WCP4105

Letter (WCP4105.4114)

[1]

Pen-y-bryn, St Peter’s Road, Croydon.

Nov[embe]r. 8th. 1880

My dear Darwin

Many thanks for your kind remarks & notes on my book. Several of the latter will be of use to me if I have to prepare a second Edition, which I am not so sure of as you seem to be.

1. In your remark as to the doubtfulness of paucity of fossils being due to coldness of water, I think you overlook that I am speaking only of waters in the latitude of the Alps, in Miocene and Eocene times, when icebergs and glaciers temporarily descended into an otherwise warm sea; — my theory being that there was no glacial epoch at that time but merely a local and temporary descent of the snowline & glaciers owing to high excentricity & winter in aphelion.

[2] 2. I cannot see the difficulty about the cessation of the glacial period. Between the Miocene and the Pleistocene periods geographical changes occurred which rendered a true glacial period possible with high excentricity. When the high excentricity passed away the glacial epoch also passed away in the temperate zone; — but it persists in the Arctic zone where, during the Miocene there were mild climates, & this is due to the persistence of the changed geographical conditions. The present arctic climate is itself a comparatively new and abnormal state of things due to geographical modification.

As to "epoch" & "period" I use them as synonyms to avoid repeating the same word.

3. Rate of deposition & geological time. There no doubt I may have gone to [3] an extreme, but my "28 million years" may be anything under 100 millions, as I state. There is an enormous difference between mean and maximum denudation & deposition. In the case of the great faults the upheaval along a given line would itself facilitate the denudation (whether subaerial or marine) of the upheaved portion at a rate perhaps a hundred times above the average, just as valleys have been denuded perhaps a hundred times faster than plains & plateaux. So, local subsidence might itself lead to very rapid deposition. Suppose a portion of the Gulf of Mexico near the mouths of the Mississippi were to subside for a few thousand years, it might receive the greater part of the sediment from the whole Mississippi valley & thus form strata at a very rapid rate.

[4] 4. You quote the Pampas thistles &c. against my statement of the importance of preoccupation. But I am referring especially to St. Helena, and to plants naturally introduced from the adjacent continents. Surely, if a certain number of African plants reached the island and became modified into a complete adaptation to its climatic conditions they would hardly be expelled by other African plants arriving subsequently. They might be so, conceivably, but it does not seem probable. The cases of the Pampas, New Zealand, Tahiti &c. are very different where highly developed aggressive plants have been artificially introduced — Under nature it is these very aggressive species that would first reach any island in their vicinity, & being adapted to the island and colonising it thoroughly would then hold their own against other plants from the same country, mostly less aggressive in character.

I have not explained this so fully as I sh[oul]d have done in the book. Your criticism is therefore useful.

[5] 5. My Chap[ter] XXIII. is no doubt very speculative and I cannot wonder at your hesitating at accepting my views. To me however your theory of hosts of existing species migrating over the tropical lowlands from the N[orth] temperate to the S[outh] temperate zone appears more speculative & more improbable. For, where could the rich lowland equatorial flora have existed during a period of general refrigeration sufficient for this? and what became of the wonderfully rich Cape Flora which, if the temperature of Tropical Africa had been so recently lowered would certainly have spread northwards & on the return of the heat could hardly have been driven back into the sharply [6] defined and very restricted area in which it now exists.

As to the migration of plants from mountain to mountain not being so probable as to remote islands, I think that is fully counterbalanced by two considerations:

a. The area and abundance of the mountain stations along such a range as the Andes are immensely greater thatn thatose of the islands in the N[orth] Atlantic for example.

b. The temporary occupation of mountain stations by migrating plants (which I think I have shown to be probable) renders time a much more important element in increasing the number & variety of the plants [7] so dispersed than in the case of islands, where the flora soon acquires a fixed and endemic character, & where the number of species is necessarily limited.

No doubt direct evidence of seeds being carried great distances through the air is wanted but I am afraid can hardly be obtained. Yet I feel the greatest confidence that they are so carried. Take for instance the two peculiar orchids of the Azores (Habinaria sp[ecies]), what other mode of transit is conceivable? The whole subject is one of great difficulty, but I hope my chapter may call attention to a hitherto neglected factor in the distribution of plants.

