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Reflecting their owner’s taste and serving as an impressive exhibition room for their visitors, cabinets of curiosities were a place of interest in the houses of the wealthy in the 16th an 17th centuries.
Rare vegetable and animal species, fossils, those cabinets were always dedicated to science and knowledge. By collecting the most uncommon and beautiful things nature ever produced, rich noblemen were able to build a microcosm expressing the diversity of God’s creation.
whatever to their fertility in producing offspring. Perhaps the most remarkable instance of an immense bird population is that of the passenger pigeon of the United States, which lays only one or at most two eggs, 1 Natrix natrix 2 Myrmecophaga tridactyla 3 Baccharis halinifolia * Cerambycidae 1 Grass snake 2 Giant anteater (young) 3 Tree groundsel 4 Long horned beetle Albertus Seba, Plate from Thesaurus Cabinet of Natural Curiosities: Locupletissimi rerum naturalium thesauri (4 Vol.),
connected with the following branches of the subject. 1) the system of natural affinities. 2) the distribution of animals and plants in space. 3) the same in time, including all the phenomena of representative groups, Fulmarus glacialis Northern Fulmar Plate 264 from Audubon’s Birds of America 34 35 and those which Professor Forbes supposed to manifest polarity. 4) the phenomena of rudimentary organs. We will briefly endeavour to show its bearing upon each of these. If the law above
Iphiclides podalirius 16 Catocala 19 Hamadryas feronia Butterflies and moths from Eurasia and America Albertus Seba, Plate from Thesaurus Cabinet of Natural Curiosities: Locupletissimi rerum naturalium thesauri (4 Vol.), 1734-1765. Koninklijke Bibliotheek, La Haye. 52 53 If we now consider the geographical distribution of animals and plants upon the earth, we shall find all the facts beautifully in accordance with, and readily explained by, the present hypothesis. A country having species,
and the Euplœas of the East, the group of Trogons inhabiting Asia, and that peculiar to South America, are examples that may be accounted for in this manner. 1-7 Saturniidae 8-10 Attacus atlas 11-13 Rothschildia hesperus Very large tropical moths Albertus Seba, Plate from Thesaurus Cabinet of Natural Curiosities: Locupletissimi rerum naturalium thesauri (4 Vol.), 1734-1765. Koninklijke Bibliotheek, La Haye. 56 57 Such phenomena as are exhibited by the Galapagos Islands, which contain little
that there have been many complete changes of species; new sets of organisms have many times been introduced in place of old ones which have become extinct, so that the total amount which have existed on the earth from the earliest geological period must have borne about the same proportion to those now living, as the whole human race who have lived and died upon the earth, to the population at the present time. Again, at each epoch, the whole earth was no doubt, as now, Didelphis marsupialis