Pteropods, a suborder of the gastropods, appeared in this age. Their papery shells of carbonate of lime are found in great numbers from this time on.
Cephalopods, the most highly organized of the mollusks, started into existence, so far as the record shows, toward, the end of the Cambrian, with the long extinct ORTHOCERAS (STRAIGHTHORN) and the allied genera of its family. The Orthoceras had a long, straight, and tapering shell, divided by cross partitions into chambers. The animal lived in the "body chamber" at the larger end, and walled off the other chambers from it in succession during the growth of the shell. A central tube, the SIPHUNCLE, passed through from the body chamber to the closed tip of the cone.
The seashells, both brachiopods and mollusks, are in some respects the most important to the geologist of all fossils. They have been so numerous, so widely distributed, and so well preserved because of their durable shells and their station in growing sediments, that better than any other group of organisms they can be used to correlate the strata of different regions and to mark by their slow changes the advance of geological time.
CLIMATE. The life of Cambrian times in different countries contains no suggestion of any marked climatic zones, and as in later periods a warm climate probably reached to the polar regions.
THE ORDOVICIAN AND SILURIAN [Footnote: Often known as the Lower Silurian.]
In North America the Ordovician rocks lie conformably on the Cambrian. The two periods, therefore, were not parted by any deformation, either of mountain making or of continental uplift. The general submergence which marked the Cambrian continued into the succeeding period with little interruption.
SUBDIVISIONS AND DISTRIBUTION OF STRATA. The Ordovician series, as they have been made out in New York, are given for reference in the following table, with the rocks of which they are chiefly composed:
5 Hudson . . . . . . . . shales 4 Utica . . . . . . . . shales 3 Trenton . . . . . . . limestones 2 Chazy . . . . . . . . limestones 1 Calciferous . . . . . sandy limestones
These marine formations of the Ordovician outcrop about the Cambrian and pre-Cambrian areas, and, as borings show, extend far and wide over the interior of the continent beneath more recent strata. The Ordovician sea stretched from Appalachia across the Mississippi valley. It seems to have extended to California, although broken probably by several mountainous islands in the west.
PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY. The physical history of the period is recorded in the succession of its formations. The sandstones of the Upper Cambrian, as we have learned, tell of a transgressing sea which gradually came to occupy the Mississippi valley and the interior of North America. The limestones of the early and middle Ordovician show that now the shore had become remote and the lands had become more low. The waters now had cleared. Colonies of brachiopods and other lime-secreting animals occupied the sea bottom, and their debris mantled it with sheets of limy ooze. The sandy limestones of the Calciferous record the transition stage from the Cambrian when some sand was still brought in from shore. The highly fossiliferous limestones of the Trenton tell of clear water and abundant life. We need not regard this epicontinental sea as deep. No abysmal deposits have been found, and the limestones of the period are those which would be laid in clear, warm water of moderate depth like that of modern coral seas.
The shales of the Utica and Hudson show that the waters of the sea now became clouded with mud washed in from land. Either the land was gradually uplifted, or perhaps there had arrived one of those periodic crises which, as we may imagine, have taken place whenever the crust of the shrinking earth has slowly given way over its great depressions, and the ocean has withdrawn its waters into deepening abysses. The land was thus left relatively higher and bordered with new coastal plains. The epicontinental sea was shoaled and narrowed, and muds were washed in from the adjacent lands.
THE TACONIC DEFORMATION. The Ordovician was closed by a deformation whose extent and severity are not yet known. From the St. Lawrence River to New York Bay, along the northwestern and western border of New England, lies a belt of Cambrian-Ordovician rocks more than a mile in total thickness, which accumulated during the long ages of those periods in a gradually subsiding trough between the Adirondacks and a pre-Cambrian range lying west of the Connecticut River. But since their deposition these ancient sediments have been crumpled and crushed, broken with great faults, and extensively metamorphosed. The limestones have recrystallized into marbles, among them the famous marbles of Vermont; the Cambrian sandstones have become quartzites, and the Hudson shale has been changed to a schist exposed on Manhattan Island and northward.
In part these changes occurred at the close of the Ordovician, for in several places beds of Silurian age rest unconformably on the upturned Ordovician strata; but recent investigations have made it probable that the crustal movements recurred at later times, and it was perhaps in the Devonian and at the close of the Carboniferous that the greater part of the deformation and metamorphism was accomplished. As a result of these movements,— perhaps several times repeated,—a great mountain range was upridged, which has been long since leveled by erosion, but whose roots are now visible in the Taconic Mountains of western New England.
THE CINCINNATI ANTICLINE. Over an oval area in Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky, whose longer axis extends from north to south through Cincinnati, the Ordovician strata rise in a very low, broad swell, called the Cincinnati anticline. The Silurian and Devonian strata thin out as they approach this area and seem never to have deposited upon it. We may regard it, therefore, as an island upwarped from the sea at the close of the Ordovician or shortly after.
PETROLEUM AND NATURAL GAS. These valuable illuminants and fuels are considered here because, although they are found in traces in older strata, it is in the Ordovician that they occur for the first time in large quantities. They range throughout later formations down to the most recent.
The oil horizons of California and Texas are Tertiary; those of Colorado, Cretaceous; those of West Virginia, Carboniferous; those of Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Canada, Devonian; and the large field of Ohio and Indiana belongs to the Ordovician and higher systems.
Petroleum and natural gas, wherever found, have probably originated from the decay of organic matter when buried in sedimentary deposits, just as at present in swampy places the hydrogen and carbon of decaying vegetation combine to form marsh gas. The light and heat of these hydrocarbons we may think of, therefore, as a gift to the civilized life of our race from the humble organisms, both animal and vegetable, of the remote past, whose remains were entombed in the sediments of the Ordovician and later geological ages.
Petroleum is very widely disseminated throughout the stratified rocks. Certain limestones are visibly greasy with it, and others give off its characteristic fetid odor when struck with a hammer. Many shales are bituminous, and some are so highly charged that small flakes may be lighted like tapers, and several gallons of oil to the ton may be obtained by distillation.
But oil and gas are found in paying quantities only when certain conditions meet:
1. A SOURCE below, usually a bituminous shale, from whose organic matter they have been derived by slow change.
2. A RESERVOIR above, in which they have gathered. This is either a porous sandstone or a porous or creviced limestone.
3. Oil and gas are lighter than water, and are usually under pressure owing to artesian water. Hence, in order to hold them from escaping to the surface, the reservoir must have the shape of an ANTICLINE, DOME, or LENS.
4. It must also have an IMPERVIOUS COVER, usually a shale. In these reservoirs gas is under a pressure which is often enormous, reaching in extreme cases as high as a thousand five hundred pounds to the square inch. When tapped it rushes out with a deafening roar, sometimes flinging the heavy drill high in air. In accounting for this pressure we must remember that the gas has been compressed within the pores of the reservoir rock by artesian water, and in some cases also by its own expansive force. It is not uncommon for artesian water to rise in wells after the exhaustion of gas and oil.
LIFE OF THE ORDOVICIAN
During the ages of the Ordovician, life made great advances. Types already present branched widely into new genera and species, and new and higher types appeared.
Sponges continued from the Cambrian. Graptolites now reached their climax.
STROMATOPORA—colonies of minute hydrozoans allied to corals—grew in places on the sea floor, secreting stony masses composed of thin, close, concentric layers, connected by vertical rods. The Stromatopora are among the chief limestone builders of the Silurian and Devonian periods.
CORALS developed along several distinct lines, like modern corals they secreted a calcareous framework, in whose outer portions the polyps lived. In the Ordovician, corals were represented chiefly by the family of the CHOETETES, all species of which are long since extinct. The description of other types of corals will be given under the Silurian, where they first became abundant.
ECHINODERMS. The cystoid reaches its climax, but there appear now two higher types of echinoderms,—the crinoid and the starfish. The CRINOID, named from its resemblance to the lily, is like the cystoid in many respects, but has a longer stem and supports a crown of plumose arms. Stirring the water with these arms, it creates currents by which particles of food are wafted to its mouth. Crinoids are rare at the present time, but they grew in the greatest profusion in the warm Ordovician seas and for long ages thereafter. In many places the sea floor was beautiful with these graceful, flowerlike forms, as with fields of long-stemmed lilies. Of the higher, free-moving classes of the echinoderms, starfish are more numerous than in the Cambrian, and sea urchins make their appearance in rare archaic forms.
