinguish the flocks of the pa- 
triarch Jacob from those of Laban his father-in-law, but 


which did not distinguish goate from sheep, nor sheep from 

The effect of introducing, after this manner, generalizations 
made altogether irrespective of rank, and avowedly without 
reference to it, into what are inherently and specifically ques- 
tions of rank, admits of a simple illustration. 

Let us suppose that it was not with the standing of the 
Silurian placoids that we had to deal, but with that of the 
mammals of the recent period, including the quadrumana, 
and even the bimana, and that we had ventured to describe 
them, in the words of the Edinburgh Reviewer, as " the very 
highest types of their class." What would be thought of 
the reasoner who, in challenging the justice of the estimate, 
would argue that these creatures, men as well as monkeys, 
belonged simply to that division of red-blooded animals which 
includes, with the bimana and quadrumana, the frog, the 
gudgeon, and the earthworm ? — a division, he might add, 
" which, when details of organization are regarded, stretches 
farther, both downward and upward," than that division of 
the white-blooded animals to which the crab, the spider, the 
cuttle-fish, and the dragon-fly belong ; " so that, looking at 
one extremity [that occupied by the earthworm], any one is as 
much entitled to call the red-blooded animals the lowest divi- 
sion, as any other, looking at another extremity, is to call them 
the highest division, of animals." What, it might well be asked 
in reply, has the earthworm, with its red blood, to do in a ques- 
tion respecting the place and standing of the bimana ? Or 
what, in the parallel case, have the Suctorii — the worms of 
Linnaeus — to do in a question respecting the place and standing 
of the real placoids ? True it is that, according to one principle 
of classification, now grown somewhat obsolete, men and earth- 
worms are equally red-blooded animals; true it is that, accord- 
ing to another principle of classification, the placoids of Agas- 
aiz and the cartilaginous worms of Linnaeus are equally Chon- 


dropterygii. The bimana and the earthworm have their red 
blood in common ; the glutinous hag and the true placoids 
have as certainly their internal cartilage in common ; and if 
the fact of the red blood of the worm lowers in no degree the 
rank of the bimana, then, on the same principle, the fact of 
the internal cartilage of the glutinous hag cannot possibly de- 
tract from the standing of the true placoid In both cases 
they are creatures that entirely differ, — the earthworms from 
the bimana, and the cartilaginous worms from the placoids ; 
and the classification which tags them together, whether it be 
that of Aristotle or that of Cuvier, cannot be converted into 
a sort of minus quantity, of force enough to detract from the 
value and standing of the bimana in the one case, or of the 
true placoids in the other. It is in no degree derogatory to 
the human family that earthworms possess red blood ; it is 
in no degree derogatory to the true placoids that the Suctorii 
possess cartilaginous skeletons. 

Let the reader now mark the use which has been made, 
by the author of the " Vestiges," of the name and authority 
of Linnaeus. " Linnaeus," he states, " was so impressed by 
the low character of many of this order (the Chondropterygii), 
that he actually ranked them with worms." Now, what is 
the fact here? Simply that Linnaeus had no such general 
order as the Chondropterygii in his eye at all. Though 
chiefly remarkable as a naturalist for the artiflcialness of his 
classifications, his estimate of the cartilaginous fishes was re- 
markable — though carried too far in its extremes, and in 
some degree founded in error — for an opposite quality. It 
was an estimate formed, in the main, on a natural basis. 
Instead of taking their cartilaginous skeleton into account, 
he looked chiefly at their standing as animals ; and, struck 
with that extent of front which they present, and with both 
their superiority on the extreme right, and their inferiority 
on the extreme left, to the ordinary fishes, he erected them 



into two separate orders, the one lower and the other higher 
than the members of the osseous line. And so far was he 
from regarding the true placoids, — those Chondropterygii 
which to an internal skeleton of cartilage add external plates, 
points, or spines of bone, — as low in the scale, that he ac- 
tually raised them above fishes altogether, by erecting them 
into an order of reptiles, — the order Amphibia Navies. Surely, 
if the name of Linnaeus was to be introduced into this con- 
troversy at all, it ought to have been in connection with this 
special fact ; seeing that the point to be determined in the 
question under discussion is simply the place and standing of 
that very order which the naturalist rated so high, — not the 
place and standing of the order which he degraded. It so 
happens that there is one of the Chondropterygii which, so 
far from being a true placoid, does not possess a single osseous 
plate, point, or spine : it is a worm-like creature, without eyes, 
without moveable jaws, without vertebral joints, without scales, 
always enveloped in slime, and greatly abhorred by our Scotch 
boatmen of the Moray Frith, who hold that it burrows, like 
the grave-worm, in the decaying bodies of the dead. And 
this creature, " the glutinous hag," or, according to north- 
country fishermen, the " ramper-eel," or " poison-ramper/' 
was regarded by Linnaeus as belonging, not to the class of 
fishes, but to the vermes. Now, this is the special fact with 
which, in the development controversy, the author of the 
" Vestiges" connects the name of the Swedish naturalist I 
All the fish of the Silurian system belonged to that true pla- 
coid order which Linnaeus, impressed by its high standing, 
erected into an order, not of worms, but of reptiles. He ele- 
vated A, the true placoid, while he degraded B, the glutinous 
hag. But it was necessary to the argument of the author of 
the " Vestiges" that the earliest existing fish should be repre- 
sented as fish low in the scale ; and so he has cited the name 
and authority of Linnaeus in its bearing against the glutinous 


hag B, as if it had borne against the standing of the true pla- 
coid A. The Patagonians are the tallest and bulkiest men 
in the world, whereas their neighbours the Fuegians are a 
slim and diminutive race. And if, in some controversy raised 
regarding the real size of the more gigantic tribe, they were 
to be described as the "very tallest types of their class, any 
statement in reply, to the effect that some trustworthy voyagor 
had examined certain races of the extreme south of America, 
and had found that they were both short and thin, would be 
neither relevant in its facts nor legitimate in its bearing. But 
if the controversialist who thus strove to strengthen his case 
by the voyager's authority was at the same time fully aware 
that the voyager had seen not only the diminutive Fuegians, 
but also the gigantic Patagonians, and that he had described 
these last as very gigantic indeed, the introduction of the 
statement regarding the smaller race, when he wholly sank 
the statement regarding the larger, would be not merely very 
irrelevant in the circumstances, but also very unfair. Such, 
however, is the style of statement to which the author of the 
" Vestiges" has (I trust inadvertently) resorted in this con- 

It is not uninstructive to mark how slowly and gradually 
the naturalists have been groping their way to a right classi- 
fication in the ichthyic department of their science, and how 
it has been that identical perception of resemblance, having 
cartilage for its general idea, to which the author of the 
" Vestiges*" attaches so much importance, has served main- 
ly to retard their progress. Not a few of the more distin- 
guished among their number deemed it too important a 
distinction to be regarded as merely secondary ; and so long 
as it was retained as a primary characteristic, the fishes failed 
to range themselves in the natural order ; — dissimilar tribes 
were brought into close neighbourhood, virile tribes nearly- 
allied were widely separated. It failed, as has been shown, 


to influence Linnaeus ; and though he no doubt pressed his 
peculiar views too far when he degraded the glutinous hag 
into a worm, and elevated the sharks and rays into reptiles, 
it is certainly worthy of remark, that, in the scheme of clas- 
sification which is now regarded as the most natural, — that 
of Professor Muller, modified by Professor Owen, — the ich- 
thyic worms of the Swede are placed in the first and lowest 
order of fishes, — the Dermopteri, — and the greater part of his 
ichthyic reptiles, in the eleventh and highest, — the Plagios- 
tomi. Cuvier yielded, as has been shown, to the idea of re- 
semblance founded on the material of the ichthyic framework, 
and so ranged his fishes into two parallel lines. Professor 
Oken, after first enunciating as law that " the characteristic 
organ of fishes is the osseous system," confessed the "great 
difficulty" which attaches to the question of skeletal " tex- 
ture or substance," and finally gave up the distinction founded 
on it as obstinately irreducible to the purposes of a natural 
classification. " The cartilaginous fishes," he says, " appear 
to belong to each other, and are also usually arranged together ; 
yet amongst them we find those species, such as the lampreys, 
which obviously occupy the lowest grade of all fishes, while 
the sharks and rays remind us of the Reptilia." And so, sink- 
ing the consideration of texture altogether, he placed the fa- 
mily of the lamprey, including the glutinous hag, at the bot- 
tom of the scale, and the sharks and rays at the top. Agassiz's 
system, peculiarly his own, has had the rare merit, as I have 
shown, of furnishing a key to the history of the fish in its 
several dynasties, which we may in vain seek in any other. 
His divisions, — if, retaining his strongly-marked placoids and 
ganoids as orders stamped in the mint of nature, we throw 
his perhaps less obviously divisible ctenoids and cycloids into 
one order, the corneous or horn-covered, — are scarcely less 
representative of periods than those great classes of the ver- 
tebrata, — mammals, birds, reptiles, and fishes, — which we find 


not less regularly ranged in their order of succession in the 
geologic record than in the ** Animal Kingdom" of Cuvier, 
— a shrewd corroboration, in both cases, I am disposed to 
think, of the rectitude of the arrangement. What seems to 
be the special defect of his system is, that, having erected his 
four orders, and then finding a certain number of residuary 
families that, on his principle of cuticular character, stubbornly 
refused to fall into any determinate place, he distributed them 
among the others, with reference chiefly to the totally dis- 
tinct principle of Cuvier. Thus the Sitctorii, soft, smooth, 
slimy-skinned fishes, that do not possess a single placoid cha- 
racter, and are not true placoids, he has yet placed in his pla- 
coid order, influenced, apparently, by the " perception of re- 
semblance that has cartilage for its central idea ;" and the 
effect has been a massing into one anomalous and entangled 
group the fishes of the first period of geologic history, with 
fishes of which we do not find a trace save in the existing 
scene of things, and of the highest families of their class with 
families that occupy the lowest place. But we live in an age 
in which even the benefactors of the world of mind cannot 
make false steps with impunity ; and so, while Agassiz's three 
ichthyic orders will continue to be recognised by the palaeon- 
tologist as the orders of three great geologic periods, the «SW- 
torii have already been struck from off his higher fishes by the 
classification of Muller and Owen, and carried to that lowest 
point in the scale (indicated by Linnaeus and Oken) which 
their inferior standing renders so obviously the natural one. 
JSome of my readers may perhaps remember how finely Bacon, 
in his " Wisdom of the Ancients," interprets the old mytho- 
logic story of Prometheus. Prometheus, says the philosopher, 
had conferred inestimable favours on men, by moulding their 
forms into shape, and bringing them fire from heaven ; and 
yet they complained of him and his teachings to Jupiter. 
And the god, instead rf censuring their ingratitude, was 


pleased with the complaint) and rewarded them with gifts. 
In putting nature to the question, it is eminently wholesome 
to be doubting, cross-examining, complaining ; ever demand- 
ing of our masters and benefactors the philosophers, that they 
should reign over us, not arbitrarily and despotically, 

" like the old kings, with high exacting looks, 
Sceptred and globed," 

but like our modern constitutional monarchs, who govern by 
law ; and, further, that an appeal from their decisions on all 
subjects within the jurisdiction of Nature should for ever lie 
open to Nature herself The seeming ingratitude of such 
a course, if the " complaints" be made in a right spirit and 
on proper grounds, Jupiter always rewards with gifts. 

Let us now see for ourselves, in this spirit, whether therti 
may not be something absolutely derogatory, in the existence 
of a cartilaginous skeleton, to the creatures possessing it ; or 
whether a deficit of internal bone may not be greatly more 
than neutralized, as it assuredly must have been in the view 
of Linnaeus, Muller, and Owen, by a larger than ordinary 
share of a vastly more important substance. 





That special substance according to whose mass and degree 
of development all the creatures of this world take rank in 
the scale of creation, is not bone, but brain. Were animals 
to be ranged according to the solidity of their bones, the class 
of birds would be assigned the first place ; the family of the 
Felidce, including the tiger and lion, the second ; and the 
other terrestrial carnivora the third Man and the herbivo- 
rous animals, though tolerably low in the scale, would be in 
advance of at least the reptiles. Most of these, however, 
would take precedence of the sagacious Detphinidae ; the osse- 
ous fishes would come next in order ; the true placoids would 
follow, succeeded by the Sturiones ; and the Suctoriiy i. e. 
Cyclostomi or lampreys, would bring up the rear. There would 
be evidently no order here : the utter confusion of such an 
arrangement^ like that of the bits of a dissected map flung 
carelessly out of its box by a child, would of itself demon- 
strate the inadequacy and erroneousness of the regulating 
principle. But how very different the appearance presented, 
when for solidity of bone we substitute development of brain! 
Man takes his proper place at the head of creation ; the lower 


mammalia follow, — each species in due order, according to its 
modicum of intelligence ; the birds succeed the mammalia ; 
the reptiles succeed the birds ; the fishes succeed the reptiles ; 
next in the long procession come the invertebrate animals; 
and these, too, take rank, if not according to their develop- 
ment of brain proper, at least according to their development 
of the substance of brain. The occipital nervous ganglion 
of the scorpion greatly exceeds in size that of the earthworm; 
and the occipital nervous ring of the lobster, that of the in- 
testinal ascaris. At length, when we reach the lowest or 
acrite division of the animal kingdom, the substance of brain 
altogether disappears. It has been calculated by naturalists, 
that in the vertebrata, the brain in the class of fishes bears 
an average proportion to the spinal cord of about two to one ; 
in the class of reptiles, of about two and a half to one ; in 
the class of birds, of about three to one ; in the class of mam- 
mals, of about four to one ; and in the high-placed, sceptre- 
bearing human family, a proportion of not less than twenty- 
three to one. It is palpably according to development of 
brain, not development of bone, that we are to determine 
points of precedence among the animals, — a fact of which no 
one can be more thoroughly aware than the author of the 
" Vestiges" himself Of this let me adduce a striking in- 
stance, of which I shall make further use anon. 

" All life," says Oken, " is from the sea ; none from the 
continent. Man also is a child of the warm and shallow 
parts of the sea in the neighbourhood of the land." Such 
also was the hypothesis of Lamarck and Maillet. In follow- 
ing up the view of his masters, the author of the " Vestiges" 
fixes on the Delphinidce as the sea-inhabiting progenitors of 
the simial family, and, through the simial family, of man. 
For that highest order of the mammalia to which the Simi- 
ad<B (monkeys) belong, " there remains," he says, " a basis 
in the Delphinidce, the last and smallest of the cetacean tribes. 


This affiliation has a special support in the brain of the dol- 
phin family, which is distinctly allowed to be, in proportion 
to general bulk, the greatest among mammalia next to the 
ourang-outang and man. We learn from Tiedemann, that each 
of the cerebral hemispheres is composed, as in man and the 
monkey tribe, of three lobes,— an anterior, a middle, and a 
posterior ; and these hemispheres present much more nume- 
rous circumvolutions and grooves than those of any other 
animaL Here it might be rash to found anything upon tne 
ancient accounts of the dolphin, — its familiarity with man, 
and its helping him in shipwreck and various marine disas- 
ters ; although it is difficult to believe these stories to be al- 
together without some basis in fact. There is no doubt, how- 
ever, that the dolphin evinces a predilection for human society, 
and charms the mariner by the gambols which it performs 
beside his vessel." 

Here, then, the author of the " Vestiges" palpably founds 
on a large development of brain in the dolphin, and on the 
manifestation of a correspondingly high order of instincts ; 
and this altogether irrespective of the structure or composi- 
tion of the creature's internal skeleton. The substance to 
which he looks as all-important in the case is brain, not bone. 
For were he to estimate the standing of the dolphin, not by 
its brain, but by its skeleton, he would have to assign to it 
a place, not only not in advance of its brethren the mam- 
malia of the sea, but even in the rear of the reptiles of the 
sea, — the marine tortoises, or turtles, — and scarce more than 
abreast of the osseous fishes. " Fishes," says Professor Owen, 
in his " Lectures on the Vertebrate Animals," " have the 
least proportion of earthy matter in their bones ; birds the 
largest. The mammalia, especially the active, predatory 
species, have more earth, or harder bones, than reptiles. In 
each class, however, there are differences in the density of 
bone among its several members. For example, in the fresh- 


water fishes, the bones are lighter, and retain more animal 
matter, than in those which swim in the denser sea. And 
in the dolphin, a warm-blooded marine animal, they differ 
little in this respect from those of the sea-fish " Such being 
the fact, it is surely but fair to inquire of the author of the 
" Vestiges," why he should determine the rank and standing 
of the Ddphinidm according to one set of principles, and the 
rank and standing of the placoids according to another and 
entirely different set 1 If the Delphinidce are to be placed 
high in the scale, notwithstanding the softness of their skele- 
tons, simply because their brains are large, why are the pla- 
coids to be placed low in the scale, notwithstanding the 
largeness of their brains, simply because their skeletons are 
soft 1 It is not too much to demand that, on the principle 
which he himself recognises as just, he should either degrade 
the dolphin or elevate the placoid. For it is altogether inad- 
missible that he should reason on one set of laws when the 
exigencies of his hypothesis require that creatures with soft 
skeletons should be raised in the scale, and on another and 
entirely different set when its necessities demand that they 
should be depressed. 

But do the placoids possess in reality a large development 
of brain 1 I have examined the brains of almost all the com- 
mon fish of our coast, both osseous and cartilaginous, — not, 
I fear, with the skill of a Tiedemann, but all the more intel- 
ligently in consequence of what Tiedemann had previously 
done and written ; and so I can speak with some little con- 
fidence on the subject, so far at least as my modicum of ex- 
perience, thus acquired, extends, Of all the common fish 
of the Scottish seas, the spotted or lesser dog-fish bears, in 
proportion to its size, the largest brain ; the gray or picked 
dog-fish ranks next in the degree of development ; the rays, 
in their various species, follow after ; and the osseous fishes 
compose at least the great body of the rear; while still 


farther behind there lags a hapless class, — the Swctorii, — one 
of which, the glutinous hag, has scarce any brain, and one, 
the Amphioxus or lancelet, wants brain altogether. I have 
compared the brain of the spotted dog-fish with that of a 
young alligator, and have found that in scarce any percep- 
tible degree was it inferior in point of bulk, and very slightly 
indeed in point of organization, to the brain of the reptile. 
And the instincts of this placoid family, — one of the truest 
existing representatives of the placoids of the Silurian sys- 
tem* to which we can appeal, — correspond, we invariably 
find, with their superior cerebral development I have seen 
the common dog-fish, Spinax Acanlhias, hovering in packs 
in the Moray Frith, some one or two fathoms away from the 
side of the herring-boat, from which, when the fishermen 
were engaged in hauling their nets, I have watched them, 
and have admired the caution which, with all their ferocity 
of disposition, they rarely foiled to manifest ; — how they kept 
aloof from the net, even more warily than the cetacea them- 
selves, — though both dog-fish and cetacea are occasionally 
entangled ; and how, when a few herrings were shaken loose 
from the meshes, they at once darted upon them, exhibiting 
for a moment, through the green depths, the pale gleam of 
their abdomens, as they turned upon their sides to seize the 
desired morsels, — a motion rendered necessary by the posi- 
tion of the mouth in this family ; and how next, their object 
accomplished, they fell back into their old position, and waited 
on as before. And I have been assured by intelligent fisher- 
men, that at the deep-sea white-fishing, in which baited hooks, 
not nets, are employed, the degree of shrewd caution exer- 

* The Silurian placoids are most adequately represented by the Ce«- 
tracion of the southern hemisphere ; but I know not that of the peculiar 
character and instincts of this interesting placoid, — the last of its race, — 
there is anything known. . For its form and general appearance see fig. 
65, page 151. 


cised by these creatures seems more extraordinary stilL The 
hatred which the fisher bears to them arises not more from 
the actual amount of mischief which they do him, than from 
the circumstance that, in most cases, they persist in doing it 
with complete impunity to themselves. I have seen, said an 
observant Cromarty fisherman to the writer of these chapters, 
a pack of dog-fish watching beside our boat, as we were haul- 
ing our lines, and severing the hooked fish, as they passed 
them, at a bite, just a little above the vent, so that they 
themselves escaped the swallowed hook; and I have frequently 
lost in this way no inconsiderable portion of a fishing. I 
have observed, however, he continued, that when a fresh pack 
of hungry dog-fish came up, and joined the pack that had 
been robbing us so coolly, and at their leisure, a sudden rash- 
ness would seize the whole ; the united packs would become 
a mere heedless mob, and, rushing forward, they would swal- 
low our fish entire, and be caught themselves by the score 
and the hundred. We may see something very similar to 
this taking place among the shrewder mammalia. When 
pug refuses to take his food, his mistress straightway calls 
upon the cat, and, quickened by the dread of the coming 
rival, he gobbles up his rations at once. With the compara- 
tively large development of brain, and the corresponding ma- 
nifestation of instinct, which the true placoids exhibit, we find 
other unequivocal marks of a general superiority to their class. 
In their reproductive organs they rank, not with the common 
fishes, nor even with the lower reptiles, but with the Chelo- 
nians and the Sauria. Among the rays, as among the higher 
animals, there are individual attachments formed between 
male and female : their eggs, unlike the mere spawn of the 
osseous fishes, or of even the Batrachians, are, like those of 
the tortoise and the crocodile, comparatively few in number, 
and of considerable size ; their young, too, like the young of 
birds and rf the higher reptiles, pass through no such mo- 


taniorpho.sis as those of the toad and frog, or of the amphibia 
generally. And some of their number, — the common dog- 
fish, for instance, —are ovo viviparous, bringing forth their 
young, like the common viper and the viviparous lizard, alive 
and fully formed. 

" But such features," says the author of the " Vestiges," 
referring chiefly to certain provisions connected with the re- 
productory system in the placoids, " are partly partaken of by 
families in inferior sub-kingdoms, showing that they cannot 
truly be regarded as marks of grade in their own class." 
Kay, single features do here and there occur in the inferior 
sub-kingdoms, which very nearly resemble single features in the 
placoid character and organization, — which even very nearly 
resemble single features in the human character and organi- 
zation ; but is there any of the inferior sub-kingdoms in which 
there occurs such a collocation of features 1 or does such a 
collocation occur in any class of animals, — setting the pla- 
coids wholly out of view, — which is not a high class 1 Nay, 
further, does there occur in any of the inferior sub-kingdoms, 
-—existing even as a single feature, — that most prominent^ 
leading characteristic of this series of fishes, — a large brain ? 

But is not the " cartilaginous structure" of the placoids 
analogous to the embryonic state of vertebrated animals in 
general ? Do not the other placoid peculiarities to which 
the author of the " Vestiges" refers, — such as the heterocer- 
cal or one-sided tail, the position of the mouth on the under 
side of the head, and the rudimental state of the maxillaries 
and intermaxillaries, — bear further analogies with the em- 
bryonic state of the higher animals % And is not " embyro- 
nic progress the grand key to the theory of development V 9 
Let us examine this matter. " These are the characters," 
says this ingenious writer, " which, above all, I am chiefly 
concerned in looking to ; for they are features of embryonic 
progress, and embryonic progress is the grand key to the 


theory of development" Bold assertion, certainly ; but, then, 
assertion is not argument ! The statement is not a reason 
for the faith that is in the author of the "Vestiges," but 
simply an avowal of it ; it is simply a confession, not a de- 
fence, of the Lamarckian creed ; and, instead of being ad- 
mitted as embodying a first principle, it must be put strin- 
gently to the question, in order to determine whether it con- 
tain a principle at all 

In the first place, let us remark, that the cartilaginous 
structure of the placoids bears no very striking analogy to the 
cartilaginous structure of the higher vertebrata in the em- 
bryonic state. In the case of the Delphinidce, with their soft 
skeletons, the analogy is greatly more close. Bone consists 
of animal matter, chiefly gelatinous, hardened by a diffusion 
of inorganic earth. In the bones of young and foetal mam- 
malia, inhabitants of the land, the gelatinous prevails ; in the 
old and middle-aged there is a preponderance of the earth. 
Now, in the bones of the dolphin there is comparatively 
little earth. The analogies of its internal skeleton bear, not 
on the skeletons of its brethren the mature full-grown mam- 
mals of the land, but on the skeletons of their immature or 
foetal offspring. But in the case of the true placoids that ana- 
logy is faint indeed. Their skeletons contain true bone : the 
vertebral joints of the sharks and rays possess each, as has 
been shown, an osseous nucleus, which retains, when sub- 
jected to the heat of a common fire, the complete form of 
the joint ; and their cranial framework has its surface always 
covered over with hard osseous points. But, though their 
skeletons possess thus their modicum of bone, unlike those of 
embryonic birds or mammals, they contain, in what is pro- 
perly their cartilage, no gelatine. The analogy signally fails 
in the very point in which it has been deemed specially to 
exist The cartilage of the Chondropterygii is a substance 
so essentially different from that of young or embryonic birds 



and mammals, and so unique in the animal kingdom, that 
the heated water in which the one readily dissolves has no 
effect whatever upon the other. It is, however, a curious cir- 
cumstance, exemplified in some of the shark family,* though 
it merely serves, in its exceptive character, to establish the 
general fact, that while the rays of the double fins, which 
answer to the phalanges, are all formed of this indissoluble 
cartilage, those rays which constitute their outer framework, 
with the rays which constitute the framework of all the single 
fins, are composed of a mucoidal cartilage, which boils into 
glue. At certain definite lines a change occurs in the tex- 
ture of the skeleton ; and it is certainly suggestive of thought, 
that the difference of substance which the change involves 
distinguishes that part of the skeleton which is homologically 
representative of the skeletons of the higher vertebrata, from 
that part of it which is peculiar to the creature as a fish, 
viz. the dorsal and caudal rays, and the extremities of the 
double fins. These emphatically ichthyic portions of the 
animal may be dissipated by boiling, whereas what Linnaeus 
would perhaps term its reptilian portion abides the heat with- 
out reduction. 

But is not the one-sided tail, so characteristic of the sharks, 
and of almost all the ancient ganoids, also a characteristic of 
the young salmon just burst from the egg ) Yes, assuredly; 
and, so far as research on the subject has yet extended, of 
not only the salmon, but of all the other osseous fishes in 
their foetal -state. The salmon, on its escape from the egg, is 
a little monster of about three-quarters of an inch in length, 
with a huge heart-shaped bag, as bulky as all the rest of its 
body, depending from its abdomen. In this bag provident 
nature has packed up for it, in lieu of a nurse, food for &ve 
weeks ; and, moving about everywhere in its shallow pool, 

* Such as the dog-fishes, picked and spotted. 


with its provision-knapsack slung fast to it> it reminds one 
disposed to be fanciful, save that its burden is on the wrong 
side, of Scottish soldiers of the olden time summoned to attend 
their king in war, — 

" Each on his back, a slender store. 
His forty days' provision bore, 
As ancient statutes tell/* 

Around that terminal part of the creature's body traversed 
by the caudal portion of the vertebral column, which com- 
mences in the salmon immediately behind the ventrals, there 
rims at this period, and for the ensuing five weeks in which 
it does not feed, a membranous fringe or fin, .which exactly 
resembles that of the tadpole, and which, existing simply as 
an expansion of the skin, exhibits no marks or rays. In the 
place of the true caudal fin, however, we may detect, with 
the assistance of a lens, an internal framework with two well- 
marked lobes, and ascertain, further, that this tail is set on 
awry, — the effect of a slight upward bend in the creature's 
body. And when viewed in a strong light as a transparency, 
we perceive that the spinal cord takes the same upward bend, 
and, as in the sturgeon, passes in an exceedingly attenuated 
form into the upper lobe. What may be regarded as the de- 
sign of the arrangement is probably to be found in the pecu- 
liar form given to the little creature by the protuberant bag 
in front A wise instinct teaches it, from the moment of its 
exclusion from the egg y to avoid its enemies. In the instant 
the human shadow falls upon its pool, we see it darting, with 
singular alacrity, into some recess at the sides or bottom ; and 
in order to enable it to do so, and to steer itself aright, — as, 
like an ill-trimmed vessel, deep in the water a-head, the ba- 
lance of its body is imperfect, — there is, if I may so express 
myself a heterocercal peculiarity of helm required. It has 
got an irregularly-developed tail to balance an irregularly- 
developed body, as skiffs lean on the one beam and full on 



the other require, in rowing, a cast of the rudder to keep them 
straight in their course. 

Sinking altogether, however, the final cause of the pecu- 
liarity, and regarding it simply as a, foetal one, that indicates 
a certain stage of imperfection in the creature in which it 
occurs, on what principle, I ask, are we to infer that what is 
a sign of immaturity in the young of one set of animals, is a 
mark of inferior organization in the adult forms of another 
set ? The want of eyes in any of the animal families, or the 
want of organs of progression, or a fixed and sedentary con- 
dition, like that of the oyster, are all marks of great infe- 
riority. And yet, if we admit the principle, that what are 
evidences of immaturity in. the young members of one family 
are signs of inferior organization in the fully-grown members 
of another, it could easily be shown that eyes and legs are 
defects, and that the unmoving oyster stands higher in the 
scale than the ever-restless fish or bird. The immature Tu- 
bulcvria possess locomotive powers, whereas in their fully de- 
veloped state they remain fixed to one spot in their convoluted 
tubes. The immature Lepas is furnished with members well 
adapted for swimming, and with which it swims freely ; as it 
rises towards maturity, these become blighted and weak ; and, 
when fully grown, — fixed by its fleshy pedicle to the rock or 
floating log to which it attached itself in its transition state, 
— it is no longer able to swim. The immature Balanus is 
furnished with two eyes : in its state of maturity these are 
extinguished, and it passes its period of full development in 
darkness. Further, it is not generally held that in the human 
family a white skin is a decided mark of degradation, but 
rather the reverse ; and yet nothing can be more certain than 
that the negro foetus has a white skin. Since eyes, and or- 
gans of progression, and a power of moving freely, and a white 
skin, are mere embryonic peculiarities in the Balanus, the 

Lepas, the Tubularia, and the negro, and yet are in themselves, 



when found in the mature animal, evidences of a high, not 
of a low standing, on what principle, I ask, are we to infer 
that the peculiarity of a heterocercal tail, embryonic in the 
salmon, is, when found in the mature placoid, an evidence, 
not of a high standing, but of a low 1 Every true analogy 
in the case favours an exactly opposite view. In the hetero- 
cercal or one-sided tail, the vertebral joints gradually dimi- 
nish, as in the tails of the Sauria and Ophidia, till they termi- 
nate in a point ; whereas the homocercal tail common to the 
osseous fishes exhibits no true analogy with the tails of the 
higher orders. Its abruptly terminating vertebral columo, 
immensely developed posterior processes, and broadly ex- 
panded osseous rays, seem to be simply a few of the many 
marks of decline and degradation which fishes, the oldest of 
the vertebrata, exhibit in this late age of the world, and which, 
Fig. 54. 

a. Tail of Spinax A canthiai. 

b. Tail of Icht/iyotmuTt* Tenuirottru (Buddand). 


in at least the earlier geologic periods, when they were greatly 
younger as a class, they did not betray. 

In illustration of this view, I would fain recommend to the 
reader a simple experiment Let him procure the tail of a 
common dog-fish (fig. 54 a), and, cutting it across about half 
an inch above where the caudal fin begins, let him boil it 
smartly for about half an hour. He will first see it swell, and 
then burst, ail around those thinner parts of the fin that are 
traversed by the caudal rays, — wholly mucoidal, as shown by 
this test, in their texture, and which yield to the boiling water, 
as if formed of isinglass. They finally dissolve, and drop 
away, with the surrounding cuticular integument ; and then 
there only remains, as the insoluble framework of the whole, 
the bodies of the vertebrae, with their neural and hoemal pro- 
cesses. The tail has now lost much of its ichthyic character, 
and has acquired, instead, a considerable degree of resemblance 
to the reptilian tail, as exemplified in the saurians. I have 
introduced into the woodcut> for the purpose of comparison, 
the tail of the ichthyosaurus (5). It consists, like the other, 
of a series of gradually diminishing vertebrae, and must have 
also supported, says Professor Owen, a propelling fin, placed 
vertically, as in the shark, which, however, from its perish- 
able nature, has in every instance disappeared in the earth, 
as that of the dog-fish disappears in the boiling water. It 
will be seen that its processes are comparatively smaller than 
those of the fish, and that the bodies of its vertebrae are 
shorter and bulkier ; but there is at least a general corre- 
spondence of the parts ; and were the tail of the crocodile, 
of which the vertebral bodies are slender and the processes 
large, to be substituted for that of the enaliosaur here, the 
correspondence would be more marked still. After thus de- 
veloping the tail of the reptile out of that of the fish, — as the 
Irish magician of the tale developed young ladies out of old 
women, — simply by boiling y let the reader proceed to a second 


stage of the experiment, and see whether he may not be able 
still further to develope the reptilian tail so obtained into 
that of the mammal, by burning. Let him spread it out on 
a piece of iron hoop, and thrust it into the fire ; and then, 
after exposure for some time to a red heat has consumed and 
dissipated its merely cartilaginous portions, such as the neural 
and hcemal processes, with the little pieces which form the 
sides of the neural arch, and left only the whitened bodies 
of the vertebrae, let him say whether the bony portion which 
remains does not present a more exact resemblance to the 
mammiferous tail, — that of the dog, for example, — than any- 
thing else he ever saw. The Lamarckians may well deem 
it an unlucky circumstance, that one special portion of their 
theory should demand the depreciation of the heterocercal 
tail, seeing that it might be represented with excellent effect 
in another, as not merely a connecting link in the upward 
march of progression between the tail of the true fish and that 
of the true reptile, but as actually containing in itself — as the 
caterpillar contains the future pupa and butterfly, — the ele- 
ments of the reptilian and mammiferous tail If there be 
any virtue in analogy, the heterocercal tail is, I repeat, of a 
decidedly higher type than the homocercal one. It furnishes 
the first known example in the vertebrata of those coccygeal 
vertebrae diminishing to a point, which characterize not only 
all the higher reptiles, but also all the higher mammals, and 
which we find represented by the 0% coccygis in man himsel£ 
But to this special point I shall again refer. 

With regard to that rudimentary state of the occipital 
framework of the placoids to which the author of the " Ves- 
tiges" refers, it may be but necessary to say that, notwith- 
standing the simplicity of their box-like skulls, they bear in 
their character, as cases for the protection of the brain, at least 
as close an analogy to the skulls of the higher animals as 
those of the osseous fishes, which consist usually of the extra- 


ordinary number of from sixty to eighty bones, — a mark — 
the author of the " Vestiges" himself being judge in the case 
— rather of inferiority than the reverse. " Elevation is 
marked in the scale," we find him saying, " by an animal 
exchanging a multiplicity of parts serving one end, for a 
smaller number." The skull of a cod consists of about thrice 
as many separate bones as that of a man. But I do not well 
see that in this case the fact either of simplicity in excess or 
of multiplicity in excess can be insisted upon in either direc- 
tion, as a proper basis for argument Nearly the same re- 
mark applies to the maxillaries as to the skull The under 
jaw in man consists of a single bone ; that of the thornback 
— if we do not include the two suspending ribs, which belong 
equally to the upper jaw — of two bones (the number in well- 
nigh all the mammiferous quadrupeds); that of the cod, of four 
bones, and, if we include the suspending ribs, of twelve. On 
what principle are we to hold, with one as the representative 
number of the highest type of jaw, that two indicates a lower 
standing than four, or four than twelve ? [In reference to the 
further statement, that in many of the ancient fishes " traces 
can be observed of the muscles having been attached to the 
external plates, strikingly indicating their low grade as ver- 
tebrate animals," it may be answer enough to state, that the 
peculiarity in question was not a characteristic of the most 
ancient fishes, — the placoids of the Silurian system, — but of 
some ganoids of the succeeding systems. The reader may re- 
member, as a case in point, the example furnished by the nail- 
like bone of Asterolepis, figured in page 87, in which there 
exists depressions resembling that of the round ligament in 
the head of the quadrupedal thigh-bone.] And as for the re- 
mark that the opening of the mouth of the placoid, " on the 
under side of the head," is indicative of a low embryonic con- 
dition, it might be almost sufficient to remark, in turn, that 
the lowest family of fishes, — that to which the supposed wornxi 


of Linnaeus belong, — have the month not under, but at the 
anterior termination of the head, — in itself an evidence that 
the position of the mouth at the extremity of the muzzle, 
common to the greater number of the osseous fishes, can be 
no very high character, seeing that the humblest of the Stic- 
toni possess it ; and that many osseous fishes, whose mouths 
open, not on the under, but the upper side of the snout, as 
in tho distorted and asymetrical genus Plalessa, are not only 
in no degree superior to their bony neighbours, and far infe- 
rior to the placoid ones, but bear, in direct consequence of the 
arrangement, an expression of unmistakeable stupidity. [The 
objection, however, admits of a greatly more conclusive reply. 
" This fish, to speak in the technical language of Agassiz," 
says the Edinburgh Reviewer, in reference to the ancient ich- 
thyolite of the "Wenlock Shale, " undoubtedly belongs to the 
Cestraciont family of the placoid order, — proving to demon- 
stration that the oldest known fossil fish [1845] belongs to 
the highest type of that division of the vertebrata." I may 
add, that the character and family of this ancient specimen, 
was determined by our highest British authority in fossil ich- 
thology, Sir Philip Egerton.] And it is in depreciation of 
Professor Sedgwick's statement regarding its high standing 
that the author of the " Vestiges" refers to the supposed in- 
feriority indicated by a mouth opening, not at the extremity 
of the muzzle, but under the head. Let us, then, fully grant, 
for the argument's sake, that the occurrence of the mouth in 
the muzzle is a sign of superiority, and its occurrence under 
the head a mark of inferiority, and then ascertain how the 
fact stands with regard to the Oestracion. " The Cestracion 
subgenus," says Mr James Wilson, in his admirable trea- 
tise on fishes, which forms the article Ichthyology in the 
" Encyclopaedia Britannica," " has the temporal aperture, 
the anal fin, and rounded teeth, of Squalus Mustelus ; bvJL 
the mouth is terminal, or at the extremity of the pointed 


muzzle." The accompanying figure (fig. 5,5), taken from a 

specimen of Ceatraciim in the collection of Professor John 

Fig. 6S. 

WKT-JACESON SSABK (Qtttracion Pkillippi). 

Fleming, may be recorded as of some little interest^ both from 
its direct bearing on the point in question, and from the cir- 
cumstance that it represents, not inadequately for its size, the 
sole surviving species (Ceslracion PkHlippi) of the oldest ver- 
tebrate family of creation. With this family, so far as is yet 
known, ichthyic existence first began.* It does not appear 
that on the globe which we inhabit there was ever an ocean 
tenanted by living creatures at all that had not its Cestracum, 
— a statement which could not be made regarding any other 
vertebrate family. In Agassiz's " Tabular View of the Ge- 
nealogy of Fishes," the Ceatracionta, and they only, sweep 
across the entire geologic scale. And, aa shown in the figure, 
the mouth in this ancient family, instead of opening, as in the 
ordinary sharks, under the middle of the head, to expose them 
to the suspicion of being creatures of low and embryonic cha- 
racter, opened in a broad, honest-looking muzzle, very much 
resembling that of the hog. The mouths of the most ancient . 
placoids of which we know anything, did not, I reiterate, 
open voider their heads. 


But why introduce the element of embryonic progress into 
this question at all 1 It is not a question of embryonic pro- 
gress. The very legerdemain of the sophist, — the juggling 
by which he substitutes his white balls for black, or converts 
his pigeons into crows,— -consists in the art of attaching the 
Conclusions founded on the facts or conditions of one suV- 
ject, to some other subject essentially distinct in its nature. 
Gestation is not creation. The history of the young of animals 
in their embryonic state is simply the history of the foetal 
young ; just as the history of insect transformation, in which 
it has been held by good men, but weak reasoners, that there 
exists direct evidence of the doctrine of the Resurrection, is 
the history of insect transformation, and of nothing else. 
True, the human mind is so constituted that it converts all 
nature into a storehouse of comparisons and analogies ; and 
this fact of the metamorphosis of the creeping caterpillar, 
after first passing through an intermediate period of apparent 
death as an inert aurelia, into a winged imago, seems to. 
have seized on the human fancy at a very early age, as won- 
derfully illustrative of life, death, and the future state. The 
Egyptians wrapped up the bodies of their dead in the chrysalis 
form, so that a mummy, in their apprehension, was simply a 
human pupa, waiting the period of its enlargement ; and the 
Greeks had but one word in their language for butterfly and 
the soul. But not the less true is it, notwithstanding, that 
the facts of insect transformation furnish no legitimate key 
to the totally distinct facts of a resurrection of the body, and 
of a life after death. And on what principle, then, are we 
to trace the origin of past dynasties in the changes of the 
foetus, if not the rise of the future dynasty in the transfor- 
mations of the caterpillar 1 " These (embryonic) characters," 
— that of the heterocercal tail, and of the mouth of the ordi- 
nary shark type, — " are essential and important," remarks the 
author of the "Vestiges," "whatever the Edinburgh Be- 


viewer may say to the contrary ; — they are the characters 
which, above all, I am chiefly concerned in looking to, for 
they are the features of embryonic progress, and embryonic 
progress is the grand key to the theory of development." 
Yes ; the grand key to the theoiy of festal development ; for 
embryonic progress is foetal development But on what is 
the assertion based that they form a key to the history of 
creation ? Aurelia are not human bodies laid out for the se- 
pulchre, nor are butterflies human souls ; as certainly gesta- 
tion is not creation, nor a life of months in the uterus a suc- 
cession of races for millions of ages outside of it. On what 
grounds, then, is the assertion made ? Does it embody the 
result of a discovery, or announce the message of a revelation ? 
Did the author of the " Vestiges" find it out for himself, or 
did an angel from heaven tell it him 1 If it be a discovery, 
show us, we ask, the steps through which you have been con- 
. ducted to it ; if a revelation, produce, for our satisfaction, the 
evidence on which it rests. For we are not to accept as data, 
in a question of science, idle comparisons or vague analogies, 
whether produced through the intentional juggling of the 
sophist, or involuntarily conjured up in the dreamy delirium 
of an excited fancy. 

It is one of the difficulties incident to the task of replying 
to any dogmatic statement of error,' that every mere annun- 
j ciation of a false fact or false principle must be met by ela- 
! borate counter-statement or carefully constructed argument, 
and that prolixity is thus unavoidably entailed on the contro- 
versialist who labours to set right what his antagonist has set 
wrong. The promulgator of error may be lively and enter- 
taining, whereas his painstaking confutator runs no small risk 
of being tedious and dulL May I, however, solicit the for- 
bearance of the reader, ifj after already spending much time 
in skirmishing on ground taken up by the enemy, — one of 
the disadvantages incident to the mere defendant in a contra- 


versy of this nature, — I spend a little more in indicating 
what I deem the proper ground on which the standing of the 
earlier yertebrata should be decided. To the test of brain 1 
nave already referred as all-important in the question : I 
would now refer to the test of what may be termed homolo- 
qlcal symmetry of orgcmization. 




Though all animals be fitted by nature for the life which 
their instincts teach them to pursue, naturalists have learned 
to recognise among them certain aberrant and mutilated forms, 
in which the type of the special class to which they belong 
seems distorted and degraded They exist as the monster 
families of creation, just as among families there appear from 
time to time monster individuals, — men, for instance, with- 
out feet, or hands, or eyes, or with their feet, hands, or eyes 
grievously misplaced, — sheep with their fore legs growing 
out of their necks, or ducklings with their wings attached to 
their haunches. Among these degraded races, that of the 
footless serpent, which " goeth upon its belly," has been long 
noted by the theologian as a race typical, in its condition and 
nature, of an order of hopelessly degraded beings, borne down 
to the dust by a clinging curse ; and, curiously enough, when 
the first comparative anatomists in the world give their 
readiest and most prominent instance of degradation among 
the denizens of the natural world, it is this very order of foot- 
less reptiles that they select So far as the geologist yet 
knows, the Ophidians did not appear during the Secondary 
ages, when the monarchs of creation belonged to the reptilian 


division, but were ushered upon the scene in the times of the 
Tertiary deposits, when the mammalian dynasty had sup- 
planted that of the Iguanodon and Megalosaurus. Their ill- 
omened birth took place when the influence of their house 
was on the wane, as if to set such a stamp of utter hopeless- 
ness on its fallen condition, as that set by the birth of a worth- 
less or idiot heir on the fortunes of a sinking family. The 
degradation of the Ophidians consists in the absence of limbs, 
— an absence total in by much the greater number of their 
families, and represented in others, as in the boas and pythons, 
by mere abortive hinder limbs concealed in the skin ; but 
they are thus not only monsters through defect of parts, if I 
may so express myself but also monsters through redundancy, 
as a vegetative repetition of vertebrae and ribs, to the num- 
ber of three or four hundred, forms the special contrivance 
by which the want of these is compensated. I am also dis- 
posed to regard the poison-bag of the venomous 1 snakes as a 
mark of degradation ; — it seems, judging from analogy, to be 
a protective provision of a low character, exemplified chiefly 
in the invertebrate families, — ants, centipides, and mosquitos, 
— spiders, wasps, and scorpions. • The higher carnivora are, 
we find, furnished with unpoisoned weapons, which, like those 
of civilized man, are sufficiently effective, — simply from the ex- 
cellence of their construction, and the power with which they 
are wielded, — for every purpose of assault or defence. It is 
only the squalid savages and degraded boschmen of creation 
that have their feeble teeth and tiny stings steeped in venom, 
and so made formidable. Monstrosity through displacement 
of parts constitutes yet another form of degradation ; and this 
form, united, in some instances, to the other two, we find cu- 
riously exemplified in the geological history of the fish, — a 
history which, with all its blanks and missing portions, is yet 
better known than that of any other division of the verte- 
brata, And it is, I am convinced, from a survey of the pro- 


gress of degradation in the great ichthyic division, — a pro- 
gress recorded, as " with a pen of iron, in the rock for ever," 
—-and not from superficial views founded on the cartilaginous 
or non-cartilaginous texture of the ichthyic skeleton, that the 
standing of the kingly fishes of the earlier period is to be 
adequately determined. Any other mode of survey, save the 
parallel mode which takes development of brain into account, 
evolves, we find, nothing like principle, and lands the inquirer 
in inextricable difficulties and inconsistencies. 

