The Elements of Geology
by William Harmon Norton
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FISHES AND AMPHIBIANS. In the Triassic and Jurassic, little progress was made among the fishes, and the ganoid was still the leading type. In the Cretaceous the teleosts, or bony fishes, made their appearance, while ganoids declined toward their present subordinate place.

The amphibians culminated in the Triassic, some being formidable creatures as large as alligators. They were still of the primitive Paleozoic types. Their pygmy descendants of more modern types are not found until later, salamanders appearing first in the Cretaceous, and frogs at the beginning of the Cenozoic.

No remains of amphibians have been discovered in the Jurassic. Do you infer from this that there were none in existence at that time?


The great order of Reptiles made its advent in the Permian, culminated in the Triassic and Jurassic, and began to decline in the Cretaceous. The advance from the amphibian to the reptile was a long forward step in the evolution of the vertebrates. In the reptile the vertebrate skeleton now became completely ossified. Gills were abandoned and breathing was by lungs alone. The development of the individual from the egg to maturity was uninterrupted by any metamorphosis, such as that of the frog when it passes from the tadpole stage. Yet in advancing from the amphibian to the reptile the evolution of the vertebrate was far from finished. The cold-blooded, clumsy and sluggish, small- brained and unintelligent reptile is as far inferior to the higher mammals, whose day was still to come, as it is superior to the amphibian and the fish.

The reptiles of the Permian, the earliest known, were much like lizards in form of body. Constituting a transition type between the amphibians on the one hand, and both the higher reptiles and the mammals on the other, they retained the archaic biconcave vertebra of the fish and in some cases the persistent notochord, while some of them, the theromorphs, possessed characters allying them with mammals. In these the skull was remarkably similar to that of the carnivores, or flesh-eating mammals, and the teeth, unlike the teeth of any later reptiles, were divisible into incisors, canines, and molars, as are the teeth of mammals.

At the opening of the Mesozoic era reptiles were the most highly organized and powerful of any animals on the earth. New ranges of continental extent were opened to them, food was abundant, the climate was congenial, and they now branched into very many diverse types which occupied and ruled all fields,—the land, the air, and the sea. The Mesozoic was the Age of Reptiles.

THE ANCESTRY OF SURVIVING REPTILIAN TYPES. We will consider first the evolution of the few reptilian types which have survived to the present.

Crocodiles, the highest of existing reptiles, are a very ancient order, dating back to the lower Jurassic, and traceable to earlier ancestral, generalized forms, from which sprang several other orders also.

Turtles and tortoises are not found until the early Jurassic, when they already possessed the peculiar characteristics which set them off so sharply from other reptiles. They seem to have lived at first in shallow water and in swamps, and it is not until after the end of the Mesozoic that some of the order became adapted to life on the land.

The largest of all known turtles, Archelon, whose home was the great interior Cretaceous sea, was fully a dozen feet in length and must have weighed at least two tons. The skull alone is a yard long.

Lizards and snakes do not appear until after the close of the Mesozoic, although their ancestral lines may be followed back into the Cretaceous.

We will now describe some of the highly specialized orders peculiar to the Mesozoic.

LAND REPTILES. The DINOSAURS (terrible reptiles) are an extremely varied order which were masters of the land from the late Trias until the close of the Mesozoic era. Some were far larger than elephants, some were as small as cats; some walked on all fours, some were bipedal; some fed on the luxuriant tropical foliage, and others on the flesh of weaker reptiles. They may be classed in three divisions,—the FLESH-EATING DINOSAURS, the REPTILE-FOOTED DINOSAURS, and the BEAKED DINOSAURS,—the latter two divisions being herbivorous.

The FLESH-EATING DINOSAURS are the oldest known division of the order, and their characteristics are shown in Figure 329. As a class, reptiles are egg layers (oviparous); but some of the flesh- eating dinosaurs are known to have been VIVIPAROUS, i.e. to have brought forth their young alive. This group was the longest-lived of any of the three, beginning in the Trias and continuing to the close of the Mesozoic era.

Contrast the small fore limbs, used only for grasping, with the powerful hind limbs on which the animal stalked about. Some of the species of this group seem to have been able to progress by leaping in kangaroo fashion. Notice the sharp claws, the ponderous tail, and the skull set at right angles with the spinal column. The limb bones are hollow. The ceratosaurs reached a length of some fifteen feet, and were not uncommon in Colorado and the western lands in Jurassic times.

