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.
an internal skeleton similar to what we shall find to exist in many of the true Cuttle-fishes.  There is something to be said in favour of this view, but it would compel us to believe in the existence in Lower Silurian times of Cuttle-fishes fully equal in size to the giant “Kraken” of fable.  It need only be added in this connection that the Lower Silurian rocks have yielded the remains of many other Tetrabranchiate Cephalopods besides Orthoceras.  Some of these belong to Cyrtoceras, which only differs from Orthoceras in the bow-shaped form of the shell; others belong to Phragmoceras, Lituites, &c.; and, lastly; we have true Nautili, with their spiral shells, closely resembling the existing Pearly Nautilus.

Whilst all the sub-kingdoms of the Invertebrate animals are represented in the Lower Silurian rocks, no traces of Vertebrate animals have ever been discovered in these ancient deposits, unless the so-called “Conodonts” found by Pander in vast numbers in strata of this age [15] in Russia should prove to be really of this nature.  These problematical bodies are of microscopic size, and have the form of minute, conical, tooth-shaped spines, with sharp edges, and hollow at the base.  Their original discoverer regarded them as the horny teeth of fishes allied to the Lampreys; but Owen came to the conclusion that they probably belonged to Invertebrates.  The recent investigation of a vast number of similar but slightly larger bodies, of very various forms, in the Carboniferous rocks of Ohio, has led Professor Newberry to the conclusion that these singular fossils really are, as Pander thought, the teeth of Cyclostomatous fishes.  The whole of this difficult question has thus been reopened, and we may yet have to record the first advent of Vertebrate animals in the Lower Silurian.

[Footnote 15:  According to Pander, the “Conodonts” are found not only in the Lower Silurian beds, but also in the “Ungulite Grit” (Upper Cambrian), as well as in the Devonian and Carboniferous deposits of Russia.  Should the Conodonts prove to be truly the remains of fishes, we should thus have to transfer the first appearance of vertebrates to, at any rate, as early a period as the Upper Cambrian.]



Having now treated of the Lower Silurian period at considerable length, it will not be necessary to discuss the succeeding group of the Upper Silurian in the same detail—­the more so, as with a general change of species the Upper Silurian animals belong for the most part to the same great types as those which distinguish the Lower Silurian.  As compared, also, as regards the total bulk of strata concerned, the thickness of the Upper Silurian is generally very much below that of the Lower Silurian, indicating that they represent a proportionately shorter period of time.  In considering the general succession of the Upper Silurian beds, we shall, as before, select Wales and America as being two regions where these deposits are typically developed.

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