CRUSTACEANS. Trilobites now reach their greatest development and more than eleven hundred species have been described from the rocks of this period. It is interesting to note that in many species the segments of the thorax have now come to be so shaped that they move freely on one another. Unlike their Cambrian ancestors, many of the Ordovician trilobites could roll themselves into balls at the approach of danger. It is in this attitude, taken at the approach of death, that trilobites are often found in the Ordovician and later rocks. The gigantic crustaceans called the EURYPTERIDS were also present in this period.
The arthropods had now seized upon the land. Centipedes and insects of a low type, the earliest known land animals, have been discovered in strata of this system.
BRYOZOANS. No fossils are more common in the limestones of the time than the small branching stems and lacelike mats of the bryozoans,—the skeletons of colonies of a minute animal allied in structure to the brachiopod.
BRACHIOPODS. These multiplied greatly, and in places their shells formed thick beds of coquina. They still greatly surpassed the mollusks in numbers.
CEPHALOPODS. Among the mollusks we must note the evolution of the cephalopods. The primitive straight Orthoceras has now become abundant. But in addition to this ancestral type there appears a succession of forms more and more curved and closely coiled, as illustrated in Figure 285. The nautilus, which began its course in this period, crawls on the bottom of our present seas.
VERTEBRATES. The most important record of the Ordovician is that of the appearance of a new and higher type, with possibilities of development lying hidden in its structure that the mollusk and the insect could never hope to reach. Scales and plates of minute fishes found in the Ordovician rocks near Canon City, Colorado, show that the humblest of the vertebrates had already made its appearance. But it is probable that vertebrates had been on the earth for ages before this in lowly types, which, being destitute of hard parts, would leave no record.
The narrowing of the seas and the emergence of the lands which characterized the closing epoch of the Ordovician in eastern North America continue into the succeeding period of the Silurian. New species appear and many old species now become extinct.
THE APPALACHIAN REGION. Where the Silurian system is most fully developed, from New York southward along the Appalachian Mountains, it comprises four series:
4 Salina . . . shales, impure limestones, gypsum, salt 3 Niagara . . . chiefly limestones 2 Clinton . . . sandstones, shales, with some limestones 1 Medina . . . conglomerates, sandstones
The rocks of these series are shallow-water deposits and reach the total thickness of some five thousand feet. Evidently they were laid over an area which was on the whole gradually subsiding, although with various gentle oscillations which are recorded in the different formations. The coarse sands of the heavy Medina formations record a period of uplift of the oldland of Appalachia, when erosion went on rapidly and coarse waste in abundance was brought down from the hills by swift streams and spread by the waves in wide, sandy flats. As the lands were worn lower the waste became finer, and during an epoch of transition—the Clinton— there were deposited various formations of sandstones, shales, and limestones. The Niagara limestones testify to a long epoch of repose, when low-lying lands sent little waste down to the sea.
The gypsum and salt deposits of the Salina show that toward the close of the Silurian period a slight oscillation brought the sea floor nearer to the surface, and at the north cut off extensive tracts from the interior sea. In these wide lagoons, which now and then regained access to the open sea and obtained new supplies of salt water, beds of salt and gypsum were deposited as the briny waters became concentrated by evaporation under a desert climate. Along with these beds there were also laid shales and impure limestones.
In New York the "salt pans" of the Salina extended over an area one hundred and fifty miles long from east to west and sixty miles wide, and similar salt marshes occurred as far west as Cleveland, Ohio, and Goderich on Lake Huron. At Ithaca, New York, the series is fifteen hundred feet thick, and is buried beneath an equal thickness of later strata. It includes two hundred and fifty feet of solid salt, in several distinct beds, each sealed within the shales of the series.
Would you expect to find ancient beds of rock salt inclosed in beds of pervious sandstone?
The salt beds of the Salina are of great value. They are reached by well borings, and their brines are evaporated by solar heat and by boiling. The rock salt is also mined from deep shafts.
Similar deposits of salt, formed under like conditions, occur in the rocks of later systems down to the present. The salt beds of Texas are Permian, those of Kansas are Permian, and those of Louisiana are Tertiary.
THE MISSISSIPPI VALLEY. The heavy near-shore formations of the Silurian in the Appalachian region thin out toward the west. The Medina and the Clinton sandstones are not found west of Ohio, where the first passes into a shale and the second into a limestone. The Niagara limestone, however, spreads from the Hudson River to beyond the Mississippi, a distance of more than a thousand miles. During the Silurian period the Mississippi valley region was covered with a quiet, shallow, limestone-making sea, which received little waste from the low lands which bordered it.
The probable distribution of land and sea in eastern North America and western Europe is shown in Figure 287. The fauna of the interior region and of eastern Canada are closely allied with that of western Europe, and several species are identical. We can hardly account for this except by a shallow-water connection between the two ancient epicontinental seas. It was perhaps along the coastal shelves of a northern land connecting America and Europe by way of Greenland and Iceland that the migration took place, so that the same species came to live in Iowa and in Sweden.
THE WESTERN UNITED STATES. So little is found of the rocks of the system west of the Missouri River that it is quite probable that the western part of the United States had for the most part emerged from the sea at the close of the Ordovician and remained land during the Silurian. At the same time the western land was perhaps connected with the eastern land of Appalachia across Arkansas and Mississippi; for toward the south the Silurian sediments indicate an approach to shore.
LIFE OF THE SILURIAN
In this brief sketch it is quite impossible to relate the many changes of species and genera during the Silurian.
CORALS. Some of the more common types are familiarly known as cup corals, honeycomb corals, and chain corals. In the CUP CORALS the most important feature is the development of radiating vertical partitions, or SEPTA, in the cell of the polyp. Some of the cup corals grew in hemispherical colonies (Fig. 288), while many were separate individuals (Fig. 289), building a single conical, or horn-shaped cell, which sometimes reached the extreme size of a foot in length and two or three inches in diameter.
HONEYCOMB CORALS consist of masses of small, close-set prismatic cells, each crossed by horizontal partitions, or TABULAE, while the septa are rudimentary, being represented by faintly projecting ridges or rows of spines.
CHAIN CORALS are also marked by tabulae. Their cells form elliptical tubes, touching each other at the edges, and appearing in cross section like the links of a chain. They became extinct at the end of the Silurian.
The corals of the SYRINGOPORA family are similar in structure to chain corals, but the tubular columns are connected only in places.
To the echinoderms there is now added the BLASTOID (bud-shaped). The blastoid is stemmed and armless, and its globular "head" or "calyx," with its five petal-like divisions, resembles a flower bud. The blastoids became more abundant in the Devonian, culminated in the Carboniferous, and disappeared at the end of the Paleozoic.
The great eurypterids—some of which were five or six feet in length—and the cephalopods were still masters of the seas. Fishes were as yet few and small; trilobites and graptolites had now passed their prime and had diminished greatly in numbers. Scorpions are found in this period both in Europe and in America. The limestone-making seas of the Silurian swarmed with corals, crinoids, and brachiopods.
With the end of the Silurian period the AGE OF INVERTEBRATES comes to a close, giving place to the Devonian, the AGE OF FISHES.
In America the Silurian is not separated from the Devonian by any mountain-making deformation or continental uplift. The one period passed quietly into the other. Their conformable systems are so closely related, and the change in their faunas is so gradual, that geologists are not agreed as to the precise horizon which divides them.
SUBDIVISIONS AND PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY. The Devonian is represented in New York and southward by the following five series. We add the rocks of which they are chiefly composed.
5 Chemung . . . . . . sandstones and sandy shales 4 Hamilton . . . . . . shales and sandstones 3 Corniferous . . . . . . limestones 2 Oriskany . . . . . . sandstones 1 Helderberg . . . . . . limestones
The Helderberg is a transition epoch referred by some geologists to the Silurian. The thin sandstones of the Oriskany mark an epoch when waves worked over the deposits of former coastal plains. The limestones of the Corniferous testify to a warm and clear wide sea which extended from the Hudson to beyond the Mississippi. Corals throve luxuriantly, and their remains, with those of mollusks and other lime-secreting animals, built up great beds of limestone. The bordering continents, as during the later Silurian, must now have been monotonous lowlands which sent down little of even the finest waste to the sea.
In the Hamilton the clear seas of the previous epoch became clouded with mud. The immense deposits of coarse sandstones and sandy shales of the Chemung, which are found off what was at the time the west coast of Appalachia, prove an uplift of that ancient continent.