The REPTILE-FOOTED DINOSAURS (Sauropoda) include some of the biggest brutes which ever trod the ground. One of the largest, whose remains are found entombed in the Jurassic rocks of Wyoming and Colorado, is shown in Figure 330.

Note the five digits on the hind feet, the quadrupedal gait, the enormous stretch of neck and tail, the small head aligned with the vertebral column. Diplodocus was fully sixty-five feet long and must have weighed about twenty tons. The thigh bones of the Sauropoda are the largest bones which ever grew. That of a genus allied to the Diplodocus measures six feet and eight inches, and the total length of the animal must have been not far from eighty feet, the largest land animal known.

The Sauropoda became extinct when their haunts along the rivers and lakes of the western plains of Jurassic times were invaded by the Cretaceous interior sea.

The BEAKED DINOSAURS(Predentata) were distinguished by a beak sheathed with horn carried in front of the tooth-set jaw, and used, we may imagine, in stripping the leaves and twigs of trees and shrubs. We may notice only two of the most interesting types.

STEGOSAURUS (plated reptile) takes its name from the double row of bony plates arranged along its back. The powerful tail was armed with long spines, and the thick skin was defended with irregular bits of bone implanted in it. The brain of the stegosaur was smaller than that of any land vertebrate, while in the sacrum the nerve canal was enlarged to ten times the capacity of the brain cavity of the skull. Despite their feeble wits, this well-armored family lived on through millions of years which intervened between their appearance, at the opening of the Jurassic, and the close of the Cretaceous, when they became extinct.

A less stupid brute than the stegosaur was TRICERATOPS, the dinosaur of the three horns,—one horn carried on the nose, and a massive pair set over the eyes. Note the enormous wedge-shaped skull, with its sharp beak, and the hood behind resembling a fireman's helmet. Triceratops was fully twenty-five feet long, and of twice the bulk of an elephant. The family appeared in the Upper Cretaceous and became extinct at its close. Their bones are found buried in the fresh-water deposits of the time from Colorado to Montana and eastward to the Dakotas.

MARINE REPTILES. In the ocean, reptiles occupied the place now held by the aquatic mammals, such as whales and dolphins, and their form and structure were similarly modified to suit their environment. In the Ichthyosaurus (fish reptile), for example, the body was fishlike in form, with short neck and large, pointed head (Fig. 333).

A powerful tail, whose flukes were set vertical, and the lower one of which was vertebrated, served as propeller, while a large dorsal fin was developed as a cutwater. The primitive biconcave vertebrae of the fish and of the early land vertebrates were retained, and the limbs degenerated into short paddles. The skin of the ichthyosaur was smooth like that of a whale, and its food was largely fish and cephalopods, as the fossil contents of its stomach prove.

These sea monsters disported along the Pacific shore over northern California in Triassic times, and the bones of immense members of the family occur in the Jurassic strata of Wyoming. Like whales and seals, the ichthyosaurs were descended from land vertebrates which had become adapted to a marine habitat.

PLESIOSAURS were another order which ranged throughout the Mesozoic. Descended from small amphibious animals, they later included great marine reptiles, characterized in the typical genus by long neck, snakelike head, and immense paddles. They swam in the Cretaceous interior sea of western North America.

MOSASAURS belong to the same order as do snakes and lizards, and are an offshoot of the same ancestral line of land reptiles. These snakelike creatures—which measured as much as forty-five feet in length—abounded in the Cretaceous seas. They had large conical teeth, and their limbs had become stout paddles.

The lower jaw of the mosasaur was jointed; the quadrate bone, which in all reptiles connects the bone of the lower jaw with the skull, was movable, and as in snakes the lower jaw could be used in thrusting prey down the throat. The family became extinct at the end of the Mesozoic, and left no descendants. One may imitate the movement of the lower jaw of the mosasaur by extending the arms, clasping the hands, and bending the elbows.

FLYING REPTILES. The atmosphere, which had hitherto been tenanted only by insects, was first conquered by the vertebrates in the Mesozoic. Pterosaurs, winged reptiles, whose whole organism was adapted for flight through the air, appeared in the Jurassic and passed off the stage of existence before the end of the Cretaceous. The bones were hollow, as are those of birds. The sternum, or breastbone, was given a keel for the attachment of the wing muscles. The fifth finger, prodigiously lengthened, was turned backward to support a membrane which was attached to the body and extended to the base of the tail. The other fingers were free, and armed with sharp and delicate claws, as shown in Figures 336 and 337.

