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The British Association: Section D—Biology

    Naturevolume 32pages560564 (1885) | Download Citation



    On the Cause of the extreme Dissimilarity between the Faunas of the Red Sea and Mediterranean notwithstanding their recent connection, by Prof. Edward Hull, LL.D., F.R.S.—The faunas of the Mediterranean and of the Red Sea are so unlike that if the beds of the two seas were upraised, and their contents examined, naturalists would probably refer them to distinct geological periods. The dissimilarity is greater than was formerly supposed. In Woodward's “Manual of the Mollusca” it is stated that seventy-four species of mollusks are common to the two seas, but Prof. Issel, of Genoa, places the number at eighteen, or about 2 per cent. Equal differences exist if we compare other great groups of life; in fact, as Prof. Haeckel well observes, the fauna of the Red Sea is related to that of the Indian Ocean, the fauna of the Mediterranean to that of the Atlantic. This extreme dissimilarity would not surprise us if it were not for the proofs of recent connection between the two seas. Evidence of old sea margins, up to about 220 feet above the present sea-level, are frequently found along the Nile and in the valleys and plains of Philistria. As many of the marine forms found in these deposits still exist, the date of the submergence may be safely referred to that of the Pliocene; but it continued to a later period, and (in the author's opinion) it to some extent remained to the time of the Pharaohs. The existing fauna probably date; back to Eocene times, when the ocean spread widely over the area in question. In the Miocene period the main outlines of land and sea as we now find them were marked out, the deposits of this age being here small and local. Under the extremely different conditions existing in the two areas, the fauna during and after the Miocene period became differentiated. The connection re-established during and after the Pliocene period was insufficient to destroy these differences, although it allowed a mingling of forms to some extent. The maximum submergence was about 220 feet; but as the summit level between the two seas is about 50 feet, the depth of water would only be about 170 feet at the maximum. Only littoral and shallow-water forms would cross in the adult state; but many forms inhabiting deeper water in the adult state might have crossed when in the free-swimming larval state. When the land again rose, and the marine straits were finally effaced, the different physical conditions of the two seas would again come into effect. The difference of temperature is now very considerable, and probably was much greater during the Glacial period, especially if, as appears probable, the eastern or Levant basin of the Mediterranean were separated from the others; for into this would flow the cold waters of the Black Sea and of Central Europe, whilst the Red Sea would receive warm water, and be itself exposed to the rays of a tropical sun. It would be an interesting subject of inquiry—Which of these faunas most closely resembles that of the original stock?

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