The Ancient Life History of the Earth eBook

Henry Alleyne Nicholson
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 483 pages of information about The Ancient Life History of the Earth.



Between the summit of the Ludlow formation and the strata which are universally admitted to belong to the Carboniferous series is a great system of deposits, to which the name of “Old Red Sandstone” was originally applied, to distinguish them from certain arenaceous strata which lie above the coal ("New Red Sandstone").  The Old Red Sandstone, properly so called, was originally described and investigated as occurring in Scotland and in South Wales and its borders; and similar strata occur in the south of Ireland.  Subsequently it was discovered that sediments of a different mineral nature, and containing different organic remains, intervened between the Silurian and the Carboniferous rocks on the continent of Europe, and strata with similar palaeontological characters to these were found occupying a considerable area in Devonshire.  The name of “Devonian” was applied to these deposits; and this title, by common usage, has come to be regarded as synonymous with the name of “Old Red Sandstone.”  Lastly, a magnificent series of deposits, containing marine fossils, and undoubtedly equivalent to the true “Devonian” of Devonshire, Rhenish Prussia, Belgium, and France, is found to intervene in North America between the summit of the Silurian and the base of the Carboniferous rocks.

Much difficulty has been felt in correlating the true “Devonian Rocks” with the typical “Old Red Sandstone”—­this difficulty arising from the fact that though both formations are fossiliferous, the peculiar fossils of each have only been rarely and partially found associated together.  The characteristic crustaceans and many of the characteristic fishes of the Old Red are wanting in the Devonian; whilst the corals and marine shells of the latter do not occur in the former.  It is impossible here to enter into any discussion as to the merits of the controversy to which this difficulty has given origin.  No one, however, can doubt the importance and reality of the Devonian series as an independent system of rocks to be intercalated in point of time between the Silurian and the Carboniferous.  The want of agreement, both lithologically and palaeontologically, between the Devonian and the Old Red, can be explained by supposing that these two formations, though wholly or in great part contemporaneous, and therefore strict equivalents, represent deposits in two different geographical areas, laid down under different conditions.  On this view, the typical Devonian rocks of Europe, Britain, and North America are the deep-sea deposits of the Devonian period, or, at any rate, are genuine marine sediments formed far from land.  On the other hand, the “Old Red Sandstone” of Britain and the corresponding “Gaspe Group” of Eastern Canada represent the shallow-water shore-deposits of the same period.  In fact, the former of these last-mentioned deposits contains no fossils which can be asserted positively to be marine (unless the Eurypterids be considered so); and it is even conceivable that it represents the sediments of an inland sea.  Accepting this explanation in the meanwhile, we may very briefly consider the general succession of the deposits of this period in Scotland, in Devonshire, and in North America.

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The Ancient Life History of the Earth from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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