These "dragons of the air" varied greatly in size; some were as small as sparrows, while others surpassed in stretch of wing the largest birds of the present day. They may be divided into two groups. The earliest group comprises genera with jaws set with teeth, and with long tails sometimes provided with a rudderlike expansion at the end. In their successors of the later group the tail had become short, and in some of the genera the teeth had disappeared. Among the latest of the flying reptiles was ORNITHOSTOMA (bird beak), the largest creature which ever flew, and whose remains are imbedded in the offshore deposits of the Cretaceous sea which held sway over our western plains. Ornithostoma's spread of wings was twenty feet. Its bones were a marvel of lightness, the entire skeleton, even in its petrified condition, not weighing more than five or six pounds. The sharp beak, a yard long, was toothless and bird-like, as its name suggests

BIRDS. The earliest known birds are found in the Jurassic, and during the remainder of the Mesozoic they contended with the flying reptiles for the empire of the air. The first feathered creatures were very different from the birds of to-day. Their characteristics prove them an offshoot of the dinosaur line of reptiles. ARCHAEOPTERYX (ANCIENT BIRD) (Fig. 338) exhibits a strange mingling of bird and reptile. Like birds, it was fledged with perfect feathers, at least on wings and tail, but it retained the teeth of the reptile, and its long tail was vertebrated, a pair of feathers springing from each joint. Throughout the Jurassic and Cretaceous the remains of birds are far less common than those of flying reptiles, and strata representing hundreds of thousands of years intervene between Archaeopteryx and the next birds of which we know, whose skeletons occur in the Cretaceous beds of western Kansas.

MAMMALS. So far as the entries upon the geological record show, mammals made their advent in a very humble way during the Trias. These earliest of vertebrates which suckle their young were no bigger than young kittens, and their strong affinities with the theromorphs suggest that their ancestors are to be found among some generalized types of that order of reptiles.

During the long ages of the Mesozoic, mammals continued small and few, and were completely dominated by the reptiles. Their remains are exceedingly rare, and consist of minute scattered teeth,—with an occasional detached jaw,—which prove them to have been flesh or insect eaters. In the same way their affinities are seen to be with the lowest of mammals,—the MONOTREMES and MARSUPIALS. The monotremes,—such as the duckbill mole and the spiny ant-eater of Australia, reproduce by means of eggs resembling those of reptiles; the marsupials, such as the opossum and the kangaroo, bring forth their young alive, but in a very immature condition, and carry them for some time after birth in the marsupium, a pouch on the ventral side of the body.



THE CENOZOIC ERA. The last stages of the Cretaceous are marked by a decadence of the reptiles. By the end of that period the reptilian forms characteristic of the time had become extinct one after another, leaving to represent the class only the types of reptiles which continue to modern times. The day of the ammonite and the belemnite also now drew to a close, and only a few of these cephalopods were left to survive the period. It is therefore at the close of the Cretaceous that the line is drawn which marks the end of the Middle Age of geology and the beginning of the Cenozoic era, the era of modern life,—the Age of Mammals.

In place of the giant reptiles, mammals now become masters of the land, appearing first in generalized types which, during the long ages of the era, gradually evolve to higher forms, more specialized and ever more closely resembling the mammals of the present. In the atmosphere the flying dragons of the Mesozoic give place to birds and bats. In the sea, whales, sharks, and teleost fishes of modern types rule in the stead of huge swimming reptiles. The lower vertebrates, the invertebrates of land and sea, and the plants of field and forest take on a modern aspect, and differ little more from those of to-day than the plants and animals of different countries now differ from one another. From the beginning of the Cenozoic era until now there is a steadily increasing number of species of animals and plants which have continued to exist to the present time.

The Cenozoic era comprises two divisions,—the TERTIARY period and the QUATERNARY period.

In the early days of geology the formations of the entire geological record, so far as it was then known, were divided into three groups,—the PRIMARY, the SECONDARY (now known as the Mesozoic), and the TERTIARY, When the third group was subdivided into two systems, the term Tertiary was retained for the first system of the two, while the term QUATERNARY was used to designate the second.