In all the higher non-degraded vertebrate we find a cer- 
tain uniform type of skeleton, consisting of the head, the ver- 
tebral column, and four limbs ; and these last, in the various 
symmetrical forms, whether exemplified in the higher fishes, 
the higher reptiles, the higher birds, the higher mammals, or 
in man himself occur always in a certain determinate order. 
In all the mammals, the scapular bases of the fore limbs be- 
gin opposite the eighth vertebra from the skull backwards, 
the seven which go before being cervical or neck vertebrae ; 
in the birds, — a division of the vertebrate that, from their 
peculiar organization, require longer and more flexible necks 
than the mammals, — the scapulars begin at distances from 
the occiput varying, according to the species, from opposite 
the thirteenth to opposite the twenty-fourth vertebra ; and 
in the reptiles, — a division which, according to Cuvier, " pre- 
sents a greater diversity of forms, characters, and modes of 
gait, than any of the other two," — they occur at almost all 
points, from opposite the second vertebra, as in the frog, to 
opposite the thirty-third or thirty-fourth vertebra, as in some 
species of plesiosaurus. But in all, — whether mammals, birds, 
or undegraded reptiles, — they are so placed, that the creatures 
possess necks, of greater or less length, as an essential portion 
of their general type. The hinder limbs have also in all these 
three divisions of the animal kingdom their typical place. 
They occur opposite, or very nearly opposite, the posterior 


termination of the abdominal cavity, and mark the line of 
separation between the vertebrae of the trunk (dorsal, lum- 
bar, and sacral), and the third and last, or caudal division of 
the column, — a division represented in man by but four ver- 
tebra, and in the crocodile by about thirty-five, but which is 
found to exist, as I have already said, in all the more perfect 
forms. The limbs, then, in all the symmetrical animals of 
the first three classes of the vertebrata, mark the three great 
divisions of the vertebral column, — the division of the neck, 
the division of the trunk, and the division of the tail. Let 
us now inquire how the case stands with the fourth and lowest 
class, — that of the fishes. 

In those existing placoids that represent the fishes of the 
earliest vertebrate period, the places of the double fins, — pec- 
torals and ventrals,— which form in the ichthyic class the 
true homologues of the limbs, correspond to the places which 
these occupy in the symmetrical mammals, birds, and reptiles, 
The scapular bases of the fore or pectoral fins ordinarily be- 
gin opposite the twelfth or fourteenth vertebra;* but they 
range, as in man and the mammals, in a forward direction, 
so that the fins themselves are opposite the eighth or tenth. 
The pelvic bases of the ventral fins are placed nearly opposite 
the base of the abdomen, so that, as in all the symmetrical 
animals, the vent opens between, or nearly between, those 
hinder limbs which the bases support. In the rays, which, 
so far as is yet known, did not appear in creation until the 
Secondary ages had begun, the bases of the fore limbs, i. e. 
pectoral fins, are attached to the lower part of a huge cervi- 
cal vertebra, nearly equal in length to all the trunk vertebras 
united ; and in the Chimeridse, which also first appear in the 
Secondary division, they are attached, as in the osseous fishes, 
to the hinder part of the head. But in the representatives 

* The twelfth in Spinax Acanthias, and the fourteenth in Scyllium 


of all those Silurian placoids yet known, of which the family 
can be determined, or anything with safety predicated, the 
cervical division is found to occur as a series of vertebrae : 
they present in this, as in the hinder portion of their bodies, 
the homological symmetry of organization typical of that ver- 
tebral subkingdom to which they belong. 

In the second great period of ichthyic existence, — that of 
the Old Bed Sandstone, — we find the first example, in the 
class of fishes, of " monstrosity through displacement of parts," 
and apparently also — in at least two genera, though the evi- 
dence on this head be not yet quite complete— of " monstro- 
sity through defect of parts," In all the ganoids of the pe- 
riod, with (so far as we can determine the point) only two 
exceptions, the scapular bases of the fore limbs are brought 
forward from their typical place opposite the base of the cer- 
vical vertebra, and stuck on to the occipital plate. There 
occurs, in consequence, in one great order of the ichthyic 
class, such a departure from the symmetrical type as would 
take place in a monster example of the human family in whom 
the neck had been annihilated, and the arms stuck on to the 
back of the head. And in the genera Coccosteus and PtericJir- 
ihys we find the first example of degradation through defect. 
In the Pterickthys the hinder limbs seem wanting ; and in 
the Coccosteus we find no trace of the fore limbs. The one 
resembles a monster of the human family born without hands ; 
the other a monster born without feet Ages and centu- 
ries pass, and long unreckoned periods come to a close ; 
and then, after the termination of the Palaeozoic period, we 
see that change taking place in the form of the ichthyic tail 
to which I have already referred (and to which I must refer 
at least once more), as singularly illustrative of the progress 
of degradation. Yet other ages and centuries pass away, 
during which the reptile class attains to its fullest develop- 
ment,, in point of size, organization, and numbers ; and then, 


after the times of the Cretaceous deposits have begun, we 
find jet another remarkable monstrosity of displacement in- 
troduced among all the fishes of one very numerous order, 
and among no inconsiderable proportion of the fishes of ano- 
ther. In the newly-introduced ctenoids (Acanthopterygii), 
and in those families of the cycloids which Cuvier erected 
into the order Mcdacopterygii sub-brachiati, the hinder limbs 
are brought forward, and stuck on to the base of the pre- 
viously misplaced fore limbs. All the four limbs, by a strange 
monstrosity of displacement, are crowded into ihe place oi 
the extinguished neck. And such, at the present day, is the 
prevalent type among fishes. Monstrosity through defect is 
also found to increase ; so that the snake-like apoda y or feet- 
wanting fishes, form a numerous order, some of whose genera 
are devoid, as in the common eels and the congers, of only 
the hinder limbs ; while in others, as in the genera Muraena 
and Synbranchus, both hinder and fore limbs are wanting. 
In the class of fishes, as fishes now exist, we find many more 
evidences of the monstrosity which results from both the mis- 
placement and defect of parts, than in the other three classes 
of the vertebrata united ; and, knowing their geological his- 
tory better than that of any of the others, we know, in con- 
sequence, that the monstrosities did not appear early y but 
late, and that the progress of the race, as a whole, though it 
still retains not a few of the higher forms, has been a pro- 
gress, not of development from the low to the high, but of 
degradation from the high to the low. 

The reader may mark for himself, in the flounder, plaice, 
or turbot, — fishes of a family of which there appears no trace 
in the earlier periods, — an extreme example of the degra- 
dation of distortion superadded to that of displacement At 
a first glance the limbs seem to exhibit merely the amount 
of natural misarrangement and misorder common to the 
Acanthopterygii and Suthbrachiati ; — the bases of the pec- 


torals are stuck on to the head, and the base of the ventrals 
attached to that of the pectorals. From the circumstance, 
however, that the creature is twisted half-round and laid on 
its side, we find that at least one of the pairs of double fins 
— the pectorals — perform the part of single fins, — one pro- 
jecting from the animal's superior, the other from its inferior 
s^.de, in the way the anal and dorsal 'fins project from the 
upper and under surfaces of other fishes ; while its real dor- 
sal and anal fins, both developed very largely, and — in order 
to preserve its balance — in about an equal degree, and won- 
derfully correspondent in form, perform, from their lateral 
position, the functions of double fins. Indeed, at a first glance 
they seem the analogues of the largely-developed pectorals of 
a very different family of flat fishes, — the rays. It would 
appear as if single and double fins, by some such mutual 
agreement as that which, according to the old ballad, took 
place between the churl of Auchtermuchty and his wife, had 
agreed to exchange callings, and perform each the work of 
the other. The tail, too, possesses, in consequence of the 
twist, not the vertical position of other fish-tails, but is spread 
out horizontally, like the tails of the cetacea. It is, however, 
in the head of the flounder and its cogeners that we find the 
more extraordinary distortions exemplified. In order to ac- 
commodate it to the general twist, which rendered lateral 
what in other fishes is dorsal and abdominal, and dorsal and 
abdominal what in other fishes is lateral, one-half its features 
had to be twisted to the one side, and the other half to the 
other. The face and cranium have undergone such a change 
as that which the human face and cranium would undergo 
were the eyes to be drawn towards the left ear, and the mouth 
towards the right. The skull, in consequence, exhibits in 
its fixed bones a strange Cyclopean character, unique among 
tne families of creation : it has its one well-marked eye-orbit 
opening, like ,that of Polyphemus, direct in the middle of the 


fore part of its head ; while the other, external to the cra- 
nium altogether, we find placed among the free bones, direct- 
ly over the mamillaries. And the wry mouth — twisted in 
the opposite direction, as if to keep up such a balance of de- 
formity as that which the breast-hump of a hunchback forms 
to the hump behind — is in keeping with the squint eyes. 
The jaws are strangely asymmetrical In symmetrical fishes 
the two bones that compose the anterior half of the lower jaw 
are as perfectly correspondent in form and size as the left 
hand or left foot is correspondent, in the human subject^ to 
the right hand or right foot ; but not such their character in 
the flounder. The one is a broad, short, nearly straight bone ; 
the other is longer, narrower, and bent like a bow ; and while 
the one contains only from four to six teeth, the other con- 
tains from thirty to thirty-five. Scarcely in the entire ichthyic 
kingdom are there any two jaws that less resemble one ano- 
ther than the two halves of the jaw of the flounder, turbot, 
or plaice. The intermaxillary bones are equally ill match- 
ed : the one is fully twice the size of the other, and con- 
tains about thrice as many teeth. That bilateral symmetry 
of the skeleton which is so invariable a characteristic of the 
vertebrata, that ordinary observers, who have eyes for only 
the rare and the uncommon, foil to remark it, but which a 
Newton could regard as so wonderful, and so thoroughly in 
harmony with the uniformity of the planetary system, has 
scarce any place in the asymmetrical head of the flounder. 
There exists in some of our north country fishing villages an 
ancient apologue, which, though not remarkable for point or 
meaning, at least serves to show that this peculiar example 
of distortion the rude fishermen of a former age were observ 
ant enough to detect. Once on a time the fishes met, it is 
said, to elect a king ; and their choice fell on. the herring. 
" The herring king !" contemptuously exclaimed the flounder, 
A fish of consummate vanity, and greatly piqued on this oo 


casion that its own presumed claims should have been over- 
looked ; " where, then, am I V 9 And straightway, in punish- 
ment of its conceit and rebellion, " its eyes turned to the back 
of its head." Here is there a story palpably founded on the 
degradation of misplacement and distortion, which originated 
ages ere the naturalist had recognised either the term or the 

It would be an easy matter for an ingenious theorist, not 
much disposed to distinguish between the minor and the 
master laws of organized being, to get up quite as unexcep- 
tionable a theory of degradation as of development. The 
one-eyed, one-legged Chelsea pensioner, who had a child, un 
born at the time, laid to his charge, agreed to recognise his 
relationship to the little creature, if, on its coming into the 
world, it was found to have a green patch over its eye, and 
a wooden leg. And in order to construct a hypothesis of 
progressive degradation, the theorist has but to take for 
granted the transmission to other generations of defects and 
compensatory redundancies at once as extreme and accidental 
as the loss of eyes or limbs, and the acquisition of timber legs 
or green patches. The snake, for instance, he might regard 
as a saurian, that, having accidentally lost its limbs, had exert- 
ed itself to such account throughout a series of generations, in 
making up for their absence, as to spin out for itself, by dint 
of writhing and wriggling, rather more than a hundred ad- 
ditional vertebrae, and to alter, for purposes of greater flexi- 
bility, the structure of all the rest And as fishes, when 
nearly stunned by a blow, swim for a few seconds on their 
side, he might regard the flounders as a race of half-stunned 
fishes, previously degraded by the misplacement of their limbs, 
that, instead of recovering themselves from the blow given to 
some remote parent of the family, had expended all their 
energies in twisting their mouths round to what chanced to 
be the under side on which they were laid, and their eyes to 


what chanced to be the upper, and that made their pectorais 
serve for anal and dorsal fins, and their anal and dorsal fins 
serve for pectorals. But while we most recognise in nature 
certain laws of disturbance, if I may so speak, through which, 
within certain limits, traits which are the result of habit or cir- 
cumstance in the parents are communicated to their oflkpring, 
we would err as egregiously, did we take only these into ac- 
count, without noting that infinitely stronger antagonist law 
of reproduction and restoration which, by ever gravitating to- 
wards the original type, preserves the integrity of races, as the 
astronomer would, who, in constructing his orrery, recognised 
only that law of propulsion through which the planets speed 
through the heavens, without taking into account that anta- 
gonist law of gravitation which, by maintaining them in theii 
orbits, insures the regularity of their movements. The law 
of restoration would recover and right the stunned fish laid 
on its side ; the law of reproduction would give limbs to the 
offspring of the mutilated saurian. We have evidence, in the 
extremeness of the degradation in these cases, that it cannot 
be a degradation hereditarily derived from accident. Nature 
is, we find, active, not in perpetuating the accidental wooden 
legs and green patches of ancestors in their descendants, but 
in restoring to the oflkpring the true limbs and eyes which 
the parents have lost It is, however, not with a theory of 
hereditary degradation, but with a hypothesis of gradual deve- 
lopment, that I have at present to deal ; and what I have to 
establish as proper to the present stage of my argument is, 
that this principle of degradation really exists, and that the 
history of its progress in creation bears directly against the 
assumption that the earlier vertebrata were of a lower type 
than the vertebrata of the same ichthyic class which exist now. * 

* It will scarce be urged against the degradation theory, that those 
races which, tried by the tests of defect or misplacement of parte, we 
deem degraded, are not less fitted for carrying on what in their own little 


The progress of the ichthyic tail, as recorded in geologic 
history, corresponds with that of the ichthyic limbs. And 
as in the existing state of things we find fishes that nearly 
represent, in this respect, all the great geologic periods, — I 
say nearly \ not fully, for I am acquainted with no fish ade- 
quately representative of the period of the Old Red Sand- 
stone, — it may be well to cast a glance over the contemporary 
series, as illustrative of the consecutive one. In those placoids 
of the shark family that to a large brain unite homological 
symmetry of organization, and represent the placoids of the 
first period, we find, as I have already shown, that the ver- 
tebrae gradually diminish in the caudal division of the co- 
lumn, until they terminate in a point, — a circumstance in 
which they resemble not merely the Detailed reptiles, but also 
all the higher mammiferous quadrupeds, and even man him- 
self And it is this peculiarity, stamped upon the less de- 
structible portions of the framework of the tail, — vertebra 
and processes, — rather than the one-sided or heterocercal 
form of the surrounding fin, composed of but a mucoidal 
substance, that constitutes its grand characteristic; seeing 

spheres is the proper business of life, than the non-degraded orders and 
families. The objection is, however, a possible one, and one which a 
single remark may serve to obviate. It is certainly true that the de- 
graded families are thoroughly fitted for the performance of all the work 
given them to do. They greatly increase when placed in favourable cir- 
cumstances, and, when vigorous and thriving, enjoy existence. But then the 
same may be said of all animals, without reference to their place in the 
scale : the mollusc is as thoroughly adapted to its circumstances, and as 
$tted to accomplish the end proper to its being, as the mammiferous 
quadruped, and the mammiferous quadruped as man himself ; but the 
fact of perfect adaptation in no degree invalidates the other not less cer- 
tain fact of difference of rank, nor proves that the mollusc is equal to the 
quadruped, or the quadruped to man. And, of course, the remark 
equally bears on the reduced as on the unelevated, — on lowness of place 
when a result of degradation in races pertaining to a higher division of 
animals, as on lowness of place when a result of the humble standing of 
the division to which the races belong. 


that in some placoid genera, such as ScyUium SteUare, the 
terminal portion of the fin is scarce less largely developed 
above than below, and that in others, as in most of the ray 
family, the under lobe of the fin is wholly wanting. In the 
sturgeon, — one of the few ganoids of the present time, — we 
become sensible of a peculiar modification in this heterocer- 
cal type of tail ; the lower lobe is, we find, composed, as in 
Spinax and ScyUiwm, of rays exclusively ; while through the 
centre of the upper lobe there runs an acutely angular patch 
of lozenge-shaped plates, like that which runs through the cen- 
tre of the double fins of Dipterus and some of the Celacanths. 
But while in the sharks the gradually diminishing vertebrae 
stand out in bold relief and form the thickest portion of the 
tail, that which represents them in the sturgeon (the angular 
patch) is slim and thin, — slimmer in the middle than even at 
the sides ; — in part a consequence, no doubt, of the want, 
in this fish, of solid vertebrae, but a consequence also of the 
extreme attenuation of the nervous cord, in its prolongation 
into the lobe of the fin. Further, the rays of the tail, — 
its peculiarly ichthyic portion, which are purely mucoidal in 
Spinax, ScyUiwm, and Cestracion, — have become osseous in 
the sturgeon. The fish has set and become fixed, as cement 
sets in a building, or colours are fixed by a mordant. And 
it is worthy of special remark that, correspondent with the 
peculiarly ichthyic development of tail in this fish, we find 
the prevailing ichthyic displacement of the fore limbs. Again, 
in the tail of Lepidosteus, another of the true ganoids which 
still exist, the internal angle of the upper lobe wholly dis- 
appears, and with the internal angle the prolongation of the 
nervous cord. Still, however, it is what the tail of the 
sturgeon would become were the angular patch to be oblite- 
rated, and rays substituted instead ; — it is a tail set on awry. 
And in this fish also we find the ichthyic displacement of 
fore limb. One step more, and we arrive at the homocer- 


eal or equal-lobed tail, which seems to attain to its extreme 
type in those fishes in which, as in the perch and flounder, 
the last vertebral joint, either very little or very abruptly di- 
minished in size, expands into broad processes, without ho- 
mologue in the higher animals, on which the caudal rays rest 
as their bases. And in by much the larger proportion of 
these fishes all the four limbs are slung round the neck ; — 
they at once exhibit the homocercal tail in its broadest type, 
and displacement of limb in its most extreme form. 

Now, in tracing the geologic history of the ichthyic tail, 
we find these several steps or gradations from the heterocercal 
to the homocercal represented by periods and formations.* 
The Saurian periods may be regarded as representative of that 
true heterocercal tail of the placoids exemplified in Spinax 
(page 146, fig. 54) and Cestracion (page 151, fig. 55). The 
whole caudal portion of this latter animal, commencipg im- 
mediately behind the ventrals, is, as becomes a true tail, slim, 
when compared with its trunk ; the vertebrae are of very con- 
siderable solidity ; the rays mucoidal ; and where the spinal 
column runs into the terminal fin, it takes such an upward 
turn as that which the horse-jockey imparts, by the process 
of nicking, to the tails of the hunter and the racehorse. And 
with the heterocercal tail, so true in its homologies to the 
tails of the higher vertebrata, we find associated, as has been 
shown, the true homological position of the fore limbs. "With 
the commencement of the Old Red Sandstone the ganoidal 
tail first presents itself ; and we become sensible of a change 
in the structure of the attached fin, similar to that exempli- 
fied in the caudal rays of the sturgeon. As shown by the ir- 
regularly-angular patch of scales which in all the true Cela- 

* Since ganoids have been found as early as placoids, and even ear- 
lier, the theory of these representative periods must be modified. How 
the matter will ultimately stand as regards the Cambrian and the two 
Silurians we of course do not know — L. M. 


cauths, and almost all the Dipterians, * runs through the upper 

lobe of the fin, and terminates in a point (see fig. 56), it most 

Fig. Efl. 

have possessed the gradually dimi nishing vertebra, or a di- 
minishing spinal cord, their analogue ; but the rays, fairly set, 
as their state of keeping in the rocks certify, exist as narrow 
oblong plates of solid bone ; and their anterior edges are 
strengthened by a line of osseous defences, that pass from scales 
into rays. And in harmonious accompaniment with this fairly 
ttereotyped edition of the ichthyic tail, we find, in the fishes 
m which it appears, the first instance of displacement of limb, 
— the bases of the pectorals being removed from their origi- 
nal position, and stuck on to the nape of the neck. It may 
be remarked in passing, that in the tails of two ganoidal 
genera of this period, — the CoccosUwi and Pterichthyi, — the 
analogies traceable lie rather in the direction of the tails of 
the rays than in those of the sharks ; and that one of these, 
the Coccoilms, seems, as has been already intimated, to have 
had no pectorals, while it is somewhat doubtful whether in the 
Pterichthya the pectorals were not attached to the shoulder, in- 
stead of the head. In the Carboniferous and Permian systems 
there occur, especially among the numerous species of the 
genua PalmonisciiS, tails of the type exemplified by the internal 

* The vertebral column in the genua Diplopterwi ran, M in the pl&ooid 
genus Scyllium, nearly through the middle of the caudal fin. 


angle of the tail of the sturgeon : the lozenge-shaped scales 
ran in acutely angular patches through their upper lobes ; but 
such is their extreme flatness, as shown by the disposition of 
the enamelled covering, that it appears exceedingly doubtful 
whether any vertebral column ran beneath ; — they seem but 
to have covered greatly diminished prolongations of the spinal 
cord. In the base of the Secondary division, — another long 
stage towards the existing state of things,— we find, with the 
homocercal tail, which now appears for the first time, nume- 
rous tails like that of the Lepidosteus (fig. 57), of an inter- 
mediate type ; — they are rather tails set on awry than truly 
heterocercaL The diminished cord has disappeared from 

Kg. 57. 


among the fin rays. In the numerous Lepidoid genus, and 
the genera Semionotus and Tetragonolepis, — all ganoidal fishes 
of the Secondary period, — this intermediate style is very 
marked ; while in their contemporaries of the genera Urcsus % 
Microdon, and Pycnodus, we find the earliest examples of 
true homocercal tails. And in the ctenoids and cycloids of 
the Chalk the homocercal tail receives its fullest development. 
It finds bases for its rays in broad non-homological processes, 
that spread out behind abruptly-terminating vertebrae (fig. 
58), in the same period in which, by a strange process of de- 


gradation, the four ichthyic limbs a: 
cluster, and hung about the neck.* 

first gathered icto a 

* Id the following diagram a few simple lines serve to exhibit the pro- 
gress of degradation. Fig. a represents the symmetrical placoida of the 
Silurian period, consisting of head, neck, body, tail, fore limbs and 
hinder limbs ; fig. b represents those heterocercal ganoids of the Old Bed 
Sandstone, Coal Measures, and Permian system, in which the neck is ex- 
tinguished, and the fore limbs stuck on to the occiput ; fig. c, Chose ho- 
mocereal ganoids of the Trias, lias, Oolite, and Wealden, whose tails 
spread out into broad terminal processes, without hornologue in the higher 
animals ; fig. d, those acanthopterygii of the Chalk that, in addition to 
the non-homological processes, have both fore limbs and hinder limbs 
stuck round the head ; while fig. t represents the asymmetrical platessa 
of the same period, with one of its eyes in the middle of its head, and the 
other thrust out to the side. 

[The first two figures may be now reasonably regarded as contempo- 
rary.— Ed.] 

Fig. 69. 
Silurian. Old DM. *c. Luu. Ae. 



A- f- 

■t. Ganoid. Horn. Ganoid, CteMiA 


J am aware that by some very distinguished comparative 
anatomists, among the rest Professor Owen, the attachment, 
so common among fishes, of the scapular arch and the fore 
limbs to the occipital bone is regarded, not as a displacement, 
but as a normal and primary condition of the parts.* Recog- 
nising in the scapular bones the ribs of the occipital centrum, 
the anatomists of this school of course consider them, when 
found articulated to the occiput, as in their proper and ori- 
ginal place, and as in a state of natural dislocation when re* 
moved, as in all the reptiles, birds, and mammals, farther 
down. "We find Professor Oken borrowing support to his hy- 
pothesis from this view. The limbs, he tells us, are simply 
ribs, that in the course of ages have been set free, and have 
become by development what they now are. And it is un- 
questionably a curious and interesting fact, that there are cer- 
tain animals, such as the crocodile, in which every centrum 
of the vertebral column, and of every vertebra of the head, 
has its ribs or rib-like appendages, with the exception of the 
occipital centrum. And it is another equally curious fact, 
that there is another certain class of animals, such as the 
osseous horn-covered fishes, with the Sturionidae, Salaman- 
droidei, and at least one genus among the placoids (the Chi- 
maeroidei), in which this occipital centrum bears as its ribs 
the scapular bones, with their appendages the fore limbs. It 
is the centrum without ribs that is selected in these animals 
as the centrum to which the scapular ribs should be attached. 
Be it remembered, however, that while it is unquestionably 
the part of the comparative anatomist to determine the rela- 
tions and homologies of those parts of which all animals are 
composed, and to interpret the significancy in the scale of 
being of the various modes and forms in which they exist, it 

* The geological ground must for the present be abandoned by those 
who do not adopt the views of Oken. Their reasoning must be based on 
grounds similar to those recognised as sufficient by Agassiz. — L. M. 


is as unquestionably the part of the geologist to declare their 
history, and the order of their succession in time. The ques- 
tions which fall to be determined by the geologist and ana- 
tomist are entirely different It is the function of the ana- 
tomist to decide regarding the high and the low, the typical 
and the aberrant ; and so, beginning at what is lowest or 
highest in the scale, or least or most symmetrical in type, he 
passes through the intermediate forms to the opposite ex- 
treme : and such is the order natural and proper to his science. 
It is the vocation of the geologist, on the other hand, to de- 
cide regarding the early and the late. It is with time, not 
with rank, that he has to deal Nor is it in the least sur- 
prising that he should seem at issue with the comparative 
anatomist, when, in classifying his groupes of organized being 
according to the periods of their appearance, there is an order 
of arrangement forced upon him, different from that which, 
on an entirely different principle, the anatomist pursues. 
Nor can there be a better illustration of a collision of this 
kind than the one furnished by the case in point That pe- 
culiarity of structure which, as the lowest in the vertebral 
skeleton, is to the comparative anatomist the primary and 
original one, and which, as such, furnishes him with his start- 
ing point, is to the geologist not primary, but secondary, 
simply because it was not primary, but secondary, in the 
order of its occurrence. It belongs, so far as we yet know, 
not to the first period of vertebrate existence, but to the 
second ; and appears in geologic history as does that savage 
state which certain philosophers have deemed the original 
condition of the human species, in the history of civilization, 
when read by the light of the Revealed Record, under the 
shadow of those gigantic ruins of the East that date only a 
few centuries after the Flood. It is found to be a degra- 
dation fbst introduced during the lapse of an intermediate 
age, — not the normal condition which obtained during the 


long cycles of the primal one. It indicates, not the starting 
point from which the race of creation began, but the stage of 
retrogradation beyond it at which the pilgrims who set out 
in a direction opposite to that of the goal first arrived.* 

* I would, however, respectfully suggest, that that theory of cerebral 
vertebrae on which, in this question, the comparative anatomists proceed 
as their principle, and which finds as little support in the geologic record 
from the actual history of the fore limbs as from the actual history of the 
bones of the cranium, may be more ingenious than sound. It is a shrewd 
circumstance, that the rocks refuse to testify in its favour. Agassiz, I 
find, decides against it on other than geological grounds ; and his con- 
clusion is certainly rendered not the less worthy of careful consideration 
by the fact that, yielding to the force of evidence, his views on the sub- 
ject have undergone a thorough change. He first held, and then rejected 
it. " I have shared," he says, " with a multitude of other naturalists, 
the opinion which regards the cranium as composed of vertebra) ; and I 
am consequently in some degree caled upon to point out the motives 
which have induced me to reject it." 

" M. Oken," he continues, " was the first to assign this signification to 
the bones of the cranium. The new doctrine he expounded was received 
in Germany with great enthusiasm by the school of the philosophers of 
nature. The author conceived the cranium to consist of three [four] verte- 
brae, and the basal occipital, the sphenoid, and the ethmoid, were regarded 
as the central parts of these cranial vertebrae. On these alleged bodies of 
vertebrae, the arches enveloping the central parts of the nervous system 
were raised, while on the opposite side were attached the inferior pieces, 
which went to form the vegetative arch destined to embrace the intes- 
tinal canal and the large vessels. It would be too tedious to enumerate 
in this place the changes which each author introduced, in order to modify 
this matter so as to make it suit his own views. Some went the length 
of affirming that the vertebrae of the head were as complete as those of 
the trunk ; and, by means of various dismemberments, separations, and 
combinations, all the forms of the cranium were referred to the vertebrae, 
by admitting that the number of pieces was invariably fixed in every 
head, and that all the vertebrata, whatever might be their organization 
in other respects, had in their heads the same number of points of ossifi- 
cation. At a later period, what was erroneous in this manner of regard- 
ing the subject was detected ; but the idea of the vertebra) composition 
of the head was still retained. It was admitted as a general law, that 
the cranium was composed of three primitive vertebrae, as the embryo is 
of three blastodermic leaflets ; but that these vertebrae, like the leaflets, 
existed only ideally, and that their presence, although easily demonstrated 


This fact of degradation, strangely indicated in geologic 
history, with reference to all the greater divisions of the ani- 
mal kingdom, has often appeared to me a surpassingly won- 

in certain cases, could only be slightly traced, and with the greatest dif- 
ficulty, in other instances. The notion thus laid down of the virtual ex- 
istence of cranial vertebra did not encounter very great opposition : it 
could not be denied that there was a certain general resemblance between 
the osseous case of the brain and the rachidian canal ; the occipital, in 
particular, had all the characteristic features of a vertebra. But when- 
ever an attempt was made to push the analogy farther, and to determine 
rigorously the anterior vertebrae of the cranium, the observer found him 
self arrested by insurmountable obstacles, and he was obliged always to 
revert to the virtual existence. 

" In order to explain my idea clearly, let me have recourse to an ex- 
ample. It is certain that organized bodies are sometimes endowed with 
virtual qualities, which, at a certain period of the being's life, elude dis- 
section, and all our means of investigation. It is thus that, at the mo- 
ment of their origin, the eggs of all animals have such a resemblance to 
each other that it would be impossible to distinguish, even by the aid of 
the most powerful microscope, the ovarial egg of a craw-fish, for exam- 
ple, from that of true fish. And yet who would deny that beings in every 
respect different from each other exist in these eggs ? It is precisely be- 
cause the difference manifests itself at a later period, in proportion as 
the embryo develops itself, that we are authorized to conclude that, even 
from the earliest period, the eggs were different, — that each had virtual 
qualities proper to itself, although they could not be discovered by our 
senses. If, on the contrary, any one should find two eggs perfectly alike, 
and should observe two beings perfectly identical issue from them, he 
would greatly err if he ascribed to these eggs different virtual qualities. 
It is therefore necessary, in order to be in a condition to suppose that 
virtual properties peculiar to it are concealed in an animal, that these 
properties should manifest themselves once in some phase or other of its 
development. Now, applying this principle to the theory of cranial ver- 
tebra, we should say, that if these vertebrae virtually exist in the adult, 
they must needs show themselves in reality at a certain period of de- 
velopment. If, on the contrary, they are found neither in the embryo 
nor the adult, I am of opinion that we are entitled likewise to dispute 
their virtual existence. 

" Here, however, an objection may be made to -me, drawn from the 
physiological value of the vertebrae, the function of which, as is well 
known, is, on the one hand, to furnish a solid support to the muscular 
contractions which determine the movements of the trunk, and, on the 


derful one. We can see but imperfectly in those twilight 
depths to which all such subjects necessarily belong ; and yet 
at times enough does appear to show us what a very super- 
ficial thing infidelity may be. The general advance in crea- 
tion has been incalculably great. The lower divisions of the 
vertebrata preceded the higher ; — the fish preceded the rep- 
tile, the reptile preceded the bird, the bird preceded the mara- 
miferous quadruped, and the mam miferous quadruped preceded 
man. And yet, is there one of these great divisions in which, 
in at least some prominent feature, the present, through this 
mysterious element of degradation, is not inferior to the past ? 

other, to protect the centres of the nervous system, by forming a more 
or less solid case completely around them. The bodies of the vertebrae 
are particularly destined to the first of these offices ; the neurapophyses 
to the second. What can be more natural than to admit, from the con- 
sideration of this, that in the head the bodies of the vertebra diminish in 
proportion as the moving function becomes lost, while the neurapophyses 
are considerably developed for protecting the brain, the volume of which 
is very considerable, when compared with that of the spinal marrow ? 
Have we not an example of this fact in the vertebrae of the tail, where 
the neurapophyses become completely obliterated, and a simple cylindri- 
cal body alone remains ? Now, may it not be the case that, in the head, 
the bodies of the vertebra have disappeared ; and that, in consequence, 
there is a prolongation of the cord only as far as the moving functions 
of the vertebrae extend ? There is 9ome truth in this argument, and it 
would be difficult to refute it a priori. But it loses all its force the mo- 
ment that we enter upon a detailed examination of the bones of the head. 
Thus, what would we call, according to this hypothesis, the principal 
sphenoid, the great wings of the sphenoid, and the ethmoid, which form 
the floor of the cerebral cavity ? It may be said they are apophyses. 
But the apophyses protect the nervous centres only on the side and above. 
It may be said that they are the bodies of the vertebrae. But they are 
formed without the concurrence of the dorsal cord ; they cannot, there- 
fore, be the bodies of the vertebrae. It must therefore be allowed, that 
these bones at least do not enter into the vertebral type ; that they are 
in some measure peculiar. And if this be the case with them, why may not 
the other protective plates be equally independent of the vertebral type ; 
the more so because the relations of the frontals and parietals vary so 
much, that it would be almost impossible to assign to them a constant 


There was a time in which the ichthyic form constituted the 
highest example of life ; but the seas daring that period did 
not swarm with fish of the degraded type. There was, in 
like manner, a time when all the carnivora and all the her- 
bivorous quadrupeds were represented by reptiles ; but there 
are no such magnificent reptiles on the earth now as reigned 
over it then. There was an after time, when birds seem to 
have been the sole representatives of the warm-blooded ani- 
mals ; but we find, from the prints of their feet left in sand- 
stone, that the tallest men might have 

" Walked under their huge legs, and peeped about." 

Further, there was an age when the quadrupedal mammals 
were the magnates of creation ; but it was an age in which 
the sagacious elephant, now extinct save in the compara- 
tively small Asiatic and African circles, and restricted to two 
species, was the inhabitant of every country of the Old World, 
from its southern extremity to the frozen shores of the north- 
ern ocean ; and when vast herds of a closely allied and equally 
colossal genus occupied its place in the new. And now, in 
the times of the high-placed human dynasty, — of those for- 
mally delegated monarchs of creation whose nature it is to 
look behind them upon the past, and before them, with min- 
gled fear and hope, upon the future, — do we not as certainly 
see the elements of a state of ever-sinking degradation, which 
is to exist for ever, as of a state of ever-increasing perfecti- 
bility, to which there is to be no end ? Nay, of a higher 
race, of which we know but little, this much we at least 
know, that they long since separated into two great classes, — ■ 
that of the " elect angels," and of " angels that kept not their 
first estate." 




After dwelling at such length on the earlier fishes, it may 
seem scarce necessary to advert to their lower contemporaries 
the mollusca, — that great division of the animal kingdom 
which Cuvier places second in the descending order, in his 
survey of the entire series, and first among the invertebrates, 
and which Oken regards as the division out of which the im- 
mediately preceding class of the vertebral animals have been 
developed. " The fish," he says, " is to be viewed as a mussel, 
from between whose shells a monstrous abdomen has grown 
out." There is, however, a peculiarity in the molluscan 
group of the Silurian system, to which I must be permitted 
briefly to refer, as, to employ the figure of Sterne, it presents 
" two handles" of an essentially different kind, and, as in all 
such two-handled cases, the mere special pleader is sure to 
avail himself of only the handle which best suits his purpose 
for the time. 

Cuvier' s first and highest class of the mollusca is formed 
of what are termed the Cephalopods, — a class of creatures 
possessed of great freedom of motion : they can walk, swim, 
and seize their prey ; they have what even the lowest fishes, 



such as the lancelet* want, — a brain enclosed in a cartilagi- 
nous cavity in the head, and perfectly formed organs of sight ; 
they possess, too, what is found in no other mollusc, — organs 
of hearing ; and in sagacity and activity they prove more than 
matches for the smaller fishes, many of which they overmas- 
ter and devour. With this highest class there contrasts an 
exceedingly low molluscous class at the bottom of the scale, 
or, at least, at what is now the bottom of the scale ; for they 
constitute Ouvier's fifth class ; while his sixth and last, the 
Cirrhopodes, has been since withdrawn from the molluscs 
altogether, and placed in a different division of the animal 
kingdom. And this low class, the Brachiopods, are creatures 
that, living in bivalve shells, unfurnished with spring hinges 
to throw them open, and always fast anchored to the same 
spot, can but thrust forth, through the interstitial chinks of 
their prison-houses, spiral arms, covered with cilia, and win- 
now the water for a living. Now, it so happens that the 
molhiscan group of the Silurian system is composed chiefly 
of these two extreme classes. It contains some of the other 
forms ; but they are few in number, and give no character 
to the rocks in which they occur. There was nothing by 
which I was more impressed, in a visit to a Silurian region, 
than that in its ancient graveyards, as in those of the present 
day, though in a different sense, the high and the low should 
so invariably meet together. It is, however, not impossible 
that, in even the present state of things, a similar union of 
the extreme forms of the marine mollusca may be taking place 
in deep-sea deposits. Most of the intermediate forms pro- 
vided with shells capable of preservation, such as the shelled 
Gasteropoda and theConchifers, are either littoral, or restricted 
to comparatively small depths ; whereas the Brachiopoda are 
deep-sea shells ; and the Cephalopoda may be found voyaging 
far from land, in the upper strata of the sea above them. Even 
in the seas that surround our own island, the Brachiopodous 


molluscs, — terebratula and crania, — have been found, ever 
since deep-sea dredging became common, to be not very rare 
shells ; and in the Mediterranean, where they are less rare 
still, fleets of Argonauts, the representatives of a highly or- 
ganized family of the Cephalopods, to which it is now believed 
the bellerophon of the Palaeozoic rocks belonged, may be seen 
skimming along the surface, with sail and oar, high over the 
profound depths in which they lie. And, of course, when 
death comes, that comes to high and low, the remains of both 
Argonauts and Brachiopods must lie together at the bottom, 
in beds almost totally devoid of the intermediate forms. 

Now, the author of the " Vestiges," in maintaining his 
hypothesis, suspends it on the handle furnished him by the 
immense abundance of the Silurian Brachiopods. The Silu- 
rian period, he says, exhibits " a scanty and most defective 
development of life ; so much so, that Mr Lyell calls it, par 
excellence, the age of Brachiopods, with reference to the by 
no means exalted bivalve shell-fish which forms its predomi- 
nant class. Such being the actual state of the case, I must 
persist in describing even the fauna of this age, which we now 
know was not the first, as, generally speaking, such a humble 
exhibition of the animal kingdom as we might expect, upon 
the development theory, to find at an early stage of the his- 
tory of organization." The reader will at once discern the 
fallacy hera The Silurian period was peculiarly an age of 
Brachiopods, for in no other period were Brachiopods so nu- 
merous, specifically or individually, or of such size or import- 
ance ; whereas it was not so peculiarly an age of Cephalopods, 
for these we find introduced in still greater numbers during 
the Liasic and Oolitic periods. In 1848, when Professor 
Edward Forbes edited the Palseontological Map of Britain and 
Ireland, which forms one of the very admirable series of 
" Johnston's Physical Atlas," the Cephalopods of the Silu- 
rian rocks of England and Wales were estimated at forty- 


eight species, and the Brachiopods at one hundred and fifty ; 
whereas at the same date there were two hundred and five 
Cephalopoda of the Oolitic formations enumerated, and but 
fifty-four Brachiopods. It is the molluscs of the inferior, not 
those of the superior class, that constitute (with their contem- 
poraries the Trilobites) the characteristic fossils of the Silu- 
rian rocks ; and hence the propriety of the distinctive name 
suggested by Sir Charles LyelL But in the development 
question, what we have specially to consider is, not the num- 
bers of the low, but the standing of the high. A country may 
be distinctively a country of flocks and herds, or a country of 
the carnivorous mammalia, or, like New South Wales or the 
Galapagos, a country of marsupial animals or of reptiles. Its 
human inhabitants may be merely a few hunters or shepherds, 
too inconsiderable in numbers, and too much like their breth- 
ren elsewhere, to give it any peculiar standing as a home of 
men. But in estimating the highest point in the scale to 
which the animal kingdom has attained within its limits, it 
is of its lew men, not of its many beasts, that we must take 
note. And the point to be specially decided regarding the 
organisms of the Silurian system, in this question, is, not the 
proportion in number which the lower forms bore to the 
higher, but the exact rank which the higher bore in the scale 
of existence. Did the system furnish but a single Cephalopod 
or a single fish, we would have as certainly to determine 
that the chain of being reached as high as the Cephalopod or 
the fish, as if the remains of these creatures constituted its 
most abundant fossils. The chain of animal life reached quite 
as high on the evening of the sixth day of creation, when the 
human family was restricted to a single pair, as it does now, 
when our statists reckon up by millions the inhabitants of the 
greater capitals of the world ; and the special pleader who, in 
asserting the contrary, would insist on determining the point, 
not by the rank of the men of Eden, but by the number of 


minnows or sticklebacks that swarmed in its rivers, might be 
perhaps deemed ingenious in his expedients, but certainly not 
very judicious in the use of them. It is worthy of remark, 
however, that the Brachiopods of those Palaeozoic periods in 
which the group occupied such large space in creation, con- 
sisted of greatly larger and more important animals than any 
which it contains in the present day. It has yielded to what 
geological history shows to be the common fate, and sunk into 
a state of degradation and decline. 

The geological history of the vegetable, like that of the 
animal kingdom, has been pressed into the service of the de- 
velopment hypothesis ; and certainly their respective courses, 
both in actual arrangement and in their relation to human 
knowledge, seem wonderfully alike. It is not much more 
than twenty years since it was held that no exogenous plant 
existed during the Carboniferous period. The frequent oc- 
currence of Conifera in the Secondary deposits had been con- 
clusively determined from numerous specimens ; but, found- 
ing dn what seemed a large amount of negative evidence, it 
was concluded that, previous to the Liasic age, nature had 
failed to achieve a tree, and that the rich vegetation of the 
Coal Measures had been exclusively composed of magnificent 
immaturities of the vegetable kingdom, — of gigantic ferns 
and club-mosses, that attained to the size of forest trees, and 
of thickets of the swamp-loving horsetail family of plants, 
that well-nigh rivalled in height those forests of masts which 
darken the rivers of our great commercial cities. Such was 
the view promulgated by M. Adolphe Brongniart ; and it may 
be well to remark that, so far as the evidence on which it 
was based was positive, the view was sound. It is a fact 
that inferior orders of plants were developed in those ages in 
a style which in their present state of degradation they never 
exemplify : they took their place, not, as now, among the pig- 
mies and abortions of creation, but among its tallest and 


goodliest productions. It is, however, not a fact that they 
were the highest vegetable forms of their time. True exo- 
genous trees also existed in great numbers, and of vast size. 
In various localities in the coal-fields of both England and 
ScotLaud, — such as Lennel Braes and Allan Bank in Ber- 
wickshire, High-Heworth, Fellon, Gateshead, and Wideopen, 
near Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and in quarries to the west of the 
city of Durham, — the most abundant fossils of the system are 
its true woods. In the quarry of Craigleith, near Edinburgh, 
three huge trunks have been laid open during the last twenty 
years, within the space of about a hundred and fifty yard*, 
and two equally massy trunks, within half that space, in the 
neighbouring quarry of Granton, — all low in the Coal Mea- 
sures. They lie diagonally athwart the strata, at an angle 
of about thirty, with the nether and weightier portion of 
their boles below, like snags in the Mississippi ; and we infer, 
from their general direction, that the stream to which they 
reclined must have flowed from nearly north-east to south- 
west The current was probably that of a noble river, which 
reflected on its broad bosom the shadow of many a stately 
tree. With the exception of one of the Granton specimens, 
which still retains its strong-kneed roots, they are all mere 
portions of trees, rounded at both ends, as if by attrition or 
decay ; and yet one of these portions measures about six feet 
in diameter by sixty-one feet in length ; another four feet in 
diameter by seventy feet in length ; and the others, of various 
thickness, but all bulky enough to equal the masts of large 
vessels, ranged in* length from thirty-six to forty-seven feet. 
It seems strange to one who derives his supply of domestic 
fuel from the Dalkeith and Falkirk coal-fields, that the Car- 
boniferous flora could ever have been described as devoid of 
trees. I can scarce take up a piece of coal from beside my 
study fire without detecting in it fragments of carbonized 
wood, which almost always exhibit the characteristic longi- 


tndinal fibres, and not unfrequently the medullary raja. Even 
the trap-rocks of the district enclose, in some instances, their 
masses of lignite, which present, in their transverse sections, 
when cut by the lapidary, the net-like reticulations of the 
coniferae. The fossil botanist who devoted himself chiefly to 
the study of microscopic structure would have to decide, 
from the facts of the case, not that trees were absent during 
the Carboniferous period, but that, in consequence of their 
having been present in amazing numbers, their remains had 
entered more palpably and extensively into the composition 
of coal than those of any other vegetable.* So far as is yet 
known, they all belonged to the two great divisions of the 
coniferous family, araucarians and pines. The huge trees of 
Oraigleith and Qranton were of the former tribe, and approxi- 
mate more nearly to Atiirigia exceka, the Norfolk Island 
pine, — a noble araucarian, that rears its proud head from a 
hundred and sixty to two hundred feet over the soil, and ex- 

* It is stated by Mr Witham, that, " except in a few instances, he had 
ineffectually tried, with the aid of the microscope, to obtain some insight 
into the structure of coaL Owing/' he adds, "to its great opacity, 
which is probably due to mechanical pressure, the action of chemical 
affinity, and the percolation of acidulous waters, all traces of organiza- 
tion appear to have been obliterated." I have heard the late Mr Sander- 
son, who prepared for Mr Witham most of the specimens figured in his 
well-known work on the " Internal Structure of Fossil Vegetables," and 
from whom the materials of his statement on this point seem to have 
been derived, make a similar remark. It was rare, he said, to find a 
bit of coal that exhibited the organic structure. The case, however, is 
far otherwise ; and the ingenious mechanic and his employer were mis- 
led, simply by the circumstance that it is rare to find pieces of coal 
which exhibit the ligneous fibre existing in a state of keeping solid enough 
to stand the grinding of the lapidary's wheel. The lignite usually occurs 
in thin layers of a substance resembling soft charcoal, at which, from the 
loose adhesion of the fibres, the coal splits at a stroke ; and as it cannot 
be prepared as a transparency, it is best examined by a Stanhope lens. 
It will be found, tried in this manner, that so far is vegetable fibre from 
being of rare occurrence in coal, — our Scotch coal at least, — that almost 
every cubic inch contains its hundreds, nay, its thousands, of cells. 


hibits a green and luxuriant breadth of foliage rare among 
the Coniferse, — than any other living tree. 
Kg. «0. 


