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First, all my arrangements of species have been
made on the bones themselves, or on good figures; it is
necessary, on the other hand, that I should have
observed myself all the places where these bones have
been discovered. Very often I have been compelled to
have recource to vague and ambiguous resemblances,
made by persons who do not know themselves what
peculiar observations are necessary; and more
frequently still, I have not found any hints at all.
Secondly, there must be in this respect infinitely
more doubt than with regard to the bones themselves.
The same deposite may appear recent in places where it
is superficial, and ancient in those where it is covered
over by the banks which have succeeded it. Ancient
layers may have been transported by partial
inundations, and have covered recent bones; they may
have been buried beneath them, and have enveloped
and mingled them with the productions of the ancient
seas which they before contained; ancient bones may
have been washed by the waters, and then taken up by
recent alluvial deposites; and recent bones may have
fallen into the clefts and caverns of the ancient rocks,
and then have been enveloped by stalactites or other
incrustations. It would be necessary, in every case, to
analyze and justly determine on all these
circumstances, which may veil from the sight the real
origin of the fossils; and persons who have collected
bones have very seldom doubted this necessity; whence
it follows, that the real circumstances of their
geological position have nearly always been neglected
or misunderstood.
Thirdly, there are some doubtful species, which
would more or less alter the certainty of these results,
just as long as clear distinctions with regard



to them were not made out; thus horses and buffaloes,
which are found with elephants, have not yet peculiar
and specific characters; and geologists who will not
adopt my different epochs for fossil bones, will still be
able to draw from them, for many years, an opposing
argument the more convenient, as it is from my book
that they will derive them.
But although it may be said that these epochs are
capable of some objections with persons who but
slightly consider some particular case, I am no less
persuaded that those who will adopt the whole of these
phenomena will not be checked by these small and
partial difficulties, and will acknowledge with me, that
there has been one and probably two successions in the
class of quadrupeds, before that which now peoples the
surface of our continents.
I here expect another objection; one has been made


Why, I am asked, should not the present race be
modifications of those ancient races which we find
among fossils, modifications which would have been
produced by local circumstances and change of
climate, and brought to this great difference by a long
series of years?
This objection must appear very cogent with those
who believe in the undefined possibility of the change
of forms in organized bodies, and who think that with
ages and habits every species may change, one into
another, or result from a single one amongst them.



We may answer them in their own way; that if the
species has gradually changed, we must find traces of
these gradual modifications; that between the
palæotheria and the present species we should have
discovered some intermediate formation; but to the
present time none of these have appeared.
Why have not the bowels of the earth preserved the
monuments of so remarkable a genealogy, unless it be
that the species of former ages were as constant as our
own; or at least because the catastrophe that destroyed
them had not left them time to give evidence of the
As to the naturalists who allow that the varieties are
confined within certain limits fixed by nature, it is
necessary, in order to answer them, that we should
examine what may be the extent of these limits — a
curious research very interesting in itself in many
respects, and yet one which has hitherto excited but
very little attention.
This inquiry calls for the definition of a species,
which may serve as the foundation for the use which is
made of the term. A species, then, in cludes the
individuals which descend from one another, or from
common parents, and those which resemble them as
strongly as they resemble one another.
Thus we only
call the varietiesof a species, those races, more or less
different, which may have proceeded from them by
generation. Our observations on the distinctions
between ancestors and descendants are consequently
our only rational rule; for every other would enter into
hypothesis without proofs.

But in thus considering the variety,we observe that
the differences which constitute it depend on



determinate circumstances, and that their extent
increases with the weight of these circumstances.
Thus the most superficial characteristics are the
most changeable; colour depends much on light; the
thickness of the hair on the heat; the size in great
supply of food; but in a wild animal, even these
varieties are very much limited by the habits of the
animal, which does not willingly leave the places
where it finds, in a quantity suit ed to its wants, all
that is necessary for the support of its species: and
which does not go far away, but as it may find all its
wants as well supplied. Thus, although the wolf and
the fox are found from the torrid to the icy zone, we
rarely find in this vast space very little other
difference than a little more or less beauty in their fur.
I have compared the skulls of foxes of the north, and
those of Egypt, with those of France, and have only
found individual differences.
Those savage animals which are confined to more
limited spaces vary still less, particularly those which
are carnivorous. A thicker mane makes the only
difference between the hyena of Persia, and that of
Herbivorous wild animals feel rather more sensibly
the influence of climate, because it more affects their
food, which thus differs in abundance and quality at
various times. Thus elephants will be greater in one
forest than in another; they will have tusks larger in
those places where the nourishment is more congenial
with the formation of the material of ivory; it is the
same with rein-deer and stags, according to their
woods; but let us take the two most dissimilar
elephants, and we shall not discover the least
difference in the number or