The Chemung series extends from the Catskill Mountains to northeastern Ohio and south to northeastern Tennessee, covering an area of not less than a hundred thousand square miles. In eastern New York it attains three thousand feet in thickness; in Pennsylvania it reaches the enormous thickness of two miles; but it rapidly thins to the west. Everywhere the Chemung is made of thin beds of rapidly alternating coarse and fine sands and clays, with an occasional pebble layer, and hence is a shallow-water deposit. The fine material has not been thoroughly winnowed from the coarse by the long action of strong waves and tides. The sands and clays have undergone little more sorting than is done by rivers. We must regard the Chemung sandstones as deposits made at the mouths of swift, turbid rivers in such great amount that they could be little sorted and distributed by waves.
Over considerable areas the Chemung sandstones bear little or no trace of the action of the sea. The Catskill Mountains, for example, have as their summit layers some three thousand feet of coarse red sandstones of this series, whose structure is that of river deposits, and whose few fossils are chiefly of fresh-water types. The Chemung is therefore composed of delta deposits, more or less worked over by the sea. The bulk of the Chemung equals that of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. To furnish this immense volume of sediment a great mountain range, or highland, must have been upheaved where the Appalachian lowland long had been. To what height the Devonian mountains of Appalachia attained cannot be told from the volume of the sediments wasted from them, for they may have risen but little faster than they were worn down by denudation. We may infer from the character of the waste which they furnished to the Chemung shores that they did not reach an Alpine height. The grains of the Chemung sandstones are not those which would result from mechanical disintegration, as by frost on high mountain peaks, but are rather those which would be left from the long chemical decay of siliceous crystalline rocks; for the more soluble minerals are largely wanting. The red color of much of the deposits points to the same conclusion. Red residual clays accumulated on the mountain sides and upland summits, and were washed as ocherous silt to mingle with the delta sands. The iron- bearing igneous rocks of the oldland also contributed by their decay iron in solution to the rivers, to be deposited in films of iron oxide about the quartz grains of the Chemung sandstones, giving them their reddish tints.
LIFE OF THE DEVONIAN
PLANTS. The lands were probably clad with verdure during Silurian times, if not still earlier; for some rare remains of ferns and other lowly types of vegetation have been found in the strata of that system. But it is in the Devonian that we discover for the first time the remains of extensive and luxuriant forests. This rich flora reached its climax in the Carboniferous, and it will be more convenient to describe its varied types in the next chapter.
RHIZOCARPS. In the shales of the Devonian are found microscopic spores of rhizocarps in such countless numbers that their weight must be reckoned in hundreds of millions of tons. It would seem that these aquatic plants culminated in this period, and in widely distant portions of the earth swampy flats and shallow lagoons were filled with vegetation of this humble type, either growing from the bottom or floating free upon the surface. It is to the resinous spores of the rhizocarps that the petroleum and natural gas from Devonian rocks are largely due. The decomposition of the spores has made the shales highly bituminous, and the oil and gas have accumulated in the reservoirs of overlying porous sandstones.
INVERTEBRATES. We must pass over the ever-changing groups of the invertebrates with the briefest notice. Chain corals became extinct at the close of the Silurian, but other corals were extremely common in the Devonian seas. At many places corals formed thin reefs, as at Louisville, Kentucky, where the hardness of the reef rock is one of the causes of the Falls of the Ohio.
Sponges, echinoderms, brachiopods, and mollusks were abundant. The cephalopods take a new departure. So far in all their various forms, whether straight, as the Orthoceras, or curved, or close- coiled as in the nautilus, the septum, or partition dividing the chambers, met the inner shell along a simple line, like that of the rim of a saucer. There now begins a growth of the septum by which its edges become sharply corrugated, and the suture, or line of juncture of the septum and the shell, is thus angled. The group in which this growth of the septum takes place is called the GONIATITE (Greek GONIA, angle).
VERTEBRATES. It is with the greatest interest that we turn now to study the backboned animals of the Devonian; for they are believed to be the ancestors of the hosts of vertebrates which have since dominated the earth. Their rudimentary structures foreshadowed what their descendants were to be, and give some clue to the earliest vertebrates from which they sprang. Like those whose remains are found in the lower Paleozoic systems, all of these Devonian vertebrates were aquatic and go under the general designation of fishes.
The lowest in grade and nearest, perhaps, to the ancestral type of vertebrates, was the problematic creature, an inch or so long, of Figure 297. Note the circular mouth not supplied with jaws, the lack of paired fins, and the symmetric tail fin, with the column of cartilaginous, ringlike vertebrae running through it to the end. The animal is probably to be placed with the jawless lampreys and hags,—a group too low to be included among true fishes.
OSTRACODERMS. This archaic group, long since extinct, is also too lowly to rank among the true fishes, for its members have neither jaws nor paired fins. These small, fishlike forms were cased in front with bony plates developed in the skin and covered in the rear with scales. The vertebrae were not ossified, for no trace of them has been found.
DEVONIAN FISHES. The TRUE FISHES of the Devonian can best be understood by reference to their descendants now living. Modern fishes are divided into several groups: SHARKS and their allies; DIPNOANS; GANOIDS, such as the sturgeon and gar; and TELEOSTS,— most common fishes, such as the perch and cod.
SHARKS. Of all groups of living fishes the sharks are the oldest and still retain most fully the embryonic characters of their Paleozoic ancestors. Such characters are the cartilaginous skeleton, and the separate gill slits with which the throat wall is pierced and which are arranged in line like the gill openings of the lamprey. The sharks of the Silurian and Devonian are known to us chiefly by their teeth and fin spines, for they were unprotected by scales or plates, and were devoid of a bony skeleton. Figure 299 is a restoration of an archaic shark from a somewhat higher horizon. Note the seven gill slits and the lappetlike paired fins. These fins seem to be remnants of the continuous fold of skin which, as embryology teaches, passed from fore to aft down each side of the primitive vertebrate.
Devonian sharks were comparatively small. They had not evolved into the ferocious monsters which were later to be masters of the seas.
DIPNOANS, OR LUNG FISHES. These are represented to-day by a few peculiar fishes and are distinguished by some high structures which ally them with amphibians. An air sac with cellular spaces is connected with the gullet and serves as a rudimentary lung. It corresponds with the swim bladder of most modern fishes, and appears to have had a common origin with it. We may conceive that the primordial fishes not only had gills used in breathing air dissolved in water, but also developed a saclike pouch off the gullet. This sac evolved along two distinct lines. On the line of the ancestry of most modern fishes its duct was closed and it became the swim bladder used in flotation and balancing. On another line of descent it was left open, air was swallowed into it, and it developed into the rudimentary lung of the dipnoans and into the more perfect lungs of the amphibians and other air- breathing vertebrates.
One of the ancient dipnoans is illustrated in Figure 300. Some of the members of this order were, like the ostracoderms, cased in armor, but their higher rank is shown by their powerful jaws and by other structures. Some of these armored fishes reached twenty- five feet in length and six feet across the head. They were the tyrants of the Devonian seas.
GANOIDS. These take their name from their enameled plates or scales of bone. The few genera now surviving are the descendants of the tribes which swarmed in the Devonian seas. A restoration of one of a leading order, the FRINGE-FINNED ganoids, is given in Figure 301. The side fins, which correspond to the limbs of the higher vertebrates, are quite unlike those of most modern fishes. Their rays, instead of radiating from a common base, fringe a central lobe which contains a cartilaginous axis. The teeth of the Devonian ganoids show a complicated folded structure.
GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS OF DEVONIAN FISHES. THE NOTOCHORD IS PERSISTENT. The notochord is a continuous rod of cartilage, or gristle, which in the embryological growth of vertebrate animals supports the spinal nerve cord before the formation of the vertebrae. In most modern fishes and in all higher vertebrates the notochord is gradually removed as the bodies of the vertebrae are formed about it; but in the Devonian fishes it persists through maturity and the vertebrae remain incomplete.
THE SKELETON IS CARTILAGINOUS. This also is an embryological characteristic. In the Devonian fishes the vertebrae, as well as the other parts of the skeleton, have not ossified, or changed to bone, but remain in their primitive cartilaginous condition.
THE TAIL FIN IS VERTEBRATED. The backbone runs through the fin and is fringed above and below with its vertical rays. In some fishes with vertebrated tail fins the fin is symmetric, and this seems to be the primitive type. In others the tail fin is unsymmetric: the backbone runs into the upper lobe, leaving the two lobes of unequal size. In most modern fishes (the teleosts) the tail fin is not vertebrated: the spinal column ends in a broad plate, to which the diverging fin rays are attached.