Your referenceds to the Mauritius [8] literature are very interesting, & will be useful to me, & again thanking you for your valuable remarks

Believe me | Yours very faithfully | Alfred R. Wallace [signature]

Transcription (WCP4105.4471)

[1] 1

To C. Darwin.) Pen-y-bryn, St. Peter's Road, Braydon.

Nov. 8th. 1880

My dear Darwin Many thanks for your kind remarks & notes on my book. Several of the latter will be of use to me if I have to prepare a second Edition, which I am not so sure of as you seem to be.

1. In your remark as to the doubtfulness of paucity of fossils being due to coldness of water, I think your overlook that I am speaking o only of waters in the latitude of the Alps, in Miocene & Eocene times when icebergs and glaciers temporarily descended into an otherwise warm sea; — my theory being there are no glacial epoch at that time but merely a local and temporary descent of the snow line & gl glaciers owing to high excentricity & winter in aphelion.

2. I cannot see the difficulty about the cessation of the glacial period. Between the Miocene and Pleistocene periods geographical changes occurred which rendered a true glacial period possible with high excentricity2. When the high excentricity passed away the glacial epoch also passed away in the temperate zones — but it persists in the Arctic zone where during the Miocene there were mild climates, & this is due to the persistence of the changed geographical conditions. The present Arctic climate is itself a comparatively new and abnormal state of things due to geographical modification. As to "Epoch" & "period" I use them as synonyms to avoid repeating the same word.

3. Rate of deposit & geologcal time. There no doubt I may have gone to an extreme, but my "28 million years" may be anything under 100 millions, as I state. There is an enormous difference between a mean and maximum denudation & deposition. In the case of the great faults the upheaval along a given line would itself facilitate the denudation (whether subaerial or marine) of the upheaved portion at a rate perhaps a hundred times faster than plains and plateaux. So, local subsidence might itself lead to very rapid deposition. Suppose a portion of the Gulf of Mexico near the mouth of the Mississippi were to subside for a few thousand years, it might receive the greater part of the sediment from the whole Mississippi valley and thus form strata at a very rapid rate.

4. You quote the Pampas thistles etc. against my statement of the

[2]3 C. Darwin. Nov. 8th. 1880.)

No doubt direct evidence of seeds being carried great distances through the air is wanted but I am afraid can hardly be obtained. Yet I feel the greatest confidence that they are so carried. Take f for instance the two peculiar orchids of the Azores (Habinaria sp.), what other mode of transit is conceivable? The whole subject is one of great difficulty, but I hope my chapter may call attention to a hitherto neglected factor in the distribution of plants.

Your references to the Mauritius literature are very interesting, & will be useful to me, & again thanking you for your valuable remarks[.] Believe me Yours very faithfully | Alfred R. Wallace.

A page number "(1)" is given at the top centre of page 1.
Archaic form of eccentricity.
A page number "(3)" is given at the top centre of page 2 suggesting that Page 2 is missing. The disjointed flow of the content confirms this.

Transcription (WCP4105.5174)

[1] 1

To C. Darwin.) Pen-y-bryn, St. Peter's Road, Braydon.

Nov. 8th. 1880

My dear Darwin Many thanks for your kind remarks & notes on my book. Several of the latter will be of use to me if I have to prepare a second Edition, which I am not so sure of as you seem to be.

1. In your remark as to the doubtfulness of paucity of fossils being due to coldness of water, I think your overlook that I am speaking o only of waters in the latitude of the Alps, in Miocene & Eocene times when icebergs and glaciers temporarily descended into an otherwise warm sea; — my theory being there are no glacial epoch at that time but merely a local and temporary descent of the snow line & gl glaciers owing to high excentricity & winter in aphelion.

2. I cannot see the difficulty about the cessation of the glacial period. Between the Miocene and Pleistocene periods geographical changes occurred which rendered a true glacial period possible with high excentricity2. When the high excentricity passed away the glacial epoch also passed away in the temperate zones — but it persists in the Arctic zone where during the Miocene there were mild climates, & this is due to the persistence of the changed geographical conditions. The present Arctic climate is itself a comparatively new and abnormal state of things due to geographical modification. As to "Epoch" & "period" I use them as synonyms to avoid repeating the same word.