(From a young tpeeimm in At Botanic (Harden, Edinburgh.) 

Beyond the Coal Measures terrestrial plants become ex- 
tremely rare. The fossil botanist, on taking leave of the 
lower Carboniferous beds, quits the land, and sets out to sea ; 
and it seems in no way surprising that the specimens which 
he there adds to his herbarium should consist mainly of Fttca- 
eea and Confenea. The development hypothesis can borrow 
no support from the simple fact, that while a high terrestrial 
vegetation grows upon dry land, only algte grow in the sea ; 
and even did the Old Red Sandstone and Silurian systems 
furnish, as their vegetable organisms, fucoids exclusively, 
the evidence would amount to no more than simply this, that 
the land of the Palaeozoic periods produced plants of the land, 
and the sea of the Palnozoic periods produced plants of the 


In the Upper Old Bed Sandstone, — the formation of the 
Holoptychius and the Stagonolepis, — the only vegetable re- 
mains which I have yet seen are of a character so exceed- 
ingly obscure and doubtful, that all I could venture to premise 
regarding them is, that they seem to be the fragments of sorely 
comminuted fucoids. In the formation of the Middle (Lower) 
Old Red, — that of the Cephalaspis and the gigantic lobster 
of Carmylie, — the vegetable remains are at once more nume- 
rous and better defined. I have detected among the gray 
micaceous sandstones of Forfarshire a fucoid furnished with a 
thick, squat stem, that branches into numerous divergent leaf- 
lets or fronds, of a slim parallelogrammical, grass-like form, 
and which, as a whole, somewhat resembles the scourge of 
cords attached to a handle with which a boy whips his top. 
And Professor Fleming describes a still more remarkable ve- 
getable organism of the same formation, " which, occurring 
in the form of circular, flat patches, composed each of nume- 
rous smaller contiguous circular pieces, is altogether not unlike 
what might be expected to result from a compressed berry, 
such as the bramble or rasp."* In the Lower (Middle) Old 
Bed, — the formation of the Coccosteus and CJievracanthtis, — 
the remains of fucoids are more numerous stilL There are 
gray slaty beds among the rocks of Navity, that owe their 
fissile character mainly to their layers of carbonized weed ; 
and " among the rocks of Sandy Bay, near Thurso,'' says Mr 
Dick, " the dark impressions of large fucoids are so nume- 
rous, that they remind one of the interlaced boughs and less 
bulky pine-trunks that lie deep in our mosses." A portion 
cf a stem from the last locality, which I owe to Mr Dick, 
measures three inches in diameter ; but the ill-compacted 

* The Parka decipitns, until of late doubtful whether animal or vege- 
table, but now — from being found constantly associated in the Upper Si- 
lurian and the Lower Old Bed with the large crustacean the pteiygotus 
— considered to be the egg-packet belonging to that creature. — L. M. 


cellular tissue of the alg» is bat indifferently suited for pre- 
servation ; and so it exists as a mere coaly film, scaroely half 
a line in thickness. 

The most considerable collection of the Lower (Middle) 
Old Bed fucoids which I have yet seen is that of the Rev. 
Charles Clouston of Sand wick, in Orkney,— a skilful culti- 
vator of geological science, who has specially directed his 
palaeontologies! inquiries on the vegetable remains of the flag- 
stones of his district, as the department in which most re- 
mained to be done ; but his numerous specimens only serve 
to show what a poverty-stricken flora that of the ocean of the 
Lower (Middle) Old Bed Sandstone must have been. I could 
detect among them but two species of plants, — the one an 
imperfectly preserved vegetable, more nearly resembling a 
club-moss than aught else which I have seen, but which bore 
on its surface, instead of the well-marked scales of the Lyco- 
podiacecd, irregular rows of tubercles, that, when elongated 
in the profile, as sometimes happens, might be mistaken for 
minute, ill-defined leaves ; the other, a smooth-stemmed fu- 
coid, existing on the stone in most cases as a mere film, in 
which, however, thickly-set longitudinal fibres are occasionally 
traceable, and which may be always distinguished from the 
other by its sharp-edged outline, and from the circumstance 
that its stems continue to retain the same diameter for con- 
siderable distances, after throwing off at acute angles nume- 
rous branches nearly as bulky as themselves. In a Thurso 
specimen, about two feet in length, which I owe to the kind- 
ness of Mr Dick, there are stems continuous throughout, that, 
though they ramify in that space into from six to eight 
branches, are nearly as thick atop as at bottom. They are 
the remains, in all probability, of a long, flexible weed, that 
may have somewhat resembled those fucoids of the intertro- 
pical seas which, streaming slantwise in the tide, rise not un~ 
frequently to the surface in from fifteen to twenty fathoms 



water; and sa, notwithstanding their obscurity, they are 
among the most perfect specimens of their class yet found, 
and contrast with the stately araucariana of the Coal Mea- 


a. SmooA-ttanmtd ipeciet. b. Tuberclt d ipedet. 
(One sixth nat. size, linear.) 

A (^cording to Sir Roderick Mnrchiaon, the root! of lome Lycopodium. 
That on the following page probably routs of Lepidodendran.— L, M 


sures, in a style which cannot fail to delight the heart of 
every assertor of the development hypothesis, I present them 
to the reader from Mr Dick's specimen, in a figure (fig. 61) 
which, however slight its interest, has at least the merit of 
being true. The stone exhibits specimens of the two species 
of Mr (Houston's collection, — the sharp-edged, finely-striated 
weed, a, and that roughened by tubercles, b ; which, besides 
the distinctive character manifested on its surface, differs from 
the other in rapidly losing breadth with every- branch which 
it throws offj and, in consequence, running soon to a point 
The following cut (fig. 62) represents not inadequately the 

Fig. 62. 

a. Smooth-stemmed species. b. Tvbercled species. 

/Natural size.) 

cortical peculiarities of the two species when best pre- 
served. The surface of the tubercjed one may perhaps re- 
mind the algologist of the knobbed surface of the thong or 
receptacle of Himanthalia lorea, a recent fucoid, common on 
the western coast of Scotland, but rare on the east.* An 
Orkney specimen lately sent me by Mr William Watt> from 
a quarry at Skaill, has much the appearance of one of the 
smaller ferns, such as the moor-worts, sea spleen-worts, or 
maiden-hairs. It exists as an impression in diluted black, on 
a ground of dark gray, and has so little sharpness of Outline, 
that, like minute figures in oil-paintings, it seems more dis- 

* It is Sir Roderick Murchison's opinion that att the fossil plants of 
Caithness belonged to the land. — L. M. 


tinct when -viewed at arm's length than when microscopically 
examined ; but enough remains to show that it must have 
been a terrestrial, not a marine plant The accompanying 
print (fig. 63) may be regarded as no unfaithful representa- 
Kg. S3. 

nasi or thb loweb (middle) old bed bandstohk. 
(Natural size.) 
tion of this unique fossil in its state of imperfect keeping. 
The vegetation of the Silurian system, from its upper beds 
down till where we reach the zero of life, is, like that of the 
Old Red Sandstone, almost exclusively fucoidal. In the older 
fossiliferous deposits of the system in Sweden, Russia, the 
Lake Districts of England, Canada, and the United States, 
fucoids occur, to the exclusion, so far as is yet known, of every 
other vegetable form ; and such is their abundance in some 
localities, that they render the argillaceous rocks in which 
they lie diffused capable of being fired as an alum slate, and 
exist in others as Beams of a compact anthracite, occasionally 
used as fuel They also occur in those districts of Wales in 
which the place and sequence of the various Silurian forma- 
tions were first determined, though apparently in a state of 
keeping from which little can he premised regarding their 
original forms. Sir Roderick Murchison sums up his notice 


of the vegetable remains of the system in the province whence 
it derives its name, by stating that be had submitted his 
specimens to " Mr Robert Brown and Dr Greville, and 
that neither of these eminent botanists were able to say 
much more regarding them than that they were fucoid-iike 

Such are the vegetable organisms of the Old Bed Sand- 
stone and Silurian systems : they are the remains of the 
ancient marine plants of ancient marine deposits, and, as such, 
lend quite as little support to the development hypothesis as 
the recent algae of our existing seas. The case, stated in its 
most favourable form, amounts simply to this, — that at cer- 
tain early periods, — represented by the Upper and Lower 
Silurian and the Old Bed deposits, — the seas produced sea- 
plants ; and that, at a certain later period, — that of the Car- 
boniferous system, — the land produced land-plants. But 
even this, did it stand alone, would be a too favourable state- 
ment I have on one occasion seen the fisherman bring up 
with his nets, far in the open sea, a wild rose-bush, that, 
though it still bore its characteristic thorns, was encrusted with 
serpula, and laden with pendulous lobularia. It had been 
swept from its original habitat by some river in flood, that 
had undermined and torn down the bank on which it grew ; 
and, after floating about, mayhap for months, had become so 
saturated with water, that it could float no longer. And in 
that single rose-bush, dragged up to the light and air from 
its place among Sertularia, Flustra, Serpula, and the deep-sea 
fucoids, I had as certain an evidence of the existence of the 
dicotyledonous plant as if I had all the families of the Ro- 
sacea) before ma Now, we are furnished by the more an- 
cient formations with evidence regarding the existence of a 
terrestrial vegetation such as that which the rose-bush in this 
case supplied. We cannot expect that the proofs should be 
numerous. In the chart of the Pacific attached to the better 


editions of " Cook's Voyages," there are several notes along 
the tract of the great navigator that indicate where, in mid 
ocean, trees, or fragments of trees, had been picked up. These 
entries, however, are but few, though they belong to all the 
three voyages together : if I remember aright, there are only 
five entries in all, — two in the Northern and three in the 
Southern Pacific. The floating shrub or tree, at a great dis- 
tance from land, is of rare occurrence in even the present 
scene of things, though the breadth of land be great, and 
trees numerous ; and in the times of the Silurian and Old 
Red Sandstone systems, when the breadth of land was ap- 
parently not great, and trees and shrubs, in consequence, not 
numerous, it must have been of rarer occurrence still. We 
learn, however, from Sir Charles Lyell, that in the " Hamil- 
ton group of the United States, — a series of beds that cor- 
responds in many of its fossils with the Ludlow rocks of 
England, — plants allied to the Lepidodendra of the Carboni- 
ferous type are abundant ; and that in the Lower Devonian 
strata of New York the same plants occur associated with 
ferns." And I am able to demonstrate, from an interesting 
fossil at present before me, that there existed in the period 
of the Lower Old Red Sandstone vegetable forms of a class 
greatly higher than either Lepidodendra or ferns. 

In my little work on the Old Red Sandstone, I have re- 
ferred to an apparent lignite of the Old Red of Cromarty, 
which presented, when viewed by the microscope, marks of 
the internal fibre. The surface, when under the glass, re- 
sembled, I said, a bundle of horse-hairs lying stretched in 
parallel lines : and in this specimen alone, it was added, had 
I found aught in the Old Red Sandstone approaching to proof 
of the existence of dry land. About four years ago I had 
this lignite put stringently to the question by Mr Sanderson ; 
and deeply interesting was the result I must first mention, 
however, that there cannot rest the shadow of a doubt re- 


garding the place of the organism in the geologic scale.* It 
is unequivocally a fossil of the Lower (Middle) Old Bed 
Sandstone. I found it partially embedded, with many other 
nodules half-disinterred by the sea, in an ichthyolitio deposit, 
a few hundred yards to the east of the town of Cromarty, 
which occurs more than four hundred feet over the Great 
Conglomerate base of the system. A nodule that lay imme- 
diately beside it contained a well-preserved specimen of the 
Coecosteug Decipiens ; and in the nodule in which the lignite 
itself is contained (fig. 61), the practised eye may detect a 



(One-third nat. sine, linear.} 

scattered group of scales of Diplaamthua, a scarce less cha- 
racteristic organism of the same formation. And what, asks 
the reader, is the character of this ancient vegetable, — the 
most ancient, by three whole formations, that has presented 
its internal structure to the microscope 1 Is it as low in 
the scale of development as in the geological scale 1 Does 
this venerable Adam of the forest appear, like the Adam of 

* Some remarks have been made in an Appendix to the "Natural His- 
tory of the Vestiges of Creation" regarding this wood, and part of the 
foregoing chapter, for which see Appendix, Note D. 


the infidel, as a squalid, ill-formed savage, with a rugged 
shaggy nature, which it would require the suggestive neces- 
sities of many ages painfully to lick into civilization ? Or 

does it appear rather like the Adam of the poet and the theo 


logian, independent, in its instantaneously-derived perfection, 
of all after development ? 

" Adam, the goodliest man of men since born 
His Bons." 

Is this tissue vascular or cellular, or, like that of some of the 
cryptogamia, intermediate ? Or what, in fine, is the nature 
and bearing of its mute but emphatic testimony on that doc- 
trine of progressive development of late so strangely resus- 
citated 1 

In the first place, then, this ancient fossil is a true wood, 
— a Dicotyledonous or Polycotyledonous Gymnosperm, that, 
like the pines and larches of our existing forests, bore naked 
seeds, which, in their state of germination, developed either 
double lobes to shelter the embryo within, or shot out a fringe 
of verticillate spikes, which performed the same protective 
functions, and that, as it increased in bulk year after year, 
received its accessions of growth in outside layers. In the 
transverse section the cells bear the reticulated appearance 
which distinguish the coniferse (fig. 65> a) ; the lignite had 
been exposed in its bed to a considerable degree of pressure ; 
and so the openings somewhat resemble the meshes of a net 
that has been drawn a little awry ; but no general oblitera- 
tion of their original character has taken place, save in minute 
patches, where they have been injured by compression or the 
bituminizing process. All the tubes indicated by the open- 
ings are, as in recent coniferse, of nearly the same size ; and 
though, as in many of the more ancient lignites, there are no 
indications of annual rings, the direction of the medullary 
rays is distinctly traceable. The longitudinal sections are 


rather leas distinct than the transverse one : in the section 
parallel to the radius of the stem or bole, the circular discs of 

Fig. 65. 


a. Tramverte itction. 

b. Longitudinal notion (parallel to radio), or medullary ray)). 
a. Longitudinal section (tangtntal, or parallel to the bark J. 

(Mag. forty diameten.) 

the conifers wore at first not at all detected ; and, as since 
shown by a very fine microscope, they appear simply as double 
and triple lines of undefined dots (b), that somewhat resemble 
the stippled markings of the miniature painter ; nor are the 
openings of the medullary rays frequent in the tangental sec- 
tion (i. e. that parallel to the bark) (c) ; but nothing can he 
better defined than the peculiar arrangement of the woody 
fibre, and the longitudinal form of the cells. Such is the cha- 
racter of this, the most ancient of lignites yet found, that 
yields to the microscope the peculiarities of its original struc- 


ture. We find in it an unfallen Adam, — not a half-deve- 
loped savage.* 

The olive leaf which the dove brought to Noah established 
at least three important facts, and indicated a few more. It 
showed most conclusively that there was dry land, that there 
were olive trees, and that the climate of the surrounding re- 
gion, whatever change it might have undergone, was still fa- 
vourable to the development of vegetable life. And, further, 
it might be very safely inferred from it, that if olive trees 
had survived, other trees and plants must have survived also ; 
and that the dark muddy prominences round which the ebb- 
ing currents were fast sweeping to lower levels, would soon 
present, as in antediluvian times, their coverings of cheerful 

* On a point of such importance I find it necessary to strengthen my 
testimony by auxiliary evidence. The following is the judgment, on this 
ancient petrifaction, of Mr Nicol of Edinburgh, — confessedly one of our 
highest living authorities in that division of fossil botany which takes 
cognizance of the internal structure of lignites, and decides, from their 
anatomy, their race and family : — 

" Edinburgh, 19th July 1845. 

" Dear Sib, — I have examined the structure of the fossil wood which 
you found in the Old Red Sandstone at Cromarty, and have no hesita- 
tion in stating, that the reticulated texture of the transverse sections, 
though somewhat compressed, clearly indicates a coniferous origin ; but 
as there is not the slightest trace of a disc to be seen in the longitudinal 
sections parallel to the medullary rays, it is impossible to say whether it 
belongs to the pine or araucarian division. I am, &c, 

" William Nicol." 

It will be seen that Mr Nicol failed to detect what I now deem the 
discs of this conifer, — those stippled markings to which I have referred, 
and which the engraver has indicated in no exaggerated style, in one of 
the longitudinal sections (b) of the wood-cut given above. But even were 
this portion of the evidence wholly wanting, we would be left in doubt, 
in consequence, not whether the Old Red lignite formed part of a true 
gymnospermous tree, but whether that tree is now represented by the 
pines of Europe and America, or by the araucarians of Chili and New 
Zealand. Were I to risk an opinion in a department not particularly 
my province, it would be in favour of an araucarian relationship 


green. The olive leaf spoke not of merely a partial, but of a 
general vegetation. Now, the coniferous lignite of the Lower 
(Middle) Old Bed Sandstone we find charged, like the olive 
lea£ with a various and singularly interesting evidence. It 
is something to know, that in the times of the Corcosteus and 
Agterolepis there existed dry land, and that that land wore, 
as at after periods, its soft, gay mantle of green. It is some- 
thing also to know, that the verdant tint was not owing to 
a profuse development of mere immaturities of the vege- 
table kingdom,— —crisp, slow-growing lichens, or watery spore- 
propagated fungi, that shoot up to their full size in a night, 
— nor even to an abundance of the more highly organized 
families of the liverworts and the mosses. These may have 
abounded then, as now, though we have not a shadow of 
evidence that they did. But while we have no proof what- 
ever of their existence, we have conclusive proof that there 
existed orders and families of a rank far above them. On the 
dry land of the Lower (Middle) Old Bed Sandstone, on which, 
according to the theory of Adolphe Brongniart, nothing higher 
than a lichen or a moss could have been expected, the ship- 
carpenter might have hopefully taken axe in hand, to explore 
the woods for some such stately pine as the one described by 
Milton, — 

" Hewn on Norwegian hills, to be the mast 
Of some great admiral. " 

Viewed simply in its picturesque aspect, this olive leafo£ 
the Old Bed seems not at all devoid of poetry. We sail up- 
wards into the high geologic zones, passing from ancient to 
still more ancient scenes of being ; and, as we voyage along, 
find ever in the surrounding prospect, as in the existing scene 
from which we set out, a graceful intermixture of land and 
water, continent^ river, and sea. We first coast along the 
land of the Tertiary, inhabited by the strange quadrupeds 
of Cuvier, and waving with the reeds and palms of the Paris 


Basin ; the land of the Wealden, with its gigantic iguanodon 
rustling amid its tree ferns and its cycadese, comes next ; 
then comes the green land of the Oolite, with its little pouched 
insectivorous quadruped, its flying reptiles, its vast jungles of 
the Brora equisetum, and its forests of the Helmsdale pine ; 
and then, dimly as through a haze, we mark, as we speed on, 
the thinly scattered islands of the New Bed Sandstone, and 
pick up in our course a large floating leaf, vei led like that' of 
a cabbage, which not a little puzzles the botanists of the ex- 
pedition. And now we near the vast Carboniferous continent, 
and see along the undulating outline, between us and the sky, 
the strange forms of a vegetation, compared with which that 
of every previously seen land seems stunted and poor. We 
speed day after day along endless forests, in which gigantic 
club-mosses wave in air a hundred feet over head, and skirt 
interminable marshes, in which thickets of reeds overtop the 
mast-head. And, where mighty rivers come rolling to the 
sea, we mark, through the long-retiring vistas which they open 
into the interior, the higher grounds of the country covered 
with coniferous trees, and see doddered trunks of vast size, 
like those of Gran ton and Craigleith, reclining under the banks 
in deep muddy reaches, with their decaying tops turned adown 
the current At length the furthermost promontory of this 
long range of coast comes full in view : we near it, — we 
have come up abreast of it : we see the shells of the Moun- 
tain Limestone glittering white along its further shore, and 
the green depths under our keel lightened by the flush of 
innumerable corals ; and then, bidding farewell to the land 
for ever, — for so the geologists of but five years ago would 
have advised, — we launch into the unmeasured ocean of the 
Old Bed, with its three consecutive zones of animal life. 
Not a single patch of land more do those geologic charts ex- 
hibit which we still regard as new. The zones of the Silu- 
rian and Cambrian succeed the zones of the Old Bed ; and, 


darkly fringed by an obscure bank of cloud ranged along the 
last zone in the series, a night that never dissipates settles 
down upon the deep. Our voyage, like that of the old fabu- 
lous navigators of five centuries ago, terminates on the sea in 
a thick darkness, beyond which there lies no shore and there 
dawns no light And it is in the middle of this vast ocean, 
just where the last zone of the Old Red leans against the 
first zone of the Silurian, that we have succeeded in discover- 
ing a solitary island unseen before, — a shrub-bearing land, 
much enveloped in fog, but with hills that at least look green 
in the distance. There are patches of floating sea- weed much 
comminuted by the surf all around it ; and on one project- 
ing headland we see clear through our glasses a cone-bearing 

This certainly is not the sort of arrangement demanded by 
the exigencies of the development hypothesis. Who that has 
watched the progress of discovery for the last twenty years, and 
seen the place of the earliest ichthyolite transferred from the 
Carboniferous to the Cambrian (Silurian) system, and that of 
the earliest exogenous lignite from the Lias to the Devonian, 
will now venture to say that fossil wood may not yet be detected 
as low in the scale as any vegetable organism whatever, or 
fossil fish as low as the remains of any animal ? But though 
the response of the earlier geologic systems be thus unfavour- 
able to the development hypothesis, may not men such as the 
author of the "Vestiges" urge, that the geologic evidence, 
taken as a whole, and in its beating on groupes and periods, 
establishes the general fact that the lower plants and animals 
preceded the higher, — that the conifera, for instauce, pre- 
ceded our true forest trees, such as the oak and elm, — that, 
in like manner, the fish preceded the reptile, that the reptile 
preceded the bird, that the bird preceded the mammiferous 
quadruped and the quadrumana, and that the mammiferous 
quadruped and the quadrumana preceded man ? Assuredly 


yes ! They may and do urge that Geology furnishes evidence 
of such a succession of existences ; and the arrangement seems 
at once a very wonderful and veiy beautiful one. Of that 
great and imposing procession of being of which this world 
has been the scene, the programme has been admirably mar- 
shcJled. But the order of the arrangement in no degree jus- 
tifies the inference based upon it by the Lamarckian. The 
fact that fishes and reptiles were created on an earlier day 
than the beasts of the field and the human family, gives no 
ground whatever for the belief that " the peopling of the earth 
was one of a natural kind, requiring time," or that the reptiles 
and fishes have been riot only the predecessors, but also the 
progenitors, of the beasts and of man. The geological phe- 
nomena, even had the author of the "Vestiges" been con- 
sulted in their arrangement, and permitted to determine their 
sequence, would yet have failed to furnish, not merely an 
adequate foundation for the development hypothesis, but even 
the slightest presumption in its favour. In making good the 
assertion, may I ask the reader to follow me through the de- 
tails of a simple though somewhat lengthened illustration ? 




Several thousand years ago, ere the upheaval of the last of 
our raised beaches, there existed somewhere on the British 
toast a submarine bed, rich in sea-weed and the less destruc- 
tible zoophytes, and inhabited by the commoner crustacese 
and molluscs. Shoals of herrings frequented it every autumn, 
haunted by their usual enemies the dog-fish, the cod, and the 
porpoise ; and during the other seasons of the year it was 
swum over by the ling, the hake, and the turbot. A con- 
siderable stream, that traversed a wide extent of marshy 
country, waving with flags and reeds, and in which the frog 
and the newt bred by millions, entered the sea a few hundred 
yards away, and bore down, when in flood, its modicum of 
reptilian remains, some of which, sinking over the submarine 
bed, found a lodgment at the bottom. Portions of reeds and 
flags were also occasionally entombed, with now and then 
boughs of the pine and juniper, swept from the higher grounds. 
Through frequent depositions of earthy matter brought down 
by the streamlet, and of sand thrown up by the sea, a gra- 
dual elevation of the bottom went on, till at length the deep- 
sea bed came to exist as a shallow bank, over which birds of 


the wader family stalked mid-leg deep when plying for food ; 
and on one occasion a small porpoise, losing his way, and 
getting entangled amid its shoals, perished on it, and left his 
carcass to be covered up by its mud and silt That elevation 
of the land, or recession of the sea, to which the country 
owes its last acquired marginal strip of soil, took place, and 
the shallow bank became a flat meadow, raised some six or 
eight feet above the sea-level. Herbs, shrubs, and trees, in 
course of time covered it over; and then, as century succeed- 
ed century, it gathered atop a thick stratum of peaty mould, 
embedding portions of birch and hazel bushes, and a few 
doddered oaks. When in this state, at a comparatively re- 
cent period, an Italian boy, accompanied by his monkey, was 
passing over it> when the poor monkey, hard wrought and 
ill fed, and withal but indifferently suited originally for brav- 
ing the rigours of a keen northern climate, lay down and 
died, and his sorrowing master covered up the remains. Not 
many years after, the mutilated corpse of a poor shipwrecked 
sailor was thrown up, during a night-storm, on the neigh- 
bouring beach : it was a mere fragment of the human frame, 
—a mouldering, unsightly mass, decomposing in the sun ; 
and a humane herd-boy, scooping out a shallow grave for it, 
immediately over that of the monkey, buried it up. Last of 
all, a farmer, bent on agricultural improvement, furrowed 
the flat meadow to the depth of some six or eight feet, by a 
broad ditch, that laid open its organic contents from top t/> 
bottom. And then a philosopher of the school of Maillet and 
Lamarck, who had chanced to come the way, stepped aside to 
examine the phenomena, and square them with his. theory. 

First, along the bottom of the deep ditch, he detects ma- 
rine organisms of a low order, and generally of a small size. 
There are dark indistinct markings traversing the gray silt, 
which he correctly enough regards as the remains of fucoids ; 
and blent with these he finds the stonv cells of flustra. +he 


calcareous spindles of the sea-pen, the spines of echinus, and 
the thin granular plates of the Crustacea. Layers of mussel 
and pecten shells come next, mixed up with the shells of 
buccinum, natica, and trochus. Over the shells there occur 
defensive spines of the dog-fish, blent with the button-like, 
thorn-set boucles of the ray. And the minute skeletons of 
herrings, with the vertebral and cerebral bones of cod, rest 
over these in turn. He finds also well-preserved bits of 
reed, and a fragment of pine. Higher up, the well-marked 
bones of the frog occur, and the minute skeleton of a newt ; 
higher still, the bones of birds of the diver family ; higher 
still, the skeleton of a porpoise ; and still higher he discovers 
that of a monkey, resting amid the decayed boles and branches 
of dicotyledonous plants and trees. He pursues his search, 
vastly delighted to find his doctrine of progressive develop- 
ment so beautifully illustrated ; and, last of all, he detects, 
only a few inches from the surface, the broken remains of 
the poor sailor. And having thus collected his facts, he sets 
himself to collate them with his hypothesis. To hold that 
the zoophytes had been created zoophytes, the molluscs mol- 
luscs, the fishes fishes, the reptiles reptiles, or the man a man, 
would be, according to our philosopher, alike derogatory to 
the Divine wisdom and to the acumen and vigour of the 
human intellect : it would be " distressing to him to be com- 
pelled to picture the power of God, as put forth in any other 
manner than in those slow, mysterious, universal laws, which 
have so plainly an eternity to work in /" nor, with so large 
an amount of evidence before him as that which the ditch 
furnishes, —evidence conclusive to the effect that creation is 
but development^ — does he find it necessary either to cramp 
his faculties or outrage his taste, by a weak yielding to the 
requirements of any such belie£ 

Meanwhile the farmer, — a plain, observant^ elderly man, 
— comes up, and he and the philosopher enter into conversa- 


tioiL " I have been reading the history of creation in the 
side of your deep ditch," says the philosopher, " and find the 
record really very complete. Look there," he adds, pointing 
to the unfossiliferous strip that runs along the bottom of the 
bank ; " there, life, both vegetable and animal, first began. It 
began, struck by electricity out of albumen, as a congeries 
of minute globe-shaped atoms, — each a hollow sphere within 
a sphere, as in the well-known Chinese puzzle; and from 
these living atoms were all the higher forms progressively 
developed. The ditch, of course, exhibits none of the atoms 
with which being first commenced; for the atoms don't keep; 
— we merely see their place indicated by that unfossiliferous 
band at the bottom ; but we may detect immediately over it 
almost the first organisms into which — parting thus early 
into the two great branches of organic being — they were 
developed. Tliere are the fucoids, first-born among vege- 
tables ; and there the zoophytes, well nigh the lowest of the 
animal forms. The fucoids are marine plants ; for, accord- 
ing to Oken, ' all life is from the sea, — none from the Conti- 
nent ;' but there, a few feet higher, we may see the remains 
of reeds and flags, — semi-aqueous, semi-aerial plants, of the 
comparatively low monocotyledonous order into which the 
fucoids were developed ; higher still we detect fragments of 
pines, and, I think, juniper, — trees and shrubs of the land, 
of an intermediate order, into which the reeds and flags were 
developed in turn ; and in that peaty layer immediately be- 
neath the vegetable mould there occur boughs and trunks 
of blackened oak, — a noble tree of the dicotyledonous divi- 
sion, — the highest to which vegetation in its upward course 
has yet attained. Nor is the progress of the other great 
branch of organized being — that of the animal kingdom — 
less distinctly traceable. The zoophytes became Crustacea 
and molluscs, — the Crustacea and molluscs, dog-fishes and 
herrings, — the dog-fish, a low placoid, shot up chiefly into 


turboty cod, and ling ; but the smaller osseous fish was gra- 
dually converted into a batrachian reptile; in short, the 
herring became a frog, — an animal that still testifies to its 
ichthyological origin, by commencing life as a fish. Gradu- 
ally, in the course of years, the reptile, expanding in size and 
improving in faculty, passed into a warm-blooded porpoise ; 
the porpoise at length, tiring of the water as he began to 
know better, quitted it altogether, and became a monkey ; 
and the monkey by slow degrees improved into man, — yes, 
into man, my friend, who has still a tendency, especially 
when just shooting up to his full stature, and studying the 
* Vestiges,' to resume the monkey. Such, Sir, is the true 
history of creation, as clearly recorded in the section of earth, 
moss, and silt, which you have so opportunely laid bare. 
Where that ditch now opens, the generations of the man atop 
lived, died, and, were developed. There flourished and de- 
cayed his great-greatrgreat-great-grandfii,ther the sea-pen, — 
his great-great-great-grandfather the mussel, — his great- 
great-grandfather the herring, — his great-grandfather the 
frog, — his grandfather the porpoise, — and his father the 
monkey. And there also lived, died, and were developed, 
the generations of the oak, from the kelp-weed and tangle to 
the reed and the flag, and from the reed and the flag, to the 
pine, the juniper, the hazel, and the birch." 

" Master," replies the farmer, " I see you are a scholar, 
and, I suspect, a wag. It would take a great deal of be- 
lieving to believe all that In the days of my poor old 
neighbour the infidel weaver, who died of delirium tremens 
thirty years ago, L used to read Tom Paine ; and, as I was 
a little wild at the time, I was, I am afraid, a bit of a sceptic. 
It wasn't easy work always to be as unbelieving as Tom, 
especially when the conscience within got queasy; but it 
would be a vast deal easier, Master, to doubt with Tom than 
to believe with you. I am a plain man, but not quite a fool ; 


and as I have now been looking about me in this neighbour- 
hood for the last forty years, I have come to know that it 
gives no assurance that any one thing grew out of any other 
thing because it chances to be found atop of it, Master. See, 
yonder is Dobbin lying lazily atop of his bundle of hay ; and 
yonder little Jack, with bridle in hand, and he in a few mi- 
nutes will be atop of Dobbin. And all I see in that ditch, 
Master, from top to bottom, is neither more nor less than a 
certain top-upon-bottom order of things. I see sets of bones 
and dead plants lying on the top of other sets of bones and 
dead plants, — things lying atop of things, as I say, like Dob- 
bin on the hay and Jack upon Dobbin. I doubt not the sea 
was once here, Master, just as it was once where you see the 
low-lying field yonder, which I won from it ten years ago. 
I have carted tangle and kelp-weed where I now cut clover 
and rye-grass, and have gathered periwinkles where I now 
see snails. But it is clean against experience, as my poor old 
neighbour the weaver used to say, — against my experience, 
Master, — that it was the kelp-weed that became the rye- 
grass, or that the periwinkles freshened into snails. The 
kelp-weed and periwinkles belong to those plants and animals 
of the sea that we find growing in only the sea ; the rye- 
grass and snails, to those plants and animals of the land that 
we find growing on, only the land. It is contrary to all 
experience, and all testimony too, that the one passed into 
the other, and so I cannot believe it ; but I do and must 
oelieve instead, — for it is not contrary to experience, and 
much according to testimony, — that the Author of all created 
both land-productions and sea-productions at the * times 
before appointed,' and ' determined the bounds of their ha- 
bitation.' ' By faith we understand that the worlds were 
framed by the Word of God / and I find I can be a believer 
on God's terms at a much less expense of credulity than an 
infidel on yours." 


But in this form at least it can be scarce necessary that 
the argument should be prolonged. 

The geological phenomena, I repeat, even had the author 
of the " Vestiges" been consulted in their arrangement, and 
permitted to determine their sequence, would fail to furnish 
a single presumption in favour of the development hypo- 
thesis. Does the ditch-side of my illustration furnish it with 
a single favouring presumption ? The arrangement and se- 
quence of the various organisms are complete in both the 
zoological and phytological branch. The flag and reed suc- 
ceed the fucoid ; the fir and juniper succeed the flag and reed ; 
and the hazel, birch, and oak, succeed the fir and juniper. In 
like manner, and with equal regularity, zoophytes, the radiata, 
the articulata, mollusca, fishes, reptiles, birds, and mammals, 
are ranged, the superior in succession over the inferior classes, 
in the true ascending order ; and yet we at once see that the 
evidence of the ditch-side, amounting in the aggregate to no 
more than this, that the remains of the higher lie over those 
of the lower organisms, gives not a shadow of support to the 
hypothesis that the lower produced the higher. For, ac- 
cording to the honest farmer, the fact that any one thing is 
found lying on the top of any other thing furnishes no pre- 
sumption whatever that the thing below stands in the rela- 
tion of parent to the thing above. And the evidence which 
the well-ranged organisms of -the ditch-side do not furnish, 
the organisms of the entire geologic scale, even were they 
equally well ranged, would fail to supply. The fossiliferous 
portion of the ditch-side of my illustration may be, let us sup- 
pose, some five or six. feet in thickness ; the fossiliferous por- 
tion of the earth's crust must be some five or six miles in 
thickness. But the mere circumstance of space introduces 
no new element into the question. Equally in both cases 
the fact of superposition is not identical with the fact of pa- 
rental relation, nor even in any degree an analogous fact. 


As, however, the succession of remains in the fossiliferous 
series of rocks is infinitely less favourable to the develop- 
ment hypothesis than that of the organisms of the ditch-side, 
it is not very surprising that the disciples of the development 
school should be now evincing a disposition to escape from 
the ascertained facts of Geology, and the legitimate conclu- 
sions based upon these, into unknown and unexplored pro- 
vinces of the science ; or that they should be found virtually 
urging, that though some of the ascertained facts may seem 
to bear against them, the facts not yet ascertained may be 
found telling in their favour. Such, in effect, is the course 
taken by the author of the "Vestiges," in his "Explana- 
tions," when, availing himself of a difference of opinion which 
exists among some of our most accomplished geologists re- 
garding the first epochs of organized existence, he takes part 
with the section who hold that we have not yet penetrated 
to the deposits representative of the dawn of being, and that 
fossil-charged formations may yet be detected beneath the 
oldest rocks of what is now regarded as the lowest fossili- 
ferous system. Sir Charles Lyell and Mr Leonard Horner 
represent the abler and better-known assertors of this last 
view ; while Sir Roderick Murchison and Professor Sedgwick 
rank among the more distinguished assertors of the antago- 
nist one. It would be of course utterly presumptuous in the 
writer of these pages to attempt deciding a question regard- 
ing which such men differ ; but in forming a judgment for 
myself, various considerations incline me to hold that the 
point is now very nearly determined at which, to employ the 
language of Sir Roderick, " life was first breathed into the 
waters." The pyramid of organized existence, as it ascends 
into the by-past eternity, inclines sensibly towards its apex, — 
that apex of " beginning" in which, on far other than geolo- 
gical grounds, it is our privilege to believe. The broad base 
of the superstructure, planted on the existing now, stretches 


across the entire scale of life, animal and vegetable ; but it 
contracts as it rises into the past : man, — the quadrumana, 
— the quadrupedal mammal, — the bird, — and the reptile, — 
are each in succession struck from off its breadth, till we at 
length see it with the vertebrata, represented by only the fish, 
narrowing, as it were, to a point ; and though the clouds of 
the upper region may hide its extreme apex, we infer, from 
the declination of its sides, that it cannot penetrate much 
farther into the profound. When Steele and Addison were 
engaged in breaking up, piecemeal, their Spectator Club, — 
killing off good Sir Roger de Coverly with a deduction, mar- 
rying Will Honeycomb to his tenant's daughter, and sending 
away Captain Sentry and Sir Andrew Freeport to their estates 
in the country, — it was shrewdly inferred that the " Specta- 
tor" himself was very soon to quit the field ; and the sudden 
discontinuance of his lucubrations justified the inference. 
And a corresponding style of reasoning, based on the corre- 
sponding fact of the breaking up and piecemeal disappearance 
of the group of organized being, seems equally admissible. 
It is somewhat difficult to conceive how at least many more 
volumes of the geologic record than the known ones could be 
got up without the club. Further, so far as yet appears, 
the fish must have lived in advance of the reptile during 
the three protracted periods of the Old Bed Sandstone, the 
still more protracted period of the Silurian, and perhaps 
the more protracted period still of the Cambrian deposits ; — 
in all, apparently, a greatly more extended space than that 
in which the reptile lived in advance of the quadrupedal 
mammal, or the quadrupedal mammal lived in advance of 
man. On principles somewhat similar to those on which, 
with reference to the average term of life, the genealogist 
fixes the probable period of some birth in his chain of suc- 
cession of which he cannot determine the exact date, it seems 
natural to infer that the birth of the fish should have taken 


place at least not earlier than the times of the Cambrian 

There is another consideration, of at least equal, if not 
greater weight A general correspondence is found to ob- 
tain in widely-separated localities, in the organic contents of 
that lowest band of the Lower Silurian or Cambrian system 
in which fossils have been detected, In Russia, in Sweden, 
in Norway, in the Lake district of England, and in the 
United States, there are certain rocks which occupy relative- 
ly the same place, and enclose what may be described gene- 
rally as the same remains. They occur in Scandinavia as 
that " fucoidal band" of Sir Roderick Murchison which forms 
the base of the vast Palaeozoic basin of the Baiuc ; they exist 
in Cumberland and Westmoreland as the Skiddaw slates of 
Professor Sedgwick, and bear also their fucoidal impressions, 
blent with graptolites ; they are present in North America 
as those Potsdam sandstones of the States' geologists in which 
fucoids so abound, mixed with a minute lingula, that they 
impart to some portions of the strata a carboniferous charac- 
ter. But with these deep-lying beds in all these several lo- 
calities, thousands of miles apart, fossils cease. And why 
cease with them ? In one locality the ancient ocean may 
have been of such a depth in the period immediately previous, 
and represented, in consequence, by the strata immediately 
beneath, that no animal could have lived at its bottom, — 
though I do not well see why the remains of those animals 
who, like the shark and pilot-fish, are frequently seen swim- 
ming over the profoundest depths, might not, did such exist 
at the time, be, notwithstanding, found at its bottom ; or in 
another locality every trace of organization in the nether 
rocks may have been obliterated, at some posterior period, 
by fira But it is difficult to imagine that that uniform cessa- 
tion of organized life at one point which seems to have con* 
ducted Sir Roderick Murchison and Professor Sedgwick to 



their conclusion, should have been thus a mere effect of ac- 
cident Accident has its laws, but uniformity is not one of 
them ; and should the experience be invariable, as it already 
seems extensive, that immediately beneath the fucoidal beds 
organic remains cease, I do not see how the conclusion is to 
be avoided, that they represent the period in which at least 
existences capable of preservation were first introduced. Every 
case of coincident cessation which has occurred since the de- 
termination of the second case must be reckoned, not simply 
as an additional unit in evidence, but, on the principles which 
determine mathematical probability, as a unit multiplied, first 
by the chances against its occurrence, regarded as a mere con- 
tingency in that exact formation, and second, by the sum of 
all the previous occurrences at the same point. 

In this curious question, however, which it must be the 
part of future explorers in the geological field definitely to 
settle, the Lamarckian can have no legitimate stake. It is 
but natural that, in his anxiety to secure an ultimate retreat 
for his hypothesis, he should desire to see that darkness in 
which ghosts love to walk settling down on the extreme verge 
of the geological horizon, and enveloping in its folds the first 
beginnings of life. But even did the cloud exist, it is, if I 
may so express myself, on its nearer side, where there is light, 
— not within nor beyond it> where there is none, — that the 
battle must be fought. It is to Geology as it is known to be, 
that the Lamarckian has appealed, — Dot to Geology as it is 
not known to be. He has summoned into court existing 
witnesses ; and, finding their testimony unfavourable, he 
seeks to neutralize their evidence by calling from the " vasty 
deep" of the unexamined and the obscure, witnesses that 
" won't come," — that by the legitimate authorities are not 
known to exist, — and with which he himself is, on his own 
confession, wholly unacquainted, save in the old scholastic 
character of mere possibilities. The possible fossil can have 


no more standing in this controversy than the "possible 
angel" He tells us that we have not yet got down to that 
base-line of all the fossiliferous systems at which life first be- 
gan ; and very possibly we have not But what of that ? 
He has carried his appeal to Geology as it is ; — he has re- 
ferred his case to the testimony of the known witnesses, for 
in no case can the unknoton ones be summoned or produced. 
It is on the evidence of the known, and the known only, that 
the exact value of his claims must be determined ; and his 
appeal to the unknown serves but to show how thoroughly 
he himself feels that the actually ascertained evidence bears 
against him. The severe censure of Johnson on reasoners 
of this class is in no degree over-severe. " He who will de- 
termine/' said the moralist, "against that which he knows, 
because there may be something which he knows not, — he 
that can set hypothetical possibility against acknowledged cer- 
tainty, — is not to be admitted among reasonable beings." 

But the honest farmer's reminiscences of his deceased 
neighbour the weaver, and his use at second-hand of Hume's 
experience-argument, naturally lead me to another branch of 
the subject 





I have said that the curiously-mixed semi-marine, semi- 
lacustrine flora of the Lake of Stennis became associated in 
my mind, like the ancient Asterolepis of Stromness, with the 
development hypothesis. The fossil, as has been shown, re- 
presents not inadequately the geologic evidence in the ques- 
tion : the mixed vegetation of the lake may be regarded as 
forming a portion of the phytological evidence. 