But along with these embryonic characters, which were common to all Devonian fishes, there were other structures in certain groups which foreshadowed the higher structures of the land vertebrates which were yet to come: air sacs which were to develop into lungs, and cartilaginous axes in the side fins which were a prophecy of limbs. The vertebrates had already advanced far enough to prove the superiority of their type of structure to all others. Their internal skeleton afforded the best attachment for muscles and enabled them to become the largest and most powerful creatures of the time. The central nervous system, with the predominance given to the ganglia at the fore end of the nerve cord,—the brain,— already endowed them with greater energy than the invertebrates; and, still more important, these structures contained the possibility of development into the more highly organized land vertebrates which were to rule the earth.
TELEOSTS. The great group of fishes called the teleosts, or those with complete bony skeletons, to which most modern fishes belong, may be mentioned here, although in the Devonian they had not yet appeared. The teleosts are a highly specialized type, adapted most perfectly to their aquatic environment. Heavy armor has been discarded, and reliance is placed instead on swiftness. The skeleton is completely ossified and the notochord removed. The vertebrae have been economically withdrawn from the tail, and the cartilaginous axis of the side fins has been fotfoid unnecessary. The air sac has become a swim bladder. In this complete specialization they have long since lost the possibility of evolving into higher types.
It is interesting to note that the modern teleosts in their embryological growth pass through the stages which characterized the maturity of their Devonian ancestors; their skeleton is cartilaginous and their tail fin vertebrated.
The Carboniferous system is so named from the large amount of coal which it contains. Other systems, from the Devonian on, are coal bearing also, but none so richly and to so wide an extent. Never before or since have the peculiar conditions been so favorable for the formation of extensive coal deposits.
With few exceptions the Carboniferous strata rest on those of the Devonian without any marked unconformity; the one period passed quietly into the other, with no great physical disturbances.
The Carboniferous includes three distinct series. The lower is called the MISSISSIPPIAN, from the outcrop of its formations along the Mississippi River in central and southern Illinois and the adjacent portions of Iowa and Missouri. The middle series is called the PENNSYLVANIAN (or Coal Measures), from its wide occurrence over Pennsylvania. The upper series is named the PERMIAN, from the province of Perm in Russia.
THE MISSISSIPPIAN SERIES. In the interior the Mississippian is composed chiefly of limestones, with some shales, which tell of a clear, warm, epicontinental sea swarming with crinoids, corals, and shells, and occasionally clouded with silt from the land.
In the eastern region, New York had been added by uplift to the Appalachian land which now was united to the northern area. From eastern Pennsylvania southward there were laid in a subsiding trough, first, thick sandstones (the Pocono sandstone), and later still heavier shales,—the two together reaching the thickness of four thousand feet and more. We infer a renewed uplift of Appalachia similar to that of the later epochs of the Devonian, but as much less in amount as the volume of sediments is smaller.
THE PENNSYLVANIAN SERIES
The Mississippian was brought to an end by a quiet oscillation which lifted large areas slightly above the sea, and the Pennsylvanian began with a movement in the opposite direction. The sea encroached on the new land, and spread far and wide a great basal conglomerate and coarse sandstones. On this ancient beach deposit a group of strata rests which we must now interpret. They consist of alternating shales and sandstones, with here and there a bed of limestone and an occasional seam of coal. A stratum of fire clay commonly underlies a coal seam, and there occur also beds of iron ore. We give a typical section of a very small portion of the series at a locality in Pennyslvania. Although some of the minor changes are omitted, the section shows the rapid alternation of the strata:
Feet 9 Sandstone and shale . . . . . . . . 25 8 Limestone . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 7 Sandstone . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 6 Coal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1-6 5 Shale . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0-2 4 Sandstone . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40 3 Limestone . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 2 Coal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5-12 1 Fire clay . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
This section shows more coal than is usual; on the whole, coal seams do not take up more than one foot in fifty of the Coal Measures. They vary also in thickness more than is seen in the section, some exceptional seams reaching the thickness of fifty feet.
HOW COAL WAS MADE.
1. Coal is of vegetable origin. Examined under the microscope even anthracite, or hard coal, is seen to contain carbonized vegetal tissues. There are also all gradations connecting the hardest anthracite—through semibituminous coal, bituminous or soft coal, lignite (an imperfect coal in which sometimes woody fibers may be seen little changed)—with peat and decaying vegetable tissues. Coal is compressed and mineralized vegetal matter. Its varieties depend on the perfection to which the peculiar change called bituminization has been carried, and also, as shown in the table below, on the degree to which the volatile substances and water have escaped, and on the per cent of carbon remaining.
Peat Lignite Bituminous Coal Anthracite Dismal Swamp Texas Penn. Penn. Moisture . . . . 78.89 14.67 1.30 2.74 Volatile matter . 13.84 37.32 20.87 4.25 Fixed carbon . . 6.49 41.07 67.20 81.51 Ash . . . . . . . 0.78 6.69 8.80 10.87
2. The vegetable remains associated with coal are those of land plants.
3. Coal accumulated in the presence of water; for it is only when thus protected from the air that vegetal matter is preserved.
4. The vegetation of coal accumulated for the most part where it grew; it was not generally drifted and deposited by waves and currents. Commonly the fire clay beneath the seam is penetrated with roots, and the shale above is packed with leaves of ferns and other plants as beautifully pressed as in a herbarium. There often is associated with the seam a fossil forest, with the stumps, which are still standing where they grew, their spreading roots, and the soil beneath, all changed to stone. In the Nova Scotia field, out of seventy-six distinct coal seams, twenty are underlain by old forest grounds.
The presence of fire clay beneath a seam points in the same direction. Such underclays withstand intense heat and are used in making fire brick, because their alkalies have been removed by the long-continued growth of vegetation.
Fuel coal is also too pure to have been accumulated by driftage. In that case we should expect to find it mixed with mud, while in fact it often contains no more ash than the vegetal matter would furnish from which it has been compressed.
These conditions are fairly met in the great swamps of river plains and deltas and of coastal plains, such as the great Dismal Swamp, where thousands of generations of forests with their undergrowths contribute their stems and leaves to form thick beds of peat. A coal seam is a fossil peat bed.
GEOGRAPHICAL CONDITIONS DURING THE PENNSYLVANIAN. The Carboniferous peat swamps were of vast extent. A map of the Coal Measures (Fig. 260) shows that the coal marshes stretched, with various interruptions of higher ground and straits of open water, from eastern Pennsylvania into Alabama, Texas, and Kansas. Some individual coal beds may still be traced over a thousand square miles, despite the erosion which they have suffered. It taxes the imagination to conceive that the varied region included within these limits was for hundreds of thousands of years a marshy plain covered with tropical jungles such as that pictured in Figure 304.
On the basis that peat loses four fifths of its bulk in changing to coal, we may reckon the thickness of these ancient peat beds. Coal seams six and ten feet thick, which are not uncommon, represent peat beds thirty and fifty feet in thickness, while mammoth coal seams fifty feet thick have been compressed from peat beds two hundred and fifty feet deep.
At the same time, the thousands of feet of marine and freshwater sediments, with their repeated alternations of limestones, sandstones, and shales, in which the seams of coal occur, prove a slow subsidence, with many changes in its rate, with halts when the land was at a stillstand, and with occasional movements upward.
When subsidence was most rapid and long continued the sea encroached far and wide upon the lowlands and covered the coal swamps with sands and muds and limy oozes. When subsidence slackened or ceased the land gained on the sea. Bays were barred, and lagoons as they gradually filled with mud became marshes. River deltas pushed forward, burying with their silts the sunken peat beds of earlier centuries, and at the surface emerged in broad, swampy flats,—like those of the deltas of the Mississippi and the Ganges,—which soon were covered with luxuriant forests. At times a gentle uplift brought to sea level great coastal plains, which for ages remained mantled with the jungle, their undeveloped drainage clogged with its debris, and were then again submerged.
PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY OF THE SEVERAL REGIONS. THE ACADIAN REGION lay on the eastern side of the northern land, where now are New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, and was an immense river delta. Here river deposits rich in coal accumulated to a depth of sixteen thousand feet. The area of this coal field is estimated at about thirty-six thousand square miles.