DIVISIONS OF THE TERTIARY. The formations of the Tertiary are grouped in three divisions,—the PLIOCENE (more recent), the MIOCENE (less recent), and the EOCENE (the dawn of the recent). Each of these epochs is long and complex. Their various sub- divisions are distinguished each by its own peculiar organisms, and the changes of physical geography recorded in their strata. In the rapid view which we are compelled to take we can note only a few of the most conspicuous events of the period.

PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY OF THE TERTIARY IN EASTERN NORTH AMERICA. The Tertiary rocks of eastern North America are marine deposits and occupy the coastal lowlands of the Atlantic and Gulf states (Fig. 260). In New England, Tertiary beds occur on the island of Martha's Vineyard, but not on the mainland; hence the shore line here stood somewhat farther out than now. From New Jersey southward the earliest Tertiary sands and clays, still unconsolidated, leave only a narrow strip of the edge of the Cretaceous between them and the Triassic and crystalline rocks of the Piedmont oldland; hence the Atlantic shore here stood farther in than now, and at the beginning of the period the present coastal plain was continental delta. A broad belt of Tertiary sea- laid limestones, sandstones, and shales surrounds the Gulf of Mexico and extends northward up the Mississippi embayment to the mouth of the Ohio River; hence the Gulf was then larger than at present, and its waters reached in a broad bay far up the Mississippi valley.

Along the Atlantic coast the Mesozoic peneplain may be traced shoreward to where it disappears from view beneath an unconformable cover of early Tertiary marine strata. The beginning of the Tertiary was therefore marked by a subsidence. The wide erosion surface which at the close of the Mesozoic lay near sea level where the Appalachian Mountains and their neighboring plateaus and uplands now stand was lowered gently along its seaward edge beneath the Tertiary Atlantic to receive a cover of its sediments.

As the period progressed slight oscillations occurred from time to time. Strips of coastal plain were added to the land, and as early as the close of the Miocene the shore lines of the Atlantic and Gulf states had reached well-nigh their present place. Louisiana and Florida were the last areas to emerge wholly from the sea,— Florida being formed by a broad transverse upwarp of the continental delta at the opening of the Miocene, forming first an island, which afterwards was joined to the mainland.

THE PACIFIC COAST. Tertiary deposits with marine fossils occur along the western foothills of the Sierra Nevadas, and are crumpled among the mountain masses of the Coast Ranges; it is hence inferred that the Great Valley of California was then a border sea, separated from the ocean by a chain of mountainous islands which were upridged into the Coast Ranges at a still later time. Tertiary marine strata are spread over the lower Columbia valley and that of Puget Sound, showing that the Pacific came in broadly there.

THE INTERIOR OF THE WESTERN UNITED STATES. The closing stages of the Mesozoic were marked, as we have seen, by the upheaval of the Rocky Mountains and other western ranges. The bases of the mountains are now skirted by widespread Tertiary deposits, which form the highest strata of the lofty plateaus from the level of whose summits the mountains rise. Like the recent alluvium of the Great Valley of California, these deposits imply low-lying lands when they were laid, and therefore at that time the mountains rose from near sea level. But the height at which the Tertiary strata now stand—five thousand feet above the sea at Denver, and twice that height in the plateaus of southern Utah—proves that the plateaus of which the Tertiary strata form a part have been uplifted during the Cenozoic. During their uplift, warping formed extensive basins both east and west of the Rockies, and in these basins stream-swept and lake-laid waste gathered to depths of hundreds and thousands of feet, as it is accumulating at present in the Great Valley of California and on the river plains of Turkestan. The Tertiary river deposits of the High Plains have already been described. How widespread are these ancient river plains and beds of fresh-water lakes may be seen in the map of Figure 260.

THE BAD LANDS. In several of the western states large areas of Tertiary fresh-water deposits have been dissected to a maze of hills whose steep sides are cut with innumerable ravines. The deposits of these ancient river plains and lake beds are little cemented and because of the dryness of the climate are unprotected by vegetation; hence they are easily carved by the wet-weather rills of scanty and infrequent rains. These waterless, rugged surfaces were named by the early French explorers the BAD LANDS because they were found so difficult to traverse. The strata of the Bad Lands contain vast numbers of the remains of the animals of Tertiary times, and the large amount of barren surface exposed to view makes search for fossils easy and fruitful. These desolate tracts are therefore frequently visited by scientific collecting expeditions.