" All life," says Oken, " is from the sea. Where the sea 
organism, by self-elevation, succeeds in attaining into form, 
there issues forth from it a higher organism. Love arose out 
of the sea-foam. The primary mucus (that in which elec- 
tricity originates life) was, and is still, generated in those very 
parts of the sea where the water is in contact with earth and 
air, and thus upon the shores. The first creation of the 
organic took place where the first mountain summits pro- 
jected out of the water, — indeed, without doubt, in India, 
if the Himalaya be the highest mountain. The first organic 
forms, whether plants or animals, emerged from the shallow 
parts of the sea" Maillet wrote to exactly the same effect 
a full century ago. " In a word," we find him saying, in his 


" Telliamed," " do not herbs, plants, roots, grains, and all ol 
this kind that the earth produces and nourishes, come from 
the sea ? Is it not at least natural to think so, since we are 
certain that all our habitable lands came originally from the 
sea ? Besides, in small islands far from the continent, which 
have appeared but a few ages ago at most, and where it is 
manifest that never any man had been, we find shrubs, herbs, 
roots, and sometimes animals. Now, you must be forced to 
own, either that these productions owed their origin to the 
sea, or to a new creation, which is absurd.' 9 

It is a curious fact, to which, in the passing; I must be 
permitted to call the attention of the reader, that all the 
leading assertors of the development hypothesis have been 
bad geologists. • Maillet had for his errors and deficiencies 
the excellent apology that he wrote more than a hundred 
years ago, when the theory of a universal ocean, promul- 
gated by Leibnitz nearly a century earlier, was quite as good 
as any of the other theories of the time, and when Geology, 
as a science, had no existence. And so we do not wonder at 
an ignorance which was simply that of his age, when we find 
him telling his readers that plants must have originated in 
the sea, seeing that " all our habitable lands came originally 
from the sea ;" meaning, of course, by the statement, not at 
all what the modern geologist would mean were he to employ 
even the same words, but simply that there was a time when 
the universal ocean covered the whole globe, and that, as the 
waters gradually diminished, the loftier mountain summits 
and higher table-lands, in appearing in their new character 
as islands and continents, derived their flora from what, in a 
universal ocean, could be the only possible existing flora, — 
that of the sea. But what shall we say of the equally pro- 
found ignorance manifested by Professor Oken, a living autho- 
rity, whom we find prefacing for the Ray Society, in 1 847, 
the English translation of his " Elements of Physio-Philoso- 


pby 1" " The first creation of the organic took place," we 
find him saying, " where the first mountain summits projected 
out of the sea, — indeed, without doubt, in India, if the Hima- 
laya be the highest mountain." Here, evidently, in this late 
age of the world, in which Geology does exist as a science, do 
we find the ghost of the universal ocean of Leibnitz walking 
once more, as if it had never been laid. Is there now in all 
Britain even a tyro geologist so unacquainted with geological 
fact as not to know that the richest flora which the globe 
ever saw had existed for myriads of ages, and then, becoming 
extinct* had slept in the fossil state for myriads of ages more, 
ere the highest summits of the Himalayan range rose over* 
the surface of the deep 1 The Himalayas disturbed, and bore 
up along with them in their upheaval, vast beds of the Ooli- 
tic system. Belemnites and ammonites have been dug out 
of their sides along the line of perpetual snow, seventeen 
thousand feet over the level of the sea. What in the recent 
period form the loftiest mountains of the globe, existed as 
portions of a deep-sea bottom, swum over by the fishes and 
reptiles of the great Secondary period, when what is now 
Scotland had its dark forests of stately pine, — represented in 
the present age of the world by the lignites of Helmsdale, 
Eathie, and Eigg, — and when the plants of a former creation 
lay dead and buried deep beneath, in shales and fire-clay, — 
existing as vast beds of coal, or entombed in solid rock, as 
the brown massy trunks of Granton and Craigleith. And even 
ere these last existed as living trees, the coniferous lignite of 
the Lower (Middle) Old Red Sandstone found at Cromarty had 
passed into the fossil state, and lay as a semi-calcareous, semi- 
bituminous mass, amid perished Dipterians and extinct Coc- 
coeteL So much for the geology of the German Professor. 
And be it remarked, that the actualities in this question can 
be determined by only the geologist. The mere naturalist 
may indicate from the analogies of his science, what possibly 


might have taken place ; but what really did take place, ana 
the true order in which the events occurred, it is the part of 
the geologist to determine. It cannot be out of place to re- 
mark, further, that geological discovery is in no degree re- 
sponsible for the infidelity of the development hypothesis ; 
seeing that, in the first place, the hypothesis is greatly more 
ancient than the discoveries, and, in the second, that its more 
prominent assertors are exactly the men who know least of 
geological fact. But to this special point I shall again refer. 
The author of the " Vestiges" is at one, regarding the sup- 
posed marine origin of terrestrial plants, with Maillet and 
Oken ; and ho regards the theory, we find him stating in his 
" Explanations," as the true key to the well-established fact, 
that the vegetation of groupes of islands generally corresponds 
with that of the larger masses of land in their neighbourhood. 
Marine plants of the same kinds crept out of the sea, it would 
seem, upon the islands on the one hand, and upon the larger 
masses of land on the other, and thus produced the same flora 
in each ; just as tadpoles, after passing their transition state, 
creep out of their canal or river on the opposite banks, and 
thus give to the fields or meadows on the right-hand side a 
supply of frogs, of the same appearance and size as those 
poured out upon the fields and meadows of the left. " Thus, 
for example," we find him saying, " the Galapagos exhibit 
general characters in common with South America ; and the 
Cape de Verd Islands, with Africa. They are, in Mr Dar- 
win's happy phrase, satellites to those continents, in respect 
of natural history. Again," he continues, " when masses of 
land are only divided from each other by narrow seas, there 
is usually a community of forms. The European and African 
shores of the Mediterranean present an example. Our own 
islands afford another of far higher value. It appears that 
ahe flora of Ireland and Great Britain is various, or rather 
that we have five floras or distinct sets of plants, and that 


each of these is partaken of by a portion of the opposite con- 
tinent. There are, first, a flora confined to the west of Ire- 
land, and imparted likewise to the north-west of Spain ; se- 
cond, a flora in the south-west promontory of England and 
of Ireland, extending across the Channel to the north-west 
coast of France ; third, one common to the south-east of Eng- 
land and north of France ; fourth, an Alpine flora developed 
in the Scottish and Welsh Highlands, and intimately related 
to that of the Norwegian Alps ; fifth, a flora which prevails 
over a large part of England and Ireland, l mingled with 
other floras, and diminishing slightly as we proceed west- 
ward :' this bears intimate relation with the flora of Germany. 
Facts so remarkable would force the meanest fact-collector or 
species-demonstrator into generalization, The really ingeni- 
ous man who lately brought them under notice (Professor 
Edward Forbes) could only surmise, as their explanation, that 
the spaces now occupied by the intermediate seas must have 
been dry land at the time when these floras were created. 
In that case, either the original arrangement of the floras, ot 
the selection of land for submergence, must have been appo- 
site to the case in a degree far from usual The necessity 
for a simpler cause is obvious, and it is found in the hypo- 
thesis of a spread of terrestrial vegetation from the sea into the 
lands adjacent. The community of forms in the various 
regions opposed to each other merely indicates a distinct 
marine creation in each of the oceanic areas respectively in- 
terposed, and which would naturally advance into the lands 
nearest to it, as far as circumstances of soil and climate were 
found agreeable." 

Such, regarding the origin of terrestrial vegetation, are the 
views of Maillet, Oken, and the author of the " Vestiges." 
They all agree in holding that the plants of the land existed 
in their first condition as weeds of the sea. 

Let me request the reader at this stage, ere we pass on to 


the consideration of the experience-argument, to remark a few 
incidental, but by no means unimportant, consequences of 
the belie£ And, first, let him weigh for a moment the com- 
parative demands on his credulity of the theory by which 
Professor Forbes accounts for the various floras of the British 
islands, and that hypothesis of transmutation which the 
author of the " Vestiges" would so fain put in its place, as 
greatly more simple, and, of course, more in accordance with 
the principles of human belief In order to the reception of 
the Professor's theory, it is necessary to hold, in the first place, 
that the creation of each species of plant took place, not by 
repetition of production in various widely-separated centres, 
but in some single centre, from which the species propagated 
itself by seed, bud, or scion, across the special area which it is 
now found to occupy. And this, in the first instance, is of 
course as much an assumption as any of those assumed num- 
bers or assumed lines with which, in algebra and the mathe- 
matics, it is necessary in so many calculations to set out, in 
quest of some required number or line, which, without the 
assistance of the assumed ones, we might despair of ever find- 
ing. But the assumption is in itself neither unnatural nor 
violent ; there are various very remarkable analogies which 
lend it support ; the facts which seem least to harmonize with 
it are not wholly irreconcileable, and are, besides, of a merely 
exceptional character ; and, further, it has been adopted by 
botanists of the highest standing.* It is necessary to hold, 

* The following digest from Professor Balfour's very admirable 
" Manual of Botany," of what is held on this curious subject, may be 
not unacceptable to the reader. "It is an interesting question to de- 
termine the mode in which the various species and tribes of plants were 
originally scattered over the globe. Various hypotheses have been ad- 
vanced on the subject. Linnaeus entertained the opinion that there was 
at first only one primitive centre of vegetation, from which plants were 
distributed over the globe. Some, avoiding all discussions and difficul- 
ties, suppose that plants were produced at first in the localities where 
they are now seen vegetating. Others think that each species of plant 


in the second place, in order to the reception of the theory, 
that the area of the earth's surface occupied by the British 
islands and the neighbouring coasts of the Continent once 
stood fifty fathoms higher, in relation to the existing sea-level, 
than it does now, — a belief which, whatever its specific 
grounds or standing in this particular case, is at least in strict 
accordance with the general geological phenomena of subsi- 
dence and elevation, and which, so far from outraging any 
experience founded on observation or testimony, runs in the 
same track with what is known of wide areas now in the 
course of sinking, like that on the Italian coast, in which the 
Bay of Baiae and the ruins of the temple of Serapis occur, 
or that in Asia, which includes the Bun of Cutch; or of 
what is known of areas in the course of rising, like part of 

originated in, and was diffused from, a single primitive centre ; and that 
there were numerous such centres situated in different parts of the world, 
each centre being the seat of a particular number of species. They thus 
admit great vegetable migrations, similar to those of the human races. 
Those who adopt the latter view recognise in the distribution of plants 
some of the last revolutions of our planet, and the action of numerous 
and varied forces which impede or favour the dissemination of vege- 
tables in the present day. They endeavour to ascertain the primitive 
flora of countries, and to trace the vegetable migrations which have 
taken place. Daubeny says that analogy favours the supposition that 
each species of plant was originally formed in some particular locality, 
whence it spread itself gradually over a certain area, rather than that 
the earth was at once, by the fiat of the Almighty, covered with vegeta- 
tion in the manner we at present behold it. The human race rose from 
a single pair ; and the distribution of plants and animals over a certain 
definite area would seem to imply that the same was the general law. 
Analogy would lead us to believe that the extension of species over the 
earth originally took place on the same plan on which it is conducted at 
present, when a new island starts up in the midst of the ocean, produced 
either by a coral reef or a volcano. In these cases, the whole surface is 
not at once overspread with plants, but a gradual progress of vegetation 
is traced from the accidental introduction of a single seed, perhaps, of 
each species, wafted by winds or floated by currents. The remarkable 
limitation of certain species to single spots on the globe seems to favour 
the supposition of specific centres." 


the coast of Sweden, or part of the coast of South America, 
or in Asia ftlong the western shores of Aracan. Whereas, 
in order to close with the simpler antagonistic belief of the 
author of the u Vestiges," it is necessary to hold, cowtra/ry to 
all experience, that dulce and kenware* became, through a 
very wonderful metamorphosis, cabbage and spinnage ; that 
kelp- weed and tangle bourgeoned into oaks and willows ; and 
that slack, rope^oeed, and green-raw,^ shot up into mangel- 
wurzel, rye-grass, and clover. Simple, certainly ! An infidel 
on terms such as these could with no propriety be regarded 
as an unbeliever. It is well that the New Testament makes 
no such extraordinary demands on human credulity. 

Let us remark further, at this stage, that, judging from the 
generally received geological evidence in the case, very little 
time seems to be allowed by the author of the " Vestiges" 
for that miraculous process of transmutation through which 
the low algse of our sea-shores are held to have passed into the 
high orders of plants which constitute the prevailing British 
flora. The boulder clay, which rises so high along our hills, 
and which, as shown by its inferior position on the lower 
grounds, is decidedly the most ancient of the country's super- 
ficial deposits, is yet so modern geologically, that it contains 
only recent shells. It belongs to that cold, glacial, post-Ter- 
tiary period, in which what is now Britain existed as a few 
groupes of insulated hill-tops, bearing the semi-arctic vegeta- 
tion of our fourth flora, — that true Celtic flora of the country 
which we now find, like the country's Celtic races of our 
own species, cooped up among the mountains. The fifth or 
Germanic flora must have been introduced, it is held, at a 
later period, when the climate had greatly meliorated. And 
if we are to hold that the plants of this last flora were de- 
veloped from sea-weed, not propagated across a continuity 

* Khodymenia palmata and Alaria esculenta. 

+ Porphyra laciniata, Chorda fihtm, and Bnteromorpha eompreua. 


of land from the original centre in Germany, or borne by 
currents from the months of the Germanic rivers, — the theory 
of Moil C. Martins, — then must we also hold that that de- 
velopment took place since the times of the boulder clay, and 
that fucoids and confervas became dicotyledonous and mono- 
cotyledonous plants during a brief period, in which the Pur- 
pura lapillus and TurrUella terebra did not alter a single 
whorl, and the Cyprina islandica and Astarte boreaUs re- 
tained unchanged each minute projection of their hinges, and 
each nicer peculiarity of their muscular impressions. Crea- 
tion would be greatly less wonderful than a sudden transmu- 
tative process such as this, restricted in its operation to groupes 
of English, Irish, and Manx plants, identical with groupes in 
Germany, when all the various organisms around them, such 
as our sea-shells, continued to be exactly what they had been 
for ages before. A process of development from the lowest 
to the highest forms, rigidly restricted to the flora of a coun- 
try, would be simply the miracle of Jonah's gourd several 
thousand times repeated. 

I must here indulge in a few remarks more, which, though 
they may seem of an incidental character, have a direct bear- 
ing on the general subject The geologist infers, in all his 
reasonings founded on fossils, that a race or species has ex- 
isted from some one certain point in the scale to some other 
certain point, if he find it occurring at both points together. 
He infers on this principle, for instance, that the boulder 
clay, which contains only recent shells, belongs to the recent 
or post-Tertiary period ; and that the Oolite and Lias, which 
contain no recent shells, represent a period whose existences 
have all become extinct And all experience serves to show 
that his principle is a sound one. In creation there are many 
species linked together, from their degree of similarity, by 
the generic tie ; but no perfect verisimilitude obtains among 
them, unless hereditarily derived from the one, two, or more 


individuals, of contemporary origin, with which the race be- 
gan. True, there are some races that have spread over very 
wide circles, — the circle of the human family has become 
identical with that of the globe ; and there are certain plants 
and animals that, from peculiar powers of adaptation to the 
varieties of soil and climate, — mayhap also from the tena- 
cious vitality of their seeds, and their facilities of transport 
by natural means, — are likewise diffused very widely. There 
are plants, too, such as the common nettle and some of the 
ordinary grasses, which accompany civilized man all over the 
globe, he scarce knows how, and spring up unbidden wher- 
ever he fixes his habitation. He, besides, carries with him 
the common agricultural weeds : there are localities in the 
United States, says Sir Charles Lyell, where these exotics 
outnumber the native plants. But these are exceptions to the 
prevailing economy of distribution ; and the circles of species 
generally are comparatively limited and well defined. The 
mountains of the southern hemisphere have, like those of 
Switzerland and the Scotch Highlands, their forests of coni- 
ferous trees ; but they furnish no Swiss pines or Scotch firs ; 
nor do the coasts of New Zealand or Van Dieman s Land 
supply the European shells or fish. True, there is much to 
puzzle in the identity of what may be termed the exceptional 
plants, equally indigenous, apparently, in circles widely se- 
parated by space. It has been estimated that there exist 
about a hundred thousand vegetable species ; and of these, 
thirty antarctic forms have been recognised by Dr Hooker 
as identical with European ones. Had Robinson Crusoe failed 
to remember that he had shaken the old corn-bag where he 
found the wheat and barley ears springing up on his island, 
he might have held that ho had discovered a new centre of 
the European ceralia. And the process analogous to the 
shaking of the bag is frequently a process not to be remem-. 
bered. There are several minute lochans in the Hebrides 


and the west of Ireland in which there occurs a small plant 
of the cord-rash family (EriocauUm 9&pUmg%dare\ which, 
though common in America, is nowhere to be found on the 
European Continent. It is the only British plant which be- 
longs to no other part of Europe. How was it transported 
across the Atlantic 9 Entangled, mayhap, in the form, of a 
single seed, — for its seeds are exceedingly light and small, 
-—in the plumage of some water-fowl, free of both sea and 
lake, it had been carried in the germ from the weed-skirted 
edge of some American swamp or mere, to some mossy 
lochan of Connaught or of Skye ; and one such seed trans- 
ported by one such accident, unique in its occurrence in 
thousands of years, would be quite sufficient to puzzle all the 
botanists for ever after. I have seen the seed of one of our 
Scotch grasses, that had been originally caught in the matted 
fleece of a sheep reared among the hills of Sutherland, and 
then wrought into a coarse, ill-dressed woollen cloth, carried 
about for months in a piece of underclothing. It might have 
gone over half the globe in that time, and, when cast away 
with the worn vestment, might have originated a new circle 
for its species in South America or New Holland. There 
are seeds specially contrived by the Great Designer to be car- 
ried far from their original habitats in the coats of animals, 
— a mode which admits of transport to much greater distances 
than the mode, also extensively operative, of consigning them 
for conveyance to their stomachs ; and when we see the work 
in its effects, we are puzzled by the want of a record of an 
emigratory process, of which, in the circumstances, no record 
could possibly exist. Unable to make out a case for the 
" shaking of the bag," we bethink us, in the emergency, of 
repetition of creation. But in circles separated by time, not 
space, — by time, across whose dim gulfs no voyager sails and 
no bird flies, and over which there are no means of transport 
from the point where a race once fails, to any other point in 


the future, — we find no repetition of species. If the produc- 
tion of perfect duplicates or triplicates in independent cen- 
tres were a law of nature, our works of physical science could 
scarce fail to tell us of identical species found occurring in 
widely-separated systems, — Scotch firs and larches, for in- 
stance, among the lignites of the Lias, or Cyprina islcmdica 
and Ostrea edulis among the shells of the Mountain Lime- 
stone. But never yet has the geologist found in his systems 
or formations any such evidence as facts such as these might 
be legitimately held to furnish, of the independent de novo 
production of individual members of any single species. On 
the contrary, the evidence lies so entirely the other way, 
that he reasons on the existence of a family relation obtain- 
ing between all the members of each species, as one of his 
best established principles. If members of the same species 
may exist through de novo production, without hereditary re- 
lationship, so thoroughly, in consequence, does the fabric of 
geological reasoning fall to the ground, that we find ourselves 
incapacitated from regarding even the bed of common cockle 
or mussel shells, which we find lying a few feet from the sur- 
face on our raised beaches, as of the existing creation at all. 
Nay, even the human remains of our moors may have be- 
longed, if our principle of relationship in each species be not 
a true one, to some former creation, cut off from that to which 
we ourselves belong by a wide period of death. All palaeon- 
tologies! reasoning is at an end for ever, if identical species can 
originate in independent centres, widely separated from each 
other by periods of time ; and if they fail to originate in pe- 
riods separated by time, how or why in centres separated by 

Let the reader remark further, the bearing of those facts 
from which this principle of geological reasoning has been 
derived, on the development hypothesis. We find species re- 
stricted to circles and periods ; and though stragglers are oo» 


casionally found outside the circle in the existing state of 
things, never are they found beyond their period among the 
remains of the past It was profoundly argued by Cuvier, 
that life could not possibly have had a chemical origin. " In 
fact," we find him remarking, " life exercising upon the ele- 
ments which at every instant form part of the living body, 
and upon those which it attracts to it, an action contrary to 
that which would be produced without it by the usual che- 
mical affinities, it is inconsistent to suppose that it can itself 
be produced by these affinities." And the phenomena of re- 
striction to circle and period testify to the same effect No- 
thing, on the one hand, can be more various in. character and 
aspect than the organized existences of the various circles and 
periods ; nothing more invariable, on the other, than the re- 
sults of chemical or electrical experiment And yet, to use 
almost the words of Cuvier, " we know of no other power in 
nature capable of re-uniting previously separated molecules," 
than the electric and the chemical. To these agents, accord- 
ingly, all the assertors of the development hypothesis have 
had recourse for at least the origination of life. Air, water, 
earth existing as a saline mucus, and an active persistent elec- 
tricity, are the creative ingredients of Oken. The author of 
the "Vestiges" is rather less explicit on the subject: he 
simply refers to the fact, that the " basis of all vegetable and 
animal substances consists of nucleated cells, — that is, of cells 
having granules within them ;" and states that globules of a 
resembling character " can be produced in albumen by elec- 
tricity ;" and that, though albumen itself has not yet been 
produced by artificial means, — the only step in the process of 
creation which is wanting,— -it is yet known to be a chemical 
composition, the mode of whose production may " be any day 
discovered in the laboratory. 1 ' Further, he adopts, as part of 
the foundation of his hypothesis, the pseudo-experiment of Mr 
Weekes, who holds that out of certain saline preparations, 


acted upon by electricity, he can produce certain living ani- 
malcule of the mite family, — the vital and the organized out 
of the inorganic and the dead In all such cases, electricity, 
or rather, according to Oken, galvanism, is regarded as the 
vitalizing principle. " Organism,^ says the German, " is gal- 
vanism residing in a thoroughly homogeneous mass 

A galvanic pile pounded into atoms must become alive. In 
this manner nature brings forth organic bodies." I have even 
heard it seriously asked whether electricity be not God ! 
Alas ! could such a god, limited in its capacity of action, like 
those " gods of the plains" in which the old Syrian trusted, 
have wrought, in the character of Creator, with a variety of 
result so endless, that in no geologic period has repetition 
taken place 1 In all that purports to be experiment on the 
development side of the question, we see nothing else save 
repetition. The Acorns Crossii of Mr Weekes is not a new 
species, but the repetition of an old one, which has been long 
known as the Aca/rus horridus, a little bristle-covered crea- 
ture of the mite family, that harbours in damp corners among 
the debris of outhouses, and the dust and dirt of neglected 
workshops and laboratories. Nay, even a change in the 
chemical portion of the experiment by which he believed the 
creature to be produced failed to secure variety. A power- 
ful electric fluid had been sent, in the first instance, through 
a solution of silicate of potash, and,* after a time, the Acarus 
horridu8 crawled out of the fluid. The current was then sent 
through a solution of nitrate of copper, and, after a due space, 
the Aca/rus horridus again creeped out A solution of ferro- 
cyanate of potash was next subjected to the current, and yet 
again, and in greater numbers than on the two former occa- 
sions, there appeared, as in virtue, it would seem, of its ex- 
traordinary appetency, to be the same ever-recurring Acarus 
horridus. How, or in what' form, the little creature should 
have been introduced into the several experiments, it is not 



the part of those who question their legitimacy to explain ; 
it is enough for us to know, that individuals of the family to 
which the Acarus belongs are so remarkable for their powers 
of life, even in their fully developed state, as to resist, for a 
time, the application of boiling water, and to live long in al- 
cohol We know, further, that the germs of the lower ani- 
mals are greatly more tenacious of vitality than the animals 
themselves, and that they may exist in their state of eni- 
bryoism in the most unthought of and elusive forms ; nay, 
— as the recent discoveries regarding alterations of generation 
have conclusively shown, — that the germ which produced the 
parent may be wholly unlike the germ that produces its off- 
spring, and yet identical with that which produced the parent's 
parent Save on the theory of a quiescent vitality, maintained 
by seeds for centuries within a few inches of the earth's sur- 
face, we know not how a layer of shell-sand or marl spread 
over the bleak moors of Harris should produce crops of white 
clover, where only heath had grown before ; nor how brakes 
of doddered furze burnt down on the slopes of the Cromarty 
Sutors should be so frequently succeeded by thickets of rasp- 
berry. We are not, however, to give up the unknown, — that 
illimitable province in which science discovers, — to be a wild 
region of dream, in which fantasy may invent. There are 
many dark places in the field of human knowledge, which even 
the researches of ages may fail wholly to enlighten ; but no 
one derives a right from that circumstance to people them 
with chimeras and phantoms. They belong to the philoso- 
phers of the future, — not to the visionaries of the present 
But while it is not our part to explain how, in the experi- 
ments of Mr Weekes, the chain of life from life has been main- 
tained unbroken, we can most conclusively show, that that 
world of organized existence of which we ourselves form part> 
is, and ever has been, a world, not of tame repetition, but 
of endless variety. It is palpably not a world of Acwrida of 


one species, nor yet of creatures developed from these, under 
those electric or chemical laws of which the grand character- 
istic is invariability of result. The vast variety of its exist- 
ences speak not of the operation of unvarying laws, that re- 
present, in their uniformity of result, the unchangeableness 
of the Divinity, but of creative acts, that exemplify the infi- 
nity of His resources. 

Let the reader yet further remark, if he has followed me 
through these preliminary observations, what is really in- 
volved in the hypothesis of the author of the " Vestiges," 
regarding the various floras common to the British islands 
and the Continent If it was upon his scheme that England, 
Ireland, and the mainland of Europe came to possess an iden- 
tical flora, production de novo and by repetition of the same 
species must have taken place in thousands of instances along 
the shores of each island and of the mainland. His hypothe- 
sis demands that the sea- weed on the coast of Ireland should 
have been developed, first through lower, and then higher 
forms, into thousands of terrestrial plants, — that exactly the 
same process of development from sea-weed into terrestrial 
plants of the same species should have taken place on the 
coast of England, and again on the coasts of the Continent 
generally, — and that identically the same vegetation should 
have been originated in this way in at least three great centres. 
And if plants of the same species could have had three dis- 
tinct centres of organization and development, why not three 
hundred, or three thousand, or three hundred thousand ) Nor 
will it do to attempt escaping from the difficulty by alleging 
that there is the groundwork in the case of at least a common 
marine vegetation to start from ; and that thus, if we have 
not properly the existence of the direct hereditary tie among 
the various individuals of each species, we may yet recognise 
at least a sort of collateral relationship among them, derived 
from the relationship of their marine ancestry. For relation.- 


ship, in even the primary stage, the author of the " Vestiges* 1 
virtually repudiates, by adopting, as one of the foundations 
of his hypothesis, with, of course, all the legitimate conse- 
quences, the experiments of Mr Weekes. The animalcuhe- 
making process is instanced as representative of the first stage 
of being, — that in which dead inorganic matter assumes 
vitality ; and it corresponds, in the zoological branch, to the 
production of a low marine vegetation in the phytological one. 
A certain semi-chemical, semi-electrical process originates, 
time after time, certain numerous low forms of life, identical 
in species, but connected by no tie of relationship : such is 
the presumed result of the Weekes experiment. A certain 
further process of development matures low forms of life, 
thus originated, into higher species, also identical, and also 
wholly unconnected by the family tie : such are the conse- 
quences legitimately involved in that island-vegetation theory 
promulgated by the author of the " Vestiges." And be it 
remembered, that Mr Weekes' process, so far as it is simply 
electrical and chemical, is a process which is as capable of 
having been gone through in all times and all places, as that 
other process of strewing marl upon a moor, through which 
certain rustic experimenters have held that they produced 
white clover. It could have been gone through during the 
Carboniferous or the Silurian period ; for all truly chemical 
and electrical experiments would have resulted in manifesta- 
tions of the same phenomena then as now : an acid would 
have effervesced as freely with an alkali ; and each fibre of 
an electrified feather, — had feathers then existed, — would 
have stood out as decidedly apart from all its neighbours. 
We must therefore hold, if we believe with the author of the 
"Vestiges," firsts from the Weekes experiment* that in all 
times, and in all places, every centre of a certain chemical 
and electric action would have become a new centre of crea- 
tion to certain recent species of low, but not very low, organi- 


zation ; and, second, from his doctrine regarding the identity 
of the British and Continental floras, that in the course of 
subsequent development from these low forms, the process in 
each of many widely-separated centres, — widely separated 
both by space and time, — would be so nicely correspondent 
with the process in all the others, that the same higher re- 
cent forms would be matured in all And to doctrines such 
as these, the experience of all geologists, all phytologists, all 
zoologists, is diametrically opposed. If these doctrines be 
true, their sciences are false in their facts, and idle and un- 
founded in their principles. 




Is the reader acquainted with the graphic verse, and scarce 
less graphic prose, in which Crabbe describes the appearances 
presented by a terrestrial vegetation affected by the waters 
of the sea 9 In both passages, as in all his purely descrip- 
tive writings, there is a solidity of truthful observation ex- 
hibited, which triumphs over their general homeliness of 


" On either side 
Is level fen, a prospect wild and wide. 
With dykes on either hand, by ocean self -supplied. 
Far on the right the distant sea is seen, 
And salt the springs that feed the marsh between ; 
Beneath an ancient bridge the straitened flood 
Rolls through its sloping banks of slimy mud ; 
Near it a sunken boat resists the tide, 
That frets and hurries to the opposing side ; 
The rushes sharp, that on the borders grow, 
Bend their brown florets to the stream below, 
Impure in till its course, in all its progress slow. 
Here a grave Flora scarcely deigns to bloom, 
Nor wears a rosy blush, nor sheds perfume. 
The few dull flowers that o'er the place are spread, 
Partake the nature of their fenny bed ; 
Here on its wiry stem, in rigid bloom, 
Grows the salt lavender, that lacks perfume ; 


Here the dwarf sallows creep, the septfoil harsh, 
And the soft slimy mallow of the marsh. 
Low on the ear the distant billows sound, 
And just in view appears their stony bound.** 

" The ditches of a fen so near the ocean," says the poet, 
in the note which accompanies this passage, " are lined with 
irregular patches of a coarse-stained laver; a muddy sedi- 
ment rests on the horse-tail and other perennial herbs which 
in part conceal the shallowness of the stream ; a fat-leaved, 


pale-flowering scurvy-grass appears early in the year, and the 
razor-edged bullrush in the summer and autumn. The fen 
itself has a dark and. saline herbage : there are rushes and 
arrow-head; and in a few patches the flakes of the cotton- 
grass are seen, but more commonly the sea-aster, the dullest 
of that numerous and hardy genus ; a thrift, blue in flower, 
but withering, and remaining withered till the winter scat- 
ters it ; the 8aU-voort> both simple and shrubby ; a few kinds 
of grass changed by the soil and atmosphere ; and low plants 
of two or three denominations, undistinguished in the general 
view of scenery ; — such is the vegetation of the fen where it 
is at a small distance from the ocean." 

And such are the descriptions of Crabbe, at once a poet 
and a botanist. In referring to the blue tint exhibited in 
salt-fens by the pink-coloured flower of the thrift (Statice 
OTTneria), he might have added, that the general green of the 
terrestrial vegetation likewise assumes, when subjected to 
those modified marine influences under which plants of the 
land can continue to live, a decided tinge of blue. It is 
further noticeable, that the general brown of at least the 
larger algee presents, as they creep upwards upon the beach 
to meet with these, a marked tinge of yellow. The pre- 
vailing brown of the one flora approximates towards yel- 
low, — the prevailing green of the other towards blue ; and 
thus, instead of mutually merging into some neutral tint, 


they assume at their line of meeting directly antagonistic 

But what does experience say regarding the transmutative 
conversion of a marine into a terrestrial vegetation, — that ex- 
perience on which the sceptic founds so much. As I walked 
along the green edge of the Lake of Stennis, selvedged by 
the line of detached weeds wjtoh which a recent gale had 
strewed its shores, and marked that for the first few miles 
the accumulation consisted of marine algse, here and there 
mixed with tufts of stunted reeds or rushes, and that as I 
receded from the sea it was the alga? that became stunted and 
dwarfish, and that the reeds, aquatic grasses, and rushes, grown 
greatly more bulky in the mass, were also more fully deve- 
loped individually, till at length .the marine vegetation alto- 
gether disappeared, and the vegetable debris of the shore be- 
came purely lacustrine, — I asked myself whether here, if any- 
where, a transition flora between lake and sea ought not to 
be found ? For many thousand years ere the tall gray obe- 
lisks of Stennis, whose forms I saw this morning reflected in 
the water, had been torn from the quarry, or laid down in 
mystic circle on their flat promontories, had this lake ad- 
mitted the waters of the sea, and been salt in its lower reaches 
and fresh in its higher. And during this protracted period 
had its quiet, well-sheltered bottom been exposed to no dis- 
turbing influences through which the delicate process of trans- 
mutation could have been marred or arrested. Here, then, 
if in any circumstances, ought we to have had, in the broad, 
permanently brackish reaches, at least indications of a vege- 
tation intermediate in its nature between the monocotyledons 
of the lake and the algse of the sea ; and yet not a vestige 
of such an intermediate vegetation could I find among the 
up-piled debris of the mixed floras, marine and lacustrine. 
The lake possesses no such intermediate vegetation. As the 
water freshens in its middle reaches, the algae become dwarfish 


and ill-developed ; one species after another ceases to ap- 
pear, as the habitat becomes wholly unfavourable to it ; until 
at length we find, instead of the brown, rootless, flowerless 
fucoids and conferva of the ocean, the green, rooted, flower- 
bearing flags, rushes, and aquatic grasses of the fresh water. 
Many thousands of years have failed to originate a single in- 
termediate plant And such, tested by a singularly exten- 
sive experience, is the general eviden.ce. 

There is scarce a chain-length of the shores of Britain and 
Ireland that has not been a hundred and a hundred times ex- 
plored by the botanist, — keen to collect and prompt to re- 
gister every rarity of the vegetable kingdom ; but has he 
ever yet succeeded in transferring to his herbarium a single 
plant caught in the transition state 1 Nay, are there any of 
the laws under which the vegetable kingdom exists better 
known than those laws which fix certain species of the algss 
to certain zones of coast, in which each, according to the 
overlying depth of water and the nature of the bottom, finds 
the only habitat in which it can exist 1 The rough-stemmed 
tangle (Laminaria digitata) can exist no higher on the shore 
than the low line of ebb during stream-tides ; the smooth- 
stemmed tangle (Laminaria saccharina) flourishes along an 
inner belt, partially uncovered during the ebbs of the larger 
neaps ; the forked and cracker kelp-weeds (Fucub serratus 
and Fucu8 nodosusj thrive in a zone still less deeply covered 
by water, and which even the lower neaps expose. And at 
least one other species of kelp-weed, the Fucus vesiculoeus, 
occurs in a zone higher still, though, as it creeps upwards on 
the rocky beach, it loses its characteristic bladders, and be- 
comes short and narrow of frond. The thick brown tufts of 
Fucub ccmcdiculatus, which in the lower and middle reaches 
of the Lake of Stennis I found heaped up in great abundance 
along the shores, also rises high on rocky beaches, — so high 
in some instances, that during neap-tides it remains uncover- 


ed by the water for days together. I£ as is not uncommon, 
there be an escape of land-springs along the beach, there may 
be found, where the fresh water oozes oat through the sand 
and gravel, an upper terminal zone of the confervas, chiefly 
of a green colour, mixed with the ribbon-like green laver, 
(Ulva latisrima), the purplish-brown laver (Porphyra loci- 
nicUaJ, and still more largely with the green silky Entero- 
morpha (E. compressa)* And then, decidedly within the 
line of the storm-beaches of winter, — not unfrequently in low 
sheltered bays, such as the Bay of Udale or of Nigg, where 
the ripple of every higher flood washes, — we may find the 
vegetation of the land — represented by the sentinels and 
picquets of its outposts— coming down, as if to meet with 
the higher-growing plants of the sea* In salt marshes the 
two vegetations may be seen, if I may so express myself, 
dovetailed together at their edges, — at least one species of 
club-rush (Scirpus maritimus) and the common saltwort 
and glasswort (Salsola kali and Salicomia procumbensj en- 
croaching so far upon the sea as to mingle with a thinly- 
scattered and sorely-diminished fucus, — that bladderless 
variety of the Fucus vesiculosus to which I have already 
referred, and which may be detected in such localities, shoot- 
ing forth its minute brown fronds from the pebbles. On 
rocky coasts, where springs of fresh water come trickling 
down along the Assures of the precipices, the observer may 
see a variety of Rhodomenia, pabnata, — the fresh-water dulse 
of the Moray Frith, — creeping upwards from the lower limits 
of production, till just where the common gray balanus ceases 

* " Dr Neill mentions," says the Rev. Mr Landsborough, in his com- 
plete and very interesting " History of British Sea-Weeds/' " that on 
our shores algsa generally occupy zones in the following order, beginning 
from deep water: — F. filum; F. esculentus and bulbosus; F. digitatus, 
saccharinus, and loreus; F. serratus and crixpus ; F. nodosus and vesicu- 
losa*; F. canaliculatus ; and, last of all, F. pygmceus, which is satisfied 
if it be within reach of the spray." 


to grow. And there, short and thick, and of a bleached yel- 
low hue, it ceases also ; but one of the commoner marine con- 
fervas, — the Conferva arcta, blent with a dwarfed Entero- 
wwwyAa,— commencing a very little below where the dulse 
ends, and taking its place, clothes over the runnels with its . 
covering of green for several feet higher, — in some cases, 
where it is frequently washed by the upward dash of the 
waves, it rises above even the flood-line ; and in some 
crevice of the rock beside it, often as low as its upper edge, 
we may detect stunted tufts of the sea-pink or of the scurvy- 
grass. But while there is thus a vegetation intermediate in 
place between the land and the sea, we find, as if it had been 
selected purposely to confound the transmutation theory, that 
it is in no degree intermediate in character. For, while it 
is chiefly marine weeds of the lower division of the confervas 
that creep upwards from the sea to meet the vegetation of the 
land, it is chiefly terrestrial plants of the higher division of 
the dicotyledons that creep downwards from the land to meet 
the vegetation of the sea. The salt-worts, the glass-worts, 
the arenaria, the thrift, and the scurvy-grass, are all dicotyle- 
donous plants. Nature draws a deeply-marked line of divi- 
sion where the requirements of the transmutative hypothesis 
would demand the nicely graduated softness of a shaded one ; 
and, addressing the strongly-marked floras on either hand, 
even more sternly than the waves themselves, demands that 
to a certain definite bourne should they come, and no farther. 
But in what form, it may be asked, or with what limita- 
tions, ought the Christian controversialist to avail himself, in 
this question, of the experience argument ? Much ought to 
depend, I reply, on the position taken up by the opposite side. 
We find no direct reference made by the author of the " Ves- 
tiges" to the anti-miracle argument, first broached by Hume, 
in a purely metaphysical shape, in his well-known " Inquiry," 
and afterwards thrown into the algebraic form by La Place, 



in his Esaai Philosophique eur lee Probability ; but we do 
detect its influences operative throughout the entire work. 
It is because of some felt impracticability on the part of its 
author, of attaining to the prevailing belief in the miracle 
of creation, that he has recourse, instead, to the so-called law 
of development The law and the miracle are the alterna- 
tives placed before him ; and, rejecting the miracle, he closes 
with the law. Now, in such circumstances, he can have no 
more cause of complaint, i£ presenting him with the experi- 
ence argument of Hume and La Place, we demand that he 
square the evidence regarding the existence of his law strictly 
according to its requirements, than the soldier of an army 
that charged its field-pieces with rusty nails would have cause 
of complaint if he found himself wounded by a missile of a 
similar kind, sent against him by the artillery of the enemy. 
You cannot, it might be fairly said, in addressing him, ac- 
quiesce in the miracle here, because, as a violation of the 
laws of nature, there are certain objections, founded on in- 
variable experience, which bear direct against your belief in 
it Well, here are the objections, in the strongest form in 
which they have yet been stated ; and here is your hypothe- 
sis respecting the development of marine algae into terrestrial 
plants. We hold that against that hypothesis the objections 
bear at least as directly as against any miracle whatever, — 
nay, that not only is it contrary to an invariable experience, 
but opposed also to all testimony. We regard it as a mere 
idle dream. Maillet dreamed it, — and Lamarck dreamed it* 
— and Oken dreamed it ; but none of them did more than 
merely dream it : its existence rests on exactly the same basis 
of evidence as that of Whang the miller's " monstrous pot of 
gold and diamonds," of which he dreamed three nights in 
succession, but which he never succeeded in finding. If we 
are in error in our estimate, here is the argument, and here 
the hypothesis : give us in support of the hypothesis, the 


amount of evidence, founded on a solid experience, which the 
argument demands. 

But to leave the experience argument in exactly the state 
in which it was left by Hume and La Place, would be doing 
no real justice to our subject It is in that state quite suf- 
ficient to establish the fact, that there can be no real escape 
from belief in acts of creation never witnessed by man, to 
processes of development never witnessed by man, seeing that 
a presumed law beyond the cognizance of experience must 
be as certainly rejected, on the principle of the argument, as 
a presumed miracle beyond that cognizance. It places the 
presumed law and the presumed miracle on exactly the same 
leveL But there is a palpable flaw in the anti-miracle argu- 
ment It does not prove that miracles may not have taken 
place, but that miracles, whether they have taken place or 
no, are not to be credited, and this simply because they are 
miracles, i. e. violations of the established laws of nature. 
And if it be possible for events to take place which man, on 
certain principles, is imperatively required not to credit, these 
principles must of course serve merely to establish a discre- 
pancy between the actual state of things, and what is to be 
believed regarding it And thus, instead of serving purposes 
of truth, they are made to subserve purposes of error ; for 
the existence of truth in the mind is neither more nor less 
than the existence of certain conceptions and beliefs, ade- 
quately representative of what actually is, or what really has 
taken place. 

I cannot better illustrate this direct tendency of the anti- 
miracle argument to destroy truth in the mind, by bringing 
the mental beliefs into a state of nonconformity with the pos- 
sible and actual, than by a quotation from La Place himsel£ 
" We would not, ' he says, " give credit to a man who would 
affirm that he saw a hundred dice thrown into the air, and 
that they all fell on the same faces. If we had ourselves been 


spectators of such an event, we would not believe our own 
eyes till we had scrupulously examined all the circumstances, 
and assured ourselves that there was no trick or deception. 
After such an examination, we would not hesitate to admit 
it, notwithstanding its great improbability ; and no one would 
have recourse to an inversion of the laws of vision in order 
to account for it" Now, here is the principle broadly laid 
down, that it is impossible to communicate by the evidence 
of testimony, belief in an event which might happen, and 
which, if it happened, ought on certain conditions to be credit- 
ed. No one knew better than La Place himself that the 
possibility of the event which he instanced could be repre- 
sented with the utmost exactitude by figures. The proba- 
bility, in throwing a single die, that the ace will be presented 
on its upper face, is as one in six, — six being the entire num- 
ber of sides which the cube can possibly present, and the 
side with the ace being one of these, — the probability that 
in throwing a pair of dice the aces of both will be at once 
presented on their upper faces is as one in thirty-six, as against 
the one sixth chance of the ace being presented by the one, 
there are also six chances that the ace of the other should 
not concur with it ; and in throwing three dice, the proba- 
bility that their three aces should be at once presented is, of 
course, on the same principle, as one in six times thirty-six, 
or, in other words, as one in two hundred and sixteen. And 
thus, in ascertaining the exact degree of probability of the 
hundred aces at once turning up, we have to go on multi- 
plying by six, for each die we add to the number, the pro- 
duct of the immediately previous calculation. Unquestion- 
ably, the number of chances against, thus .balanced with the 
single chance for, would be very great ; but its existence as 
a definite number would establish, with all the force of arith- 
metical demonstration, the possibility of the event ; and if an 
eternity were to be devoted to the throwing into the air of 


the hundred dice, it would occur an infinite number of times. 
And yet the principle of Hume and La Place forms, when 
adopted, an impassable gulf between this possibility and hu- 
man belief The possibility might be embodied, as we see, 
in an actual occurrence, — an occurrence witnessed by hun- 
dreds ; and yet the anti-miracle argument, as illustrated by 
La Place, would cut off all communication regarding it be- 
tween these hundreds of witnesses, however unexceptionable 
their character as such, and the rest of mankind. The prin- 
ciple, instead of giving us a right rule through which the 
beliefs in the mind are to be rendered correspondent with the 
reality of thingB, goes merely to establish a certain imperfec- 
tion of transmission from one mind to another, in conse- 
quence of which, realities in fact, if very extraordinary ones, 
could not possibly be received as objects of belief, nor the 
mental appreciation of things be rendered adequately con- 
current with the state in which the things really existed. 

Nor is the case different when, for a possibility which the 
arithmetician can represent by figures, we substitute the 
miracle proper. Neither Hume nor La Place ever attempted 
to show that miracles could not take place ; they merely di- 
rected their argument against a belief in them. The wildest 
sceptic must admit, if in any degree a reasonable man, that 
there may exist a God, and that that God may have given 
laws to Datura No demonstration of the non-existence of a 
Great First Cause has been ever yet attempted, nor, until the 
knowledge of some sceptic extends over all space, ever can be 
rationally attempted. Merely to doubt the fact of God's ex- 
istence, and to give reasons for the doubt, must till then form 
the highest achievement* of scepticism. And the God who 
may thus exist, and who may have given laws to nature, may 
also have revealed himself to man, and, in order to secure 
man's reasonable belief in the reality of the revelation, may 
have temporarily suspended in its operation some great natu- 


ral law, and have thus shown himself to be its Author and 
Master. Such seems to be the philosophy of miracles ; which 
are thus evidently not only not impossibilities, but even not 
improbabilities. Even were we to permit the sceptic himself 
to fix the numbers representative of those several mays in the 
case which I have just repeated, the chances against them, 
so to speak, would be less by many thousand times than the 
chances against the hundred dice of La Place's illustration all 
turning up aces. The existence of a Great First Cause is at 
least as probable — the sceptic himself being judge in the mat- 
ter — as the non-existence of a Great First Cause : and so the 
probability in this first stage of the argument, instead of being, 
as in the case of the single die, only one to six, is as one to 
one. Again, — in accordance with an expectation so general 
among the human family as to form one of the great instincts 
of our nature, — an instinct to which every form of religion, 
true or false, bears evidence, — it is in no degree less probable 
that this God should have revealed himself to man, than that 
he should not have revealed himself to man ; and here 
the chances are again as one to one, — not, as in the second 
stage of the calculation on the dice, as one to thirty-six. Nor, 
in the third and last stage, is it less probable that God, in 
revealing himself to man, should have given miraculous evi- 
dence of the truth of the revelation, so that man " might be- 
lieve in Him for his work's sake," than that He should not 
have done so ; and here yet again the chances are as one to 
one, — not as one to two hundred and sixteen. No rational 
sceptic could fix the chances lower ; nay, no rational sceptic, 
so far as the existence of a Great First Cause is concerned, 
would be inclined to fix them so low : and yet it is in order 
to annihilate all belief in a possibility against which the 
chances are so few as to be represented — scepticism itself 
being the actuary in the case — by three units, that Hume 
and La Place have framed their argument Miracles may 


have taken place, — the probabilities against them, stated in 
their most extreme and exaggerated form, are by no means 
many or strong ; but we are nevertheless not to believe that 
they did take place simply because miracles they were. Now, 
the effect of the establishment of a principle such as this would 
be simply, I repeat, the destruction of the ability of transmit- 
ting certain beliefs, however well founded originally, from one 
set or generation of men to another. These beliefs the first 
set or generation might, on La Place's own principles, be com- 
pelled to entertain. The evidence of the senses, however 
wonderful the event which they certified, is not, he himself 
tells us, to be resisted. But the conviction which, on one 
set of principles, these men were on no account to resist, the 
men that came immediately after them were, on quite another 
set of principles, on no account to entertain. And thus the 
anti-miracle argument, instead of leading, as all true philo- 
sophy ought, to an exact correspondence between the realities 
of things and the convictions received by the mind regarding 
them, palpably forms a bar to the reception of beliefs, ade- 
quate to the possibilities of actual occurrence or event, and 
so constitutes an imperfection or flaw in the mental economy, 
instead of working an improvement And, in accordance 
with this view, we find that in the economy of minds of the 
very highest order this imperfection or flaw has had no place. 
Locke studied and wrote upon the subject of miracles proper, 
and exhibited in his "Discourse" all the profundity of his 
extraordinary mind ; and yet Locke was a believer. Newton 
studied and wrote on the subject of miracles of another kind, 
— those of prophecy ; and he also, as shown by his " Obser- 
vations on the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse," 
was a believer. Butler studied and wrote on the subject of 
miracles, chiefly in connection with " Miraculous Revelation ;" 
and he also was a believer. Chalmers studied and wrote on 
the subject of miracles in his " Evidences," after Hume, La 


Place, and Playfair had all promulgated their peculiar views 
regarding it ; and he also was a believer. And in none of 
the truly distinguished men of the present day, though all 
intimately acquainted with the anti-miracle argument, is this 
flaw or imperfection found to exist : on the contrary, they 
all hold, as becomes the philosophic intellect and character, 
that whatever is possible may occur, and that whatever occurs 
ought, on the proper evidence, to be believed. 