THE APPALACHIAN REGION skirts the Appalachian oldland on the west from the southern boundary of New York to northern Alabama, extending west into eastern Ohio. The Cincinnati anticline was now a peninsula, and the broad gulf which had lain between it and Appalachia was transformed at the beginning of the Pennsylvanian into wide marshy plains, now sinking beneath the sea and now emerging from it. This area subsided during the Carboniferous period to a depth of nearly ten thousand feet.
THE CENTRAL REGION lay west of the peninsula of the Cincinnati anticline, and extended from Indiana west into eastern Nebraska, and from central Iowa and Illinois southward about the ancient island in Missouri and Arkansas into Oklahoma and Texas. On the north the subsidence in this area was comparatively slight, for the Carboniferous strata scarcely exceed two thousand feet in thickness. But in Arkansas and Indian Territory the downward movement amounted to four and five miles, as is proved by shoal water deposits of that immense thickness.
The coal fields of Indiana, and Illinois are now separated by erosion from those lying west of the Mississippi River. At the south the Appalachian land seems still to have stretched away to the west across Louisiana and Mississippi into Texas, and this westward extension formed the southern boundary of the coal marshes of the continent.
The three regions just mentioned include the chief Carboniferous coal fields of North America. Including a field in central Michigan evidently formed in an inclosed basin (Fig. 260), and one in Rhode Island, the total area of American coal fields has been reckoned at not less than two hundred thousand square miles. We can hardly estimate the value of these great stores of fossil fuel to an industrial civilization. The forests of the coal swamps accumulated in their woody tissues the energy which they received from the sun in light and heat, and it is this solar energy long stored in coal seams which now forms the world's chief source of power in manufacturing.
THE WESTERN AREA. On the Great Plains beyond the Missouri River the Carboniferous strata pass under those of more recent systems. Where they reappear, as about dissected mountain axes or on stripped plateaus, they consist wholly of marine deposits and are devoid of coal. The rich coal fields of the West are of later date.
On the whole the Carboniferous seems to have been a time of subsidence in the West. Throughout the period a sea covered the Great Basin and the plateaus of the Colorado River. At the time of the greatest depression the sites of the central chains of the Rockies were probably islands, but early in the period they may have been connected with the broad lands to the south and east. Thousands of feet of Carboniferous sediments were deposited where the Sierra Nevada Mountains now stand.
THE PERMIAN. As the Carboniferous period drew toward its close the sea gradually withdrew from the eastern part of the continent. Where the sea lingered in the deepest troughs, and where inclosed basins were cut off from it, the strata of the Permian were deposited. Such are found in New Brunswick, in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, in Texas, and in Kansas. In southwestern Kansas extensive Permian beds of rock salt and gypsum show that here lay great salt lakes in which these minerals were precipitated as their brines grew dense and dried away.
In the southern hemisphere the Permian deposits are so extraordinary that they deserve a brief notice, although we have so far omitted mention of the great events which characterized the evolution of other continents than our own. The Permian fauna- flora of Australia, India, South Africa, and the southern part of South America are so similar that the inference is a reasonable one that these widely separated regions were then connected together, probably as extensions of a great antarctic continent.
Interbedded with the Permian strata of the first three countries named are extensive and thick deposits of a peculiar nature which are clearly ancient ground moraines. Clays and sand, now hardened to firm rock, are inset with unsorted stones of all sizes, which often are faceted and scratched. Moreover, these bowlder clays rest on rock pavements which are polished and scored with glacial markings. Hence toward the close of the Paleozoic the southern lands of the eastern hemisphere were invaded by great glaciers or perhaps by ice sheets like that which now shrouds Greenland.
These Permian ground moraines are not the first traces of the work of glaciers met with in the geological record. Similar deposits prove glaciation in Norway succeeding the pre-Cambrian stage of elevation, and Cambrian glacial drift has recently been found in China.
THE APPALACHIAN DEFORMATION. We have seen that during Paleozoic times a long, narrow trough of the sea lay off the western coast of the ancient land of Appalachia, where now are the Appalachian Mountains. During the long ages of this era the trough gradually subsided, although with many stillstands and with occasional slight oscillations upward. Meanwhile the land lying to the east was gradually uplifted at varying rates and with long pauses. The waste of the rising land was constantly transferred to the sinking marginal sea bottom, and on the whole the trough was filled with sediments as rapidly as it subsided. The sea was thus kept shallow, and at times, especially toward the close of the era, much of the area was upbuilt or raised to low, marshy, coastal plains. When the Carboniferous was ended the waste which had been removed from the land and laid along its margin in the successive formations of the Paleozoic had reached a thickness of between thirty and forty thousand feet.
Both by sedimentation and by subsidence the trough had now become a belt of weakness in the crust of the earth. Here the crust was now made of layers to the depth of six or seven miles. In comparison with the massive crystalline rocks of Appalachia on the east, the layered rock of the trough was weak to resist lateral pressure, as a ream of sheets of paper is weak when compared with a solid board of the same thickness. It was weaker also than the region to the west, since there the sediments were much thinner. Besides, by the long-continued depression the strata of the trough had been bent from the flat-lying attitude in which they were laid to one in which they were less able to resist a horizontal thrust.
There now occurred one of the critical stages in the history of the planet, when the crust crumples under its own weight and shrinks down upon a nucleus which is diminishing in volume and no longer able to support it. Under slow but resistless pressure the strata of the Appalachian trough were thrust against the rigid land, and slowly, steadily bent into long folds whose axes ran northeast-southwest parallel to the ancient coast line. It was on the eastern side next the buttress of the land that the deformation was the greatest, and the folds most steep and close. In central Pennsylvania and West Virginia the folds were for the most part open. South of these states the folds were more closely appressed, the strata were much broken, and the great thrust faults were formed which have been described already. In eastern Pennsylvania seams of bituminous coal were altered to anthracite, while outside the region of strong deformation, as in western Pennyslvania, they remained unchanged. An important factor in the deformation was the massive limestones of the Cambrian-Ordovician. Because of these thick, resistant beds the rocks were bent into wide folds and sheared in places with great thrust faults. Had the strata been weak shales, an equal pressure would have crushed and mashed them.
Although the great earth folds were slowly raised, and no doubt eroded in their rising, they formed in all probability a range of lofty mountains, with a width of from fifty to a hundred and twenty-five miles, which stretched from New York to central Alabama.
From their bases lowlands extended westward to beyond the Missouri River. At the same time ranges were upridged out of thick Paleozoic sediments both in the Bay of Fundy region and in the Indian Territory. The eastern portion of the North American continent was now well-nigh complete.
The date of the Appalachian deformation is told in the usual way. The Carboniferous strata, nearly two miles thick, are all infolded in the Appalachian ridges, while the next deposits found in this region—those of the later portion of the first period (the Trias) of the succeeding era—rest unconformably on the worn edges of the Appalachian folded strata. The deformation therefore took place about the close of the Paleozoic. It seems to have begun in the Permian, in, eastern Pennsylvania,—for here the Permian strata are wanting,—and to have continued into the Trias, whose earlier formations are absent over all the area.
With this wide uplift the subsidence of the sea floor which had so long been general in eastern North America came to an end. Deposition now gave place to erosion. The sedimentary record of the Paleozoic was closed, and after an unknown lapse of time, here unrecorded, the annals of the succeeding era were written under changed conditions.
In western North America the closing stages of the Paleozoic were marked by important oscillations. The Great Basin, which had long been a mediterranean sea, was converted into land over western Utah and eastern Nevada, while the waves of the Pacific rolled across California and western Nevada.
The absence of tuffs and lavas among the Carboniferous strata of North America shows that here volcanic action was singularly wanting during the entire period. Even the Appalachian deformation was not accompanied by any volcanic outbursts.
LIFE OF THE CARBONIFEROUS
PLANTS. The gloomy forests and dense undergrowths of the Carboniferous jungles would appear unfamiliar to us could we see them as they grew, and even a botanist would find many of their forms perplexing and hard to classify. None of our modern trees would meet the eye. Plants with conspicuous flowers of fragrance and beauty were yet to come. Even mosses and grasses were still absent.
Tree ferns lifted their crowns of feathery fronds high in air on trunks of woody tissue; and lowly herbaceous ferns, some belonging to existing families, carpeted the ground. Many of the fernlike forms, however, have distinct affinities with the cycads, of which they may be the ancestors, and some bear seeds and must be classed as gymnosperms.