articulations of their bones, in the structure of their
teeth, &c.
Besides, the herbivorous species, in a wild state,
appear more limited in their dispersion than
carnivorous animals, because the species of the food
unites with the temperature to confine them.
Nature takes care to prevent any alteration of the
species which might result from their mixture, by the
mutual aversion which she has implanted within them.
All the plans and the power of man are called forth to
effect these unions, even in the species most alike; and
when the productions are fruitful, which is very rare,
the fertility does not last beyond a few generations,
and would not probably take place without a
continuation of the cares which excited them. Thus, we
do not find in the wood intermediate individuals
between the hare and the rabbit, between the stag and
the fallow deer, between the marten and the pole-cat.
But the sovereignty of man alters this order; it
developes all the variations of which each species is
capable, and derives from the productions what the
species, left to themselves, would never have done.
Here the degree of variation is still proportioned to
the influence of their cause, — which is slavery. It
does not rank very high in the domestic species; as for
instance, a cat. Hair of a finer texture, brighter
colours, size greater or lesser, is all that it proves, but
the skeleton of an Angora cat has no decided or
perpetual difference from that of a wild cat.
In domesticated herbivorous animals, which we
transport to every kind of climate, which we accustom
to every sort of food, and to which we assign labour
and nourisliment without rule, we



obtain greater varieties, but still they are only
superficial. A greater or lesser height, horns longer or
shorter, or even entirely wanting: a lump of fat more
or less developed — on their shoulders, form the
difference of oxen; and these differences are for a long
time kept up, even in those breeds exported from the
country in which they were produced, when proper
care is taken to prevent the crossing.
Of this kind are the numerous varieties of sheep
which are valuable for their wool chiefly, because that
is the object which has obtained the greatest attention
of mankind; it is still rather less, although distinctly
marked in horses.
In general the forms of the bones vary but little;
their structure, their articulation, the form of their
large grinders never vary.
The small marks of tusks in the domestic pig, the
juncture of the hoofs in some of this race, are the
extreme difference that we have produced in the
herbivorous domestic kind.
The most marked effects of the influence of man is
evinced on the animal over which man has obtained the
most complete conquest, the dog. This species is so
much devoted to us, that even the very individuals
seem to have sacrificed themselves to us, with their
interests and their feelings. Conveyed by men to all
parts of the universe, subjected to every cause capable
of influencing their development, joined in their
union, according to the taste of their masters, dogs
vary so much in colour: in the thickness of their hair,
which is some times lost; in its breed: in height, which
differs as one to five in lineary dimensions, which
makes more than a hundred fold in the mass; in the
form of the ears, the nose, the tail; as to the relative



length of its legs; as to the progressive development of
the brain in the domestic varieties, whence even results
the shape of the head; sometimes slender, with a sharp
nose, and broad forehead; some times with a short
nose, and round forehead; as these differences are
observable in a mastiff and a water spaniel; in a
grayhound and a pug; are more marked than in those of
any wild species of a similar natural genus. In fact,
and this is the maximum of the difference known at the
present time in the animal kingdom, there are breeds
of dogs which have an additional toe on the hind leg,
with correspondent bones of the tarsus, as there are in
the human race some families having six fingers on
each hand.
But in all these varieties the relations of the bones
remain the same, and the shape of the teeth never
undergoes any palpable change; although there are
some individuals which have an extra and false
grinder, sometimes on one side, sometimes on the
other. (1)
There are then, in animals, characteristics which
defy all influences, whether natural or human, and this
is nothing which proves to us that time will effect any
more than climate, and a state of domestication. I
know that some naturalists rely much on the thousands
of ages which they can accumulate with a stroke of the
pen; but in such matters we can only judge of what a
length of time would produce, by multiplying in
thought what the least time will effect. I have
endeavoured to collect the most ancient documents of
the forms of animals,