But though the experience argument is of no real force, 
and, as shown by the beliefs of the higher order of minds, of 
no real effect, when brought to bear against miracles sup- 
ported by the proper testimony, U is of great force and effect 
when brought to bear, not against miracles, but against some 
presumed law. It is experience, and experience only, that 
determines what is or is not law ; and it is law, and law only, 
that constitutes the subject-matter of ordinary experience. 
Experience, in determining what is really miracle, does so 
simply through its positive knowledge of law : by knowing 
law, it knows also what would be a violation of it And so 
miracle cannot possibly form the subject-matter of experience 
in the sense of Hume. For did miracle constitute the sub- 
ject-matter of experience, the law of which the miracle was 
a violation could not : most emphatically, in this case, wer& 
there " no law" there could be " no transgression ;" and so 
experience would be unable to recognise, not only the exist- 
ence of the law transgressed, but also of the miracle, in its 
character as such, which was a transgression of the law. "We 
determine from experience that there exists a certain fixed 
law, known among men as the law of gravitation ; and that, 
in consequence of this law, if a human creature attempt stand- 
ing upon the sea, he will sink into it ; or if he attempt rising 
from the earth into the heavens, he will remain fixed to the 
spot on which the attempt is made. Such, in these cases* 
would be the direct effects of this gravitation law ; and any 


presumed law antagonistic in its character could not be other 
than a law contrary to that invariable experience by which 
the existence of the real law in the case is determined. But 
certain it is, — for the evidence regarding the facts cannot be 
resisted, and by the greater minds has not been resisted, — 
that a man did once walk upon the sea without sinking into 
it, and did once ascend from the earth into the sky ; and 
these miracles ought not to be tested — and by earnest inquir- 
ers after truth really never have been tested — by an experi- 
ence of the uniformity of the law of which they were professed 
transgressions, seeing it was essentially and obviously neces- 
sary that, in order to serve the great moral purpose which 
God intended by them, the law which they violated should 
have been a uniform law, and that they should have been palp- 
able violations of it But while the experience argument 
is thus of no value when directed against well-attested miracle, 
it is, as I have said, all-potent when directed against presumed 
law. Of law we know nothing, I repeat, except when ex- 
perience tells us. A miracle contrary to experience in the 
sense of Hume is simply a miracle ; a presumed law contrary 
to experience is no law at all. For it is from experience, 
and experience only, that we know anything of natural law. 
The argument of Hume and La Place is perfect, as such, 
when directed against the development visions of the La- 





When Maillet first promulgated his hypothesis, many of the 
departments of natural history existed as mere regions of 
fable and romance ; and, in addressing himself to the Muscat 
dins of Paris, in a popular work as wild and amusing as a 
fairy tale, he could safely take the liberty, and he did take it 
very freely, of exaggerating the marvellous, and adding fresh 
fictions to the untrua And in preparing them for his theory 
of the metamorphoses of a marine into a terrestrial vegeta- 
tion, he set himself, in accordance with his general character, 
to show that really the transmutation did not amount to much. 
" I know you have resided a long time," his Indian Philoso- 
pher is made to say, " at Marseilles. Now, you can bear me 
witness, that the fishermen there daily find in their nets, and 
among their fish, plants ot a hundred kinds, with their fruits 
still upon them ; and though these fruits are not so large and 
so well nourished as those of our earth, yet the species of 
these plants is in no other respect dubious. They there find 
clusters of white and black grapes, peach-trees, pear-trees, 
prune-trees, apple-trees, and all sorts of flowers. When in 
that city, I saw, in the cabinet of a curious gentleman, a pro- 


digious number of those sea-productions of different qualities, 
especially of rose-trees, which had their roses very red when 
they came out of the sea. I was there presented with a 
cluster of black sea-grapes. It was at the time of the vint- 
age, and there were two grapes perfectly ripe." 

Now, all this, and much more of the same nature, ad- 
dressed to the Parisians of the reign of Louis the Fifteenth, 
passed, I doubt not, wonderfully well ; but it will not do now, 
when almost every young girl, whether i* town or country, 
is a botanist, and works on the algao have become popular. 
Since Maillet wrote, Hume promulgated his argument on 
Miracles, and La Place his doctrine of Probabilities. There 
can be no doubt that these have exerted a wholesome influ- 
ence on the laws of evidence ; and by these laws, as restricted 
and amended, — laws to which, both in science and religion, 
we ourselves conform, — we insist on trying the Lamarckian 
hypothesis, and in condemning it, — should it be found to 
have neither standing in experience nor support from testi- 
mony, — as a mere feverish dream, incoherent in its parts and 
baseless in its fabric. Give, we ask, but one well-attested 
instance of transmutation from the algse to even the lower 
forms of terrestrial vegetation common on our sea-coasts, and 
we will keep the question open, in expectation of more. It 
will not do to tell us, — as Cuvier was told, when he appealed 
to the fact, determined by the mummy birds and reptiles of 
Egypt, of the fixity of species in all, even the slightest par- 
ticulars, for at least three thousand years, — that immensely 
extended periods of time are necessary to effect specific 
changes, and that human observation has not been spread 
over a period sufficiently ample to furnish the required data 
regarding them. The apology is simply a confession that, in 
these ages of the severe inductive philosophy, you have been 
dreaming your dream, cut off, as if by the state of sleep, from 
all the tangibilities of the real waking-day world, and that 


you have not a vestige of testimony with which to support 
your ingenious vagaries. 

But on another account do we refuse to sustain the excuse. 
It is not true that human observation has not been spread 
over a period sufficiently extended to furnish the necessary 
data for testing the development hypothesis. In one special 
walk, — that which bears on the supposed transmutation of 
algae into terrestrial plants, — human observation has been 
spread over what is strictly analogous to rniMons of years. 
For extent of space in this matter is exactly correspondent 
with duration of time. No man, in this late period of the 
world's history, attains to the age of five hundred years ; 
and as some of our larger English oaks have been known to 
increase in bulk of trunk and extent of bough for five cen- 
turies together, no man can possibly have seen the same huge 
oak pass, according to Cowper, through its various stages of 
" treeship,"— 

" First a seedling hid in grass ; 
Then twig ; then sapling ; and, as century rolls 
Slow after century, a giant bulk, 
Of girth enormous, with moss-cushioned root 
Upheaved above the soil, and sides embossed 
"With prominent wens globose.** 

But though no man lives throughout five hundred years of 
time, he can trace, by passing in some of the English forests 
through five hundred yards of space, the history of the oak 
in all its stages of growth, as correctly as if he did live 
throughout the five hundred years. Oaks, in the space of a 
few hundred yards, may be seen in every stage of growth, 
from the newly-burst acorn, that presents to the light its 
two fleshy lobes, with the first tender rudiments of a leaflet 
between, up to the giant of the forest^ in the hollow of whose 
trunk the red deer may shelter, and find ample room for the 
broad spread of his antlers. The fact of the development 


of the oak, from the minute two-lobed seedling of a .week's 
growth up to the gigantic tree of five centuries, is as capable 
of being demonstrated by observation spread over five hun- 
dred yards of space, as by observation spread over five hun- 
dred years of tima And be it remembered, that the sea- 
coasts of the world are several hundred thousand miles in 
extent Europe is by far the smallest of the earth's four, 
large divisions, and it is bounded, in proportion to its size, 
by a greater extent of land than any of the others. And 
yet the sea-coasts of Europe alone, including those of its 
islands, exceed twenty-five thousand miles. We have re- 
sults before us, in this extent of space, identical with those 
of many hundred thousand years of time ; and if terrestrial 
plants were as certainly developments of the low plants of 
the sea as the huge oak is a development of the immature 
seedling, just sprung from the acorn, so vast a stretch of sea- 
coast could not fail to present us with the intermediate vege- 
tation in all its stages. But the sea-coasts fail to exhibit 
even a vestige of the intermediate vegetation. Experience 
spread over an extent of space analogous to millions of years 
of time, does not furnish, in this department, a single fact 
corroborative of the development theory, but> on the contrary, 
many hundreds of facts that bear directly against it 

The author of the " Vestiges" is evidently a practised and 
tasteful writer, and his work abounds in ingenious combina- 
tions of thought ; but those powers of abstract reflection, on 
whose vigorous exercise the origination of argument depends, 
nature seems to have denied him. There are two things in 
especial which his work wants, — original observation and 
abstract thought, — the power of seeing for himself and of 
reasoning for himself; and what we find instead is simply a 
vivid appreciation of the images of things, as these images 
exist in other minds, and a vigorous perception of the various 
shades of resemblance which obtain among them. There is 


a large amount of analogical power exhibited ; bat that basis 
of truth which correct observation can alone furnish, and that 
ability of nicely distinguishing differences by which the fa- 
culty of discerning similarity must be for ever regulated and 
governed, are wanting, in what, in a mind of fine general 
texture and quality, must be regarded as an extraordinary de- 
grea And hence an ingenious but very unsolid work, — full 
of images transferred, not from the scientific field, but from, 
the field of scientific mind, and charged with glittering but 
vague resemblances, stamped in the mint of fancy, which, 
were they to be used as mere counters in some light literary 
game of story-telling or character-sketching, would be in no 
respect out of place, but which, when passed current as the 
proper coin of philosophic argument, are really frauds on the 
popular understanding. There are, however, not a few in- 
stances in the " Vestiges" and its " Sequel," in which that 
defect of reflective power to which I refer rather enhances 
than diminishes the difficulty of reply, by presenting to the 
controversialist mere intangible clouds with which to grapple \ 
that yet, through the existence of a certain superstition in 
the popular mind, as predisposed to accept as true whatever 
takes the form of science, as its predecessor the old supersti- 
tion was inclined a century ago to reject science itself are at 
least suited to blind and bewilder. Of this kind of difficulty 
the following passage, in which the author of the work ca- 
shiers the Creator as such, and substitutes, instead, a mere 
animal-manufacturing piece of clock-work, which bears the 
name of natural law,* furnishes us with a remarkable in- 

* We are supplied with a curious example of that ever-returning cycle 
of speculation in which the human mind operates, by not only the intro- 
duction of the principle of Epicurus into the " Vestiges," but also by the 
unconscious employment of even his very arguments, slightly modified by 
the floating semi-scientific notions of the time. The following pas- 
sages, taken, the one from the modern work, the other from Fenelon's 


" Admitting," he remarks, " that we see not now any such 
fact as the production of new species, we at least know, that 
while such facts were occurring upon earth, there were as- 
sociated phenomena in progress of a character perfectly ordi- 
nary. For example, when the earth received its first fishes, 
sandstone and limestone were forming in the manner exem- 
plified a few years ago in the ingenious experiments of Sir 

life of the old Greek philosopher, are not unworthy of being studied, as 
curiously illustrative of the cycle of thought. Epicurus, I must, how- 
ever, first remind the reader, in the words of his biographer, " supposed 
that men, and all other animals, were originally produced by the ground. 
According to him, the primitive earth was fat and nitrous ; and the sun, 
gradually warming it, soon covered it with herbage and shrubs : there 
also began to arise on the surface of the ground a great number of small 
tumours like mushrooms, which having in a certain time come to matu- 
rity, the skin burst, and there came forth little animals, which, gradually 
retiring from the place where they were produced, began to respire." 
And there can be little doubt that, had the microscope been a discovery 
of early Greece, the passage here would have told us, not of mushroom- 
like tumours, but of monads. Save that the element of microscopic fact 
is a wanting in the one and present in the other, the following are strictly 
parallel lines of argument : — 

" To the natural objection that " In the first place, there is no 
the earth does not now produce reason to suppose that, though life 
men, lions, and dogs, Epicurus re- had been imparted by natural 
plies that the fecundity of the earth means, after the first cooling of the 
is now exhausted. In advanced surface to a suitable temperament, 
age a woman ceases to bear chil- it would continue thereafter to be 
dren ; a piece of land never before capable of being imparted in like 
cultivated produces much more manner. The great work of the 
during the few first years than it peopling of this globe with living 
does afterwards ; and when a forest species is mainly a fact accom- 
is once cut down, the soil never plished : the highest known species 
produces trees equal to those which came as a crowning effort thousands 
have been rooted up. Those which of years ago. The work being thus 
are afterwards planted become to all appearance finished, we are 
dwarfish, and are perpetually de- not necessarily to expect that the 
generating. We are, however, he origination of life and of species 
argues, by no means certain but should be conspicuously exemplified 
there may be at present rabbits, in the present day. We are rather 


James Hall ; basaltic columns rose for the future wonder of 
man, according to the principle which Dr Gregory Watt 
showed in operation before the eyes of our fathers ; and hol- 
lows in the igneous rocks were filled with crystals, precisely 
as they could now be by virtue of electric action, as shown 
within the List few years by Crosse and BecquereL The seas 
obeyed the impulse of gentle breezes, and rippled their sandy 
bottoms, as seas of the present day are doing ; the trees grew 
as now, by favour of sun and wind, thriving in good seasons, 
and pining in bad : this while the animals, above fishes were 
yet to be created. The movements of the sea, the meteoro- 
logical agencies, the disposition which we see in the gene- 
rality of plants to thrive when heat and moisture were most 
abundant, were kept up in silent serenity, as matters of sim- 
ply natural order, throughout the whole of the ages which 
saw reptiles enter in their various forms upon the sea and 
land. It was about the time of the first mammals that the 
forest of the Dir^Bed was sinking in natural ruin amidst the 
sea-sludge, as forests of the Plantagenets have been doing 
for several centuries upon the coast of England. In short, 

flares, foxes, bears, and other ani- to expect that the vital phenomena 
mala, produced by the earth in their presented to our eyes should mainly, 
perfect state. The reason why we if not entirely, be limited to a re- 
are backward in admitting it is, gular and unvarying succession of 
that it happens in retired places, races by the ordinary means of 
and never falls under our view ; generation. This, however, is no 
and, never seeing rats but such as more an argument against a time 
have been produced by other rats, when phenomena of the first kind 
we adopt the opinion that the earth prevailed, than it would be a proof 
never produced any." (FeneUm's against the fact of a mature man 
Lives of the Ancient Philosophers. having once been a growing youth, 

that he is now seen growing no 
longer. * * * Secondly, it is 
far from being certain that the pri- 
mitive imparting of life and form to 
inorganic elements is not a fact of 
our times. " ( Vestige* of Creation*) 


all the common operations of the physical world were going 
on in their usual simplicity y obeying that order which we still 
see governing them ; while the supposed extraordinary causes 
were in requisition for the development of the animal and 
vegetable kingdoms. There surely hence arises a strong pre- 
sumption against any such causes. It becomes much more 
likely that the latter phenomena were evolved in the manner 
of law also, and that we only dream of extraordinary causes 
here, as men once dreamt of a special action of Deity in 
every change of wind, and the results of each season, merely 
because they did not know the laws by which the events in 
question were evolved," 

How, let us suppose, would David Hume, — the greatest 
thinker of which infidelity can boast, — have greeted the auxi- 
liary who could have brought him such an argument as a 
contribution to the cause % " Your objection, so far as you 
have stated it," the philosopher might have said, "amounts 
simply to this : — Creation by direct act is a miracle ; whereas 
all that exists is propagated and maintained by natural law. 
Natural laws, — to vary the illustration, — were in full opera- 
tion at the period when the Author of the Christian religion 
was, it is said, engaged in working his miracles. When, ac- 
cording to our opponents, he walked upon the surface of the 
sea, Peter, through the operation of the natural law of gravi- 
tation, was sinking into it ; when he withered by a word the 
barren fig-tree, there were other trees on the Mount thriving, 
in conformity with the vegetative laws, under the influence 
of sun and shower ; when he raised the dead Lazarus, there 
were corpses in the neighbouring tombs passing, through the 
natural putrefactive fermentation, into a state of utter decom- 
position. In fine, at the time when he was engaged, as E-eid 
and Campbell believe, in working miracles in violation of 
law, the laws of which these were a violation actually existed, 
and were everywhere actively operative ; or, to employ your 


own words, when the New Testament miracles were, it is 
alleged, in the act of being wrought, ' all the common opera- 
tions of the physical world were going on in their usual sim- 
plicity, obeying that order which we still see governing them.' 
Such is the portion of your statement already made ; what 
next V " It is surely very unlikely," replies the auxiliary, 
" that in such a complex mass of phenomena there should 
have been two totally distinct modes of the exercise of the 
Divine power, — the mode by miracle and the mode by law." 
" Unlikely !" rejoins the philosopher ; " on what grounds 1" 
" O, just unlikely" says the auxiliary ; — " unlikely that God 
should be at once operating on matter through the agency of 
natural laws, of which man knows much, and through the 
agency of miraculous acts, of the nature of which man knows 
nothing. But I have not thought out the subject any farther : 
you have, in the statement already made, my entire argument" 
" Ay, I see," the author of the " Essay on Miracles" would 
probably have remarked ; " you deem it unlikely that Deity 
should not only work in part, as he has always done, by means 
of which men, — clever fellows like you and me, — think they 
know a great deal, but that he should also work in part, as 
he has always done, by means of which they know nothing 
at alL Admirably reasoned out ! Tou are, I make no 
doubt, a sound, zealous unbeliever in your private capacity, 
and your argument may have great weight with your own 
mind, and be, in consequence, worthy of encouragement in a 
small way ; but allow me to suggest that, for the sake of the 
general cause, it should be kept out of reach of the enemy. 
There are in the Churches militant on both sides of the Tweed 
shrewd combatants, who have nearly as much wit as our- 
selves." I think I understand the reference of the author 
of the " Vestiges" to the dream " of a special action of Deity 
in every change of wind, and the results of each season." 
Taken with what immediately goes before, it means something 


considerably different from those fancies of the " untutored 
Indian," who, according to the poet, 

'• Sees God in clouds, or hears Him in the wind." 
There is a school of infidelity, tolerably well known in the 
capital of Scotland as by far the most superficial which our 
country has yet seen, that measures mind with a tape-line 
and the callipers, and, albeit not Christian, laudably exem- 
plifies, in a loudly expressed regard for science, the Christian 
grace of loving its enemy. And the belief in a special Pro- 
vidence, who watches over and orders all things, and without 
whose permission there falleth not even a " sparrow to the 
ground," the apostles of this school set wholly aside, substi- 
tuting, instead, a belief in the indiscriminating operation of 
natural laws ; as if, with the broad fact before them that even 
man can work out his will merely by knowing and directing 
these laws, the God by whom they were instituted should lack 
either the power or the wisdom to make them the pliant mi- 
nisters of his. It is, I fear, to the distinctive tenet in the 
creed of this hapless school that the author of the " Vestiges" 
refers. Nor is it in the least surprising, that a writer who 
labours through two carefully written volumes* to destroy 
the existing belief in " God's works of Creation," should 
affect to hold that the belief in his " works of Providence" 
had been destroyed already. But faith in a special superin- 
tendence of Deity is not yet dead : nay, more, — He who 
created the human mind took especial care, in its construc- 
tion, that, save in a few defective specimens of the race, the 
belief should never die. 

The author of the " Vestiges" complains of the illiberality 
with which he has been treated. " It has appeared to various 
critics," we find him saying, " that very sacred principles are 
threatened by a doctrine of universal law. A natural origin 

* " Vestiges of the Natural History of -Creation," and " Explanations, 
being a Sequel to the Vestiges." 


of life, and a natural basis in organization for the operations 
of the human mind, speak to them of fatalism and material* 
ism. And, strange to say. those who every day give views 
of physical cosmogony altogether discrepant in appearance 
with that of Moses, apply hard names to my book for sug- 
gesting an organic cosmogony in the same way, liable to in- 
considerate odium. I must firmly protest against this mode 
of meeting speculations regarding nature. The object of my 
book, whatever may be said of the manner in which it is 
treated, is purely scientific. The views which I give of the 
history of organization stand exactly on the same ground upon 
which the geological doctrines stood fifty years ago. I am 
merely endeavouring to read aright another chapter of the 
mystic book which God has placed under the attention of his 
creatures. . . The absence of all liberality in my re- 
viewers is striking, and especially so in those whose geologi- 
cal doctrines have exposed them to similar misconstruction. 
If the men newly emerged from the odium which was thrown 
upon Newton's theory of the planetary motions had rushed 
forward to turn that odium upon the patrons of the dawning 
science of Geology, they would have been prefiguring the con- 
duct of several of my critics, themselves hardly escaped from 
the rude hands of the narrow-minded, yet eager to join that 
rabble against a new and equally unfriended stranger, as if 
such were the best means of purchasing impunity for them- 
selves. 7 trust that a little time will enable the public to pe- 
netrate this policy^ 

Now, there is one very important point to which the author 
of this complaint does not seem to have adverted The as- 
tronomer founded his belief in the mobility of the earth and 
the immobility of the sun, not on a mere dream-like hypo- 
thesis, founded on nothing, but on a wide and solid base of 
pure induction. Galileo was no mere dreamer ; — he was a 
discoverer of great truths, and a profound reasoner regarding 


them : and on bis discoveries and his reasonings, compelled 
by the inexorable laws of his mental constitution, did he 
build up certain deductive beliefs, which had no previous ex- 
istence in his mind. His convictions were consequents, not 
antecedents. Such, also, is the character of geological disco- 
very and inference, and of the existing belief — their joint 
production, — regarding the great antiquity of the globe. Noy 
geologist worthy of the name began with the belief, and then i 
set himself to square geological phenomena with its require- J 
ments. It is a deduction, — a result ; — not the starting as- 
sumption, or given sum, in a process of calculation, but its 
ultimate finding or answer. Clergymen of the orthodox 
Churches, such as the Sumners, Sedgwicks, Bucklands, Cony- 
beares, and Pye Smiths of England, or the Chalmerses, Dun- 
cans, and Flemings of our own country, must have come to 
the study of this question of the world's age with at least no 
bias in favour of the geological estimate. The old, and, as 
it has proven, erroneous reading of the Mosaic account, was 
by much too general a one early in the present century, not 
to have exerted upon them, in their character as ministers of 
religion, a sensible influence of a directly opposite natura 
And the fact of the complete reversal of their original bias, 
and of the broad unhesitating finding on the subject which 
they ultimately substituted instead, serves to intimate to the 
uninitiated the strength of the evidence to which they sub- 
mitted. There can be nothing more certain than that it is 
minds of the same calibre and class, engaged in the same in- 
ductive track, that yielded in the first instance to the astro- 
nomical evidence, regarding the earths motion, and, in the, 
second, to the geological evidence regarding the earth's age.* 

* The chapter in which this passage occurs originally appeared, with 
several of the others, in the "Witness" newspaper, in a series of articles, 
entitled " Rambles of a Geologist," and drew forth the following letter 
from a correspondent of the "Scottish Press," the organ of a powerful and 


Bat how very different the nature and history of the do- 
velopment hypothesis, and the character of the intellects with 
whom it originated, or by whom it has been since adopted ! 

thoroughly respectable section of the old Dissenters of Scotland. I pre- 
sent it to the reader merely to show, that if, according to the author of 
the " Vestiges," geologists assailed the development hypothesis in the 
fond hope of " purchasing impunity for themselves," they would suc- 
ceed in securing only disappointment for their pains : — 


" To the Editor of the 'Scottish Press. ' 


Sir, — I occasionally observe articles in your neighbour and contem- 
porary the ' Witness,' characteristically headed 'Rambles of a Geologist,' 
wherein the writer with great zeal once more ' slays the slain' heresies 
of the ' Vestiges of Creation.' This writer (of the ' Rambles/ I mean) 
nevertheless, and at the same time, announces his own tenets to be much 
of the same sort, as applied to mere dead matter, that those of the ' Ves- 
tiges ' are with regard to living organisms. He maintains that the world, 
during the last million of years, has been of itself rising or developing, 
without the interposition of a miracle, from chaos into its present state ; 
and, of course, as it is still, as a world, confessedly far below the acme 
of physical perfection, that it must be just now on its passage, self -pro- 
gressing, towards that point, which terminus it may reach in another 
million of years hence. [! 1 !] The author of the ' Vestiges,' as quoted 
by the author of the ' Rambles,' in the last number of the 'Witness,' 
complains that the latter and his allies are not at all so liberal to him as, 
from their present circumstances and position, he had a right to expect. 
He (the author of the ' Vestiges') reminds his opponents that they 
themselves only lately emerged from the antiquated scriptural notions 
that our world was the direct and almost immediate construction of its 
Creator, — as much so, in fact, as any of its organized tenants, — and 
that it was then created in a state of physical excellence the highest 
possible, to render it a suitable habitation for these tenants, and all this 
only about six or seven thousand years ago, — to the new light of their 
present physico-Lamarchian views ; and he asks, and certainly not with- 
out reason, why should these men, so circumstanced, be so anxious to stop 
him in his attempt to move one step farther forward in the very direc- 
tion they themselves have made the last move? — that is, in his endeavour 
to extend their own principles of self -development from mere matter to 
living creatures. Now, Sir, I confess myself to be one of those (and 


In the first place, it existed as a wild dream ere Geology had 
any being as a science. It was an antecedent, not a conse- 
quent, — a starting assumption, not a result No one wit 

possibly you may have more readers similarly constituted) who not only 
cannot see any great difference between merely physical and organic 
development [! IJ but who would be inclined to allow the latter, absurd 
as it is, the advantage in point of likelihood. [! 1 !] The author of the 
' Rambles,' however, in the face of this, assures us that his views of 
physical self -development and long chronology belong to the inductive 
sciences. Now, I could at this stage of his rambles have wished very 
much that, instead of merely saying so, he had given his demonstration. 
He refers, indeed, to several great men, who, he says, are of his opinions. 
Most that these men have written on the question at issue I have seen, 
but it appeared far from demonstrative, and some of them, I know, had 
not fully made up their mind on the point. [! ! !] Perhaps the author of 
the ' Rambles' could favour us with the inductive process that converted 
himself ; and, as the attainment of truth, and not victory, is my object, 
I promise either to acquiesce in or rationally refute it. [?] Till then I 
hold by my antiquated tenets, that our world, nay, the whole material 
universe, was created about six or seven thousand years ago, and that 
in a state of physical excellence of which we have in our present fallen 
world only the ' vestiges of creation. * I conclude by mentioning that this 
view I have held now for nearly thirty years, and, amidst all the vicissi- 
tudes of the philosophical world during that period, I have never seen 
cause to change it. Of course, with this view 1 was, during the interval 
referred to, a constant opponent of the once famous, though now ex- 
ploded, nebular hypothesis of La Place ; and I yet expect to see physical 
development and long chronology wither also on this earth, now that their 
boot (the said hypothesis) has been eradicated from the sky. [! ! !] — I am, 
Sir, your most obedient servant, 

" Philalethes."* 

I am afraid there is little hope of converting a man who has held so 
stoutly by his notions " for nearly thirty years ;" especially as, during 
that period, he has been acquainting himself with what writers such as 
Drs Chalmers, Buckland, and Pye Smith have written on the other side. 

* It now appears that, though this letter was inserted in the " Scottish 
Press," the organ of the United Presbyterians, its writer is a Free Church- 
man. He has since published a good many other anti-geological letters, 
chiefly remarkable for their facts, to which, with a self -immolating zeal 
worthy of a better cause, he has attached his name. 


contend that Maillet was a geologist Geology had no place 
among the sciences in the age in which he lived, and even no 
name. And yet there is a translation of his "Telliamed" now 

Bat for the demonstration which he asks, as / have conducted it, I beg 
leave to refer him to the seventeenth chapter of my little work, " First 
Impressions of England and its People." I am, however, inclined to 
suspect that he is one of a class whose objections are destined to be re- 
moved rather by the operation of the lawB of matter than of those of 
mind. For it is a comfortable consideration, that in this controversy the 
geologists have the laws of matter on their side ; — "the stars in their 
courses fight against Sisera." Their opponents now, like the opponents 
of the astronomer in the ages gone by, are, in most instances, men who 
had been studying the matter "for nearly thirty years." When they 
study it for a few years longer, they disappear ; and the men of the same 
cast and calibre who succeed them are exactly the men who throw them- 
selves most confidently into the arms of the enemy, and look down upon 
their poor Bilent predecessors with the loftiest commiseration. It is, 
however, not uninstructive to remark how thoroughly, in some instances, 
the weaker friends and the wilier enemies of Revelation are at one in 
their conclusions respecting natural phenomena. The correspondent of 
the "Scottish Press" merely regards the views of the author of the " Ves- 
tiges" as possessing " the advantage, in point of likelihood," over those 
of the geologists his antagonists : his ally the Dean of York goes greatly 
farther, and stands up as stoutly for the transmutation of species as La- 
marck himself. Descanting, in his " New System of Geology, " on the vari- 
ous forms of trilobites, ammonites, belemnites, &c, Dean Cockburnsays, — 
" These creatures appear to have possessed the power of secreting from 
the stone beneath them a limy covering for their backs, and, perhaps, 
fed partly on the same solid material. Supposing, now, that the first 
trilobites were destroyed by the Llandeilo Slates, some spawn of these 
creatures would arise above these flags, and, after a time, would be 
warmed into existence. These molluscs, [! !] then, having a better ma- 
terial from which to extract their food and covering, would probably ex- 
pand in a slightly different form, and with a more extensive mantle than 
what belonged to the parent species. The same would be still more the 
case with a new generation, fed upon a new deposit from some deeper 
volcano, such as the Caradoc or Wenlock Limestone, in which lime more 
and more predominates. Now, if any one will examine the various prints 
of trilobites in Sir R. Murchison's valuable work, he will find but very 
trifling differences in any of them, [! !] and those differences only in the 
stony covering of their backs. I knew two brothers once much alike : 
the one became a curate, with a large family ; the other a London alder* 


lying before me, bearing date 1750, in which I find very 
nearly the same account given of the origin of animals and 
plants as that in the " Vestiges," and in which the sea is de- 
scribed as that great and fruitful womb of nature in which 
organization and life first began, Lamarck, at the time when 
Maillet wrote, was a boy in his sixth year. He became, com- 
paratively early in life, a skilful botanist and conchologist ; 
but not until turned of fifty did he set himself to study gene- 
ral zoology ; and his greater work on the invertebrate ani- 
mals, on which his fame as a naturalist chiefly rests, did not 
begin to appear, — for it was published serially, — until the 
year 1815. But this development hypothesis, identical with 

man. If the skins of these two pachydermata had been preserved in a 
fossil state, there would have been less resemblance between them than 
between an Asaphus tyrannus and an Asaphus caudatus. * * * A 
careful and laborious investigation has discovered, as in the trilobites, a 
difference in the ammonites of different strata ; but such differences, as 
in the former case, exist only in the form of the external shell, and may 
be explained in the same manner. [ ! !] * * * As to the scaphites, 
baculites, belemnites, and all the other ties which learned ingenuity has 
so named, you find them in various strata the same in all important par- 
ticulars, but also differing slightly in their outward coverings, as might 
be expected from the different circumstances in which each variety was 
placed. [! !] The sheep in the warm valleys of Andalusia have a fine 
covering like to hair ; but remove them to a northern climate, and in a 
few generations the back is covered with shaggy wool. The animal is 
the same, — the covering only is changed. * * * The learned have 
classed those shells under the names of terebratula, orthis, atrypha, pec- 
ten, &c. They are all 'much alike. [! 1 1] It requires an experienced 
eye to distinguish them one from another : what little differences have 
been pointed out may readily be ascribed, as before, to difference of si- 
tuation." [! ! !] 

The author of the "Vestiges," with this, the fundamental portion of 
his case, granted to him by the Dean, will have exceedingly little diffi- 
culty in making out the rest for himself. The passage is, however, not 
without its value, as illustrative of the darkness, in matters of physical 
science, " even darkness which may be felt," that is suffered to linger, 
in this the most scientific of ages, in the Church of Buckland, Sedgwick, 
and Conybeare. 


that of the " Vestiges," was given to the world long before, 
— in 1802 ; at a time when it had not been ascertained that 
there existed placoids daring the Silurian period, or ganoids 
during the Old Bed Sandstone period, or enaliosaurs during 
the Oolitic period ; and when, though Smith had constructed 
his " Tabular Yiew of the British Strata," his map had not 
vet appeared, and there was little more known regarding the 
laws of superposition among the stratified rocks than was to 
be found in the writings of Werner. And if the presump- 
tion be strong, in the circumstances, that Lamarck originated 
his development hypothesis ere he became in any very great n 
degree skilful as a zoologist, it is no mere presumption, but a; x 
demonstrable truth, that he originated it ere he became a) 
geologist; for a geologist he never became. In common with' 
Maillet and Buffon, he held by Leibnitz's theory of a univer- 
sal ocean ; and such, as we have already seen, was his igno- 
rance of fossils, that he erected dermal fragments of the Rus- 
sian Asterolepis into a new genus of Polyparia, — an error into 
which the merest tyro in palaeontology could not now ML 
Such, in relation to these sciences, was the man who perfected 
the dream of development. Nor has the most distinguished 
of its Continental assertors now living, — Professor Oken, — 
any higher claim to be regarded as a disciple of the inductive 
school of Geology than Lamarck. In the preface to the re- 
cently published translation of his " Physio-Philosophy," we 
find the following curious confession : — " I wrote the first 
edition of 1810 in a kind of inspiration, and on that account 
it was not so well arranged as a systematic work ought to be. 
Now, though this may appear to have been amended in the 
second and third editions, yet still it was not possible for me 
to completely attain the object held in view. The book has 
therefore remained essentially the same as regards its funda- 
mental principles. It is only the empirical arrangement into 
series of plants and animals that has been modified from time 


to time, in accordance with the scientific elevation of their se- 
veral departments, or just as discoveries and anatomical inves- 
tigations have increased, and rendered some other position of 
the objects a matter of necessity" An interesting piece of 
evidence this ; but certainly rather simple as a confession. It 
will be found that, while whatever gives value to the " Phy- 
sio-Philosophy" of the German professor (a work which, if 
divested of all the inspired bits, would be really a good one) 
was acquired either before or since its first appearance in the 
ordinary way, its development hypothesis came direct from 
the god. Further, as I have already had occasion to state, 
Oken holds, like Lamarck and Mailiet, by the universal ocean 
of Leibnitz : he holds also, that the globe is a vast crystal, 
just a little flawed in the facets ; and that the three granitic 
components,— quartz, feldspar, and mica, — are simply the 
hail-drops of heavy stone showers that shot athwart the ori- 
ginal ocean, and accumulated into rock at the bottom, as snow 
or hail shoots athwart the upper atmosphere, and accumulates, 
in the form of ice, on the summits of high hills, or in the 
arctic or antarctic regions. Such, in the present day, are the 
geological notions of Oken ! They were doubtless all pro- 
mulgated in what is modestly enough termed " a kind of in- 
spiration ;" and there are few now so ignorant of Geology as 
not to know that the possessing agent in the case, — for inspi- 
ration is not quite the proper word, — must have been at least 
of kin to that ingenious personage who volunteered of old to 
be a lying spirit in the mouths of the four hundred prophets. 
And the well-known fact, that the most popular contempo- 
rary expounder of Oken's hypothesis, — the author of the 
" Vestiges," — has in every edition of his work been correct- 
ing, modifying, or altogether withdrawing his statements re- 
garding both geological and zoological phenomena, and that 
his gradual development as a geologist and zoologist, from 
the sufficiently low type of acquirement to which his first edi- 


tion bora witness, may be traced, in consequence, with a dis- 
tinctness and certainty which we in vain seek in the cases of 
presumed development which he would so fain establish, — 
has in its bearing exactly the same effect His development 
hypothesis was complete at a time when his geology and 
zoology were rudimental and imperfect Give me your facts, 
said the Frenchman, that I may accommodate them to my 
theory. And no one can look at the progress of the La- 
marckian hypothesis, with reference to the dates when, and 
the men by whom, it was promulgated, without recognising 
in it one of perhaps the most striking embodiments of the 
Frenchman's principle which the world ever saw. It is not 
the illiberal religionist that rejects and casts it off; — it is the 
inductive philosopher. Science addresses its assertors in the 
language of the possessed to the sons of Sceva the Jew : — 
" The astronomer I know, and the geologist I know ; but who 
are ye ?" 

One of the strangest passages in the " Sequel to the Ves- 
tiges," is that in which its author carries his appeal from the 
tribunal of science to " another tribunal," indicated but not 
named, before which "this new philosophy" [remarkable 
chiefly for being neither philosophy nor new] " is to be truly 
and righteously judged." The principle is obvious, on which, 
were his opponents mere theologians, wholly unable, though 
they saw the mischievous character and tendency of his con- 
clusions, to disprove them scientifically, he might appeal from 
theology to science : " it is with scientific truth," he might 
urge, "not with moral consequences, that I have aught to 
do." But on what allowable principle, professing, as he does, 
to found his theory on scientific fact, can he appeal from 
science to the want of it ? " After discussing," he says, " the 
whole arguments on both sides in so ample a manner, it may 
be hardly necessary to advert to the objection arising from 
/\^ the mere fact, that nearly all the scientific men are opposed 



to the theory of the ' Vestiges.' As this objection, however, 
is likely to be of some avail with many minds, it ought not 
to be entirely passed over. If I did not think there were rea- 
sons, independent of judgment, for the scientific class coming 
so generally to this conclusion, I might feel the more embar- 
rassed in. presenting myself in direct opposition to so many 
men possessing talents and information. As the case really 
stands, the ability of this class to give at the present a true 
response upon such a subject appears extremely challengeable. 
It is no discredit to them that they are, almost without ex- 
ception, engaged each in his own little department of science, 
and able to give little or no attention to other parts of that 
vast field From year to year, and from age to age, we see 
them at work, adding, no doubt, much to the known, and ad- 1 
vancing many important interests, but at the same time doing I 
little for the establishment of comprehensive views of nature. ) 
Experiments in however narrow a walk, facts of whatever 
minuteness, make reputations in scientific societies : all be- 
yond is regarded with suspicion and distrust The conse- 
quence is, that philosophy, as it exists amongst us, does no- 
thing to raise its votaries above the common ideas of their 
time. There can therefore be nothing more conclusive 
against our hypothesis in the disfavour of the scientific class, 
than in that of any other section of educated men." 

This is surely a very strange statement. Waiving alto- 
gether the general fact, that great original discoverers in any 
department of knowledge are never men of one science or 
one faculty, but possess, on the contrary, breadth of mind 
and multiplicity of acquirement ; — waiving, too, the particur 
lar fact> that the more distinguished original discoverers of 
the present day rank among at once its most philosophic, 
most elegant^ and most extensively informed writers ; — 
granting, for the argument's sake, that our scientific men are 
men of narrow acquirement, and " exclusively engaged, each 


in His own little department of science ;** — it is surely ra- 
tional to hold, notwithstanding, that in at least these little I 
departments they have a better right to be heard than any ^ 
other class of persons whatever. We must sorely not refuse 
to the man of science what we at once grant to the common 
mechanic. A cotton-weaver or calico-printer may be a very 
narrow man, " exclusively engaged in his own little depart- 
ment ;" and yet certain it is that, in a question of cotton- 
weaving or of calico-printing, his evidence is justly deemed 
more conclusive in courts of law than that of any other man, 
however much his superior in general breadth and intelligence. 
And had the author of the " Vestiges" founded his hypo- 
thesis on certain facts pertaining to the arts of cotton-weav- 
ing and calico-printing, the cotton- weaver and calico-printer 
would have an indisputable right to be heard on the ques- 
tion of their general correctness. Are we to regard the case 
as different because it is on facts pertaining to science, not 
vo cotton-weaving or calico-printing, that he professes to 
found 1 His hypothesis, unless supported by scientific evi- 
dence, is a mere dream, — a fiction as baseless and wild as 
any in the " Fairy Tales" or the " Arabian Nights." And, 
fully sensible of the fact, he calls in as witnesses the physical 
sciences, and professes to take down their evidence. He calls 
into court Astronomy, Geology, Phytology, and Zoology. 
" Hold !" exclaims the astronomer, as the examination goes 
on ; " you are taking the evidence of my special science 
most unfairly : I challenge a right of cross-examining the 
witness." " Hold !" cries the geologist ; " you are putting 
my science to the question, and extorting from it, in its agony, 
a whole series of fictions : I claim the right of examining it 
fairly and softly, and getting from it just the sober truth, and 
nothing more." And the phytologist and zoologist urge exact- 
ly similar claims. " No, gentlemen," replies the author of 
the " Vestiges;" " you are narrow men, confined each of you 


to his own little department, and so I will not permit you to 
cross-examine the witnesses." " What !" rejoin the men of 
science, " not permit us to examine our own witnesses ! — re- 
fuse to us what you would at once concede to the cotton- 
weaver or the calico-printer, were the question one of cotton- 
weaving or of calico-printing ! We are surely not much nar- 
rower men than the man of cotton or the man of calico. It 
is but in our own little departments that we ask to be heard." 
" But you shall not be heard, gentlemen," says the author of 
the " Vestiges :" " at all events, I shall not care one farthing 
for anything you say. For observe, gentlemen, my hypothe- 
sis is nothing without the evidence of your sciences ; and you 
all unite, I see, in taking that evidence from me ; and so I 
confidently raise my appeal in this matter to people who 
know nothing about either you or your sciences. It must 
be before another tribunal that the new philosophy is to be 
truly and righteously judged." Alas ! what can this mean 't 
or where are we to seek for that tribunal of last resort to 
which this ingenious man refers with such confidence the con- 
sideration of his case ? Can it mean, that he appeals from 
the only class of persons qualified to judge of his facts, to a 
class ignorant of these, but disposed by habits of previous 
scepticism to acquiesce in his conclusions, and take his pre- 
mises for granted ; — that he appeals from astronomers and 
geologists to low-minded materialists and shallow phrenolo 
gers, — from phytologists and zoologists to mesmerists and 
phreno-mesmerists 1 

I remember being much struck, several years ago, by a re- 
mark dropped in conversation by the late Rev. Mr Stewart 
of Cromarty, one of the most original-minded men I ever 
knew. " In reading in my Greek New Testament this morn- 
ing," he said, " I was curiously impressed by a thought which, 
simple as it may seem, never occurred to me before. The 
portion which I perused was in the First Epistle of Peter ; 


and as I passed from the thinking of the passage to the lan- 
guage in which it is expressed, — c This Greek of the untaught 
Galilean fisherman/ I said, 'so admired by scholars and 
critics for its unaffected dignity and force, was not acquired, 
as that of Paul may have been, in the ordinary way, but 
formed a portion of the Pentecostal gift 1 Here, then, im- 
mediately under my eye, on these pages, are there embodied, 
not, as in many other parts of the Scriptures, the mere de- 
tails of a miracle, but the direct results of a miracle. How 
strange ! Had the old tables of stone been placed before me, 
with what an awe-struck feeling would I have looked on the 
characters traced upon them by God's own finger ! How is 
it that I have failed to remember, that in the language of 
these Epistles, miraculously impressed by the Divine power 
upon the mind, I possessed as significant and suggestive a 
relic as that which the inscription miraculously impressed by 
the Divine power upon the stone could possibly have fur- 
nished V y It was a striking thought ; and in the course of 
our walk, which led us over richly fossiliferous beds of the 
Old Red Sandstone, to a deposit of the Eathie Lias, largely 
charged with the characteristic remains of that formation, I 
ventured to connect it with another. " In either case," I 
remarked, as we seated ourselves beside a sea-clif£ sculptured 
over with the impressions of extinct plants and shells, " your 
relics, whether of the Pentecostal Greek or of the characters 
inscribed on the old tables of stone, could address themselves 
to but previously existing belief The sceptic would see in 
the Sinaitic characters, were they placed before him, merely 
the work of an ordinary tool ; and in the Greek of Peter and 
John, a well-known language, acquired, he would hold, in the 
common way. But what say you to the relics that stand out 
in such bold relief from the rocks beside us, in their character 
as the results of miracle ? The perished tribes and races 
which they represent all began to exist Theie is no truth 


which science can more conclusively demonstrate than that 
they had all a beginning. The infidel who, in this late age 
of the world, would attempt falling back on the fiction of an 
' infinite series,' would be laughed to scorn. They all began 
to be. But how ? No true geologist holds by the develop- 
ment hypothesis ; — it has been resigned to sciolists and smat- 
terers ; — and there is but one other alternative. They began 
to be, through the miracle of creation. From the evidence 
furnished by these rocks we are shut down either to the be- 
lief in miracle, or to the belief in something else infinitely 
harder of reception, and as thoroughly unsupported by testi- 
mony as it is contrary to experience. Hume is at length 
answered by the severe truths of the stony science. He was 
not, according to Job, * in league with the stones of the field,' 
and they have risen in irresistible warfare against him in the 
Creator's behal£" 




" Natubal History has a principle on which to reason," Bays 
Cuvier, " which is peculiar to it, and which it employs advan- 
tageously on many occasions : it is that of the conditions of 
existence, commonly termed final causes." 

In Geology, which is Natural History extended over all 
ages, this principle has a still wider scope,— embracing not 
merely the characteristics and conditions of the beings which 
now exist, but of all, so far as we can learn regarding them, 
which have ever existed, and involving the consideration of 
not merely their peculiarities as races placed before us with- 
out relation to time, but also of the history of their rise, in- 
crease, decline, and extinction. In studying the biography, 
if I may so express myself of an individual animal, we have 
to acquaint ourselves with the circumstances in which nature 
has placed it, — its adaptation to these, both in structure and 
instinct, — the points of resemblance which it presents to the 
individuals of other races and families, — and the laws which 
determine its terms of development, vigorous existence, and 
decay. And all Natural History, when restricted to the pass- 


ing now of the world's annals, is simply a congeries of bio- 
graphies. It is when we extend our view into the geologi- 
cal field that it passes from biography into history proper, and 
that we have to rise from the consideration of the birth and 
death of individuals, which, in all mere biographies, form the 
great terminal events that constitute beginning and end, to 
a survey of the birth and death of races, and the elevation 
or degradation of dynasties and sub-kingdoms. 