Dense thickets, like cane or bamboo brakes, were composed of thick clumps of CALAMITES, whose slender, jointed stems shot up to a height of forty feet, and at the joints bore slender branches set with whorls of leaves. These were close allies of the Equiseta or "horsetails," of the present; but they bore characteristics of higher classes in the woody structures of their stems.
There were also vast monotonous forests, composed chiefly of trees belonging to the lycopods, and whose nearest relatives to-day are the little club mosses of our eastern woods. Two families of lycopods deserve special mention,—the Lepidodendrons and the Sigillaria.
The LEPIDODENDRON, or "scale tree," was a gigantic club moss fifty and seventy-five feet high, spreading toward the top into stout branches, at whose ends were borne cone-shaped spore cases. The younger parts of the tree were clothed with stiff needle-shaped leaves, but elsewhere the trunk and branches were marked with scalelike scars, left by the fallen leaves, and arranged in spiral rows.
The SIGILLARIA, or "seal tree," was similar to the Lepidodendron, but its fluted trunk divided into even fewer branches, and was dotted with vertical rows of leaf scars, like the impressions of a seal.
Both Lepidodendron and Sigillaria were anchored by means of great cablelike underground stems, which ran to long distances through the marshy ground. The trunks of both trees had a thick woody rind, inclosing loose cellular tissue and a pith. Their hollow stumps, filled with sand and mud, are common in the Coal Measures, and in them one sometimes finds leaves and stems, land shells, and the bones of little reptiles of the time which made their home there.
It is important to note that some of these gigantic lycopods, which are classed with the CRYPTOGAMS, or flowerless plants, had pith and medullary rays dividing their cylinders into woody wedges. These characters connect them with the PHANEROGAMS, or flowering plants. Like so many of the organisms of the remote past, they were connecting types from which groups now widely separated have diverged.
Gymnosperms, akin to the cycads, were also present in the Carboniferous forests. Such were the different species of CORDAITES, trees pyramidal in shape, with strap-shaped leaves and nutlike fruit. Other gymnosperms were related to the yews, and it was by these that many of the fossil nuts found in the Coal Measures were borne. It is thought by some that the gymnosperms had their station on the drier plains and higher lands.
The Carboniferous jungles extended over parts of Europe and of Asia, as well as eastern North America, and reached from the equator to within nine degrees of the north pole. Even in these widely separated regions the genera and species of coal plants are close akin and often identical.
INVERTEBRATES. Among the echinoderms, crinoids are now exceedingly abundant, sea urchins are more plentiful, and sea cucumbers are found now for the first time. Trilobites are rapidly declining, and pass away forever with the close of the period. Eurypterids are common; stinging scorpions are abundant; and here occur the first-known spiders.
We have seen that the arthropods were the first of all animals to conquer the realm of the air, the earliest insects appearing in the Ordovician. Insects had now become exceedingly abundant, and the Carboniferous forests swarmed with the ancestral types of dragon flies,—some with a spread of wing of more than two feet,— May flies, crickets, and locusts. Cockroaches infested the swamps, and one hundred and thirty-three species of this ancient order have been discovered in the Carboniferous of North America. The higher flower-loving insects are still absent; the reign of the flowering plants has not yet begun. The Paleozoic insects were generalized types connecting the present orders. Their fore wings were still membranous and delicately veined, and used in flying; they had not yet become thick, and useful only as wing covers, as in many of their descendants.
FISHES still held to the Devonian types, with the exception that the strange ostracoderms now had perished.
AMPHIBIANS. The vertebrates had now followed the arthropods and the mollusks upon the land, and had evolved a higher type adapted to the new environment. Amphibians—the class to which frogs and salamanders belong—now appear, with lungs for breathing air and with limbs for locomotion on the land. Most of the Carboniferous amphibians were shaped like the salamander, with weak limbs adapted more for crawling than for carrying the body well above the ground. Some legless, degenerate forms were snakelike in shape.
The earliest amphibians differ from those of to-day in a number of respects. They were connecting types linking together fishes, from which they were descended, with reptiles, of which they were the ancestors. They retained the evidence of their close relationship with the Devonian fishes in their cold blood, their gills and aquatic habit during their larval stage, their teeth with dentine infolded like those of the Devonian ganoids but still more intricately, and their biconcave vertebrae which never completely ossified. These, the highest vertebrates of the time, had not yet advanced beyond the embryonic stage of the more or less cartilaginous skeleton and the persistent notochord.
On the other hand, the skull of the Carboniferous amphibians was made of close-set bony plates, like the skull of the reptile, rather than like that of the frog, with its open spaces (Figs. 313 and 314). Unlike modern amphibians, with their slimy skin, the Carboniferous amphibians wore an armor of bony scales over the ventral surface and sometimes over the back as well.
It is interesting to notice from the footprints and skeletons of these earliest-known vertebrates of the land what was the primitive number of digits. The Carboniferous amphibians had five- toed feet, the primitive type of foot, from which their descendants of higher orders, with a smaller number of digits, have diverged.
The Carboniferous was the age of lycopods and amphibians, as the Devonian had been the age of rhizocarps and fishes.
LIFE OF THE PERMIAN. The close of the Paleozoic was, as we have seen, a time of marked physical changes. The upridging of the Appalachians had begun and a wide continental uplift—proved by the absence of Permian deposits over large areas where sedimentation had gone on before—opened new lands for settlement to hordes of air-breathing animals. Changes of climate compelled extensive migrations, and the fauna of different regions were thus brought into conflict. The Permian was a time of pronounced changes in plant and animal life, and a transitional period between two great eras. The somber forests of the earlier Carboniferous, with their gigantic club mosses, were now replaced by forests of cycads, tree ferns, and conifers. Even in the lower Permian the Lepidodendron and Sigillaria were very rare, and before the end of the epoch they and the Calamites also had become extinct. Gradually the antique types of the Paleozoic fauna died out, and in the Permian rocks are found the last survivors of the cystoid, the trilobite, and the eurypterid, and of many long-lived families of brachiopods, mollusks, and other invertebrates. The venerable Orthoceras and the Goniatite linger on through the epoch and into the first period of the succeeding era. Forerunners of the great ammonite family of cephalopod mollusks now appear. The antique forms of the earlier Carboniferous amphibians continue, but with many new genera and a marked increase in size.
A long forward step had now been taken in the evolution of the vertebrates. A new and higher type, the reptiles, had appeared, and in such numbers and variety are they found in the Permian strata that their advent may well have occurred in a still earlier epoch. It will be most convenient to describe the Permian reptiles along with their descendants of the Mesozoic.
With the close of the Permian the world of animal and vegetable life had so changed that the line is drawn here which marks the end of the old order and the beginning of the new and separates the Paleozoic from the succeeding era,—the Mesozoic, the Middle Age of geological history. Although the Mesozoic era is shorter than the Paleozoic, as measured by the thickness of their strata, yet its duration must be reckoned in millions of years. Its predominant life features are the culmination and the beginning of the decline of reptiles, amphibians, cephalopod mollusks, and cycads, and the advent of marsupial mammals, birds, teleost fishes, and angiospermous plants. The leading events of the long ages of the era we can sketch only in the most summary way.
The Mesozoic comprises three systems,—the TRIASSIC, named from its threefold division in Germany; the JURASSIC, which is well displayed in the Jura Mountains; and the CRETACEOUS, which contains the extensive chalk (Latin, creta) deposits of Europe.
In eastern North America the Mesozoic rocks are much less important than the Paleozoic, for much of this portion of the continent was land during the Mesozoic era, and the area of the Mesozoic rocks is small. In western North America, on the other hand, the strata of the Mesozoic—and of the Cenozoic also—are widely spread. The Paleozoic rocks are buried quite generally from view except where the mountain makings and continental uplifts of the Mesozoic and Cenozoic have allowed profound erosion to bring them to light, as in deep canyons and about mountain axes. The record of many of the most important events in the development of the continent during the Mesozoic and Cenozoic eras is found in the rocks of our western states.
THE TRIASSIC AND JURASSIC
EASTERN NORTH AMERICA. The sedimentary record interrupted by the Appalachian deformation was not renewed in eastern North America until late in the Triassic. Hence during this long interval the land stood high, the coast was farther out than now, and over our Atlantic states geological time was recorded chiefly in erosion forms of hill and plain which have long since vanished. The area of the later Triassic rocks of this region, which take up again the geological record, is seen in the map of Figure 260. They lie on the upturned and eroded edges of the older rocks and occupy long troughs running for the most part parallel to the Atlantic coast. Evidently subsidence was in progress where these rocks were deposited. The eastern border of Appalachia was now depressed. The oldland was warping, and long belts of country lying parallel to the shore subsided, forming troughs in which thousands of feet of sediment now gathered.