3. Rate of deposit & geologcal time. There no doubt I may have gone to an extreme, but my "28 million years" may be anything under 100 millions, as I state. There is an enormous difference between a mean and maximum denudation & deposition. In the case of the great faults the upheaval along a given line would itself facilitate the denudation (whether subaerial or marine) of the upheaved portion at a rate perhaps a hundred times faster than plains and plateaux. So, local subsidence might itself lead to very rapid deposition. Suppose a portion of the Gulf of Mexico near the mouth of the Mississippi were to subside for a few thousand years, it might receive the greater part of the sediment from the whole Mississippi valley and thus form strata at a very rapid rate.

4. You quote the Pampas thistles etc. against my statement of the

[2]3 To C. Darwin. Nov. 8th. 1880.)

importance of preoccupation. But I am referring especially to St. Helena, and to plants naturally introduced from the adjacent continents. Surely if a certain number of African plants reached the island and became modified into a complete adaptation to the its climatic conditions they would hardly be expelled by other African plants arriving subsequently. They might be so conceivably, but it does not seem probable. The cases of the Pampas, New Zealand, Tahiti etc. are very different where highly developed aggressive plants have been artificially introduced. Under nature it is these very aggressive species that would first reach any island in their vicinity, & being adapted to the island and colonising it thoroughly would then hold their own against other plants from the same country, mostly less aggressive in character. I have not explained this so fully as I sh[oul]d have done in the book. Your criticism is therefore useful.

My Chap. 23 is no doubt very speculative, and I cannot wonder at your hesitating at accepting my views. To me however your theory of hosts of existing species migrating over the tropical lowlands from the N. temperate to the S. temperate zone appears more speculative & more improbable. For, where could the rich lowland equatorial flora have existed during a period of general refrigeration sufficient for this? and what became of the wonderfully rich Cape Flora which, if the temperature of Tropical Africa had been so recently lowered would c certainly have spread northwards & on the return of the heat could hardly have been driven back into the sharply defined and very restricted area in which it now exists?

As to the migration of plants from mountain to mountain not being so probable as to remote islands, I think that is fully counterbalanced by two considerations:

a) The area and abundance of the mountain stations along such a range as the Andes are immensely greater than those of the islands in the N. Atlantic for example.

b) The temporary occupation of mountain stations by migrating plants (which I think I have shown to be probable) renders time a much more important element in increasing the number & variety of the plants so dispersed than in the case of islands, where the flora soon acquires a fixed and endemic character, & when the number of species is necessarily limited.

[3]4 C. Darwin. Nov. 8th. 1880.)

No doubt direct evidence of seeds being carried great distances through the air is wanted but I am afraid can hardly be obtained. Yet I feel the greatest confidence that they are so carried. Take f for instance the two peculiar orchids of the Azores (Habinaria sp.), what other mode of transit is conceivable? The whole subject is one of great difficulty, but I hope my chapter may call attention to a hitherto neglected factor in the distribution of plants.

Your references to the Mauritius literature are very interesting, & will be useful to me, & again thanking you for your valuable remarks[.] Believe me Yours very faithfully | Alfred R. Wallace.

A page number with strikethrough "(1)" is given at the top centre of page 1.
Archaic form of eccentricity.
A page number with strikethrough "(2)" is given at the top centre of page 2.
A page number with strikethrough "(3)" is given at the top centre of page 3.

Published letter (WCP4105.6239)

[1] [p. 308]

Pen-y-byrn, St. Peter's Road, Croydon

November 8, 1880

My dear Darwin,—Many thanks for your kind remarks and notes on my book. Several of the latter will be of use to me if I have to prepare a second edition, which I am not so sure of as you seem to be,

1. In your remark as to the doubtfulness of paucity of fossils being due to coldness of water, I think you overlook that I am speaking only of waters in the latitude of the Alps, in the Miocene and Eocene times, when icebergs and glaciers temporarily descended into an otherwise warm sea; my theory being that there was no glacial epoch at that time, but merely a local and temporary descent of the snow-line and glaciers owing to high excentricity and winter in aphelion.