We learn from human history that nations are as certainly 
mortal as men. They enjoy a greatly longer term of exist- 
ence, but they die at last : Rollin's " History of Ancient Na- 
tions" is a history of the dead. And we are taught by geo- 
logical history, in like manner, that species are as mortal as 
individuals and nations, and that even genera and families 
become extinct There is no man upon earth at the present 
moment whose age greatly exceeds an hundred years ; — there 
is no nation now upon earth (if we perhaps except the long- 
lived Chinese) that also flourished three thousand years ago ; 
— there is no species now living upon earth that dates beyond 
the times of the Tertiary deposits. All bear the stamp of 
death,— individuals,— nations,— species ; and we may scarce 
less safely predicate, looking upon the past, that it is ap- 
pointed for nations and species to die, than that it " is ap- 
pointed for man once to die." Even our own species, as 
now constituted, — with instincts that conform to the original 
injunction, " increase and multiply," and that, in consequence, 
" marry and are given in marriage," — shall one day cease to 
exist : a fact not less in accordance with beliefs inseparable 
from the faith of the Christian, than with the widely-founded 
experience of the geologist Now, it is scarce possible for 
the human mind to become acquainted with the fact, that at 
certain periods species began to exist, and then, after the lapse 
of untold ages, ceased to be, without inquiring whether, from 
the "conditions of existence, commonly termed final causes," 


we cannot deduce a reason for their rise or decline, or why 
their term of being should have been included rather in one 
certain period of time than another. The same faculty whicn 
finds employment in tracing to their causes the rise and fail 
of nations, and which it is the merit of the philosophic his- 
torian judiciously to exercise, will to a certainty seek em- 
ployment in this department of history also ; and that there 
will be an appetency for such speculations in the public mind, 
we may infer from the success, as a literary undertaking, of 
the " Vestiges of Creation," — a work that bears the same 
sort of relation, in this special field, to sober inquiry founded 
on the true conditions of things, that the legends of the old 
chroniclers bore to authentic history. The progressive state 
of geologic science has hitherto militated against the forma- 
tion of theory of the soberer character. Its facts, — still 
merely in the forming, — are necessarily imperfect in their 
classification, and limited in their amount; and thus the 
essential data continues incomplete. Besides, the men best 
acquainted with the basis of fact which already exists have 
quite enough to engage them in adding to it. But there are 
limits to the field of palseontological discovery, in its relation 
to what may be termed the chronology of organized exist- 
tence, which, judging from the progress of the science in the 
past, may be well-nigh reached in favoured localities, such as 
the British islands, in about a quarter of a century from the 
present time ; and then, I doubt not, geological history, in 
legitimate conformity with the laws of mind, and from the 
existence of the pregnant principle peculiar, according to 
Cuvier, to that science of which Geology is simply an exten- 
sion, will assume a very extraordinary form. We cannot 
yet aspire " to the height of this great argument :" our foun- 
dations are in parts still unconsolidated and incomplete, and 
unfitted to sustain the perfect superstructure which shall one 
day assuredly rise upon them ; but from the little which we 


can now see, " as if in a glass darkly/' enough appears from 

which to 

" Assert eternal Providence, 
And justify the ways of God to man." 

The history of the four great monarchies of the world was 
typified, in the prophetic dream of the ancient Babylonish 
king, by a colossal image, " terrible in its form and bright- 
ness," of which the " head was of pure gold," the " breast and 
arms of silver,' 9 the " belly and thighs of brass," and the legs 
and feet "of iron, and of iron mingled with clay." The 
vision in which it formed the central object was appropriately 
that of a puissant monarch j and the image itself typified the 
merely human monarchies of the earth. It would require a 
widely different figure to symbolize the great monarchies of 
creation. And yet Revelation does furnish such a figure. 
It is that which was witnessed by the captive prophet beside 
" the river Chebar," when " the heavens were opened, and 
he saw visions of God." In that chariot of Deity, glowing 
in fire and amber, with its complex wheels "so high that 
they were dreadful," set round about with eyes, there were 
living creatures, of whose four faces three were brute and 
one human ; and high over all sat the Son of Man. It would 
almost seem as ifj in this sublime vision, — in which, with 
features distinct enough to impress the imagination, there 
mingle the elements of an awful incomprehensibility, and 
which even the genius of Raffaelle has failed adequately to 
portray, — the history of all the past and of all the future 
had been symbolized. In the order of Providence intimated 
in the geologic record, the brute faces, as in the vision, out- 
number the human; — the human dynasty is one, and the 
dynasties of the inferior animals are three ; and yet who can 
doubt that they all equally compose parts of a well-ordered 
and perfect whole, as the four faces formed but one cheru- 
bim ; that they have been moving onward to a definite goal, 


in the unity of one grand harmonious design, — now " lifted 
up high" over the comprehension of earth, — now let down 
to its humble level ; and that the Creator of all has been ever 
seated over them on the throne of his providence, — a " like- 
ness in the appearance of a man," — embodying the perfec- 
tion of his nature in his workings, and determining the end 
from the- beginning ) 

There is geologic evidence, as has been shown, that in the 
course of creation the higher orders succeeded the lower. 
[We have no good reason to believe that the mollusc and 
crustacean preceded the fish, seeing that discovery, in its slow 
course, has already traced the vertebrata in the ichthyic form, 
down to deposits which only a few years ago were regarded 
as representative of the first beginnings of organized exist- 
ence on our planet, and that it has at the same time failed to 
add a lower system to that in which their remains occur.]* 
But the fish seems most certainly to have preceded the rep- 
tile and the bird ; the reptile and the bird to have preceded 
the mammiferous quadruped ; and the mammiferous quadru- 
ped to have preceded man, — rational, accountable man, whom 
God created in his own image, — the much-loved Benjamin of 
the family, — last-born of all creatures. It is of itself an 
extraordinary fact, without reference to other considerations, 
that the order adopted by Cuvier, in his animal kingdom, as 
that in which the four great classes of vertebrate animals, 
when marshalled according to their rank and standing, natu- 
rally range, should be also that in which they occur in order 
of time. The brain which bears an average proportion to 
the spinal cord of not more than two to one came firsts — it 
is the brain of the fish ; that which bears to the spinal cord 

* This conclusion is of course founded on the erroneous testimonies 
given in chapter sixth. There does appear to be evidence that the 
mollusc and crustacean preceded the fish ; but this harmonizes with the 
progressive order of creation. — L. M. 


an average proportion of two and a half to one succeeded it, 
— it is the brain of the reptile ; then came the brain ave- 
raging as three to one, — it is that of the bird ; next in suc- 
cession came the brain that averages as four to one, — it is 
that of the mammal ; and last of all there appeared a brain 
that averages as twenty-three to one, — reasoning, calculating 
man had come upon the scene. All the facts of geological 
science are hostile to the Lamarckian conclusion, that the 
lower brains were developed into the higher. As if with 
the express intention of preventing so gross a mis-reading of 
the record, we find, in at least two classes of animals, — fishes 
and reptiles, — the higher races placed at the beginning : the 
slope of the inclined plane is laid, if one may so speak, in the 
reverse way, and, instead of rising towards the level of the 
succeeding class, inclines downwards, with at least the effect, 
if not the design, of making the break where they meet ex- 
ceedingly well marked and conspicuous. And yet the record 
does seem to speak of development and progression ; — not, 
however, in the province of organized existence, but in that 
of insensate matter, subject to the purely chemical laws. It 
is in the style and character of the dioeUing-place that gradual 
improvement seems to have taken place, — not in the func- 
tions or the rank of any class of its inhabitants ; and it is with 
special reference to this gradual improvement in our common 
mansion-house the earth, in its bearing on the " conditions 
of existence," that not a few of our reasonings regarding the 
introduction and extinction of species and genera must proceed. 
That definite period at which man was introduced upon 
the scene seems to have been specially determined by the 
conditions of correspondence which the phenomena of his 
habitation had at length come to assume with the predestined 
constitution of his mind. The large reasoning brain would 
have been wholly out of place in the earlier ages. It is in- 
dubitably the nature of man to base the conclusions which 



regulate all his actions on fixed phenomena ; — he reasons 
from cause to effect, or from effect to cause ; and, when placed 
in circumstances in which, from some lack of the necessary 
basis, he cannot so reason, he becomes a wretched, timid, 
superstitious creature, greatly more helpless and abject than 
even the inferior animals. This unhappy state is strikingly 
exemplified by that deep and peculiar impression made on 
the mind by a severe earthquake, which Humboldt, from his 
own experience, so powerfully describes. " This impression," 
he says, " is not, in my opinion, the result of a recollection 
of those fearful pictures of devastation presented to our ima- 
gination by the historical narratives of the past, but is rather 
due to the sudden revelation of the delusive nature of the 
inherent faith by which we had clung to a belief in the im- 
mobility of the solid parts of the earth. We are accustomed 
from early childhood to draw a contrast between the mobility 
of water and the immobility of the soil on which we tread ; 
and this feeling is confirmed by the evidence of our senses. 
When, therefore, we suddenly feel the ground move beneath 
us, a mysterious force, with which we were previously un- 
acquainted, is revealed to us as an active disturber of stabi- 
lity. A moment destroys the illusion of a whole life ; our 
deceptive faith, in the repose of nature vanishes ; and we feel 
transported into a realm of unknown destructive forces. 
Every sound — the faintest motion of the air — arrests our 
attention, and we no longer trust the ground on which we 
stand. There is an idea conveyed to the mind, of some uni- 
versal and unlimited danger. We may flee from the crater 
of a volcano in active eruption, or from the dwelling whose 
destruction is threatened by the approach of the lava stream ; 
but in an earthquake, direct our flight whithersoever we will, 
we still feel as if we trod upon the very focus of destruction." 
Not less striking is the testimony of Dr Tschudi, in his 
" Travels in Peru," regarding this singular effect of earth- 


quakes on the human mind " No familiarity with the phe- 
nomenon can," he remarks, " blunt the feeling. The inha- 
bitant of lima, who from childhood has frequently witnessed 
these convulsions of nature, is roused from his sleep by the 
shock, and rushes from his apartment with the cry of ' Mi* 
sericordia P The foreigner from the north of Europe, who 
knows nothing of earthquakes but by description, waits with 
impatience to feel the movements of the earth, and longs to 
hear with his own ear the subterranean sounds, which he has 
hitherto considered fabulous. With levity he treats the ap- 
prehension of a coming convulsion, and laughs at the fears of 
the natives ; but as soon as his wish is gratified, he is terror- 
stricken, and is involuntarily prompted to seek safety in 

Now, a partially consolidated planet, tempested by frequent 
earthquakes of such terrible potency, that those of the historic 
ages would be but mere ripples of the earth's surface in com- 
parison, eould be no proper home for a creature so constituted. 
The fish or reptile, — animals of a limited range of instinct, 
exceedingly tenacious of life in most of their varieties, ovi- 
parous, prolific, and whose young immediately on their escape 
from the egg can provide for themselves, — might enjoy exist- 
ence in such circumstances, to the full extent of their narrow 
capacities ; and when sudden death fell upon them, — though 
their remains, scattered over wide areas, continue to exhibit 
that distortion of posture incident to violent dissolution, which 
seems to speak of terror and suffering, — we may safely con- 
clude there was but little real suffering in the case : they 
were happy up to a eertain point, and unconscious for ever 
after. Fishes and reptiles were the proper inhabitants of our 
planet during the ages of the earth-tempests; and when, 
under the operation of the chemical laws, these had become 
less frequent and terrible, the higher mammals were intro- 
duced. That prolonged ages of these tempests did exist, and 

I - 


that they gradually settled down, until the state of things 
became at length comparatively fixed and stable, few geolo- 
gists will be disposed to deny. The evidence which supports 
this special theory of the development of our planet in its 
capabilities as a scene of organized and sentient being, seems 
palpable at every step. Look first at these Grauwacke rocks ; 
and, after marking how in one place the strata have been up- 
turned on their edges for miles together, and how in another 
the Plutonic rock has risen molten from below, pass on to 
the Old Bed Sandstone, and examine its significant platforms 
of violent death, — its faults, displacements, and dislocations ; . 
see, next, in the Coal Measures, those evidences of sinking 
and ever-sinking strata, for thousands of feet together ; mark 
in the Oolite those vast overlying masses of trap, stretching 
athwart the landscape, far as the eye can reach; observe 
carefully how the signs of convulsion and catastrophe gradually 
lessen as we descend to the times of the Tertiary, though even 
in these ages of the mammiferous quadruped the earth must 
have had its oft-recurring ague fits of frightful intensity ; 
and then, on closing the survey, consider how exceedingly 
partial and unfrequent these earth-tempests have become in 
the recent periods. Yes ; we find everywhere marks of at 
once progression and identity, — of progress made, and yet 
identity maintained ; but it is in the habitation that we find 
them, — not in the inhabitants. There is a tract of country 
in Hindustan that contains nearly as many square miles as 
all Great Britain, covered to the depth of hundreds of feet 
by one vast overflow of trap. A tract similarly overflown, 
which exceeds in area all England, occurs in Southern Africa, 
The earth's surface is roughened with such, — mottled as 
thickly by the Plutonic masses as the skin of the leopard by 
its spots. The trap district which surrounds our Scottish 
metropolis, and imparts so imposing a character to its scenery, 
is too inconsiderable to be marked on geological maps of the 


world, that we yet see streaked and speckled with similar 
memorials, though on an immensely vaster scale, of the erup- 
tion and overflow which took place during the earthquake ages. 
What could man have done on the globe at a time when such 
outbursts were comparatively common occurrences 9 What 
could he have done where Edinburgh now stands, during that 
overflow of trap porphyry of which the Pentland range forms 
but a fragment, or that outburst of greenstone of which but 
a portion remains in the dark ponderous coping of Salisbury 
Crags, or when the thick floor of rock on which the city stands 
was broken up, like the ice of an arctic sea during a tempest 
in spring, and laid on edge from where it leans against the 
Castle Hill to beyond the quarries at Joppa ? The reasoning 
brain would have been wholly at fault in a scene of things 
in which it could neither foresee the exterminating calamity 
while yet distant, nor control it when it had come ; and so 
the reasoning brain was not produced until the scene had 
undergone a slow but thorough process of change, during 
which, at each progressive stage, it had furnished a platform 
for higher and still higher life. When the conifer® could 
flourish on the land, and fishes subsist in the seas, fishes and 
cone-bearing plants were created ; when the earth became a 
fit habitat for reptiles and birds, reptiles and birds were pro- 
duced ; with the dawn of a more stable and mature state of 
things the sagacious quadruped was ushered in ; and, last of 
aU, when man's house was fully prepared for him, — when the 
data on which it is his nature to reason and calculate had 
become fixed and certain, — the reasoning, calculating brain J 
was moulded by the creative finger, and man became a living/, 
bouL Such seems to be the true reading of the wondro J 
inscription chiselled deep in the rocks. It furnishes us with' 
no clue by which to unravel the unapproachable mysteries of 
creation ; — these mysteries belong to the wondrous Creator, 
and to Him only. We attempt to theorize upon them, and 


to reduce them to law, and all nature rises up against us in 
our presumptuous rebellion. A stray splinter of cone-bear- 
ing wood, — a fish's skull or tooth, — the vertebra of a reptile, 
— the humerus of a bird, — the jaw of a quadruped, — all, any 
of these things, weak and insignificant as they may seem, 
become in such a quarrel too strong for us and our theory : 
the puny fragment, in the grasp of truth, forms as irresistible 
a weapon as the dry bone did in that of Samson of old ; and 
our slaughtered sophisms lie piled up, " heaps upon heaps," 
before it. 

There is no geological fact nor revealed doctrine with which 
this special scheme of development does not agree. To every 
truth, too, really such, from which the antagonist scheme de- 
rives its shadowy analogies, it leaves its full value. It hass 
no quarrel with the facts of even the " Vestiges," in their I 
character as realities. There is certainly something very ex- 
traordinary in that foetal progress of the human brain on 
which the assertors of the development hypothesis have found- 
ed so much. Nature, in constructing this curious organ, first 


lays down a grooved cord, as the carpenter lays down the 
keel of his vessel ; and on this narrow base the perfect brain, 
as month after month passes by, is gradually built up, like 
the vessel from the keel. First it grows up into a brain 
closely resembling that of a fish ; a few additions more con- 
vert it into a brain undistinguishable from that of a reptile ; 
a few additions more impart to it the perfect appearance of 
the brain of a bird ; it then developes into a brain exceed- 
ingly like that of a mammiferous quadruped ; and, finally, 
expanding atop, and spreading out its deeply-corrugated lobes, 
till they project widely over the base, it assumes its unique 
character as a human brain. Radically such from the first, 
it passes towards its full development through all the inferior 
forms, from that of the fish upwards, — thus comprising, dur- 
ing its foetal progress, an epitome of geologic history, as if 


each man were in himself not the microcosm of the old fan- 
ciful philosopher, but something greatly more wonderful, — a 
compendium of all animated nature, and of kin to every crea- 
ture that lives. Hence the remark, that man is the sum 
total of all animals, — " the animal equivalent/' says Oken, 
" to the whole animal kingdom/' "We are perhaps too much 
in the habit of setting aside real facts, when they have been 
first seized upon by the infidel, and appropriated to the pur- 
poses of unbelief, as if they had suffered contamination in 
his hands. We forget* like the brother " weak in the faith," 
instanced by the Apostle, that they are in themselves " crea- 
tures of God /' and too readily reject the lesson which they 
teach, simply because they have been offered in sacrifice to 
an idoL And' this strange fact of the progress of the human 
brain is assuredly a fact none the less worth looking at from 
the circumstance that infidelity has looked at it first. On no 
principle recognisable in right reason can it be urged in sup- 
port of the development hypothesis ; — it is a fact of f octal 
development, and of that only. But it would be well should 
it lead our metaphysicians to inquire whether they have not 
been rendering their science too insulated and exclusive ; and 
whether the mind that works by a brain thus " fearfully and 
wonderfully made," ought not to be viewed rather in connec- 
tion with all animated, nature, especially as we find nature 
exemplified in the various vertebral forms, than as a thing 
fundamentally abstract and distinct The brain built up of 
all the types of brain, may be the organ of a mind compound- 
ed, if I may so express myself of all the varieties of mind. 
It would be perhaps over fanciful to urge that it is the crea- 
ture who has made himself free of all the elements whose 
brain has been thus in succession that of all their proper 
denizens ; and that there is no animal instinct, the function 
of which cannot be illustrated by some art mastered by man : 
but there can be nothing over fanciful in the suggestion, 


founded on this fact of foetal development, that possibly some 
of the more obscure signs impressed upon the human cha- 
racter may be best read through the spectacles of natural 
science. The successive phases of the fetal brain give at 
least fair warning that* in tracing to its first principles the 
moral and intellectual nature of man, what is properly his 
" natural history" should not be overlooked. Oken, after 
describing the human creature in one passage as " equivalent 
to the whole animal kingdom," designates him in another as 
" God wholly manifested," and as " God become man ;" — a 
style of expression at which the English reader may start, as 
that of the " big mouth speaking blasphemy," but which has 
become exceedingly common among the rationalists of the 
Continent. The irreverent naturalist ought surely to have 
remembered, that the sum total of all the animals cannot be 
different in its nature from the various sums of which it is an 
aggregate, — seeing that no summation ever differs in quality 
from the items summed up which compose it, — and that, 
though it may amount in this case to man tlie animal, — to 
man as he may be weighed, and measured, and subjected to 
the dissecting knife, — it cannot possibly amount to God. Is 
God merely a sum total of birds and beasts, reptiles and fishes, 
— a mere Egyptian deity, composed of fantastic hieroglyphics 
derived from the forms of the brute creation 1 The impieties 
of the transcendentalist may, however, serve to illustrate that 
mode of seizing on terms which, as the most sacred in the, 
message of revelation, have been long coupled in the popular 
mind with saving truths, and forcibly compelling them to bear 
some visionary and illusive meaning, wholly foreign to that 
with which they were originally invested, which has become 
so remarkable a part of the policy of modern infidelity. Ra- 
tionalism has learned to sacrifice to Deity with a certain mea- 
sure of conformity to the required pattern ; but it is a con- 
formity in appearance only, not in reality : the sacrifice al- 


ways resembles that of Prometheus of old, who presented to 
Jupiter what, though it seemed to be an ox without blemish, 
was merely an ox-skin stuffed full of bones and garbage. 

There is another very remarkable class of facts in geolo- 
gical history, which appear to fall as legitimately within the 
scope of argument founded on final causes, as those which 
bear on the appearance of man at his proper era. . The period 
of the mammiferous quadrupeds seems, like the succeeding 
human period, to hare been determined, as I have said, by 
the earth's fitness at the time as a place of habitation for 
creatures so formed. And the bulk to which, in the more 
extreme cases, they attained, appears to have been regulated, 
as in the higher mammals now, with reference to the force 
of gravity at the earth's surface. The Megatherium and the 
Mastodon, the Dinotherium and the extinct elephant, in- 
creased in bulk, in obedience to the laws of the specific con- 
stitution imparted to them at their creation ; and these laws 
bore reference, in turn, to another law, — that law of gravity 
which determines that no creature which moves in air and 
treads the surface of the earth should exceed a certain weight 
or size. To very near the limits assigned by this law some 
of the ancient quadrupeds arose. It is even doubtful whether 
the Dinotherium, the most gigantic of mammals, may not 
have been, like the existing sea-lions and morses, mainly an 
aquatic quadruped ;* — an inference grounded on the circum- 
stance that, in at least portions of its framework, it seems to 
have risen beyond these limits. Now, it does not seem won- 
derful that, with apparent reference to the point at which 

* The great Dinotherium (dreadful beast), a beast furnished with large 
tusks turned downwardB like those of the walrus, but fixed to the lower 
jaws, possibly belonged to the Sirenia (mermaid animals). This animal 
inhabited the embouchures of great rivers, and used the enormous tusks 
of the lower jaw for uprooting aquatic plants, on which it fed.— " Old 
Bones," by the Rev. W. S. Symmonds. Published in March 1861.— 
L. M. 

282 fihal causes : their beabtno 

the gravity of bodies at the earth's surface bisects the condi* 
tions of texture and matter necessary to existence among the 
sab-aerial vertebrata, the reptiles of the Secondary periods 
should have grown up in some of their species and genera 
to the extreme size. A world of frogs, newts, and lizards 
would have borne stamped upon it the impress of a tame and 
miserable mediocrity, that would have harmonized ill with 
the extent of the earth's capabilities for supporting life on a 
large scale. There would be no principle of adaptation or 
rule of proportion maintained between an animal kingdom 
composed of so contemptible a group of beings, and either 
the dynamic laws under which matter exists on our planet* 
or the luxuriant vegetation which it bore during the Second- 
ary ages. And such was not the character of the group 
which composed the reptile dynasty. The Iguanodon must 
have been quite as tall as the elephant, — greatly longer, and, 
it would seem, at least as bulky. The Megalosaurus must 
have at least equalled the rhinoceros; the Hyheosaurus 
would have outweighed the hippopotamus. And when rep- 
tiles that rivalled in size our hugest mammals inhabited the 
land, other reptiles, — Ichthyosaurs, Plesiosaurs, and Cetio- 
saurs, — scarce less bulky than the cetacea themselves, pos- 
sessed the sea. Not only was the platform of being occupied 
in all its breadth, but also in all its height ; and it is accord- 
ing to our simpler and more obvious ideas of adaptation,— 
simple aud obvious because gleaned from the very surface of 
the universe of life, — that such should have been the case. 
But it does appear strange, because, under the regulation, it 
would seem, of a principle of adaptation more occult, and, if 
I may so speak, more Providential, that no sooner are the 
huge mammals introduced as a group, than, with but a few 
exceptions, the reptiles appear in greatly diminished propor- 
tions. They no longer occupy the platform to its full extent 
of height. Even in tropical countries, in which certain fami 


lies of mammals still attain to the maximum size, the rep- 
tiles, if we except the crocodilean family, a few harmless 
turtles, and the degraded boas and pythons, are a small and 
comparatively unimportant race. Nay, the existing giants 
of the class, — the crocodiles and boas, — hardly equal in bulk 
the third-rate reptiles of the ages of the Oolite and the Weal- 
den. So far as can be seen, there is no reason deducible 
from the nature of things, why the country that sustains a 
mammal bulky as the elephant should not also support a 
reptile huge as the Iguanodon; or why the Megalosaurus, 
Hyl&osaurus, and DicynodoD, might not have been contem- 
porary with the lion, tiger, and rhinoceros. The change 
which took place in the reptile group immediately on their 
dethronement at the close of the Secondary period, seems 
scarce less strange than that sung by Milton : — 

" Behold a wonder I They but now who seemed 
In bigness to surpass earth's giant sqns, 
Now less than smallest dwarfs, in narrow room 
Thronged numberless ; like that pygmean race 
Beyond the Indian mount ; or fairy elves, 
Whose midnight revels, by a forest side 
Or fountain, some belated peasant sees, 
Or dreams he sees, while overhead the moon 
Sits arbitresB, and nearer to the earth 
Wheels her pale course." 

But though we cannot assign a cause for this general re- 
duction of the reptile class, save simply the will of the all- 
wise Creator, the reason why it should have taken place seems 
easily assignable. It was a bold saying of the old philosophic 
heathen, that " God is the soul of brutes ;" but writers on 
instinct in even our own times have said less warrantable 
things. God does seem to do for many of the inferior ani- 
mals of the lower divisions, that, though devoid of brain 
and vertebral column, are yet skilful chemists and accom- 
plished architects and mathematicians, what he enables man, 


through the exercise of the reasoning faculty, to do for him- 
self; and the ancient philosopher meant no mora And in 
clearing away the giants of the reptile dynasty when their 
kingdom had passed away, and then re-introducing the class 
as much shrunken in their proportions as restricted in their 
domains, the Creator seems to have been doing for the 
mammals what man, in the character of a " mighty hunter 
before the Lord/' does for himself There is in nature very 
little of what can be called war. The cities of this country 
cannot be said to be in a state of war, though their cattle- 
markets are thronged every week with animals for slaughter, 
and the butcher and fishmonger find their places of business 
thronged with customers. And such, in the main, is the con- 
dition of the animal world ; — it consists of its two classes, — 
animals of prey, and the animals upon which they prey : its 
wars are simply those of the butcher and fisher, lightened by 
a dash of the enjoyments of the sportsman. 

" The creatures see of flood and field, 
And those that travel on the wind, 
With them no strife can last ; they live 
In peace and peace of mind." 

Generally speaking, the carnivorous mammalia respect one 
another : lion does not war with tiger, nor the leopard con- 
tend with the hyena. But the carnivorous reptiles manifest 
no such respect for the carnivorous mammals. There are 
fierce contests in their native jungles, on the banks of the 
Ganges, between the gavial and the tiger; and in the steam- 
ing forests of South America, the boa-constrictor casts his 
terrible coil scarce less readily round the puma than the 
antelope. A world which, after it had become a home of 
the higher herbivorous and more powerful carnivorous mam- 
mals, continued to retain the gigantic reptiles of its earlier 
ages, would be a world of horrid, exterminating war, and 
altogether rather a place of torment than a scene of inter- 


mediate character, in which, though it sometimes re-echoes 
the groans of suffering nature, life is, in the main, enjoyment 
And so, — save in a few exceptional cases, that, while they 
establish the rule as a fact, serve also as a key to unlock that 
principle of the Divine government on which it appears to 
rest,— no sooner was the reptile removed from his place in 
the fore-front of creation, and creatures of a higher order 
introduced into the consolidating and fast-ripening planet of 
which he had been so long the monarch, than his bulk shrank 
and his strength lessened, and he assumed a humility of form 
and aspect at once in keeping with his reduced circumstances, 
and compatible with the general welfare. But though the 
reason of the reduction appears obvious, I know not that it 
can be referred to any other cause than simply the will of the 
all-wise Creator. 

There hangs a mystery greatly more profound over the fact 
of the degradation than over that of the reduction and dimi- 1 
nution of classes. We can assign what at least seems to be 
a sufficient reason why, when reptiles formed as a class the 
highest representatives of the vertebrata, they should be of 
imposing bulk and strength, and altogether worthy of that 
post of precedence which they then occupied among the ani- 
mals. We can also assign a reason for the strange reduction 
which took place among them in strength and bulk imme- 
* diately on their removal from the first to the second place. 
But why not only reduction, but also degradation ? Why, 
as division started up in advance of division, — first the rep- 
tiles in front of the fishes, then the quadrupedal mammals in 
front of the reptiles, and, last of all, man in front of the quad- 
rupedal mammals, — should the supplanted classes, — two of 
them at least, — fishes and reptiles, — for there seem to have 
been no additions made to the mammals since man entered 
upon the scene, — why should they have become the recep- 
tacles of orders and families of a degraded character, which 


bad no place among them in their monarchical state f Th« 
fishes removed beyond all analogy with the higher vertebrata 
by their homocercal tails, — the fishes (Acanthopterygii and 
Sub-brachiatt) with their four limbs slung in a belt round 
their necks, — the flat fishes (Pletvronectidas), that, in addition 
to this deformity, are so twisted to a side, that while the one 
eye occupies a single orbit in the middle of the skull, Jbhe 
other is thrust out to its edge, — the irregular fishes generally 
(sun-fishes, frog-fishes, hippocampi, <fcc.) — were not introduced 
into the ichthyic division until after the full development of 
the reptile dynasty ; nor did the hand that makes no slips in 
its working " form the crooked serpent," footless, grovelling, 
venom-bearing, — the authorized type of a fallen and degraded 
creature, — until after the introduction of the mammals. What 
can this fact of degradation mean? Species and genera seem 
to be greatly more numerous in the present age of the world 
than in any of the geologic ages. Is it not possible that the 
extension of the chain of being which has thus taken place, 
— not only, as we find, through the addition of the higher 
divisions of animals to its upper end, but also through the 
interpolations of lower links into the previously existing di- 
visions, — may have borne reference to some predetermined 
scheme of well-proportioned gradation, or, according to the 


" Of general Order since the whole began ?" 

May not, in short, what we term degradation be merely one 
of the modes resorted to for filling up the voids in creation, 
and thereby perfecting a scale which must have been origi- 
nally not merely a scale of narrow compass, but also of in- 
numerable breaks and blanks, hiatuses and chasms ? Such, 
certainly, would be the reading of the enigma which a Soame 
Jenyns or a Bolingbroke would suggest ; but the geologist has 
learned from his science, that the completion of a chain of at 
least contemporary being, perfect in its gradations, cannot pos- 


siblj have formed the design of Providence. Almost ever 
since God united vitality to matter, the links in this chain 
of animated nature, as if composed of a material too brittle 
to bear their own weight when stretched across the geologic 
ages, have been dropping one after one from his hand, and 
sinking, fractured and broken, into the rocks below. It is 
urged by Pope, that were " we to press on superior powers," 
and rise from our own assigned place to the place immediately 
above it, we would, in consequence of the transposition, 

" In the full creation leave a void, 
Where, one step broken, the great scale 'b destroyed. 
■ From nature's chain whatever link we strike, 
Tenth or ten thousandth, breaks the chain alike." 

The poet could scarce have anticipated that there was a 
science then sleeping in its cradle, and dreaming the dreams 
of Whiston, Leibnitz, and Burnet, which was one day to rise 
and demonstrate that both the tenth and the ten thousandth 
link in the chain had been already broken and laid by, with 
all the thousands of links between ; and that man might 
laudably "press on superior powers," and attain to a "new 
nature," without in the least affecting the symmetry of crea- 
tion by the void which his elevation would necessarily create ; 
that, in fine, voids and blanks in the scale are exceedingly 
common thiugs ; and that, if men could, by rising into angels, 
make one blank more, they might do so with perfect impunity. 
Further, even were the graduated chain of Bolingbroke a rea- 
lity, and not what Johnson well designates it, an "absurd 
hypothesis," and were what I have termed the interpolation 
of links necessary to its completion, the mere filling up of the 
original blanks and chasms would not necessarily involve the 
fact of degradation, seeing that each blank could be filled up, 
if I may so express myself, from its lower end. Each could 
be as certainly occupied to the full by an elevation of lower 
forms, as by a humiliation of the higher. We might receive 


the hypothesis of Bolingbroke, and yet find the mysteri- 
ous fact of degradation remain an unsolved riddle in our 

But though I can assign neither reason nor ccmse for the y 
fact, I cannot avoid the conclusion that it is associated with 
certain other great facta in the moral government of the uni- * 
verse, by those threads of analogical connection which run 
through the entire tissue of Creation and Providence, and 
impart to it that character of unity which speaks of the single 
producing Mind. The first idea of every religion on earth 
which has arisen out of what may be termed the spiritual in- 
stincts of man's nature, is that of a Future State ; the second 
idea is, that in this state men shall exist in two separate classes, 
— the one in advance of their present condition, the other far | 
in the rear of it It is on these two great beliefs that con-^ 
science everywhere finds the fulcrum from which it acts upon 
the conduct ; and it is, we find, wholly inoperative as a force 
without them. And in that one religion among men that, 
instead of retiring, like the pale ghosts of the others, before 
the light of civilization, brightens and expands in its beams, 
and in favour of whose claim as a revelation from God the 
highest philosophy has declared, we find these two master 
ideas occupying a still more prominent place than in any of 
those merely indigenous religions that spring up in the human 
mind of themselves. • The special lesson which the Adorable 
Saviour, during his ministry on earth, ofbenest enforced, and 
to which all the others bore reference, was the lesson of a final 
separation of mankind into two great divisions, — a division, 
of God-like men, of whose high standing and full-orbed hap- 
piness man, in the present scene of things, can form no ade- 
quate conception ; and a division of men finally lost, and 
doomed to unutterable misery and hopeless degradation. 
There is not in all Revelation a single doctrine which we find 
ofbener or more clearly enforced than that there shall con- 



tinue to exist throughout the endless cycles of the future^ 
race of degraded men and of degraded angels. " 

Now, it is truly wonderful how thoroughly, in its general 
scope, the revealed pieces on to the geologic record. We 
know, as geologists, that the dynasty of the fish was suc- 
ceeded by that of the reptile, — that the dynasty of the rep- 
tile was succeeded by that of the mammiferous quadruped, 
— and that the dynasty of the mammiferous quadruped was 
succeeded by that of man as man now exists, — a creature ol 
mixed character, and subject, in all conditions, to wide alter- 
nations of enjoyment and suffering. We know, further, — 
so far at least as we have yet succeeded in deciphering the 
record, — that the several dynasties were introduced, not in 
their lower, but in their higher forms ; — that, in short, in 
the imposing programme of creation, it was arranged, as a 
general rule, that in each of the great divisions of the pro- 
cession the magnates should walk first We recognise yet I 
further the fact of degradation specially exemplified in the \ 
fish and the reptile. And then, passing on to the revealed 
record, we learn that the dynasty of man in the mixed state 
and character is not the final one, but that there is to be yet 
another creation, or, more properly, re-creation, known theo- 
logically as the Resurrection, which shall be connected in its 
physical components, by bonds of mysterious paternity, with 
the dynasty which now reigns, and be bound to it mentally 
by the chain of identity, conscious and actual ; but which, in 
all that constitutes superiority, shall be as vastly its superior 
as the dynasty of responsible man is superior to even the 
lowest of the preliminary dynasties. Wo are further taught, 
that at the commencement of this last of the dynasties, there 
will be a re-creation of not only elevated, but also of degraded 
beings, — a re-creation of the lost. We are taught yet further, 
that though the present dynasty be that of a lapsed race, 
which at their first introduction were placed on higher ground 



than that on which they now stand, and sank by their own 
act, it was yet part of the original design, from the beginning 
of all things, that they should occupy the existing platform j 
and that Redemption is thus no after-thought, rendered ne- 
cessary by the Fall, but, on the contrary, part of a general 
scheme, for which provision had been made from the begin- 
ning ; so that the Divine Man, through whom the work of 
restoration has been effected, was in reality, in reference to 
the purposes of the Eternal, what he is designated in the re- 
markable text, "the Lamb dam from the foundations of the 
world." Slain from the foundations of the world ! Couldl 
the assertors of the stony science ask for language more ex- J 
press ? By piecing the two records together, — that revealed 
in Scripture and that revealed in the rocks, — records which,' 
however widely geologists may mistake the one, or commen- 
tators misunderstand the other, have emanated from the same 
great Author, — we learn that in slow and solemn majesty 
has period succeeded period, each in succession ushering in a 
higher and yet higher scene of existence, — that fish, reptiles, 
mammiferous quadrupeds, have reigned in turn, — that re- 
sponsible man, " made in the image of God," and with domi- 
nion over all creatures, ultimately entered into a world ripened 
for his reception ; but, further, that this passing scene, in 
which he forms the prominent figure, is not the final one in 
the long series, but merely the last of the preliminary scenes ; 
and that that period to which the bygone ages, incalculable 
in amount, with all their well-proportioned gradations of 
being, form the imposing vestibule, shall have perfection for 
its occupant, and eternity for its duration. I know not how 
it may appear to others ; but for my own part, I cannot avoid 
thinking that there would be a lack of proportion in the series 
of being, were the period of perfect and glorified humanity 
abruptly connected, without the introduction of an interme- 
diate creation of responsible imperfection, with that of the 


dying irresponsible brute. That scene of things in whi< 
God became Man, and suffered, seems, as it no doubt is, a n< 
•jessary link in the chain. 

I am aware that I stand on the confines of a mystery 
which man, since the first introduction of sin into the world 
till now, has " vainly aspired to comprehend." But I have 
no new reading of the enigma to offer. I know not why it 
is that moral evil exists in the universe of the All- Wise and 
the All-Powerful ; nor through what occult law of Deity it 
is that "perfection should come through suffering." The 
question, like that satellite, ever attendant upon our planet, 
which presents both its sides to the sun, but invariably the 
same side to the earth, hides one of its faces from man, and 
turns it to but the Eye from which all light emanates. And 
it is in that God- ward phase of the question that the mystery 
dwells. We can map and measure every protuberance and 
hollow which roughens the nether disc of the moon, as, dur- 
ing the shades of night, it looks down upon our path to cheer 
and enlighten ; but what can we know of the other ? It 
would, however, seem, that even in this field of mystery the 
extent of the inexplicable and the unknown is capable of 
reduction, and that the human understanding is vested in an 
ability of progressing towards the central point of that dark 
field throughout all time, mayhap all eternity, as the asymp- 
tote progresses upon its curve. Even though the essence of 
the question should for ever remain a mystery, it may yet, 
in its reduced and defined state, serve as a key for the laying 
pf other mysteries open. The philosophers are still as igno- 
rant as ever respecting the intrinsic nature of gravitation ; 
but regarded simply as a force, how many enigmas has it not 
served to unlock ! And that moral gravitation towards evil, 
manifested by the only two classes of responsible beings of 
which there is aught known to man, and of which a degra- 
dation linked by mysterious analogy with a class of facts sin- 


gularly prominent in geologic history is the result, occupies 
apparently a similar place, as a force, in the moral dynamics 
of the universe, and seems suited to perform a similar part. 
Inexplicable itself it is yet a key to the solution of all the 
minor inexplicabilities in the scheme of Providence. 

In a matter of such extreme niceness and difficulty, shall 
I dare venture on an illustrative example f 

So far as both the geologic and the Scriptural evidence ex- 
tends, no species or family of existences seems to have been 
introduced by creation into the present scene of being since 
the appearance of man. In Scripture the formation of the 
human race is described as the terminal act of a series, " good" 
in all its previous stages, but which became " very good" then ; 
and geologists, judging from the modicum of evidence which 
they have hitherto succeeded in collecting on the subject, — 
evidence still meagre, but, so far as it goes, independent and " 
distinct, — pronounce " post-Adamic creations" at least " im- 
probable." The naturalist finds certain animal and vegetable 
species restricted to certain circles, and that in certain foci 
in these circles they attain to their fullest development and 
their maximum number. And these foci he regards as the 
original centres of creation, whence, in each instance in the 
process of increase and multiplication, the plant or creature 
propagated itself outwards in circular wavelets of life, that 
sank at each stage as they widened, till at length, at the cir- 
cumference of the area, they wholly ceased. Now we find 
it argued by Professor Edward Forbes, that " since man's ap- 
pearance, certain geological areas, both of land and water, 
have been formed, presenting such physical conditions as to 
entitle us to expect within their bounds one, or, in some in- 
stances, more than one, centre of creation, or point of maxi- 
mum of a zoological or botanical province. But a critical 
examination renders evident," the Professor adds, " that in- 
stead of showing distinct foci of creation, they have been in 


all instances peopled by colonization, i e.hy migration of spe- 
cies from pre-existing, and in every case pre-Adamic, pro- 
vinces. Among the terrestrial areas the British isles may 
serve as an example ; among marine, the Baltic, Mediter- 
ranean, and Black Seas. The British islands have been co- 
lonized from various centres of creation in (now) continental 
Europe ; the Baltic Sea from the Celtic region, although it 
runs itself into the conditions of the Boreal one ; and the 
Mediterranean, as it now appears, from the fauna and flora 
of the more ancient Lusitanian province." Professor Forbes, 
it is stated further, in the report of his paper to which I owe 
these details, — a paper read at the Royal Institution in March 
1 849, — " exhibited, in support of the same view, a map, show- 
ing the relation which the centres of creation of the air- 
breathing molluscs in Europe bear to the geological history 
of the respective areas, and proving that the whole snail popu- 
lation of its northern and central extent (the portion of the 
Continent of newest and probably post-Adamic origin) had 
been derived from foci of creation seated in pre-Adamic lands. 
And these remarkable facts have induced the Professor," it 
was added, " to maintain the improbability of post-Adamic 

"With the introduction of man into the scene of existence, 
creation, I repeat, seems to have ceased. What is it that 
now takes its place, and performs its work? During the 
previous dynasties, all elevation in the scale was an effect 
simply of creation. Nature lay dead in a waste theatre of 
rock, vapour, and sea, in which the insensate laws, chemical, 
mechanical, and electric, carried on their blind, unintelli- 
gent processes : the creative fiaJt went forth ; and, amid 
waters that straightway teemed with life in its lower forms, 
vegetable and animal, the dynasty of the fish was introduced. 
Many ages passed, during which there took place no further 
elevation : on the contrary, in not a few of the newly intro- 


duced species of the reigning class there occurred for the first 
time examples of an asymmetrical misplacement of parts, and, 
in at least one family of fishes, instances of defect of parts : 
there was the manifestation of a downward tendency towards 
the degradation of monstrosity, when the elevatory fiat again 
went forth, and, through an act of creation, the dynasty of 
the reptile began. Again many ages passed by, marked, ap- 
parently, by the introduction of a warm-blooded oviparous 
animal, the bird, and of a few marsupial quadrupeds, but in 
which the prevailing class reigned undeposed, though at least 
unelevated. Yet again, however, the elevatory fiat went 
forth, and, through an act of creation, the dynasty of the 
mammiferous quadruped began. And after the further lapse 
of ages, the elevatory fiat went forth yet once more in an act 
of creation ; and with the human, heaven-aspiring dynasty, 
the moral government of God, in its connection with at 
least the world which we inhabit, " took beginning." And 
then creation ceased. Why % Simply because God's moral 
government had begun,— because in necessary conformity 
with the institution of that government, there was to be a 
thorough identity maintained between the glorified and im- 
mortal beings of the terminal dynasty, and the dying mag- 
nates of the dynasty which now is ; and because, in conse- 
quence of the maintenance of this identity as an essential 
condition of this moral government, mere acts of creation 
conld no longer carry on the elevatory process. The work 
analogous in its end and object to those acts of creation which 
gave to our planet its successive dynasties of higher and yet 
higher existences, is the work of Redemption. It is the ele- 
vatory process of the present time, — the only possible provi- 
sion for that final act of re-creation " to everlasting life," 
which shall usher in the terminal dynasty. 