These Triassic rocks, which are chiefly sandstones, hold no marine fossils, and hence were not laid in open arms of the sea. But their layers are often ripple-marked, and contain many tracks of reptiles, imprints of raindrops, and some fossil wood, while an occasional bed of shale is filled with the remains of fishes. We may conceive, then, of the Connecticut valley and the larger trough to the southwest as basins gradually sinking at a rate perhaps no faster than that of the New Jersey coast to-day, and as gradually aggraded by streams from the neighboring uplands. Their broad, sandy flats were overflowed by wandering streams, and when subsidence gained on deposition shallow lakes overspread the alluvial plains. Perhaps now and then the basins became long, brackish estuaries, whose low shores were swept by the incoming tide and were in turn left bare at its retreat to receive the rain prints of passing showers and the tracks of the troops of reptiles which inhabited these valleys.
The Triassic rocks are mainly red sandstones,—often feldspathic, or arkose, with some conglomerates and shales. Considering the large amount of feldspathic material in these rocks, do you infer that they were derived from the adjacent crystalline and metamorphic rocks of the oldland of Appalachia, or from the sedimentary Paleozoic rocks which had been folded into mountains during the Appalachian deformation? If from the former, was the drainage of the northern Appalachian mountain region then, as now, eastward and southeastward toward the Atlantic? The Triassic sandstones are voluminous, measuring at least a mile in thickness, and are largely of coarse waste. What do you infer as to the height of the lands from which the waste was shed, or the direction of the oscillation which they were then undergoing? In the southern basins, as about Richmond, Virginia, are valuable beds of coal; what was the physical geography of these areas when the coal was being formed?
Interbedded with the Triassic sandstones are contemporaneous lava beds which were fed from dikes. Volcanic action, which had been remarkably absent in eastern North America during Paleozoic times, was well-marked in connection with the warping now in progress. Thick intrusive sheets have also been driven in among the strata, as, for example, the sheet of the Palisades of the Hudson, described on page 269.
The present condition of the Triassic sandstones of the Connecticut valley is seen in Figure 315. Were the beds laid in their present attitude? What was the nature of the deformation which they have suffered? When did the intrusion of lava sheets take place relative to the deformation? What effect have these sheets on the present topography, and why? Assuming that the Triassic deformation went on more rapidly than denudation, what was its effect on the topography of the time? Are there any of its results remaining in the topography of to-day? Do the Triassic areas now stand higher or lower than the surrounding country, and why? How do the Triassic sandstones and shales compare in hardness with the igneous and metamorphic rocks about them? The Jurassic strata are wanting over the Triassic areas and over all of eastern North America. Was this region land or sea, an area of erosion or sedimentation, during the Jurassic period? In New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and farther southwest the lowest strata of the next period, the Cretaceous, rest on the eroded edges of the earlier rocks. The surface on which they lie is worn so even that we must believe that at the opening of the Cretaceous the oldland of Appalachia, including the Triassic areas, had been baseleveled at least near the coast. When, therefore, did the deformation of the Triassic rocks occur?
WESTERN NORTH AMERICA. Triassic strata infolded in the Sierra Nevada Mountains carry marine fossils and reach a thickness of nearly five thousand feet. California was then under water, and the site of the Sierra was a subsiding trough slowly filling with waste from the Great Basin land to the east.
Over a long belt which reaches from Wyoming across Colorado into New Mexico no Triassic sediments are found, nor is there any evidence that they were ever present; hence this area was high land suffering erosion during the Triassic. On each side of it, in eastern Colorado and about the Black Hills, in western Texas, in Utah, over the site of the Wasatch Mountains, and southward into Arizona over the plateaus trenched by the Colorado River, are large areas of Triassic rocks, sandstones chiefly, with some rock salt and gypsum. Fossils are very rare and none of them marine. Here, then, lay broad shallow lakes often salt, and warped basins, in which the waste of the adjacent uplands gathered. To this system belong the sandstones of the Garden of the Gods in Colorado, which later earth movements have upturned with the uplifted mountain flanks.
The Jurassic was marked with varied oscillations and wide changes in the outline of sea and land.
Jurassic shales of immense thickness—now metamorphosed into slates—are found infolded into the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Hence during Jurassic times the Sierra trough continued to subside, and enormous deposits of mud were washed into it from the land lying to the east. Contemporaneous lava flows interbedded with the strata show that volcanic action accompanied the downwarp, and that molten rock was driven upward through fissures in the crust and outspread over the sea floor in sheets of lava.
THE SIERRA DEFORMATION. Ever since the middle of the Silurian, the Sierra trough had been sinking, though no doubt with halts and interruptions, until it contained nearly twenty-five thousand feet of sediment. At the close of the Jurassic it yielded to lateral pressure and the vast pile of strata was crumpled and upheaved into towering mountains. The Mesozoic muds were hardened and squeezed into slates. The rocks were wrenched and broken, and underground waters began the work of filling their fissures with gold-bearing quartz, which was yet to wait millions of years before the arrival of man to mine it. Immense bodies of molten rock were intruded into the crust as it suffered deformation, and these appear in the large areas of granite which the later denudation of the range has brought to light.
The same movements probably uplifted the rocks of the Coast Range in a chain of islands. The whole western part of the continent was raised and its seas and lakes were for the most part drained away.
THE BRITISH ISLES. The Triassic strata of the British Isles are continental, and include breccia beds of cemented talus, deposits of salt and gypsum, and sandstones whose rounded and polished grains are those of the wind-blown sands of deserts. In Triassic times the British Isles were part of a desert extending over much of northwestern Europe.
The third great system of the Mesozoic includes many formations, marine and continental, which record a long and complicated history marked by great oscillations of the crust and wide changes in the outlines of sea and land.
EARLY CRETACEOUS. In eastern North America the lowest Cretaceous series comprises fresh-water formations which are traced from Nantucket across Martha's Vineyard and Long Island, and through New Jersey southward into Georgia. They rest unconformably on the Triassic sandstones and the older rocks of the region. The Atlantic shore line was still farther out than now in the northern states. Again, as during the Triassic, a warping of the crust formed a long trough parallel to the coast and to the Appalachian ridges, but cut off from the sea; and here the continental deposits of the early Cretaceous were laid.
Along the Gulf of Mexico the same series was deposited under like conditions over the area known as the Mississippi embayment, reaching from Georgia northwestward into Tennessee and thence across into Arkansas and southward into Texas.
In the Southwest the subsidence continued until the transgressing sea covered most of Mexico and Texas and extended a gulf northward into Kansas. In its warm and quiet waters limestones accumulated to a depth of from one thousand to five thousand feet in Texas, and of more than ten thousand feet in Mexico. Meanwhile the lowlands, where the Great Plains are now, received continental deposits; coal swamps stretched from western Montana into British Columbia.
THE MIDDLE CRETACEOUS. This was a land epoch. The early Cretaceous sea retired from Texas and Mexico, for its sediments are overlain unconformably by formations of the Upper Cretaceous. So long was the time gap between the two series that no species found in the one occurs in the other.
THE UPPER CRETACEOUS. There now began one of the most remarkable events in all geological history,—the great Cretaceous subsidence. Its earlier warpings were recorded in continental deposits,—wide sheets of sandstone, shale, and some coal,—which were spread from Texas to British Columbia. These continental deposits are overlain by a succession of marine formations whose vast area is shown on the map, Figure 260. We may infer that as the depression of the continent continued the sea came in far and wide over the coast lands and the plains worn low during the previous epochs. Upper Cretaceous formations show that south of New England the waters of the Atlantic somewhat overlapped the crystalline rocks of the Piedmont Belt and spread their waste over the submerged coastal plain. The Gulf of Mexico again covered the Mississippi embayment, reaching as far north as southern Illinois, and extended over Texas.
A mediterranean sea now stretched from the Gulf to the arctic regions and from central Iowa to the eastern shore of the Great Basin land at about the longitude of Salt Lake City, the Colorado Mountains rising from it in a chain of islands. Along with minor oscillations there were laid in the interior sea various formations of sandstones, shales, and limestones, and from Kansas to South Dakota beds of white chalk show that the clear, warm waters swarmed at times with foraminiferal life whose disintegrating microscopic shells accumulated in this rare deposit.
