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DISTRIBUTION OF THE ORDER CARNIVORA
Section I.—Introductory Remarks
The true Carnivora are widely distributed over the world, and occur, in fact, everywhere from north to south, with the exception of the Australian Region, where their functions in nature are performed by the flesh-eating Marsupials. The Polar Bear probably ranges farther north than any other species of mammal, while the southernmost point of the South American Continent is inhabited by the Magellanic Dog. In the Antarctic Seas the Carnivora are also represented by several species of Seals, but no land-mammal has yet been found on the Antarctic Continent.
The Carnivora are very numerous, nearly 300 species belonging to seventy genera being usually recognized. They are usually divided by modern authorities into four well-marked sections: (1) the iEluroid, or Cat-like Carnivores, belonging to four families; (2) the Cynoid, or Dog-like Carnivores, consisting of the single family Canidm; (3) the Arctoid, or Bear-like Carnivores, with three families; and finally, the Pinnipeds, or Marine Carnivora, with three families. We will take these in order, pointing out the most noticeable features in the distribution of the principal and best-known forms in each family, and only alluding to the less-known and more insignificant forms when remarkable for their special distribution or otherwise.
Section II.—Distribution Of The Cat-like
The JSluroid, or Cat-like Carnivora, among which will be found the largest and most perfectly organized terrestrial animals in the present condition of the world, that have been modified to prey upon their weaker brethren, embrace four families, the Cats, Civets, AardWolf, and Hyenas. The first family, the Felidm, or Cats, contains about fifty species of true Fells, together with the Cheetah, or Hunting-Leopard, which it is necessary to refer to a separate genus. The Cats are distributed all over the main portions of both the Old and New Worlds, failing, however, as already remarked, in the Australian Region, and not extending quite so far north nor quite so far south as the Bears and Dogs. No single Cat, however, has anything like this wide area of distribution, all the species being more or less limited in their extension, and the Cats of the Old and New Worlds being always specifically different, unless it be in the case of the Northern Lynxes. We will shortly describe the specific areas of some of the best-known of these animals.
The Lion, the undoubted king of beasts, though it formerly penetrated far into Europe and even into England, is in these days essentially an African animal, but still extends throughout Arabia, Asiatic Turkey, and Persia into Western India, where it occurs in the Western Provinces. Though the Lion varies greatly in shape and colour, and in other minor features in different districts, it seems impossible to accept the proposed division of it by some authors into species, or even into geographical sub-species. It is true that an expert, well accustomed to examine Lions, will usually be able to guess correctly the locality whence any particular specimen has been received, but this is by no means absolutely certain.
The Tiger, the next noblest beast of prey existing in the present day, and by some writers assigned to a station superior even to that of the Lion, is essentially, no doubt, an inhabitant of the Oriental Region, but has extended its range in many places, probably within a not very distant period, far to the north. The Indian Peninsula may be said to be its focus, where it is found almost everywhere from the Himalayas, which it ascends to a height of 6000 or 7000 feet, to Cape Comorin. Curiously enough, however, the Tiger is not found in Ceylon. Outside India the Tiger ranges throughout Northern Persia, Turkestan, and the southern provinces of China, reaching on the west up to Manchuria and Amurland, where, however, it has learnt to put on a thicker and longer coat in winter to protect it from the severe cold. To the south and east of India the Tiger extends all over the Siamese and Malay Peninsulas into Sumatra and Java, but not, it is believed, into Borneo. Tigers from Sumatra and Java do not, however, attain to the large dimensions of their brethren of India and the north.
The third great Cat of the Old World, the Leopard, has a still wider distribution than its two larger brethren. Not only does it inhabit the whole of Africa, including its northern portion, but extends also nearly over every part
of the Oriental Region and into the confines of the Palaearctic. The Leopard is met with throughout Western Asia, Persia, the Indian Peninsula, including Ceylon, the Siamese and Malay Peninsulas, China, and the larger islands in the Indian Archipelago. It varies much throughout its range, not only in size, but in shape and in the character of its markings; yet it is impossible to consider more than one species of Leopard as satisfactorily established.
The fourth great Cat of the Old World, the Ounce (Felis uncia), distinguished at once from the Leopard by its white body-colour, thick fur, and much lengthened tail, is confined to the high ranges of Central Asia, and occurs only at elevations of over 8000 feet. In Gilgit, Hunza, and Tibet, it occurs occasionally within the range of the Indian sportsman, but is more frequent further north, and in the north-west ranges of Siberia and Amurland.
After the four great Cats of the Old World, we must proceed to discuss the corresponding animals of the New World. These are two only in number, the Jaguar (F. onca), and the Puma (F. concolor), both inferior in size and organization to the Lion and Tiger, the places of which they are generally supposed to take in the Western Hemisphere. The Puma has a very wide distribution in America, extending over the greater part of both North and South America, from the most northern of the United States and British Columbia down to Patagonia In the extent of its range from north to south, the Puma seems to surpass every other carnivorous animal.
The Jaguar has likewise a very wide distribution in America, though it cannot rival the Puma in this respect* Its northern limit in these days appears to be Louisiana, Texas, and the adjoining southern United States. Hence it ranges throughout Central and South America down to the Rio Negro of Patagonia. As might, however, have been expected from its being essentially a forest-loving animal, the Jaguar does not occur on the western side of the Andes south of Ecuador.
Thus we may take it that of the six largest and finest carnivorous mammals of the existing creation, four are found in the Old Continent and two others, generally inferior in structure, in the New World. We need not here go at length into the distribution of the smaller cats, some forty or forty-five in number, as variously estimated. It is sufficient to say that those of the New World are specifically distinct from those of the Old, except in the case of the Lynxes, in which the differentiation of the Canada Lynx (F. canadensis) from F. lynx of the Palsearctic Region is perhaps somewhat doubtful. The cats of the Ethiopian and Oriental Regions are also, as a rule, different, and many of them are restricted to comparatively narrow geographical limits.
The second genus of the Cat family (Felidm) contains only the Hunting Leopard, Cynmlurus jubatus, which has somewhat the same distribution as the Lion. It is found all over Africa, and extends throughout South-western Asia and Persia into Western India up to the confines of Bengal. Attention, however, should be directed to a supposed second species of this genus, the Woolly Cheetah (C. laniger), which has hitherto been only met with in some of the higher districts of the Cape Colony.
Next to the Cats we come to the Viverridm, or Civets, a much more numerous group containing about seventy species, usually divided into about twenty-four genera.