I cannot avoid thinking that many of our theologians at- 
tach a too narrow meaning to the remarkable "Reason annex- 


ed to the Fourth Commandment" by the Divine Lawgiver. 
" God rested on the seventh day," says the text, " from all 
his work which He had created and made ; and God blessed 
the seventh day, and sanctified it 1 ' And such is the reason 
given in the Decalogue why man should also rest on the 
seventh day. God rested on the Sabbath, and sanctified it ; 
and therefore man ought also to rest on the Sabbath, and keep 
it holy. But I know not where we shall find grounds for the 
belief that that Sabbath-day during which God rested was 
merely commensurate in its duration with one of the Sabbaths 
of short-lived man,-^a brief period, measured by a single re- 
volution of the earth on its axis. We have not, as has been 
shown, a shadow of evidence that He resumed his work of 
creation on the morrow : the geologist finds no trace of post- 
Adamic creation ; — the theologian can tell us of none. God's 
Sabbath of rest may still exist ; — the work of Redemption 
may be the work of his Sabbath day. That elevatory process 
through successive acts of creation, which engaged Him during 
myriads of ages, was of an ordinary week-day character ; but 
when the term of his moral government began, the elevatory 
process proper to it assumed the Divine character of the Sab- 
bath. This special view appeal's to lend peculiar emphasis 
to the reason embodied in the commandment The collation 
of the passage with the geologic record seems, as if by a spe- 
cies of re-translation, to make it enunciate as its injunction, 
" Keep this day, not merely as a day of memorial related to 
a past fact, but also as a day of co-operation with God in the 
work of elevation in relation both to a present fact and a future 
purpose. God keeps his Sabbath," it says, " in order that 
He may save ; keep yours also, in order that ye may be 
saved." It serves, besides, to throw light on the prominence 
of the Sabbatical command, in a digest of law of which no 
part or tittle can pass away until the fulfilment of all things. 
During the present dynasty of probation and trial, that spe- 


cial work of both God and man on which the character of the 
future dynasty depends, is the Sabbath-day work of saving 
and being saved.* 

* The common objection to that special view which regards the days 
of creation as immensely protracted periods of time, furnishes a speci- 
men, if not of reasoning in a circle, at least of reasoning from a mere 
assumption. It first takes for granted that the Sabbath day during 
which God rested was a day of but twenty-four hours, and then argues 
from the supposition, that in order to keep up the proportion between 
the six previous working days and the seventh day of rest, which the 
reason annexed to the fourth commandment demands, these previous 
days must also have been days of twenty-four hours each. It would, I 
have begun to suspect, square better with the ascertained facts, and be 
at least equally in accordance with Scripture, to reverse the process, and 
argue that, because God's working days were immensely protracted 
periods, his Sabbath must also be an immensely protracted period. The 
reason attached to the law of the Sabbath seems to be simply a reason 
of proportion ; — the objection to which I refer is an objection palpably 
founded on considerations of proportion. And, certainly, were the rea- 
son to be divested of proportion, it would be divested also of its distinc- 
tive character as a reason. Were it to run as follows, it could not be at 
all understood : — " Six days shalt thou labour, &c., but on the seventh 
day shalt thou do no labour, &c. ; for in six immensely protracted pe- 
riods of many thousand years each did the Lord make the heavens and 
earth, &c., and then rested during a brief day of twenty-four hours ; 
therefore the Lord blessed the brief day of twenty-four hours, and hal- 
lowed it." This, I repeat, would not be reason. All, however, that 
seems necessary to the integrity of the reason, in its character as such, 
is, that the proportion of six parts to seven should be maintained. God's 
periods may be periods expressed algebraically by letters symbolical of 
unknown quantity, and man's periods by letters symbolical of quantities 
well known ; but if God's Sabbath be equal to one of his six working 
days, and man's Sabbath equal to one of his six working days, the in- 
tegrity of proportion is maintained. While I see the palpable absur- 
dity of such a reading of the reason as the one given above, I can see 
no absurdity whatever in the reading which I subjoin : — " Six periods 
(a—a=a=a=a=a) shalt thou labour, &c, but on the seventh period 
(b=a) shalt thou do no labour, &c. ; for in six periods (x=x=x=x=x=x) 
the Lord made heaven and earth, &c., and rested the seventh period 
(y=x) ; therefore the Lord blessed the seventh period, and hallowed it." 
The reason, in its character as a reason of proportion, survives here in 
all its integrity. 'Man, when in his unfallen estate, bore the image of 


It is in this dynasty of the future that man's moral and 
intellectual faculties will receive their full development. The 
expectation of any very great advance in the present scene 
of things, — great, at least, when measured by man's large 
capacity of conceiving of the good and fair, — seems to be, 
like all human hope when restricted to time, an expectation 
doomed to disappointment There are certain limits within 
which the race improves ; — civilization is better than the 
want of it, and the taught superior to the untaught man. 
There is a change, too, effected in the moral nature, through 
that Spirit which, by working belief in the heart, brings its 
aspirations into harmony with the realities of the unseen 
world, that, in at least its relation to the future state, cannot 
be estimated too highly. But conception can travel very far 
beyond even its best effects in their merely secular bearing; 
nay, it is peculiarly its nature to show the men most truly the 
subjects of it how miserably they fall short of the high standard 
of conduct and feeling which it erects, and to teach them, 
more emphatically than by words, that their degree of hap- 
piness must of necessity be as low as their moral attainments 
are humble. Further, — man, though he has been increasing 
in knowledge ever since his appearance on earth, has not been 
improving in faculty ; — a shrewd fact, which they who ex- 
pect most from the future of this world would do well to 
consider. The ancient masters of mind were in no respect 
inferior in calibre to their successors. We have not yet shot 

God, but it must have been a miniature image at best ; — the proportion 
of man's week to that of his Maker may, for aught that appears, be 
mathematically just in its proportions, and yet be a miniature image 
too, — the mere scale of a map, on which inches represent geographical 
degrees. All those week days and Sabbath days of man which have 
come and gone since man first entered upon this scene of being, with all 
which shall yet come and go until the resurrection of the dead termi- 
nate the work of Redemption, may be included, and probably are in- 
cluded, in the one Sabbath day of God. 



ahead of the old Greeks in either the perception of the beau- 
tiful, or in the ability of producing it ; there has been no 
improvement in the inventive faculty since the " Iliad" was 
written, some three thousand years ago ; nor has taste become 
more exquisite, or the perception of the harmony of numbers 
more nice, since the age of the " -*3EneicL" Science is cumu- 
lative in its character ; and so its votaries in modern times 
stand on a higher pedestal than their predecessors. But, 
though nature produced a Newton some two centuries ago, 
as she produced a Goliath of Gath at an earlier period, the 
modern philosophers, as a class, do not exceed in actual sta- 
ture the worse informed ancients, — the Euclids, Archime- 
deses, and Aristotles. We would be without excuse i£ with 
the Bacon, Milton, and Shakspeare of these latter ages of the 
world full before us, we recurred to the obsolete belief that 
the human race is deteriorating; but then, on the other hand, 
we have certain evidence, that since genius first began uncon- 
sciously to register in its works its own bulk and proportions, 
there has been no increase in the mass, or improvement in 
the quality, of individual mind. As for the dream that there 
is to be some extraordinary elevation of the general platform 
of the race achieved by means of education, it is simply the 
hallucination of the age, — the world's present alchemical ex- 
pedient for converting farthings into guineas, sheerly by dint 
of scouring. Not but that education is good : it exercises,/7 
and in the ordinary mind developes, faculty. But it willl/ 
not anticipate the terminal dynasty. Yet further, — man's 
average capacity of happiness seems to be as limited and as 
incapable of increase as his average reach of intellect : it is 
a mediocre capacity at best ; nor is it greater by a shade now, 
in these days of power-looms and portable manures, than in 
the times of the old patriarchs. So long, too, as the law of 
increase continues, man must be subject to the law of death, 
with its stern attendants, suffering and sorrow ; for the two 


laws go necessarily together ; and so long as death reigns, 
human creatures, in even the best of times, will continue to 
quit this scene of being without professing much satisfaction 
at what they have found either in it or themselves. It will 
no doubt be a less miserable world than it is now, when the 
good come, as there is reason to hope they one day shall, to 
be a majority ; but it will be felt to be an inferior sort of 
world even then, and be even fuller than now of wishes and 
longings for a better. Let it improve as it may, it will be a 
scene of probation and trial till the end. And so Faith, un- 
deceived by the mirage of the midway desert, whatever form 
or name, political or religious, the phantasmagoria may bear, 
must continue to look beyond its unsolid and tremulous glit- 
ter, — its bare rocks exaggerated by the vapour into air-drawn 
castles, and its stunted bushes magnified into goodly trees ; 
and, fixing her gaze upon the re-creation yet future, — the ter- 
minal dynasty yet unbegun, — she must be content to enter 
upon her final rest, — for she will not enter upon it earlier,— 
" at return" 

" Of Him, the Woman's Seed, 
Last in the clouds, from heaven to be revealed 
In glory of the Father, to dissolve 
Satan with his perverted world, then raise 
From the conflagrant mass, purged and refined, 
New heavens, new earth, ages of endless date, 
Founded in righteousness, and peace, and love, 
To bring forth fruits, — joy and eternal bliss." 

But it may be judged that I am trespassing on a field into 
which I have no right to enter. Save, however, for its close 
proximity with that in which the geologist expatiates as pro- 
perly his own, this little volume would never have been writ- 
ten. It is the fact that man must believingly co-operate with 
God in the work of preparation for the final dynasty, or exist 
throughout its never-ending cycles as a lost and degraded 
creature, that alone renders the development hypothesis for* 


midable. By inculcating that the elevatory process is one 
of natural law, not of moral endeavour, — by teaching, infer- 
entially at least, that in the better state of things which is 
coming there is to be an identity of race with that of the ex- 
isting dynasty, but no identity of individual consciousness, — 
that, on the contrary, the life after death which we are to in- 
herit is to be merely a horrid life of wriggling impurities, ori- 
ginated in the putrefactive mucus, — and that thus the men 
who now live possess no real stake in the kingdom of the fu- 
ture, — it is its direct tendency, so far as its influence extends, I 
to render the required co-operation with God an impossibility ; I 
for that co-operation cannot exist without belief as its basisj 
The hypothesis involves a misreading of the geologic record, 
which not merely affects its meaning in relation to the mind, 
and thus, in a question of science, substitutes error for truth, 
but which also threatens to aifect the record itself, in relation 
to the destiny of every individual perverted and led astray. 
It threatens to write down among the degraded and the lost, 
men who, under the influence of an unshaken faith, might 
have risen at the dawn of the terminal period, to enjoy the 
fulness of eternity among the glorified and the good* 


Note A, p. b. 

(From Sir Roderick MurchisorCs " SUuria" p. 196.) 

" When the first edition of this book was published, I en- 
tertained the belief, in common with my early associate Sedg- 
wick, and our precursor M'Culloch, that the striking mountain 
masses of real conglomerate and hard grit on the north-west 
coast of the Highlands, which rest in layers, more or less hori- 
zontal, on low and gnarled bosses of very highly inclined and 
ancient granitoid gneiss, were really a part of the Old Red 
Sandstone of Scotland. A re-examination, however, of those 
tracts in 1855 compelled me to abandon that view. I then 
saw that portions at least of these conglomerates, often in a 
semi-crystalline state, and resting on the oldest or granitoid 
gneiss of the Highlands, as around Loch Assynt, were really 
inferior to those quartz rocks and limestones in the prolonga- 
tion of which to the north coast of Sutherland Mr C. Peach 
had detected fossils, which enabled me to suggest that they 
belonged to the older Silurian rocks. 

" Since the preceding sheet was printed, and during my 
absence on a geological tour abroad, additional researches, 

302 KOTO 

undertaken at my request by Mr C. Peach, have elicited much 
more numerous and more perfect fossils than were previously 
known ; and these enable me to re-affirm unhesitatingly, that 
the quartz rocks and limestones of the North- West Highlands 
are truly of Lower Silurian age. 

" The most striking of these fossils is the Maclurea, — a 
genus which as yet has alone been found in deposits of that 
age. One species was, indeed, figured in the first edition of 
this work, and has already been alluded to as occurring in 
the south of Scotland ; but the Sutherland form being unde- 
scribed, will justly receive the name of M. Peachii. 

" The other organic remains belong to the genera Ophile- 
ta, Oncoceras, and Orthoceras, with small gasteropods, anne- 
lid es, <fcc. These shells are all closely allied to (one of them 
identical with) North American species, so well described by 
Mr James Hall. In short, they represent the fauna of the 
Lower Silurian rocks of Canada and the United States, from 
above the Potsdam sandstone to the Trenton (Llandeilo) 
limestone inclusive. Let us also observe, that the Scottish 
and American groupes resemble each other to a great ex- 
tent in mineral composition, as well as in their fossil con- 

(In order to see this subject still farther explained, and 
the fossils figured, see the latest edition of " Siluria," pp. 182 
and 217.) 

Note B, p. 4. 

(From Sir Roderick MurchUorft " Siluria" p. 284.) 

" It has been shown (p. 153 et seq.) that along the frontier 
of the Silurian rocks in Shropshire and Herefordshire, where 
a true mineral transition is seen to take place between the 
Upper Ludlow rock and the base of the Old Red Sand- 

NOTES. 303 

stone, there is also a gradual passage from the fossil fishes of 
the one to those of the other. Thus, even beneath the lowest 
of the bone-beds of the Upper Ludlow rock we have the 
Pteraspis, and again in the bone-bed, the Plectrodus Mira- 
bilis and Onchus Murchisoni, associated with Pterygoti, and 
also with many shells known in the inferior layers. In ascend- 
ing to a higher stratum, most of those molluscs disappear ; 
and, although the same Onchus is still found, we first meet 
with two species of the genus Cephalaspis, added to the Pter- 
aspis, in those strata which begin to assume the lithological 
characters of the Old Red Sandstone. In a word, the tile- 
stones or beds of passage, considered in a broad sense, inclose 
at their base a shell or two and a fish-defence, with Crustacea 
of the Upper Ludlow rock; and in their upper parts, which 
begin to graduate into cornstones, we first find the charac- 
teristic fishes of the Old Red Sandstone. It follows, there- 
fore, that as the gray flag-like strata which pass up into 
reddish beds may either be viewed as the termination of the 
Silurian or the commeneement of the Old Red, the genera 
Cephalaspis and Pteraspis are typical both of the upper- 
most Silurian and the lowest zone of the Old Red or De- 
vonian group. In truth, as we now know, the varied con- 
cretions called cornstones are traceable down to within a very 
few feet of those transition beds ; and as the Cephalaspis 
Lyelli and two species of Pteraspis abound in them, there 
can no longer be any doubt on this point. 

" In adopting this view, we remove one of the difficulties 
which was presented to the mind of Hugh Miller, in his en- 
deavour to determine the order in which the different ichthyo- 
lites of the Old Red Sandstone of Scotland successively made 
their appearanca Grouping the Caithness flagstones in the 
lower division, and unable, on the one hand, to detect a Ce- 
phalaspis in them, or, on the other, to find the fishes of his 
north-eastern tracts in the central parts of Scotland, he was 

304 N0TE8. 

naturally induced to suggest that the beds with Cephalaspis 
would be found to lie above the fish-beds of Cromarty and 
Caithness. In looking, however, to the physical order of 
the masses in that northern region (p. 280), we see that 
this view cannot be retained ; for the bituminous schists of 
Caithness are comparatively high in the series, and, resting 
upon a great thickness of sandstone and conglomerate, are 
overlaid by the upper zone of the group only. According 
to my view, therefore, as founded also on the natural sections 
in Shropshire and Herefordshire, the conglomerates and sand- 
stones which underlie the flagstones of Caithness are the equi- 
valent in time of the lower cornstone strata of England This 
determination is of considerable importance, since good geolo- 
gical text-books, including the last edition of Ly ell's * Manual' 
and Page's € Advanced Text-Book,' — both following Hugh 
Miller, — have placed the Caithness flags in the lowest division 
of the Old Red Sandstone.* We may also, indeed, clearly in- 
fer that> even if the Arbroath paving-stone, with their Ptery- 
goti, do not represent the uppermost Ludlow rocks, still it 
follows that the Cephalaspis beds of Forfarshire must fall 
into the lower division of the Old Red group." 

With regard to the superposition of strata in Orkney, Sir 
Roderick says, — 

" When in company with Mr Peach, I was re-assured that 
the same flagstones as those of Caithness, and containing 

* " In formerly adopting the belief that the cornstones, with Cepha- 
laspis, generally represented the middle beds of the Old Bed Sandstone, 
Hugh Miller was quite justified ; for it was then supposed, even by my- 
self, that these concretions occupied the central part of the group ; whilst 
we now know that their inferior portions actually graduate downwards 
into the tilestones and summit of the Ludlow rock. Again, it was for- 
merly believed that a Dipterus (a marked Caithness genus) had been 
found in the Upper Ludlow rock. This was a mistake in the original 
'Silurian System ;' for in no subsequent researches has the smallest frag- 
ment of a Dipterus been detected in the bone-bed of the Upper Ludlow 


■* similar fishes and plants, reposed, near Kirkwall, the capital 

, of the Orkneys, upon a lower red sandstone, — the rock, in 

feet, out of which the beautiful cathedral of that town is 

f built, — and are surmounted in several of the islands by an- 
other sandstone, usually of light and yellowish colour, but 
with some admixture of red, the most splendid natural view 

> of which is at Hoy Head. There the sandstone overlying 
the Caithness flags has a vertical thickness in the sea-cliff of 
1100 feet ! The entire succession of the group is thus seen 

: " in Pomona and Hoy." 

NoteC, p. 21. 

We have in the prefatory remarks adverted to the many 
and quite irrefragable proofs that members of the Cephalas- 
pian family are the fish which at the present moment are 
found to occur in the earliest formations. Geologists resid- 
ing on the formations where they are found ought by all 
means to devote themselves to the completion of all the parts 
of these interesting fishes. One of the first descriptions given 
of it, which, however, may be regarded as descriptive of mere- 
ly its appearance in the stone, is to be found in the Old Bed 
Sandstone, from which we quote :— 

" The Cephalaspis is one of the most curious ichthyolites of the sys- 
tem (the Cornstone formation). Has the reader ever seen a saddler's 
cutting knife, — a tool with a crescent-shaped blade, and the handle fixed 
transversely in the centre of its concave side ? In general outline the 
Cephalaspis resembled this tofcl, — the crescent-shaped blade representing 
the head, — the transverse handle the body. We have but to give the 
handle an angular instead of a rounded shape, and to press together the 
pointed horns of the crescent till they incline towards each other, and the 
convex or sharpened edge is elongated into a semi-ellipse, cut in the line 
of its shortest diameter, in order to produce the complete form of the 
Cephalaspis. The head, compared with the body, was of great size, 


ootupriidug fully one-third t 
Mid placed close! y together, m ii 

Fig. es. 

n many of the flat fishes, were the eyes. 
Some of the specimens show two dor- 
tali, and an anal and caudal fin. The 
thin and angular body presents a joint- 
ed appearance, somewhat like that of a 
lobster or trilobite. like the bodies of 
most of the ichthyolites of the system, 
it was covered with Tarioutly-formed 
scales of bone ; the creature's head was 
cased in strong plates of the same mate- 
rial, the whole upper side lying under 
one huge buckler ; and hence the name, 
— Cephalaspis or buckler-head. In pro- 
portion to its strength and size, it seeina 
to have been amply furnished with wea- 
pons of defence. Such was the strength 
and massivenees of its covering, that its 
remains are found comparatively entire 
in arenaceous rocks impregnated with 
iron, in which few other fossils could 
have survived. ' Its various species, 
as they occur in the Welsh and English 
cornstones,' says Mr Murchison, ' seem 
not to have been suddenly killed and 
entombed, but to have been long ex- 
posed to submarine agencies, such 
as the attacks of animals, currents, 
concretionary action,' &c. ; and yet, 
'though much dismembered, the geo- 
logist has little difficulty in recognising even the smallest portions of 
them.' Nor does it seem to have been quite unfurnished with offensive 
weapons. The sword-fish, with its strong and pointed spear, has been 
known to perforate the oaken ribs of the firmest built vessels, and, poised 
and directed by its lesser fins, and impelled by its powerful tail, it may 
be regarded either as an arrow or javelin finng with tremendous force, 
or as a knight speeding to the encounter with his lance in rest. Now, 
there are missiles employed in eastern warfare, which, instead of being 
pointed like the arrow or javelin, are edged somewhat like the crooked 
falchion or saddler's cutting knife, and which are capable of being cast 
with such foroe, that they have been known to sever a horse's leg through 
the hone ; and if the sword-fish, may be properly compared to an arrow 
or javelin, the combative powers of the Cephalaspis may be illustrated, 

CtphaUapit Lytlli, — Agatta. 

VOTES. 307 

it is probable, by a weapon of this kind, the head all around its elliptical 
margin presenting a sharp edge like that of a cutting knife or falchion. 
Its impetus, however, must have been comparatively small, for its organs 
of motion were so : it was a bolt carefully fashioned, but a bolt cast from 
a feeble bow. But, if weak in the assault, it must have been formidable 
when assailed. 'The pointed horns of the crescent,' said Agassiz to the 
writer, ' seem to have served a similar purpose with the spear-like wings 
of the Pterichthys,' the sole difference consisting in the circumstance that 
the spears of the one could be elevated or depressed at pleasure, whereas 
those of the other were ever fixed in the warlike attitude. And such 
was the Cephalaspis of the Cornstones, — not only the most characteristic, 
but in England and Wales almost the sole organism of the formation." 
— (" Old Bed Sandstone," p. 149, et seq.) 

The foregoing description must be understood as applied 
to the first imperfect impressions of Cephalaspis. Better spe- 
cimens have been found since, which serve to modify the read- 
ing or interpretation of these. A gentleman resident in Dun- 
dee, situated in the Cephalaspian district, furnished the follow- 
ing note for the latest edition of the Old Red : — 

"Since the foregoing description was written sixteen years ago, a few 
specimens have been found in the neighbourhood of Arbroath, which de- 
monstrate that the animal was provided with a large and powerful tail, 
and with equally powerful pectorals, so that its impetus need not have 
been, as here stated, ' comparatively slow. ' It is now also well ascertained 
that the peculiar 'cutting knife,' or * bolt' -like shape of the head, so 
generally noticeable in the earlier specimens, was the result of accident. 
A single cephalic shield of bone, thickly covered with discoidal bony 
plates of beautiful workmanship, was bent round the whole of the upp*r 
portion of the creature's head, including the sides, somewhat after the 
fashion of a lady's bonnet shade ; with this difference, that, instead of 
the pointed ends or 'horns' being fastened, as in the case of the bonnet, 
they projected freely backwards in the fish. It was altogether, there- 
fore, an armature of defence, and not partly of offence, as hinted at in the 
text. Of this Mr Miller had long been quite aware, and, in conse- 
quence, had expressed himself approvingly of the restoration here given, 
(fig. 67.) An Arbroath specimen in the possession of Mr Powrie of 
Reswallie, which shows the head in profile, has the cephalic shield bent 
round in the manner described. In the large majority of instances, how- 
ever, the fish being found lying on its belly, the curvature of the shield 
has yielded to the pressure of the overlying stone, and the appearance of 
the head is consequently that of a perfectly flat crescent." 

hbAokation or ctmiusfn. 

VOTES. 309 

Here matters of fact seem very much to rest In regard 
to our present knowledge of the Cephalaspis, its classification 
and analogies are involved in very considerable obscurity. 
In a paper read before the Geological Society on 1 8th May 
1 859, by Sir Philip Grey Egerton, entitled " Paloeichthyologio 
Notes," I find the following paragraph. It serves to show 
the more recent attempts at classification as respects the As- 
terolepis, as well as the Cephalaspis. 


" This family definition was first proposed by Professor M'Coy for 
the reception of all the genera included in the Cephalaspidra (Agas- 
siz), except Cephalaspis, together with some other genera assigned by 
Agassiz to the Celacanths. Professor Pander has adopted this family 
term, and includes in it the following five genera : — Pterichthys, Agass. 
(Asterolepis, Eichen.) ; Coccosteus, Agass. ; Asterolepis, Agass. (Ho- 
roosteus, Asmus, — ' this is the Asterolepis of the text') ; Heterosteus, 
Asmus ; and Chelyophorus, Agass. The distinction, as I (Sir P. Eger- 
ton) understand it, between this family and the Cephalaspidse, is ('that 
is, is meant to be by those who make this classification 1 ), that whereaB 
in the latter the head only is encased, in the former the thorax is also 
invested with bony plates. Cephalaspis, Pteraspis, and Auchenaspis, 
would consequently constitute the Cephalaspid family,— Pterichthys and 
Coccosteus being the types of the Placodermy. Chelyophorus is probably 
a member of the same family. Whether Asterolepis and Heterosteus 
belong to it, must depend upon further investigation. Hugh Miller de- 
scribes the plates of Asterolepis as the homologues of true cranial bones, 
and assigns to this fish the scales figured at page 68 of the ' Footprints' 
[present edition]. Pander, on the contrary, maintains thai the small ante- 
rior plates only are true cranial plates, and that the larger plates are homo- 
logues to the thoracic plates of the Coccosteus. The plate figured by 
Hugh Miller at p. 88 as a hyoid plate, Pander assumes to be the poste- 
rior dorsal plate, homologous to the large cuspidate plate of Coccosteus. 
It is clear, then, that the family affinity of this genus must depend upon 
the solution of this moot point. I regret I have no materials to throw 
light on this subject." — (Proceedings of the Geological Society, Egerton, 
Old Red Fishes.) 

By this mode of classification the Cephalaspidse, — includ- 

* Professor Owen objects to this term, as being synonymous with Pla- 

310 NOTES. 

ing Gephalaspis proper, Pteraspis, and Auchenaspis, — consti- 
tute a distinct family. The difference between these three 
does not seem to be very great : for instance, Auchenaspis 
differs from Cephalaspis only in having the buckler trun- 
cated behind, and the nape of the neck covered by two wide 
square plates, with granular surfaces. 

As to iTdifferenCof opinion between Pander and the 
author of the " Foot-prints," with regard to some points in 
the structure of Asterolepis, these can only be decided by 
farther evidence. Whether it is a helmed fish, as asserted by 
Hugh Miller, or a cuirassed one, according to Pander, and 
whether its analogies are with the so-called Placoderms, or 
with the Ccelacanths, must be determined by new and une- 
quivocal specimens. The Placoderms must be looked upon 
as only a possible family, seeing that the standing of so many 
of its members is doubtful. Huxley finds analogies between 
the Coccosteus and the Siluroids, to which the Cephalaspians 
are likewise allied. — L. M. 

Note D, p. 192. 

Appendix to the "Vestiges," No. 12, specially devoted to a refutation 
of the "Foot-prints/' and entitled "Answers to Objections— Mr 
Hugh Miller." 

After several remarks upon the preceding chapters, the 
author of the " Vestiges" goes on to say, — " The remainder 
of the chapter — that on the fossil flora — is an eloquent ex- 
position of what Mr Miller considers as the proper view to 
be taken of the palaeozoic flora. I cannot withhold my ad- 
miration from the ingenuity of illustration and beauty of 
language exhibited in this pleading, even while I must con- 
demn it as wholly unsound. The highest authority on the 
subject fully bears out the view of the facts taken in the 

NOTES. 311 

* Vestiges,' and even favours the inference drawn from the 
facts in favour of the development hypothesis. Mr Miller 
chiefly insists on two particulars. Adverting to the rarity of 
land-plants below the Coal, he endeavours to account for it 
by saying, — ' The fossil botanist, on taking leave of the lower 
Carboniferous beds, quits the land, and sets out to sea ; and 
it seems in no way surprising that the specimens which he 
there adds to his herbarium should consist mainly of Fuca- 
cese and Confervese. The development hypothesis can bor- 
row no support from the simple fact, that while a high ter- 
restrial vegetation grows upon dry land, only algse grow in 
the sea.' Can Mr Miller seriously expect that we are to be 
content with his quiet assumption that there was no dry land 
before the Carboniferous era ? I refer him to very sufficient 
authorities (Proofs, <fcc, No. 3) for a contrary opinion. The 
fact is, that the long-continued existence of dry land through- 
out the enormous ages represented by the Silurian and De- 
vonian formations, without leaving us any certain evidence 
of a land vegetation, is one of the preachings of Geology most 
confounding to writers on Mr Miller's side of the question. 
But then, — and this is the second particular, — he has dis- 
> covered a lignite which he supposes to be Araucarian, in 
the Lower Old Red of Cromarty. This is the subject of 
much fine writing. It is an * unfallen Adam,' — the ' olive 
leaf of Noah's dove.'-a whole forest sceDe is engendered by 
it in the imagination of this prose poet.' ' A true wood at 
the bate of the Old Red Sandstone, or a true placoid in the 
limestones of Bala, very considerably beneath the base of the 
Lower Silurian System, are untoward misplacements for ike 
purposes of the jLamarckian.' Oh, luckless word and boot- 
less boast ! The * true placoid' of the Bala limestones, which 
turns out to be ' a new genus of Asteroid zoophyte' (as 
shown a few pages back), is indeed an untoward misplace- 
ment for Mr Miller, and those who led him to believe that it 


was a plaooid fish. Taught by this misadventure that an 
anti-lAmarckian is by no means infallible when he rashes 
from one isolated and hastily-observed met to a great con- 
clusion, / claim a right to pause before admitting this lignite, 
lest it also should prove to be a ' misplacement' The fossils 
of fish which Professor Sedgwick so exultingly announced 
from the Wenlock limestone, and which he could not doubt 
because he had ' seen' them, turned out to have been found, 
not in the rock, but in the loose debris of a quarry, where it 
was most likely they had been dropped by some workmen 
who had brought them from another place ! When we turn 
to Mr Miller's account of the circumstances under which the 
lignite were discovered, we certainly do not find any strong 
assurance against a similar mistake. ' I found it/ he says, 
'partially embedded, with many other nodules half-disinterred 
by the sea, in an ichthyolitic deposit a few hundred yards to 
the east of the town of Cromarty, which occurs more than 
four hundred yards over the great conglomerate base of the 
system !' We at least owe him thanks for his candour in 
the statement of the history of this fossiL" 

We must be allowed to remark on the different parts of 
this paragraph in succession. First, as to the fossil flora. 
The " highest authority" on the subject here referred to is, as 
we find from No. 9 of the Proofs annexed to the " Vestiges," 
M. Adolphe Brongniart, M. Brongniart, we are told, holds 
as doubtful most of the alleged instances of plants of the Car- 
boniferous era found below the zone of the Coal formation. 
But all authorities, even the highest, must yield to the inex- 
orable development of fact It is now held that the Old Bed 
of Caithness, so far from holding no land plants, contains no 
other, and that all remains of algae are entirely wanting in 
it (See latest edition of Sir B. Murchison's "Siluria.") 
This condition of the Old Bed flora had not been ascertained 
when the Appendix to the " Vestiges" was written; and the 

NOTES. 31$ 

author thought himself entitled to hold that enormous ages of 
dry land, without any appearance of land vegetation, proved — 
what ? — that sea-weed grew on the land, where it gradually 
assumed the characters of land plants? Well, if he pleased 
to think so, he was at liberty to do it so long as there was 
no proof to the contrary. But what shall we say of the sen- 
tence following ? — " Can Mr Miller seriously expect that we 
are to be content with his quiet assumption that there was 
no dry land before the Carboniferous era V* Where does Mr 
Miller make this assertion ? Not, surely, by assuming that 
remains of deep-sea formations do exist before that era, in 
which no land-plants are to be found. That is unquestionable. 
And it is to such that the passage alluded to, " The Fossil 
Botanist/* &c, refers; while in close proximity to it occur 
the most express assertions of the existence likewise of dry 
land, which it was, in fact, one main end of this chapter to 
prove. How, for example, does the author of the "Ves- 
tiges" reconcile this' alleged assumption of Mr Miller's that 
there was no dry land till the Carboniferous period, with 
the paragraph he himself quotes immediately after, in which 
Mr Miller is said to have proclaimed the discovery of a highly 
organized tree of the Old Red, — an Araucarian ; which dis- 
covery he, the author of the " Vestiges," sets himself to dis- 
prove or disparage ? Where was this tree to grow? In the 
sea? How, then, does the same author say, — "A whole 
forest scene is engendered by it in the imagination of this 
prose poet ?" Was that in the sea too ! It suited the pur- 
pose of the author of the " Vestiges" to suppose that Mr 
Miller made an assumption which he could not possibly 
make, in order that he might be shown to be in the wrong ; 
but the strongest possible evidence of that dry land which the 
theory of the author of the " Vestiges" requires, it does not 
suit him to admit, because, although he must have the dry 
land, there must be no trees growing out of it,— only sea- 

314 hotis. 

weeds undergoing the singular process of transmutation. Tak- 
ing as a basis the breaking down of certain evidence, founded, 
not on Mr Miller's own observations, but on those of the 
most trustworthy geologists, — a contingency to which, before 
time has confirmed discovery, a science like Geology must be 
always liable, — he takes occasion, by way of inference, to 
doubt that which Mr Miller had himself discovered, and the 
accuracy of which discovery he had submitted to every possible 
test. " Taught by this misadventure ... I claim a 
right to pause before admitting this lignite, lest it also should 
prove to be a misplacement" Then the quotation from the 
" Foot-prints" stops exactly where fair play required that it 
ought not Why omit the conclusion of the passage 1 "A 
nodule that lay immediately beside it contained a well-pre- 
served specimen of the Coccosteus Decipiens ; and in the 
nodule in which the lignite itself is contained, the practised 
eye may detect a scattered group of scales of Diplacanthus, 
— a scarce less characteristic organism of the (same) forma- 
tion." " Mr Miller's mistakes have at least the merit of being 
ingenuous," says the author of the " Vestiges." Are his own 
always equally so ? And is this passage a specimen of his 
general style of reasoning ) — L. M. 

hotks. 315 





" As much of the reasoning in chapter vi. of the first edi- 
tion is based upon the supposed occurrence of placoid fishes 
in the Lower Silurian rocks of "Wales, it is but right to re- 
fer you to the disclaimer put forward by me in 1851, in the 
seventh volume of the ' Quarterly Geological Journal' In 
both the instances in which I am responsible, a hasty field 
examination was unfortunately accepted and published, be- 
fore sufficient time, or even a re-examination of such precious 
and unique relics, had been allowed ; and, as in almost every 
other case, the more haste the worse speed. The statements 
of two eminent geologists could not of course be other than 
good data for reasoning ; and hence the mistake. In point 
of fact, the S. Welch fossil was a zoophyte, — greatly like a 
fish defence, however ; and the N. Welch one a portion of a 
trilobite ! I then examined the other reputed cases of fish 
remains from Silurian strata, and in one, a plate of a Cysti- 
dean animal from the Caradoc roek had been mistaken for a 
dermal plate of a ganoid fish ; in another (the celebrated Ces- 
traciont tooth of the ' Edinburgh Review'), the species turned 
out to be the Cochliodus aliformis (M'Coy), a mountain lime- 
stone fossil common in the immediate neighbourhood of the 
Silurian quarry, where it was picked up. Again, the frag- 
ments attributed to fish in the Ludlow rocks, and mentioned 
by Phillips and others, have invariably turned out to be 
blackened portions of annelide tubes, or something else not 

316 NOTES. 

fish ; and the foreign examples from rocks older than the up- 
permost Ludlow are all easily demonstrable as invertebrate 
remains. But although, when the above paper was written, 
no true fish had been detected below the horizon of the 
' bone bed ' of the Ludlow rock, the supposed coprolite no- 
dules in the Lower Silurian still left a doubt on the matter 
(Quart. Qeolog. Jour., vol. vii. 1851). This doubt also has 
been dissipated, since Mr Hunt of the Canadian Geological 
Survey has shown how phosphotic nodules occur deep down 
in Silurian rocks, and even at their base, which are clearly 
derived from the animals and horny shells of LinguUk and 
Discina, the commonest of ancient fossils. 

" Later researches have made it manifest that true placoids 
are not the oldest known forms of vertebrate life. The spines 
and the shagreen of shark-like fish were certainly the chief 
constituents of the 'bone bed;' but with them (and the 
doubtful remains called Plectrodus) another genus occurs be- 
longing to the puzzling group of the Cephalaspidsa. This is 
Pteraspis, now for some time known to be a distinct genus. 
It has been detected in the bone bed, and in the Upper Lud- 
low rock itself beneath the bone bed, by the persevering geo- 
logists of Ludlow. (See ' Siluria,' second edition, ] 859, p. 
267.) And while these pages are preparing for press, a spe- 
cimen of this genus is announced by them from the Lower 
Ludlow rock ! This remarkable group, then, of fishes, whe- 
ther they be. abnormal ganoids, as Agassiz supposed, or have 
closer relations with the Teleostean or bony fishes, to which 
the Siluroids are now referred, are. undoubtedly, so far as our 
present knowledge goes, the oldest of known fish." 

<< ™^~« «,,»,«— « ~™ mra . ™>n.«iiistt» n 




(A Lecture delivered before the Royal Physical Society.) 

We find it stated by Cuvier, in his description of the gene- 
ric peculiarities of the alligator, that the fourth tooth of the 
under jaw, reckoning from the symphysis, instead of being 
received into a mere notch, as in the crocodile, or into the 
interstices of the opposite teeth, as in the gavials, has a cavity 
hollowed for its reception, when the mouth is closed, in the 
upper maxilliary bona Agassiz remarks a somewhat simi- 
lar peculiarity in the lepidosteus, — a peculiarity that seems 
to form one of the links which connect this extraordinary 
fish, unique in the present creation, with its relatives of 
somewhat higher place and standing, the reptiles. " The 
intermaxillary of the lepidosteus," says the distinguished 
ichthyologist, " is a small bone, pierced with two holes for 
the admission of the anterior projecting teeth of the lower 

It is a circumstance worthy of notice, as bearing direct on 
our subject, that there is a considerable degree of irregularity 
manifested in the dentition of this reptile-fish. Occasionally 

* The suite of fossils here described is now in the University of 
Edinburgh. — L. M. 


we find the large teeth standing close together in groupes of 
twos and threes on the one side of the jaw, while the corre- 
sponding teeth on the other side of the same jaw stand apart. 
This general irregularity is shared in some cases by those 
terminal teeth of the under jaw which are received by the 
perforations in the intermaxillaries ; and in a specimen of 
Lepidosteus on the table before us, we find in the left inter- 
maxillary two little holes beside each other, formed to re- 
ceive two teeth, that stand a little apart, and in the right 
intermaxillary the two little holes represented by one large 
hole, formed to receive three teeth, which stand close to- 

Now, in the jaws of the Palaeozoic Coelacanths, those huge 
reptile teeth which stand up over and behind the ichthyic 
ones were received, as in the alligators and the Lepidosteus, 
into cavities hollowed in the opposite jaws ; but though in 
some of these ancient fishes, especially the Holoptychii 
(Rhizodus) of the Carboniferous rocks, the reptile teeth of 
the lower jaw nearest to the symphysis were greatly larger 
than the others, and must have had cavities of greater depth 
in the upper jaw hollowed to receive them, the arrangement 
was not restricted to these anterior teeth, but pervaded both 
jaws, under and upper, along their entire length, from the 
snout to the angles of the mouth. In most of my specimens 
of jaws of Coelacanths from the Lower Old Red Sandstone, — 
in especial, in those of the Asterolepis,— -each of the reptile 
teeth, from near the condyloid processes to the symphysis, 
stands out of the one side of what seems to be a socket 
twice too wide for it> — in other words, beside each reptile 
tooth there is a pit which received the reptile tooth in the 
opposite jaw when the mouth was closed. [Spec. 1.] 
Generally as they approached the sides of the mouth, the 
pits were smaller than towards the snout ; but they are as 
decidedly there, save in the cases in which some irregula- 


rity in the arrangement of the teeth affected their position, 
and these irregularities seem at least as common in the an- 
terior as in the posterior portions of the jaws. It is not un- 
worthy of remark, however, that in the jaws of these ancient 
reptile fishes, as in the jaws of their modern representative, 
considerable irregularities did occur, and that these occasion- 
ally present to the palaeontologist appearances suited to puzzle 
and mislead. Not only do we find recipient pits in a speci- 
men, with no reptile teeth growing up beside them, — indi- 
cating, apparently, that there were teeth in the opposite jaw, 
upper or nether, which the jaw in the specimen wanted ; 
but in other cases, the seemingly too wide socket, one-half 
of which usually remains a recipient pit, is occupied to the 
full by a second tooth, growing up so close beside the ordi- 
nary one, that their points are in some instances scarce a line 
apart And so extraordinary is the appearance of these 
double teeth, that it has been sometimes asked whether they 
ought not to be regarded as bearing the stamp of specific pe- 
culiarity. Of these double teeth, some very fine specimens 
have been found during the last few years in the Carboni- 
ferous ironstones of Gilmerton. Even where most remark- 
able, however, I infer from my specimens of jaws of Astero- 
lepis that they merely indicate individual, not specific pecu- 
liarities, in the fishes to which they belonged. Among the 
specimens on the table there is a beautifully preserved jaw 
of a small Asterolepis, — which I owe to my friend Mr Dick, 
— in which the anterior reptile tooth is, as in some of the 
Holoptychii (Rhizodus) of Gilmerton, a double one ; but, as 
shown by an examination of the entire fossil, the fish to which 
it belonged did not differ in species from those which owned 
several of the other jaws before us, all of whose anterior teeth 
are single ones. [Spec. 2.] The double tooth, notwithstanding 
its striking appearance, was as much an individual peculia- 
rity, and as little a specific one, as those dental irregularities, 


not very unfrequent in specimens of oar own species, which 
are known familiarly as double or buck-teeth. But, to con- 
clude this part of my subject, what I have to state regarding 
the jaws of the earlier Coelacanths is simply this, — that as the 
alligators are characterized genetically by cavities in their up- 
per jaws for the reception of their fourth teeth anteriorly on 
both sides, and as the Lepidostei are characterized generically 
by cavities in their intermazillaries for the reception of the 
anterior projecting teeth of the lower jaw, some of the earlier 
Coelacanths, such as Asterolepis and Rhizodus, were charao- 
terized by a line of cavities in both under and upper jaw,, 
which received, when they shut their mouths, all their reptile 
teeth ; and further, that there occurred certain irregularities in 
their dentition, somewhat similar to those which occur in the 
dentition of Lepidosteus, but still more strongly marked, which, 
though they impart a marked singularity of aspect to the spe- 
cimens in which they occur, were not specific peculiarities, but 
merely individual ones. I may be permitted one other re- 
mark. Some of the reptile teeth of the Carboniferous Rhizodi, 
as shown in specimens from Gilmerton and Burdiehouse, had 
great apparent depth of socket ; and a reptilian, relationship 
has been deduced, I doubt not legitimately, from this pecu- 
liarity. More immediately, however, this depth of socket 
seems to be a consequence of the depth of pit required by the 
opposite tooth for its reception, and which is always great in 
proportion to the length of the tooth above the edge of the 
jaw. The long sword requires a deep scabbard to sheathe it 
in ; and as the lower part of the reptile teeth of the one jaw 
usually forms the one side of the pits in which the reptile 
teeth of the other jaw were sheathed, their depth of apparent 
socket is proportioned to the depth of the sheath. 

There was one respect in which the Coccosteus differed 
from all the other ganoids of the Old Red Sandstone yet 
known, While its head was covered with a strong osseous 


helmet, and the upper part of its body with a strong cui- 
rass of osseous plates, its nether parts were naked. And 
along the space once occupied by this naked part we find 
frequent traces in the rock of the internal osseous mechanism 
which protected the spinal cord, — a mechanism which I have 
never yet seen in any of the other ichthyolites of the forma- 
tion. I have been accustomed to account for this peculiarity 
in the Coccosteus, on the supposition that, as its naked part 
had no such external support as that furnished to the poste- 
rior portions of its contemporaries by the strong osseous scales 
and plates with which they were covered, it was furnished, 
on that compensatory principle so common in the animal 
world, with a proportionally stronger skeleton within ; nor 
have I found reason to alter this view. I had further sup- 
posed, however, that though the apophyses of the vertebral 
column of Coccosteus were more thoroughly ossified than the 
vertebrae themselves, and were preserved in some kinds of 
rock from which the vertebrae had disappeared, the creature 
actually had vertebral joints of bone, and that they were ex- 
hibited in some of my specimens.* I, however, succeeded 
in convincing myself during my exploratory ramble in au- 
tumn last, that what I had deemed vertebrae are in reality 
curiously-formed apophyses, that, linked into each other by a 
sort of male and female joints, threw out slender processes 
on their outer sides, and ran adown the back in double 
column along the neural cord. So far as we now know, no 
ganoid of the Old Bed Sandstone possessed vertebral joints 
of bone. Among the specimens of Coccosteus on the table, 
there are several very interesting ones, illlustrative of parts 

* These remarks upon the vertebral structure of the Coccosteus are ex- 
ceedingly interesting, when viewed in connection with Professor Huxley's 
recent investigations ; and likewise when read in the light of Mr Peach's 
discovery of ossified vertebral columns in some of the fishes of the Old 
Red. — L. M. 


of the animal which previously had been bat ill understood ; 
bat to these I may solicit the attention of the Society at 
some future time, as my vouchers for a restoration of the 
animal, which I have some intention of attempting. At pre- 
sent I shall merely call the Society's attention to an inte- 
resting Cromarty specimen of Coccosteus, which presents 
the head and cuirass in profile, and exhibits the two bones 
of the under jaw, with their symphysis! teeth. But instead 
of throwing any light on the problem of their position, it 
merely states the mystery in its extremest form. 

A suite of fossils on the table yields some additional in- 
sight regarding the structure of the cranium and jaws of 
Dipterus. The palaeontologist,— even with all the assistance 
which his science now derives from the optical lapidary,— 
cannot deal by his fossils as Signer Sarti used to deal with 
his anatomical models, — raise one layer of bone or integu- 
ment after another, to show the deeper and still deeper un- 
derlying parts. He must seek from suites of fossils that 
exhibit in succession each a deeper and deeper section, in- 
formation similar to that which the ingenious Italian made 
a single model convey. I shall exhibit to the Society one 
of these suites, which my recent labours in the north has 
well-nigh enabled me to complete, illustrative of the head of 
Dipterus. "We have here the interior of the creature's lower 
jaw, — a specimen which shows the great strength and depth 
of the bone at what in other jaws would be the symphysis 
but where that of the Dipterus had no joining. In this se- 
cond specimen, the outer side of the jaw is exhibited, and 
the lines on either side indicated where the three pieces of 
which it seems to have consisted in the foetal state were 
united. This third specimen exhibits the jaw bearing its 
triangular patches of teeth that corresponded with and acted 
against the triangular patches in the palate. In this fourth 
specimen, the base of the skull is shown with its palatal 



mechanism of teeth and plates, together with the spinal ca- 
vity and the nostrils. This fifth specimen also exhibits the 
base of the head ; but the teeth and plates are removed, and 
we look upon the mass of compressed cartilage, traversed by 
osseous fibre, on which these rested, and see anterior and pos- 
terior portions of the cavity which accommodated the brain. 
The form of the spinal cavity is well shown in this fossil In 
the sixth specimen, the upper part of the cranial buckler is 
removed, and we see yet farther into the head. This narrow 
oblong chamber, fenced by thin slightly-curved partitions, is 
the brain pan. On each side there were deep cavities for 
the eyes, represented, however, in the fossil by but blank 
masses of stone. And higher up, on each side of the spinal 
passage, there occur somewhat similar but smaller masses, 
which occupy what seem to have been once the auricular 
chambers. This seventh specimen shows portions of the eye 
orbits, — the place of which, until this season, I had failed in 
ascertaining. With these, this eighth specimen seems to 
show, though imperfectly, those projecting processes of the 
occiput to which the apophyses of the spine must have been 
attached; but the projection is slightly mutilated. These 
ninth and tenth specimens show the inner side of the cranial 
buckler ; and this eleventh specimen its outer side, with the 
operculum attached. This curious and instructive suite it 
has taken years to collect ; but the story which it tells of 
extinct peculiarities, and an old-fashioned strangeness of 
structure, — linked, however, by broad analogies to the fami- 
liar and the recent, — I deem more than worth the trouble 
which the piecemeal disinterment of it has cost. 

I had the pleasure, in the August of 1850, of introducing 
Professor Owen and Sir Philip Egerton to my collection. In 
a recent volume, — " "Foot-prints of the Creator," — I had men- 
tioned that in all the cranial bucklers of the Old Red Sand- 
stone with which I was acquainted there occurred a little 


* medium plate, either between the eyes, as in the Coccosteus 
and Asterolepis, or a very little over them, as in the Osteolepis 
and Diplopterus ; and remarked that its never-failing recur- 
rence showed that it must have had some meaning, though 
it might be difficult to say what Both gentlemen expressed 
a desire to see the little plate, as shown in the cranial buckler 
of the Diplopterus ; and I submitted it to them in a specimen 
which exhibits it both in the outer and inner surface of the 
buckler. [Spec. 1 0.] " It is exactly as I had thought," said the 
distinguished comparative anatomist to Sir Philip ; — " a pro- 
longation of the brain extended downwards from the brain-pan 
proper, and bore at its termination the pineal gland, which 
rested immediately under the little plate, and had its place 
indicated by it" The revelation struck me as of strange and 
startling interest One of the ancients would have said that 
the ever-recurring little plate which had attracted my notice 
marked out the exact points where the souls of these ancient 
fishes of the Old Red Sandstone had their seats. During my 
late exploratory labours among the rocks of Caithness, I kept 
the remark of Professor Owen in view, and have succeeded, 
through the kindness of my friend Mr Dick, in procuring 
part of a cranium of Diplopterus, which illustrates, and, so 
far at least as the solid and less perishable parts of an organ- 
ism can confirm so occult a conclusion regarding the softTnd 
perishable ones, confirms it In this specimen the occipital 
and parietal portions of the buckler are removed, showing the 
brain-pan underneath, and showing also a cavity running from 
it towards the little plate, and along which a prolongation 
of the brain seems to have descended. I succeeded also in 
finding specimens that exhibit the nostrils of Diplopterus ; 
and a specimen of Asterolepis in which the pineal little plate 
of this gigantic fish presents its outer side, — a thing which I 
had attempted restoring in a woodcut from the inner surface ; 
but though the scope for error in so narrow a field was not 


great, the Society may see how much more elegant its out-' 
line is in the actual fossil than in the restoration. This key- 
stone-shaped plate, which rested immediately under the pineal 
one, I picked up at nearly the same time with the other. It 
enables me to complete the external surface of the cranial 
buckler of this great ganoid, with all its unique but not un- 
graceful tatooings. Of the little wedge-shaped plate I may 
be permitted to relate a brief anecdote, illustrative of the 
quickness of eye possessed by one of our most distinguished 
geologists, Professor Sedgwick. It was wanting in the speci- 
men from which I had figured the inner surface of the cra- 
nial buckler of Asterolepis in my "Foot-prints ;" and, as at that 
time I had not seen the plate, instead of venturing to re- 
store it, I simply left vacant in the figure the space in which 
it had lain. The gap struck the eye of the Professor as un- 
natural : it was not the proper finish, he said ; and when in 
autumn last he visited my collection, accompanied by Sir Ro- 
derick Murchison and Dr John Fleming, he brought the vo- 
lume with him in his pockety to compare the print with the 
original. Ere his visit, however, I had procured, through 
the kindness of Mr Dick, a specimen in which the keystone- 
like plate occupied its proper place in the gap, presenting its 
inner side ; and I referred him to it, as a better illustration 
than the print of how nature had given the last finish to the 
cranial buckler of the Asterolepis. " Ay," he exclaimed, as 
he eagerly knelt down to examine the specimen, and passed 
his fingers over the keystone-like plate, " Ay, this is a finish 
of the right kind; — this will do." There are several rare 
and a few unique fossils on the table illustrative of various 
points in the structure of the first ganoids, to which I can 
only refer the members of the Society generally as worthy of 
their examination. They are in part the fruits of a leisure 
fortnight spent this autumn among the rocks of Thurso ; but 
in still greater part I owe them to the kindness of my inde. 


fatigable friend Mr Robert Dick, of whom I may well say, 
that he " has robbed himself to do me service." 