2. I cannot see the difficulty about the cessation of the glacial period. Between the Miocene and Pleistocene periods geographical changes occured which rendered a [2] [p. 309] true glacial period possible with high excentricity. When the high excentricity passed away the glacial epoch also passed away in the Temperate zone, but it persists in the Arctic zone, where during the Miocene there were mild climates, and this is due to the persistence of the changed geographical conditions. The present Arctic climate is itself a comparatively new and abnormal state of things due to geographical modiciation [modification]. As to "epoch" and "period," I use them as synonyms to avoid repeating the same word.

3. Rate of deposit and geological time: there is no doubt I may have gone to an extreme, but my "twenty-eight million years" may be anything under 100 millions, as I state. There is an enormous difference between mean and maximum denudation and deposition. In the case of the great faults the upheaval along a given lune [line] would itself facilitate the denudation (whether subaerial or marine) of the upheaved portion at a rate perhaps a hundred times faster than plains and plateaux. So, local subsidence might itself lead to very rapid deposition. Suppose a portion of the Gulf of Mexico near the mouth of the Missisipi [Mississippi] were to subside for a few thousand years, it might recieve the greater part of the sediment from the whole Missisipi [Mississ ippi]valley, and thus form strata at a very rapid rate.

4. You quote the Papas thistles, etc., against my statement of the importance of preoccupation. But I am referring especially to St. Helena, and to plants naturally introduced from the adjacent continents. Surely, if a certain number of African plants reached the island and became modified into a complete adaptation to its climatic conditions, they would hardly be expelled by other African plants arriving subsequently. They might be so concievably, but it does not seem probably. The cases of the Pampas, New Zealand, Tahiti, etc., are very different, where highly [3] [p. 310] developed aggressive plants have been artificially introduced. Under nature it is these very aggressive species that would first reach any island in their vicinity, and, being adapted to the island and colonising it thoroughly, would then hold their own against other plants, from the same country, mostly less aggressive in character. I have not explained this so fully as I should have done in the book. Your criticism is therefore useful.

My Chap. XXIII. is no doubt very speculative, and I cannot wonder at your hesitating at accepting my views. To me, however, your theory of hosts of existing species migrating over the tropical lowlands from the North Temperate to the South Temperate zone appears more speculative and more improbable. For, where could the rich lowland equatorial flora have existed during a period of general refridgeration[sic] sufficient for this? and what became of the wonderfully rich Cape flora which, if the temperature of Tropical Africa had been so recently lowered, would certainly have spread northwards and on the return of the heat could hardly have been driven back into the sharply defined and very restricted area in which it now exists?

As to the migration of plants from mountain to mountain not being so probable as to remote islands, I think that is fully counterbalanced by two considerations:

(a) The area and abundance of the mountain stations along such a range as the Andes are immensely greater than those of the islands in the North Atlantic, for example

(b) The temporary occupation of mountain stations by migrating plants (which I think I have shown to be probably) renders time a much more important element in increasing the number and variety of the plants so dispersed than in the case of islands, where the flora soon acquires a fixed and endemic character, and where the number of species is neccessarily limited. [4] [p. 311]

No doubt, direct evidence of seeds being carried great distances through the air is wanted, but, I am afraid, can hardly be obtained. Yet I feel the greatest confidence that they are so carried. Take for instance the two peculiar orchids of the Azores (Habinaria species): what other mode of transit is concievable? The whole subject is one of great difficult, but I hope my chapter may call attention to a hitherto neglected factor in the distribution of plants.

Your references to the Mauritius literature are very interesting, and will be useful to me; and again thanking you for your valuable remarks, believe me yours very faithfully,

Alfred R. Wallace

Please cite as “WCP4105,” in Beccaloni, G. W. (ed.), Ɛpsilon: The Alfred Russel Wallace Collection accessed on 7 June 2023, https://epsilon.ac.uk/view/wallace/letters/WCP4105