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The Voyage of the Beagle

Bahia Blanca
Bahia Blanca -- Geology -- Numerous gigantic Quadrupeds -- Recent Extinction --
Longevity of species -- Large Animals do not require a luxuriant vegetation -- Southern
Africa -- Siberian Fossils -- Two Species of Ostrich -- Habits of Oven-bird -- Armadilloes
-- Venomous Snake, Toad, Lizard -- Hybernation of Animal -- Habits of Sea-Pen --
Indian Wars and Massacres -- Arrow-head, antiquarian Relic.
The Beagle arrived here on the 24th of August, and a week afterwards sailed for the
Plata. With Captain Fitz Roy's consent I was left behind, to travel by land to Buenos
Ayres. I will here add some observations, which were made during this visit and on a
previous occasion, when the Beagle was employed in surveying the harbour.
The plain, at the distance of a few miles from the coast, belongs to the great Pampean
formation, which consists in part of a reddish clay, and in part of a highly calcareous
marly rock. Nearer the coast there are some plains formed from the wreck of the upper
plain, and from mud, gravel, and sand thrown up by the sea during the slow elevation of
the land, of which elevation we have evidence in upraised beds of recent shells, and in
rounded pebbles of pumice scattered over the country. At Punta Alta we have a section of
one of these later-formed little plains, which is highly interesting from the number and
extraordinary character of the remains of gigantic land-animals embedded in it. These
have been fully described by Professor Owen, in the Zoology of the voyage of the
Beagle, and are deposited in the College of Surgeons. I will here give only a brief outline
of their nature.
First, parts of three heads and other bones of the Megatherium, the huge dimensions of
which are expressed by its name. Secondly, the Megalonyx, a great allied animal.
Thirdly, the Scelidotherium, also an allied animal, of which I obtained a nearly perfect
skeleton. It must have been as large as a rhinoceros: in the structure of its head it comes
according to Mr. Owen, nearest to the Cape Anteater, but in some other respects it
approaches to the armadilloes. Fourthly, the Mylodon Darwinii, a closely related genus of
little inferior size. Fifthly, another gigantic edental quadruped. Sixthly, a large animal,
with an osseous coat in compartments, very like that of an armadillo. Seventhly, an
extinct kind of horse, to which I shall have again to refer. Eighthly, a tooth of a
Pachydermatous animal, probably the same with the Macrauchenia, a huge beast with a
long neck like a camel, which I shall also refer to again. Lastly, the Toxodon, perhaps one
of the strangest animals ever discovered: in size it equalled an elephant or megatherium,
but the structure of its teeth, as Mr. Owen states, proves indisputably that it was
intimately related to the Gnawers, the order which, at the present day, includes most of
the smallest quadrupeds: in many details it is allied to the Pachydermata: judging from
the position of its eyes, ears, and nostrils, it was probably aquatic, like the Dugong and
Manatee, to which it is also allied. How wonderfully are the different Orders, at the
present time so well separated, blended together in different points of the structure of the
Toxodon!
 
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