I trust the members of the Society will excuse minute- 
ness of detail on a subject regarding which it is neces- 
sary to be minute in order to be intelligible, and in which, 
though I have to deal with the oldest of the vertebrate exist- 
ences of whose mechanism we can know anything positive, 
our knowledge is but in the forming, and still very incom- 
plete. Permit me, ere I conclude, to refer at some length 
to a subject closely connected with these organisms. I have 
exhibited to the Society this evening certain remains of the 
earliest ganoids that bear on two points which have already 
drawn the attention of naturalists, and which, judging from 
the recent writings of Agassiz, bid fair to attract their no- 
tice yet further. In the jaws of Asterolepis you have seen 
strongly-marked reptilian characteristics, which are exempli- 
fied at the present time, though less amply, in the upper jaw 
of the alligator, and in that of the most perfectly developed 
of all recent fishes, — the ichthyicn-eptilian Lepidosteus. Of 
the vertebral mechanism of the Asterolepis there survive not 
a trace ; but in that of its contemporary the Coccosteus you 
have seen what is deemed a foetal peculiarity. The vertebrae 
represented by but the blank space between the upper and 
under apophyses were cartilaginous ; and it is held that in 
all the other ganoids of the period the apophyses were as 
cartilaginous as the vertebrae themselves, seeing that both 
are equally represented in their fossil remains by but a blank. 
And what is foetal peculiarity manifested in the immature in- 
dividuals of one class or genus, is accepted in Agassiz s new 
scheme of classification, when manifested in the mature ani- 
mal of another class or genus, as a sign of inferiority. In 
his " Principles of Zoology," published in 1848, we find him 
exemplifying his scheme with great clearness and precision, 
by the white fish (one of the Salmonidse qf the American 


Xiakes) and the sturgeon. " The sturgeon and the white 
fish," he says, " are two very different fishes ; yet, taking 
into consideration their external form and bearing merely, it 
might be questioned which of the two should take the highest 
rank ; whereas the doubt is very easily resolved by an exa- 
mination of their anatomical structure. The white fish has 
a skeleton, and, moreover, a vertebral column, composed of 
firm bone. The sturgeon, on the contrary, has no bone in 
the vertebral column, except the spines or apophyses of the 
vertebrae. The middle part, or body of the vertebra, is car- 
tilaginous; the mouth is transverse, and underneath the head; 
and the caudal fin is unequally forked, while in the white fish 
it is equally forked. I£ however, we observe the young white 
fish just after it has issued from the egg, the contrast will be 
less striking. At this period the vertebrae are cartilaginous, 
like those of the sturgeon ; its mouth also is transverse, and 
its tail undivided. At that period the white fish and the 
sturgeon are therefore much more alike. But this similarity 
is only transient : as the white fish grows, its vertebrae become 
ossified, and its resemblance to the sturgeon is comparatively 
slight As the sturgeon has no such transformation of the 
vertebrae, and is in some sense arrested in its development, 
while the white fish undergoes subsequent transformation, we 
conclude that, compared with the white fish, it is really in- 
ferior in rank" Thus far Agassiz's foetal principle of classi- 
fication. In his recent singularly interesting work, " Lake 
Superior," we find him thus referring to it> and to the blended 
character, high and low, foetal and reptilian, of the early 
fishes. " They may be said," he states, " to have embryonic 
peculiarities, in addition to their reptilian character ; and this 
fact, so simple in itself, and apparently so natural, is of the 
utmost importance in the history of animal life. It has gra- 
dually led me to more extensive views, and to the conviction 
that embryonic^ investigations might throw as much light on 


the successive development of the animal kingdom during 
the successive geological periods, as upon the physiological de- 
velopment of individual animals; and, indeed, lean now show, 
through all classes of the animal kingdom, that the oldest 
representatives of any family agree closely with the embry- 
onic stages of the higher types of the living representatives 
of the same families ; or, in other words, that the order of 
succession in animals, through all classes and families, agrees 
in a most astonishing measure with the degrees of develop- 
ment of young animals of the present age." Such, on this 
curious and occult subject, are the conclusions of Agassiz ; 
and in some of the specimens on the table the Society may 
see, more distinctly, perhaps, than in any others yet found, 
two of the marked peculiarities of structure on which the 
conclusions are based. Let us see what it is these peculiarities 
actually tell. 

To an external framework of a high order there was added 
in these ancient ganoids an internal framework, partly, or in 
whole, cartilaginous. Such, let me remark, is the fact : all 
the rest is hypothesis. In the Acanths, and aU the Cephalas- 
pians save one genus, the whole internal skeleton was car- 
tilaginous, and has, in consequence, disappeared. In some 
of the Celacanths, the portions of the internal skeleton that 
formed the basis of the double fins, such as the ischiatic 
bones, to which the ventrals were attached, and at least the 
ulna and the style-like bone (clavicle) of the pectorals, were 
osseous ; but we find no trace of the vertebral mechanism, 
whether vertebrae or apophyses. Again, in the Coccosteus, — 
the one exceptional genus of theCephalaspians to which I have 
referred, — we find curiously-jointed apophyses, but no verte- 
brsB. Now, there is no doubt a certain vague analogical sense 
in which we may term the peculiarity of a cartilaginous ver- 
tebral column embryonic. Cartilage in the embryo makes its 
appearance before bona First, mere gelatinous threads harden 


into cartilage, and then the cartilage becomes mottled at cer- 
tain centres with bony points, and gradually ossifies into the 
solid, unyielding substance which forms the internal frame- 
work of all the mammals and reptiles, and of at least two 
great orders of the fishes. As certainly, however, as carti- 
lage makes its appearance before bone in the endo-skeletal parts 
of animals, does bone make its appearance before the forma- 
tion of the dermo-skeletal parts. In two months after con- 
ception, ossification is perceptible in the arms, thighs, and 
lower jaw of the human foetus ; but not until the close of 
the fourth month are there the rudiments of nails perceptible 
on the fingers and toes. In even seventh-month children the 
nails are very defective, there is no hair, and the teeth are 
mere semi-cartilaginous points, buried deep in jaws which 
have acquired the osseous consistency. I' am informed by 
our respected ex-treasurer, Professor Dick, that in the foetus 
of the horse and cow the endo-skeletal parts are formed, in 
like manner, before the dermo-skeletal, — the bony framework 
before the hoofs, hair, and teeth ; in the osseous fishes, too, 
the foetus has escaped for a considerable time from the egg 
ere it is furnished with teeth or scales. As a general rule, 
the development of the dermo-skeletal parts of animals as cer- 
tainly succeeds the ossification of the internal framework, as 
that ossification takes place in a previously-existing frame- 
work of cartilage. But, in direct opposition to this embryo- 
nic law, we find in the ancient ganoids the development of 
the dermo-skeletal parts singularly complete. The external 
skeleton, consisting of scales, plates, spines, and teeth, of solid 
bone, encrusted with an enamel hard enough to turn the keen 
edge of a tool, completely covered the external parts of many 
species of these ancient ganoids, whose internal skeletons 
were either very partially ossified, as in the Coelacanths, or, 
as in the Dipterians and most of the Cephalaspians, were not 
ossified at all. And, looking at this peculiarity, it is quite 


as correct to say that they were remarkable for the non-em- 
bryonic characteristic of a dermal skeleton developed greatly 
in advance of an internal one, as to say, looking at their in- 
ternal framework alone, that they were marked by the em- 
bryonic characteristic of a cartilaginous skeleton.* I would 
humbly suggest that the peculiarity on which the distin- 
guished ichthyologist seems disposed to found so much is 
simply one of those partial resemblances useful in the lite- 
rature of science for purposes of illustration, but which, be- 
cause they fail in certain points, and would inevitably lead 
to error if carried beyond a certain line, cannot be regarded 
as themselves scientific* They belong not to the province of 
science, but to the department of art : they are not things 
to be shown as true, but mere reflected lights by which true 
things may be shown. And in their own proper place, and 
regarded as merely artistic, not scientific, they have unques- 
tionably their usa 

Let me, however, remark, in conclusion, that the distin- 
guished man, — first in his own special walk in the world. 
— whose embryonic views I would at once receive in the cha- 
racter of illustration, but not in the form of a theory ade- 
quately fitted to unlock the scheme of creation, — is, like all 
the practical geologists of the present day, a decided op- 
ponent of the Lamarckian hypothesis of hereditary develop- 
ment. In a reference, in one of his later works, the " Prin- 
ciples of Zoology/' to that chain of progressive being which 
so strangely connects the present with the remote past, we 
find him remarking, that the connection is not to be regarded 
as the consequence of a direct lineage between the faunas of 
different ages. " There is nothing," he adds, " like parental 

* If, likewise, well-ossified vertebra have been in any case united with 
the early ganoid dermo-skeleton, as we have now the best reason to sup- 
pose, the ground is yet more completely cut away from beneath the assert- 
on of foetal development as a key to the history of creation. — L. M- 


descent connecting there. ' The fishes of the Palaeozoic age 
are in no respect the ancestors of the reptiles of the Second- 
ary age, nor does man descend from the mammals which pre- 
ceded him in the Tertiary age. The link by which they are 
connected is of a higher and immaterial nature, and their 
connection is to be sought in the view of the Creator him- 
self, whose aim in forming the earth, in allowing it to under- 
go the successive changes which Geology has pointed out, 
and in creating successively all the different types of animals 
which have passed away, was to introduce man upon the sur- 
face of our globe. Man is the end towards which all the ani- 
mal creation has tended, from the first appearance of the first 
Palaeozoic fishes." Thus far Agassiz. I see not why it should 
be denied him to hold, in addition, that the same great Being 
who in an after period darkly revealed his will in a dispen- 
sation of types and symbols, may have spoken in creation, in 
the early geologic ages, after a similar style of embodied figure 
and allegory. The " Archetypal Idea" of Owen, — " the im- 
material link of connection" of all the past with the present 
which Agassiz resolves into the fore-ordained design of the 
Creator, — may yet be found to resolve themselves into one 
great general truth, viz., that the Palaeozoic and Secondary 
dispensations of creation were charged, like the Patriarchal 
and Mosaic dispensations of grace, with the " shadows of bet- 
ter things to come." Enough of the embryonic may have 
mingled in the structure of the earlier ichthyic vertebrata, to 
indicate, as if by figure, that the time was as yet foetal and 
immature ; and with these, enough of traits higher than the 
merely ichthyic, to foreshow in these uterine ages that higher 
existences, — among the rest, man himself, — were one day to 
come to the birth. But for the purposes of the Lamarckian, 
the so-called foetal peculiarities of the first vertebrates are, as 
I have shown, too largely mingled with other peculiarities of 
a decided anti-foetal character, to be of much avail Further, 


the reptile has now been traced upwards to a period by much, 
too early to serve the purposes of the Lamarckian. There 
are no portions of the Archegosaurus of the Coal Measures bet- 
ter preserved than its vertebrae. The reptile, instead o£ as 
it were, joining on to the fish in the history of creation, 
overlaps it ; and thus the line of descent presumed by the 
Lamarckian is a line cut oi£ 




Read before the British Association, at tlie Meeting held in 

Edinburgh in 1849 

It is my purpose to introduce to the notice of the Associa- 
tion, in this paper, a curious suite of fossils from the Lower 
Old Bed Sandstone of Scotland, many of which are still with- 
out duplicate in the public museums of the empire, and but 
imperfectly represented in those of Russia. In one import- 
ant respect there attaches to them a peculiar interest : they 
belong to the earliest animals of the vertebral division of 
which our knowledge is not so much inferential as direct 
Of the Silurian placoids we can know comparatively little : 
the palaeontologist finds whole families represented by but a 
few defensive spines, a few teeth, or a few shagreen points ; 
and from the resemblance which these minute portions bear 
to corresponding portions in existing placoids can he alone 
decide regarding their structure, form, size, and character. 
He has to acquaint himself with them quite as much through 
the medium of signs as of things, — of minute signs, which he 

* These fossils are likewise at present in the University of Edin- 
burgh, to be arranged when the ne* premises shall have been completed. 
— L. M. 

334 roesiuB fbom the 

most read by the special signification attached to them, or to 
somewhat resembling signs in the existing scene of things. 
He is necessitated to interpret his ancient characters by a mo- 
dern key, whose resolutions are bat approximations : and thus 
his knowledge regarding them most be a knowledge consider- 
ably mingled with uncertainty. With, however, the ganoidal 
order of fishes the case is essentially different From the 
peculiar armature of solid bone in which they were inclosed, 
many of them continue to exist, not as mere teeth, spines, and 
points, but as fishes ; they are thing*, not sign* ; we may ac- 
quaint ourselves as completely with their external forms, and 
even much of their internal structure, as with the forms and 
structure of the fishes which still exist ; and know absolutely, 
from their study, under what peculiarities, and associated with 
what varieties of mechanism, vertebral life existed in the ear- 
lier periods of the world's history. 

Permit me at this stage to illustrate this special point to 
the Association by two sets of specimens, the exhibition of 
which, as some of them are new to Scotland, and some of them 
absolutely so to Geology, will at the same time carry on the 
proper work purposed in my paper. In these fragments of 
Caithness Flagstone there are exhibited the signs, if I may 
so express myselfj of a placoid of the Old Red Sandstone. 
They exist as minute toothed ichthyodorulites, — those of the 
Homocanthu* arcuatus, — which, though found in the Old 
Red Sandstone of Russia, and figured by Agassiz, have only 
very recently been detected in Scotland. I owe them to my 
friend Mr Robert Dick of Thurso, to whom I am also in- 
debted for this other ichthyodorulite of larger size [Spec. -2], 
which bears a considerable resemblance to that of the Hop- 
lacanthus marginalis, another Russian placoid of the Old 
Red, though it may possibly belong to some undescribed spe- 
cies of acanth. In the spine of the' posterior dorsal of 
Spinax acanthus, — the common dog-fish of our coasts, — we 


have one of the modern keys by which these ancient signs 
are interpreted. It tells us that they are true ichthyodoru- 
lites, but leaves us in doubt whether the larger spine, resem- 
bling that of Hopkuxmthus, belonged to a placoid or ganoid, 
and gives us no positive information regarding the structure 
of the creature to which they belonged : we can merely in- 
fer that, perhaps in the degree in which the ancient spines 
resemble those of recent times, the ancient ichthyolite that 
bore them resembled the modern spine-bearing fish. The 
ganoidal remains, on the other hand, we find charged with 
positive, and often very minute information. In this speci- 
men [Spec. 3], specially referred to by Agassiz in his great 
work, and which I have derived from the fish-beds of Cro 
marty, there is the head and upper part of the body of a ga- 
noid preserved, — the Osteolepis miorolepidotus; and it exists, 
not as the mere sign of a fish, but as a considerable portion 
of a fish, from the study of which interesting facts can be 
absolutely determined. It will be seen from the following 
passage what it is that Agassiz has positively determined from 
this very fossil " In a specimen of the Osteolepis microle- 
pidotus" says the distinguished ichthyologist, " which is to 
be seen in the collection of Mr Hugh Miller, three quarters 
of the head are preserved ; and as the superior surface and 
the sides are equally visible, I have succeeded in convin- 
cing myself that the nostrils, which are situated before the 
frontals, are separated in their whole length by a medial su- 
ture, — a peculiarity which in our day is only to be met with 
in the Lepidosteus of America." There are several of the 
other fossils on the table that give equally conclusive evidence 
of the sense of smell, as indicated by the nostrils. 

Let us inquire whether they can tell us aught regarding 
the other senses by which the fishes of the Old Red Sandstone 
took note of the material and external We must, of course 
restrict the inquiry to the four cerebral senses ; for of the 

336 foesiLS from the 

existence in some degree of the universally diffused sense of 
feeling we neither need special evidence, nor can we receive 
any. Even of the existence of one of the cerebral senses, — 
that of taste, — we need expect no satisfactory proof : it is, of 
all the senses, that which fishes are held to possess in the lowest 
degree, and regarding which the comparative anatomist who 
pursues his researches among even the recent fishes succeeds 
in satisfying himself least "Fishes," says Cuvier, in his 
"Animal Kingdom," " can have little sense of taste." " Natu- 
ralists are generally disposed to conclude," says Dr Fleming, 
in his " Philosophy of Zoology," " that the sense of taste can 
scarcely be said to belong to this class of beings." " It does 
not appear," the Doctor adds, "that it is ever used in the 
discrimination of food, and does not furnish any character for 
classification to the ichthyologist" And, of course, what it 
does not furnish to the ichthyologist, who expatiates among 
the living forms, it cannot be expected to present to the stu- 
dent of fossil ichthyology. Even had it left its sign im- 
pressed in the rocks, he could at best only doubtfully recog- 
nise it as indicated by perhaps one or two uncertain foramina. 
Respecting the sense of hearing in the first ganoids, our evi- 
dence is better ; and we find it, on evidence, charged with a 
curious and suggestive fact The organs of hearing in the 
placoids, — sharks and rays, — differ considerably from those 
in the osseous fishes. The auricular passage opens externally, 
as in the reptiles ; and the internal ear consists of a chamber 
of considerable size, walled off from that of the brain by a car- 
tilaginous partition. The brain-pan exists as a central cham- 
ber, and the internal ears as two large closets placed beside 
and behind it, and each furnished with its separate passage 
that opens towards the nape. In the osseous fishes, on the 
other hand, the organs of hearing have no communication 
with the external surface, and they lodge in the same great 
chamber which accommodates the brain : they are at least 


separated from it by but a thin film. Now, it is a curious fact, 
that in an ancient ganoid of the Lower (Middle) Old Bed 
[Spec. 4], still unfurnished with a name, we may detect organs 
of hearing akin to those of the placoids, — more especially to 
those of the sharks. Under this occipital plate we find the 
upper part of a brain-chamber, surrounded by strong walls of 
bone ; immediately behind, we find the chambers of the in- 
ternal ears, with fragments of the comparatively slim parti- 
tions which separated them from that anterior portion of the 
spine which traversed the posterior part of the occiput Ex- 
actly as in the shark, too, we have the auricular passages open- 
ing backwards, and presenting at their outer end the same 
angular form as in the dog-fish. It is surely interesting to 
be thus enabled to determine that the earliest ganoids of 
which we know anything were connected by very striking 
affinities to the placoids. There are several of the speci- 
mens on the table that exhibit the openings through which 
the eyes once looked out [Spec. 5]; and there are a good 
many more in my collection at horn a In Pterichthys even 
the capsules are occasionally preserved. They are preserved 
in a Gamrie specimen figured in the " Geological Journal" 
for November 1848, by Sir Philip Egerton, and in a Dura 
Den specimen belonging to Mrs Bonar of Cupar Fife [Spec. 6], 
of whieh she has kindly given me the use. The form of the 
eye-orbit in these ganoids was various : in the Pterichthys it 
was circular ; it approximated in the Asterolepis to triangu- 
lar ; it was lentiform in the Coccosteus, and elliptical in the 
IHplopteru*. I need scarce remind the Association that the 
elliptical and lenticular forms are the prevailing ones among 
existing placoids. In short, to conclude this part of my sub- 
ject, we have in the specimens before us evidence of at least 
three senses with which these ancient fishes took note, in an 
incalculably remote period, of the sights, sounds, and odours 
of the material world. 



The interior head of the unnamed ganoid whose auricular 
organs we have just examined, resembled, we have seen, that 
of a shark ; the interior head of another and better known 
ganoid of the same formation, — the Dipterus, — seems to have 
resembled that of the sturgeon. It was covered externally 
by strong osseous plates, but occupied within by a continuous 
mass of cartilage, in the middle of which we find the brain- 
pan scooped out like a cell in a sandbank, and the cerebral 
portion of the spinal cord communicating with it through a 
conical-shaped tube bent upwards, and wide at the nape, but 
narrower where it enters the brain-chamber. I have else- 
where compared this conical-shaped tube to the interior of a 
miniature buglehorn ; a second specimen, which I disinterred 
last autumn from among the rocks of Thurso [Spec. 8], exhi- 
bits a cross section of this spinal tube, and indicates the up- 
ward bend from a different point of view. In the unnamed 
ganoid the bend of the spinal tube seems to have been directed 

Let me next remark, that the base of the skull differs 
greatly among the different fishes which still inhabit our seas. 
It is flat in the rays ; less flat in the sharks ; while in most 
of the osseous fishes it exists as a narrow ridge, composed of 
three bones, — the base occipital bone, the sphenoid bone, and 
the vomer. In most of the ordinary fishes, the sphenoid bone 
is a mere beam, and it assumes nearly the same beam-like 
form in one of the most characteristic of existing ganoids, 
— the Lepido8teu8. Now, among the ganoids of the Old 
Red Sandstone we find cranial bases of both the broad and 
the narrow type. I stated, in my little work on the Aste- 
rolepis, that I had no better evidence that some of the in- 
ternal bones figured belonged to that ichthyolite, than that 
they occur in the same beds with the dermal plates, which 
bear the characteristic star-like markings, — that they are of 
considerable size, — and that they formed no part of the known 


fishes of the formation. I stated farther, that from the existence 
of two kinds of large coprolites [Spec. 9] in the deposits, — the 
one traversed by spiral markings, the other by longitudinal 
striae, — and from several other appearances, I suspected there 
had been at least one other large fish contemporary with the 
Asterolepis. Last autumn I satisfied myself that such had 
been actually the case, and that at least two of the internal 
bones which I had figured, — mayhap three, — had not be- 
longed to the Aaterolepis. One of the two is, I have con- 
vinced myself from the examination of more entire specimens 
since found, and the study of the head of Diplopterus [Spec. 
10.], a sphenoid bone of the beam-like type ; and the lateral 
expansions, which I have described as resembling the barbed 
portion of the head of an ancient dart or arrow, correspond, 
I doubt not, to the somewhat similar expansion on the 
inner or occipital end of the sphenoid bone of the Lepidos- 
Uu8. The anterior or vomer end thus broadens and branches 
out into two forks, and seems to have rested on the interior 
part of the snout, — the homologue, in some of these ancient 
fishes, of the vomer. The Diplopterus [Spec. 1 1 J as shown by 
some of my newly-acquired specimens, possessed a sphenoid 
bone of the beam-like form, which was forked at its anterior 
termination, and attached its two forks to two crescent-shaped 
ridges, armed with teeth. The larger sphenoid bones exhi- 
bited did not, however, belong to the Diplopterus, but to some 
unknown fish. 'Even among these we find varieties of form, 
which may possibly indicate difference of species. The sphe- 
noid bone of the haddock is not more unlike that of the coal- 
fish or the cod, than one of the fossil sphenoids before us is 
unlike one of the others. [Spec. 12.] 

There were at least two genera of the Old Bed, — the Dip- 
terns and Asterolepw, — whose skulls were of the broad-based 
type. The existence of an interesting peculiarity of the ga- 
noidal head, exemplified in the base of the head of Diptervs, 

340 rossiLs from ths 

and which that of Asterolepi* also illustrates, I suspected, 
bat was not prepared to establish, a few months ago, when I 
published my little work, the " Foot-prints ;" but from spe- 
cimens since found, it can now, I think, be substantiated. In 
most of the placoids, the teeth ranged along their jaws or 
palates, and the shagreen points spread over their skins, seem 
equally of dermal origin, and can be stripped off with the 
integuments on which they rest And so nearly do they ap- 
proach in character, that there are cases in which they can 
scarce be distinguished : the teeth may be taken for shagreen 
points, or the shagreen points for teeth. This is strikingly 
the case in Cestracion Phillipi (the Port-Jackson shark). We 
find immediately within the more characteristic pavement 
teeth of the animal, osseous points of an irregularly cruciform 
shape, that might be mistaken for the osseous points, also 
irregularly cruciform, that form the shagreen which covers 
Its back and sides ; and the palate of Squatina (the angel 
fish) bristles as thickly with a shagreen hardly distinguish- 
able from that which the creature wears outside, as any part 
of its body. Now, in the base of the head of Dipterus [Spec. 1 3], 
immediately between its angular patches of palatal teeth, we 
find exactly the same glossy enamel as that which covers its 
dermal plates and scales ; the *kin within the mouth, if one 
may so speak, completely corresponds with the skin outside. 
We find it bearing the same rich gloss, and punctulated by 
the same microscopic tubes. There occurs what seems to be 
a similar reproduction of dermal peculiarities within the 
mouth of the Asterolepis. It was lined with osseous plates, 
identical in their internal character with those which covered 
the head externally, and, like them too, was thickly fretted by 
tubercles, which in the older and larger individuals assumed 
the normal star-like character, and in both young and old 
manifested a tendency, where they approached the true teeth, to 
assume tooth-like forms, [Spec. 1 4.] The base of the head in 


Asterolepis was of great breadth, — greater proportionally than 
even that of the ray ; and the middle of the palate was oc- 
cupied by a thiokly-tubercled, well-marked plate, of which I 
have possessed fragments for years, but whose place and form 
I have only recently ascertained, by means of a magnificent 
specimen now on the table, sent me by Mr Dick. [Spec 15.] 
That tendency in dermal tubercles to assume in some of the 
ancient ganoids the form of teeth, and of teeth to assume in 
some of the existing plaooids the appearance of dermal sha- 
green, is a curious and surely not uninstructive circumstance ; 
and it seems to throw light on some otherwise puzeling pecu- 
liarities in the dental structure of iohthyolites, such as the 
Coccosteus and Asterolepis. The teeth of Ooccosteus, espe- 
cially those placed so uniquely in the symphysis (of which 
more anon), and all the iohthyic teeth of Asterolepis, seem 
to be scarce less mere continuations of the osseous plates on 
which they are based, than the external tuberoles of these 
same plates. A very dissimilar state of things obtains among 
our ordinary fishes of the present time : the teeth are of a 
different formation from the bone on which they rest, and, in 
at least their earlier stages of growth, wholly independent of 
it ; but be it remembered that, as in the existing placoids 
teeth and shagreen are alike of dermal origin, so in not a few 
of the ancient ganoids teeth and tubercles were alike of 
dermo-osseous origin. The plates on which they grew acted 
as portions of jaws and palates, but they also represented 
skins, and differed very materially, in consequence, from the 
skin-covered jaws of the ordinary fishes. 

In referring to the jaws of the earlier ganoids, I would 
first remark, that in the ordinary fishes the under jaw usual- 
ly consists of four bones, — two on each side ; whereas in the 
placoids, — sharks and rays,— it is composed, as in most of the 
mammalia, of but two bones, — one on each side. In man 
it forms but a single bone, which, however, in even the latter 


stages of the foetal state, continues to manifest the usual mam- 
malian character, by presenting a strongly indicated suture at 
the symphysis, the mark of which can be traced, in at least 
the interior of the jaw, throughout life. Now, in the first 
ganoids, the under jaw usually consisted, as in the placoids 
and most of the mammalia, of two bones, — one on each side. 
Such was its character in the genera Asterolepis, GlyptoUpie, 
Osteolepis, DiploptertiSy and Coccosteu*. There was, however 
at least one of the ganoidal contemporaries of these fishes, — 
the Dipterus [Spec. 1 6], — in which the under jaw formed, as in 
the human subject, a single bone. In the fatal state it consist- 
ed apparently of three bones, one on each side, and a central 
or keybone ; at least a line of foramina seems to indicate that 
on either side there had once existed a suture ; but in all 
the more perfect specimens of Dipteri yet found, the lower 
jaw, as a whole, is but one bone. In general form, though 
not in this circumstance of unity, it resembled, seen from be- 
low, the under jaw of some of the grampus family ; and it 
must altogether, especially in the well-defined character of its 
condyloid and coronoid processes, have been more like the jaw 
of a mammal than that of a fish. [Spec 1 7.] In most of the or- 
dinary fishes, the hinging of the jaw, if I may so speak, is part- 
ly osseous, partly cartilaginous : in these, too, and in the pla- 
coids, what may be termed the male half of the hinge belongs 
to the head, and the female half to the jaw. In the mam- 
malia, on the contrary, the hinge is altogether formed of solid 
bone, and the male and female halves of the hinge change 
places, — the male half being that of the jaw, and the female 
half scooped out of the head This is strikingly the case in 
the head of the badger, in which the joint is so complete, and 
the cranial socket so thoroughly envelopes the condyloid ball, 
that without fracture dislocation of the jaw is impossible. It 
is also very complete, though less so in the head of the hyena ; 
and there are indeed few mammals that do not present an 


approximation less or more remote in the jaw hinge to the 
ball and socket mechanism. Now, in this respect the 
Dipteru8 resembled the mammalia. As shown in an inte- 
resting specimen which I disinterred last autumn from among 
the rocks of Thurso, the condyles, as might be judged from 
their character, were fitted into well-defined sockets in the 
base of the skull. The same specimen also shows, better 
than any other I have yet seen, the various bones of which 
the base of the head consisted. 

The under jaw of the Asterolepis, which, like that of the 
placoids and of most mammals, consisted, as I have said, of 
two pieces, was hinged after a different fashion. The jaw 
of Lepidostms osseus is fitted into two lateral sockets, in 
each containing two antagonistic processes, on one of which 
the jaw shuts and opens, while the other serves as a check 
to preserve it from opening beyond a certain width. Were 
it to be forcibly expanded beyond the point at which the 
checking process comes into operation, fracture would en- 
sue. Now, as shown by a singularly interesting specimen 
which I found last autumn near Thurso, the jaw of Asterolepis 
was fitted into sockets furnished with antagonistic processes. 
[Spec. 18.] The plate on which these occur presents a curious 
subject of study to the comparative anatomist. As shown 
by the star-like markings on its outer side, it was a dermal 
bone ; while, as shown by the two processes in the jaw-socket, 
and the strong ridge on its interior surface, it performed in 
the osteological mechanism of the animal the part of an in- 
ternal one. The union, or rather identity, of the dermal 
plate with the internal bone, though rare among the verte- 
brates now, was by no means so in the first ganoidal ages. I 
may, however, instance, as an example among existing fishes, 
the scapula of the L&pidostew osseus. It is externally a 
naked oblong scale, and internally a true bone, deeply im- 
bedded among the cervical muscles. Two specimens on the 

344 fossils from the 

table [Spec 1 9], — style-like bones connected with the scapular 
belt of AsterolepiS) and which Owen regards, when present 
in our existing fishes, as the homologue of the clavicle, and 
Cuvier as that of the coracoidan bone, — illustrate this pecu- 
liarity in a manner equally striking : the head of each style 
bears the star-like markings, while its body must have tra- 
versed, like that of its analogue in the ordinary fishes, the 
integuments of the abdomen. In one specimen of Asterolepi* 
before us, which I lately received from Mr Dick; and which 
exhibits several portions of the head not previously shown, 
there appear what seem to be the upper maxillary bones of 
the animal [large spec 20], — bones which, in some of its con- 
temporaries, such as the Dipterus, Osteolepis, and Diplopteru*, 
were wanting. In Osteolepia and Diplopterus, the interior 
end of each intermaxillary rested in a groove delicately chi- 
selled on the side of the snout ; and we find no place for 
upper maxillaries, and no use for them. [Spec 21.] 

In the new ichthyolite, still unfumished with a name, the 
under jaw consisted of at least four bones ; judging from 
appearances, and the analogy furnished by the central key of 
the under jaw of Dipterus, I am inclined to think, of five. 
There were two pieces on each side [Spec 22], not pieced to- 
gether transversely, as in the jaws of the ordinary fishes, but 
longitudinally, — the slimmer of the two forming a sort of 
nether intermaxillary bone, which composed what I may term 
the creature's under lip, and contained a row of ichthyic teeth. 
It was not a free bone, like the true intermaxillaries ; but we 
find it not unfrequently disunited from the massier bone on 
which it rested, and embedded in a detached form among the 
rocks. [Spec 23.] The Holoptychius of the Upper Old Red 
Sau dstone was also furnished, as shown by one of my specimens, 
with a nether intermaxillary of the character which seems to 
have been greatly more slender, in proportion to its length, 
than that of the unnamed fish, and was simply a slip oi lath of 


bone laid along the upper edge of the jaw, and set thick with 
ichthyic teeth, A curiously shaped bone, which must* from 
its form, have occupied a medial place in the jaw to which it 
belonged, and which bears the dermal markings of the un- 
known fish, formed in all probability a central key in the 
creature's nether jaw. [Spec. 24.] The provision seems a 
curious one. And yet, strange as such a structure of jaw must 
be deemed, it was not by any means the strangest furnished 
by the Old Bed Sandstone, 

It is the under jaw of the Coccosteua that must be regarded 
as the most extraordinary of the period, — perhaps of any pe- 
riod. It consisted of two bones,— one on each side, — which 
were furnished each with its group of from five to eight teeth, 
placed exactly where in the human subject the molars occur. 
And these groupes seem to have acted against corresponding 
groupes in the upper jaw. But at right angles with these 
molar groupes, exactly in the symphysis, there was another 
group of teeth from three to five in number ; and these, so 
far as appears, could not have acted against teeth placed in 
the upper jaw, but were directly opposed, the terminal group 
in the one bone that formed the half jaw, to the terminal 
group in the other jaw. [Spec. 25.] I called the attention of 
palaeontologists, about nine years ago, to something very pe- 
culiar in the jaws of Coccosteus, and solicited inquiry respect- 
ing them ; but the restoration of Agassiz, who had been mis- 
led by imperfect specimens, several of them derived from my 
own collection, had been regarded as determining the point 
against the peculiarity ; and it was only during the last sea- 
son that I was enabled to demonstrate from newly-found Goo 
costei that it in reality existed. One of the best of these I 
owe to a lady of Cromarty, Mrs James Hill, — an intelligent 
geologist and successful collector. [Spec. 26.] The teeth of the 
CoccosteuSy viewed as prepared transferences in the microscope, 
somewhat resemble those of a Bybodus of the Oolite, which I 


have found occurring in considerable numbers in a shelly de- 
posit of the island of Eigg ; and are of great interest and 
beauty. They are formed of true bone, and thickly sprinkled 
over, towards their bases, with the characteristic life-points ; 
whereas towards the apex they abound in anastomising canals, 
which throw out to the sides and points of each tooth nume- 
rous minute, nearly parallel branches, that give to the bone 
in these parts a structure very much approximating to ivory. 
It would seem as if in these ancient teeth we had caught bone 
passing into that finer substance of which the teeth of all 
the higher vertebrate, and all the reptile teeth of all the sau- 
roid fishes of the Coal Measures, are composed. 

My earlier found specimens of Coccosteus, which indicated 
this marked peculiarity in the setting of the teeth, were in 
so imperfect a state of keeping, that I could not demonstrate 
its existence. I may, however, be permitted to state to the 
Association the line of inference on which I deemed myself 
justified in soliciting inquiry regarding it ; and my first, and, 
for about nine years, only reference to it, amounted to no 
more. In three specimens of jaws, unlucky fractures sepa- 
rated the anterior portion, containing the teeth in the sym- 
physis, from the middle portion, containing the teeth of the 
molar region ; and though all three presented the peculiarity 
of position which seems to render it impossible' that the two 
groupes could have acted in the same plane, or with the same 
action of the condyles, it was of course possible that the pe- 
culiarity was an effect of misplacement. The chances, how- 
ever, against the occurrence of exactly the same misplacement 
in three jaws seemed very considerable; — each of the ante- 
rior pieces of jaw separated by the fracture had four sides, only 
one of which was furnished with teeth. It was as one chance 
out of four, then, that these teeth should be presented in one 
of the jaws (supposing the misplacement of the fractured piece) 
in the line of the symphysis ; — it was as one chance out of 


sixteen that they should be presented in the symphysis of two 
of the jaws ; — it was as one chance out of sixty-four that they 
should be presented in the symphysis of three of the jaws ; 
— and that the fractured pieces should be retained so exactly 
in the lines, each of its jaw, while in the ordinary contingen- 
cies of misplacement they might have been shifted to any part 
of the stone, or that they should have been all turned round 
in the same angle, furnished, of course, other and still more 
formidable sets of chances against the hypothesis of misplace- 
ment Nor did it seem legitimate to oppose to these another 
set of chances, by arguing that the jaws of many thousands 
of the vertebrata were well known, and that none of them 
presented a character so anomalous ; seeing that this mode 
of argument would equally militate against all these possibili- 
ties of creation, which the earlier anatomists would have re- 
garded as very anomalous indeed, but which the researches 
of the palaeontologists have since fully realized. Such a strange 
combination of parts as occurs in the IchXhyosawrus or Plesio- 
saurus is scarce less anomalous, measured by what now ex- 
ists in the vertebral sub-kingdom, than such a structure of 
jaw as that exemplified in the Coccosteus. Such were some 
of my reasonings on the subject, and the result has shown 
that they were not wholly incorrect. But the peculiarity of 
the jaws of this ancient fish being now determined on surer 
grounds than can be supplied by any line of mere inference, 
I leave to the naturalist the consideration of its meaning and 

I may be permitted, however, one other remark regarding 
this jaw. From the character of its surface on both sides, it 
seems to have been covered, like jaws of the more modern 
type, by integuments. It was altogether an internal, not 
a dermal bone; and is, so far as I know, the oldest internal 
bone that has yet presented its structure to the microscope. 
And it is surely not uninteresting to see the osseous substance, 

348 vossra fbom th* 

—destined to perform so important a part in the animal eco- 
nomy, — presenting in this early age its distinguishing cha- 
racteristics ; in especial, those numerous life-points from 
which its organization begins, and which btill remain open, as 
the sheltering cells in which vitality should reside. Was it 
impossible in the nature of things that life should be equal- 
ly diffused over hard and rigid earth, built up into this new 
animal substance, bone % and was it therefore merely thick- 
ly sown over it in hollow microscopic points % Is bone a 
thing rather strongly garrisoned by vitality, than itself vital ? 
There are laid on the table, among the other Old Red Sand- 
stone fossils, specimens of a well-marked though doubtfully in- 
terpreted bone, which, in all the osseous fishes, and in almost 
all the ganoids, forms the largest and most important part of 
the scapular belt or ring. [Spec. 27.] In common parlance, 
and at our tables, it bears the name of the shoulder-bone, — 
a name, however, which properly belongs to the much smaller 
bone attached to it above by a squamose joining, and which 
is similarly attached, in turn, to the forked super-scapular bone 
which fixes the scapular belt to the head. This massy bone, 
—in most of the osseous fishes one of the largest which oc- 
curs in the skeleton, — whether we regard it, with Professor 
Owen, as coracoidan, or, with Mr James Wilson, as the 
humerus, or leave, with Agassi^ its homologues undeter- 
mined, — is evidently of great importance in the ichthyic 
economy, as at once furnishing a base to the pectorals, a 
strengthening belt to the abdomen, like that furnished in the 
higher animals by the bones of the breast and sides, and as 
supplying, yet further, a firm, unyielding basement on which 
the gill-covers may fit tightly down. In all our existing 
placoids of the shark type, if we except the genus chimsera, 
which does not appear in geologic history until after the com- 
mencement of the Secondary ages, the scapular arch is placed, 
as in birds and mammals, at a considerable distance from the 


head ;— all the placoids, in short, that expire the water taken 
in for respiratory purposes through more than one gill-open- 
ing on each side, possess that disposition of the scapular belt 
which is its prevailing place in the vertebrata. And from 
this general type, the arrangement which, in all fishes fur- 
nished with but one gill-opening on each side, fixes it to the 
back of the head, seems to be an aberration. Judging from 
all we yet know, the placoids of the Silurian system were 
fishes in which the aberration did not occur : their analogues 
lie not with the Chimerides, but with the Cestracionts ; and 
so, reasoning from our acquaintance with these fishes as they 
now exist, — of course under that protest, — against the obscu- 
rity incident on reasoning from the known to the unknown, 
to which I have referred, we infer that in their first proto- 
types, as in the mammals, the birds, the reptiles, the sharks, 
and the rays, the scapular arch was not attached to the head, 
but occupied its ordinary place down along the vertebrae. 
Our earliest examples of misplaced scapular belts or cinctures, 
—of scapular belts removed upwards, and fixed to the back 
of the head,— occur in those fossiliferous beds of the Old 
Bed Sandstone in which fishes furnished with gill-covers 
and single gill-openings on each side first appear. Some of 
the specimens on the table are perhaps the most ancient ex- 
amples of this coracoidan bone yet found.* 

"We find in Professor Owen's work on limbs some of the 
profoundest thinking on this subject to which the compara- 
tive anatomist has yet attained. When spending a happy 

* If both placoids and ganoids had their origin about the same pe- 
riod, as is most probable, or if ganoids really had the start, as they 
have now, by a single stage of discovery, this theory of misplacement as 
a mark of degradation will not hold. We infer from the position of the 
pectorals in Cephalaspis, immediately under the gill-covers, that it was 
constituted, in respect of the scapular belt, like other-ganoids. The pas- 
sage following, — a piece of pure reasoning, irrespective of precedence,— 
forms orobably the true solution. — L. M. 


day among the rocks of Thurso in disinterring some of these 
very specimens, it occ ur red to me to inquire whether toe 
misplacement of the thoracic cincture, — now for the first 
time apparent among the rocks, — might not have a simpler 
as well as a more complex reading like those chapters of the 
sacred volume that, while charged with high mystery for the 
future to read, had also their plain, easily-understood lessons 
for the men of the age in which they were first promulgated. 
What, I asked, may be the simpler meaning of this strange 
aberration, now so prevalent in the ichthyic kingdom f and 
my thoughts in reply to the query arranged themselves thus : 
— In fishes in which the gills are fixed, and the gill-openings 
small and numerous, the common action of the muscles, un- 
assisted by any extraordinary mechanism, seems sufficient to 
carry on the work of respiration, and to regulate the open- 
ing and shutting of the sluices through which the water must 
be expired, but through which it must not be inhaled. But 
when the openings are restricted to two, and are compara- 
tively of large size, we find that the important mechanism of 
a gill-cover is required, and of a strong well- fitted band of 
bone on which the cover may tightly fasten down, In order 
to shut a box firmly, and with precision, it is not only neces- 
sary that its lid and sides should be well fitted, but that 
they should also possess considerable rigidity of substance. 
And this rigidity of substance the gill-cover — or box-lid of 
my illustration — always possesses. It is usually composed, 
in the earlier ganoids, of one, two, or more plates of enamel- 
led bone, completely united and delicately hinged. But how 
impart the necessary rigidity to these soft abdominal integu- 
ments, on which, from their latero-ventral position, the gill- 
covers must necessarily rest ? Without some means of im- 
parting rigidity to these (the sides of the box), the rigidity 
of the lid would be of no avail ; the gill-openings would ad- 
mit the water; and the fish, when exposed to powerful 


-waves or strong currents, would infallibly perish. For it is 
a fact of which every angler who, in killing his salmon, takes 
care to keep its head down the stream, is well aware, that 
fishes can be as certainly drowned in their own element by 
reversing the coarse of the respiratory current, and sending 
it through the gill-openings to the mouth, as any of the air- 
breathing vertebrata by ordinary immersion. Nature, how- 
ever, imparts the necessary solidity to the soft abdominal 
parts ; and this, not by the introduction of a new bit of 
mechanism into the ichthyic skeleton, — for she is always 
chary of introducing new pieces into her machine,— but by 
altering, adapting, and imparting a new function to a pre- 
viously existing piece. Such is the mode, 1 say, in which 
Nature works. Let us remark, by way of illustration, how 
many various functions, as we ascend in the scale of verte- 
brate existence, we find her making one little organ — the 
tongue — perform. In the fish we see it fixed, and not un- 
frequently teeth-covered. It mayhap serves in this class, — 
though, as already remarked, in a very low degree, — as an 
organ of taste, and forms the base on which certain food-de- 
taining hooks or thorns are placed. Higher up in the scale 
we find an insectivorous reptile, — the chameleon, — that re- 
quires a javelin-like organ, with which to strike down and 
seize its light-winged prey. It receives, not a new organ, but 
a modification of an old one, — the tongue ; and the required 
javelin is placed at its command. Higher still we perceive 
that the herbivorous mammal stands in need of an organ 
with which to turn round its food in its mouth* so that the 
grinders may be brought to bear upon every portion of it in 
succession. And here another modification of the tongue 
takes place, and the mammal is furnished, in consequence, with 
the necessary organ. We go higher still. It is essential that 
thinking, reasoning man have an instrument of speech by 
which to convey his thoughts in words, and give expression 


to his wants and desires: a yet further modification of the 
tongue takes place ; the end is attained, and man communi- 
cates his mind to his fellows. Now, it seems to be on this 
principle of adapting previously existing parts, with definite 
Amotions assigned to them, to entirely new uses, that the 
scapular belt is brought forward, in the ganoids and the ordi- 
nary fishes, from what is itB normal place in the placoids and 
the higher vertebrata, and made fast to the cranium in the 
character of an opercular cincture. It serves also in thi* 
position to strengthen, by its attachments at the isthmus and 
super-scapular bones, what would be otherwise, from the great 
size of the gill-openings, a weak part of the animal And 
its original use as a base of the pectorals it continues to 
serve as fully and adequately in its position of misplacement, 
as if it had been applied to no other. Such seems to be the 
simpler reading of the riddle furnished by that ichthyic at- 
tachment of the scapular belt to the skull, which Nature has 
adopted in the mechanism of the ganoid fishes. 


SEP 2 '.' 1919 






7 * 


MOV 271940