(1) See my brother's (M. Frederic Cuvier) Memoir on the varieties of
dogs, inserted in his 'Annales du Museum d'Histoire Naturelle.' This work
was done at my request from the skeletons of all varieties of dogs, exprsssly



and there are no countries which furnish us with older
and more abundant specimens than Egypt. It affords us
not only the representation of animals, but their bodies
themselves embalmed in the catacombs.
I have attentively examined the drawings of animals
and birds engraved on the numerous columns brought
from Egypt to Rome. All these figures have (taken as a
whole, which must be the way in which artists consider
them,) a perfect resemblance to those of the same
species still existing.
Every one may examine the copies made by Kirker
and Zoega; they have given drawings of them, easily
recognised, although not precisely similar to the
originals. We may easily distinguish the ibis, the
vulture, the owl, the falcon, the Egyptian goose, the
lapwing, the landrail, the aspic, the cerustes, the
Egyptian hare with its long ears, and even the
hippopotamus: and in these numerous monuments,
engraved in the great work on Egypt, we sometimes
have the rarest animals; the algazel, for instance,
which was not seen in Europe till within these few
My learned colleague, M. Geoffry Saint Hilaire,
strongly impressed with the importance of this
research, collected with great care, in the tombs and
temples of Upper and Lower Egypt, all the mummies
of animals which he could obtain. He brought both
cats, ibises, birds of prey, dogs, monkeys, crocodiles,
and an ox's head embalmed; and we can not find any
more difference between these and those of the present
day, than between human mummies

(1) The first representation of it from nature, is in 'La Description de la
Menagerie,' by my brother; it is accurately represented in the great work on
Egypt. Descr. de l'Egypte, Ant. t. iv. pl. xlix.



mummies and human skeletons of the present time.
Some difference has been found between the mummies
of ibis, and the bird so called by naturalists of the
present day; but I have removed all difficulties in an
essay on this bird subjoined to this Discourse, in which
I have shown that it is at the present time precisely as
it was in the time of the Pharaohs. I am aware that I
only refer to animals of two or three thousand years,
but these are the earliest periods to which we are
enabled to revert.
There is nothing then in known facts, which can
support in the least the opinion that the new genera
which I have discovered or established amongst fossils,
as well as those detected by other naturalists, the
palæotheria, the anoplotheria, the megalonyces, the
mastodontes, the pterodactyli, the ichthyosauri, &c.,
could have been the sources of any animals now
existing, which would only differ by the influence of
time or climate; and although it should be true (which
I am far from believing) that elephants, rhinoceroses,
elks, and fossil bears, differ no more from those of the
present time, than the race of dogs differ from each
other, — we cannot thence determine the identity of
the species, because the race of dogs has been
subjected to the influence of domestication, to which
these other animals have not nor could not have been
compelled or induced to submit.
Besides, when I assert that the rocky beds contain
the bones of various genera, and the shifting or
alluvial strata those of many species which no longer
exist, I do not mean to allege that a new creation was
necessary to produce the species now existing; I only
maintain that they did not exist in the places where we
now see them, and they must have been deposited there
by some other means.



For instance, let us suppose that a great irruption of
the sea, covers, with a mass of sand, or other
accumulation, the continent of New Holland; it would
bury the carcases of the kangaroos, phasglomys,
dasynras, perameles, flying phalanger, echidna,
ornithorynchus, and would entirely destroy the species
of all these genera, since none of them now exist in
any other country.
Suppose that the same revolution were to leave dry
the multiplied small straits which separate New
Holland from the continent of Asia, it would open a
way for the elephant, rhinoceros, buffalo, horse,
camel, tiger, and all other Asiatic quadrupeds, which
would come and inhabit a land in which they were
before unknown.
If a naturalist, after having well studied the living
species, were to lay open the soil on which it lives, he
would find the remains of very different animals.
What New Holland would become, were this
supposition realized, Europe, Siberia, and a great
portion of America, really are; and it may one day be
discovered in the examination of other countries, and
even of New Holland itself, that they have all
experienced similar revolutions, I should say nearly all
mutual exchanges of productions; for, to carry the
supposition still farther, after this transport of Asiatic
animals into New Holland, let us allow that a second
revolution destroyed Asia, their original country; those
who should discover them in New Holland, their
second country, would be as much embarrassed to find
out whence they came, as we can now be to discover
the origin of those which are found in our own
I now proceed to apply this reasoning to. the human

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