At this epoch a wide sea, interrupted by various islands, stretched across Eurasia from Wales and western Spain to China, and spread southward over much of the Sahara. To the west its waters were clear and on its floor the crumbled remains of foraminifers gathered in heavy accumulations of calcareous ooze,— the white chalk of France and England. Sea urchins were also abundant, and sponges contributed their spicules to form nodules of flint.
THE LARAMIE. The closing stage of the Cretaceous was marked in North America by a slow uplift of the land. As the interior sea gradually withdrew, the warping basins of its floor were filled with waste from the rising lands about them, and over this wide area there were spread continental deposits in fresh-water lakes like the Great Lakes of the present, in brackish estuaries, and in river plains, while occasional oscillations now and again let in the sea. There were vast marshes in which there accumulated the larger part of the valuable coal seams of the West. The Laramie is the coal-bearing series of the West, as the Pennsylvanian is of the eastern part of our country.
THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN DEFORMATION. At the close of the Cretaceous we enter upon an epoch of mountain-making far more extensive than any which the continent had witnessed. The long belt lying west of the ancient axes of the Colorado Islands and east of the Great Basin land had been an area of deposition for many ages, and in its subsiding troughs Paleozoic and Mesozoic sediments had gathered to the depth of many thousand feet. And now from Mexico well-nigh to the Arctic Ocean this belt yielded to lateral pressure. The Cretaceous limestones of Mexico were folded into lofty mountains. A massive range was upfolded where the Wasatch Mountains now are, and various ranges of the Rockies in Colorado and other states were upridged. However slowly these deformations were effected they were no doubt accompanied by world-shaking earthquakes, and it is known that volcanic eruptions took place on a magnificent scale. Outflows of lava occurred along the Wasatch, the laccoliths of the Henry Mountains were formed, while the great masses of igneous rock which constitute the cores of the Spanish Peaks and other western mountains were thrust up amid the strata. The high plateaus from which many of these ranges rise had not yet been uplifted, and the bases of the mountains probably stood near the level of the sea.
North America was now well-nigh completed. The mediterranean seas which so often had occupied the heart of the land were done away with, and the continent stretched unbroken from the foot of the Sierras on the west to the Fall Line of the Atlantic coastal plain on the east.
THE MESOZOIC PENEPLAIN. The immense thickness of the Mesozoic formations conveys to our minds some idea of the vast length of time involved in the slow progress of its successive ages. The same lesson is taught as plainly by the amount of denudation which the lands suffered during the era.
The beginning of the Mesozoic saw a system of lofty mountain ranges stretching from New York into central Alabama. The end of this long era found here a wide peneplain crossed by sluggish wandering rivers and overlooked by detached hills as yet unreduced to the general level. The Mesozoic era was long enough for the Appalachian Mountains, upridged at its beginning, to have been weathered and worn away and carried grain by grain to the sea. The same plain extended over southern New England. The Taconic range, uplifted partially at least at the close of the Ordovician, and the block mountains of the Triassic, together with the pre- Cambrian mountains of ancient Appalachia, had now all been worn to a common level with the Allegheny ranges. The Mesozoic peneplain has been upwarped by later crustal movements and has suffered profound erosion, but the remnants of it which remain on the upland of southern New England and the even summits of the Allegheny ridges suffice to prove that it once existed. The age of the Mesozoic peneplain is determined from the fact that the lower Tertiary sediments were deposited on its even surface when at the close of the era the peneplain was depressed along its edges beneath the sea.
LIFE OF THE MESOZOIC
PLANT LIFE OF THE TRIASSIC AND JURASSIC. The Carboniferous forests of lepidodendrons and sigillafids had now vanished from the earth. The uplands were clothed with conifers, like the Araucarian pines of South America and Australia. Dense forests of tree ferns throve in moist regions, and canebrakes of horsetails of modern type, but with stems reaching four inches in thickness, bordered the lagoons and marshes. Cycads were exceedingly abundant. These gymnosperms, related to the pines and spruces in structure and fruiting, but palmlike in their foliage, and uncoiling their long leaves after the manner of ferns, culminated in the Jurassic. From the view point of the botanist the Mesozoic is the Age of Cycads, and after this era they gradually decline to the small number of species now existing in tropical latitudes.
PLANT LIFE OF THE CRETACEOUS. In the Lower Cretaceous the woodlands continued of much the same type as during the Jurassic. The forerunners now appeared of the modern dicotyls (plants with two seed leaves), and in the Middle Cretaceous the monocotyledonous group of palms came in. Palms are so like cycads that we may regard them as the descendants of some cycad type.
In the UPPER CRETACEOUS, cycads become rare. The highest types of flowering plants gain a complete ascendency, and forests of modern aspect cover the continent from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean. Among the kinds of forest trees whose remains are found in the continental deposits of the Cretaceous are the magnolia, the myrtle, the laurel, the fig, the tulip tree, the chestnut, the oak, beech, elm, poplar, willow, birch, and maple. Forests of Eucalyptus grew along the coast of New England, and palms on the Pacific shores of British Columbia. Sequoias of many varieties ranged far into northern Canada. In northern Greenland there were luxuriant forests of magnolias, figs, and cycads; and a similar flora has been disinterred from the Cretaceous rocks of Alaska and Spitzbergen. Evidently the lands within the Arctic Circle enjoyed a warm and genial climate, as they had done during the Paleozoic. Greenland had the temperature of Cuba and southern Florida, and the time was yet far distant when it was to be wrapped in glacier ice.
INVERTEBRATES. During the long succession of the ages of the Mesozoic, with their vast geographical changes, there were many and great changes in organisms. Species were replaced again and again by others better fitted to the changing environment. During the Lower Cretaceous alone there were no less than six successive changes in the faunas which inhabited the limestone-making sea which then covered Texas. We shall disregard these changes for the most part in describing the life of the era, and shall confine our view to some of the most important advances made in the leading types.
Stromatopora have disappeared. Protozoans and sponges are exceedingly abundant, and all contribute to the making of Mesozoic strata. Corals have assumed a more modern type. Sea urchins have become plentiful; crinoids abound until the Cretaceous, where they begin their decline to their present humble station.
Trilobites and eurypterids are gone. Ten-footed crustaceans abound of the primitive long-tailed type (represented by the lobster and the crayfish), and in the Jurassic there appears the modern short- tailed type represented by the crabs. The latter type is higher in organization and now far more common. In its embryological development it passes through the long-tailed stage; connecting links in the Mesozoic also indicate that the younger type is the offshoot of the older.
Insects evolve along diverse lines, giving rise to beetles, ants, bees, and flies.
Brachiopods have dwindled greatly in the number of their species, while mollusks have correspondingly increased. The great oyster family dates from here.
Cephalopods are now to have their day. The archaic Orthoceras lingers on into the Triassic and becomes extinct, but a remarkable development is now at hand for the more highly organized descendants of this ancient line. We have noticed that in the Devonian the sutures of some of the chambered shells become angled, evolving the Goniatite type. The sutures now become lobed and corrugated in Ceratites. The process was carried still farther, and the sutures were elaborately frilled in the great order of the Ammonites. It was in the Jurassic that the Ammonites reached their height. No fossils are more abundant or characteristic of their age. Great banks of their shells formed beds of limestone in warm seas the world over.
The ammonite stem branched into a most luxuriant variety of forms. The typical form was closely coiled like a nautilus. In others the coil was more or less open, or even erected into a spiral. Some were hook-shaped, and there were members of the order in which the shell was straight, and yet retained all the internal structures of its kind. At the end of the Mesozoic the entire tribe of ammonites became extinct.
The Belemnite (Greek, belemnon, a dart) is a distinctly higher type of cephalopod which appeared in the Triassic, became numerous and varied in the Jurassic and Cretaceous, and died out early in the Tertiary. Like the squids and cuttlefish, of which it was the prototype, it had an internal calcareous shell. This consisted of a chambered and siphuncled cone, whose point was sheathed in a long solid guard somewhat like a dart. The animal carried an ink sac, and no doubt used it as that of the modern cuttlefish is used,—to darken the water and make easy an escape from foes. Belemnites have sometimes been sketched with fossil sepia, or india ink, from their own ink sacs. In the belemnites and their descendants, the squids and cuttlefish, the cephalopods made the radical change from external to the internal shell. They abandoned the defensive system of warfare and boldly took up the offensive. No doubt, like their descendants, the belemnites were exceedingly active and voracious creatures.