MOUNTAIN MAKING IN THE TERTIARY. The Tertiary period included epochs when the earth's crust was singularly unquiet. From time to time on all the continents subterranean forces gathered head, and the crust was bent and broken and upridged in lofty mountains.

The Sierra Nevada range was formed, as we have seen, by strata crumpling at the end of the Jurassic. But since that remote time the upfolded mountains had been worn to plains and hilly uplands, the remnants of whose uplifted erosion surfaces may now be traced along the western mountain slopes. Beginning late in the Tertiary, the region was again affected by mountain-making movements. A series of displacements along a profound fault on the eastern side tilted the enormous earth block of the Sierras to the west, lifting its eastern edge to form the lofty crest and giving to the range a steep eastern front and a gentle descent toward the Pacific.

The Coast Ranges also have had a complex history with many vicissitudes. The earliest foldings of their strata belong to the close of the Jurassic, but it was not until the end of the Miocene that the line of mountainous islands and the heavy sediments which had been deposited on their submerged flanks were crushed into a continuous mountain chain. Thick Pliocene beds upon their sides prove that they were depressed to near sea level during the later Tertiary. At the close of the Pliocene the Coast Ranges rose along with the upheaval of the Sierra, and their gradual uplift has continued to the present time.

The numerous north-south ranges of the Great Basin and the Mount Saint Elias range of Alaska were also uptilted during the Tertiary.

During the Tertiary period many of the loftiest mountains of the earth—the Alps, the Apennines, the Pyrenees, the Atlas, the Caucasus, and the Himalayas—received the uplift to which they owe most of their colossal bulk and height, as portions of the Tertiary sea beds now found high upon their flanks attest. In the Himalayas, Tertiary marine limestones occur sixteen thousand five hundred feet above sea level.

VOLCANIC ACTIVITY IN THE TERTIARY. The vast deformations of the Tertiary were accompanied on a corresponding scale by outpourings of lava, the outburst of volcanoes, and the intrusion of molten masses within the crust. In the Sierra Nevadas the Miocene river gravels of the valleys of the western slope, with their placer deposits of gold, were buried beneath streams of lava and beds of tuff. Volcanoes broke forth along the Rocky Mountains and on the plateaus of Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona.

Mount Shasta and the immense volcanic piles of the Cascades date from this period. The mountain basin of the Yellowstone Park was filled to a depth of several thousand feet with tuffs and lavas, the oldest dating as far back as the beginning of the Tertiary. Crandall volcano was reared in the Miocene and the latest eruptions of the Park are far more recent.

THE COLUMBIA AND SNAKE RIVER LAVAS. Still more important is the plateau of lava, more than two hundred thousand square miles in area, extending from the Yellowstone Park to the Cascade Mountains, which has been built from Miocene times to the present.

Over this plateau, which occupies large portions of Idaho, Washington, and Oregon, and extends into northern California and Nevada, the country rock is basaltic lava. For thousands of square miles the surface is a lava plain which meets the boundary mountains as a lake or sea meets a rugged and deeply indented coast. The floods of molten rock spread up the mountain valleys for a score of miles and more, the intervening spurs rising above the lava like long peninsulas, while here and there an isolated peak was left to tower above the inundation like an island off a submerged shore.

The rivers which drain the plateau—the Snake, the Columbia, and their tributaries—have deeply trenched it, yet their canyons, which reach the depth of several thousand feet, have not been worn to the base of the lava except near the margin and where they cut the summits of mountains drowned beneath the flood. Here and there the plateau has been deformed. It has been upbent into great folds, and broken into immense blocks of bedded lava, forming mountain ranges, which run parallel with the Pacific coast line. On the edges of these tilted blocks the thickness of the lava is seen to be fully five thousand feet. The plateau has been built, like that of Iceland, of innumerable overlapping sheets of lava. On the canyon walls they weather back in horizontal terraces and long talus slopes. One may distinguish each successive flow by its dense central portion, often jointed with large vertical columns, and the upper portion with its mass of confused irregular columns and scoriaceous surface. The average thickness of the flows seems to be about seventy-five feet.

The plateau was long in building. Between the layers are found in places old soil beds and forest grounds and the sediments of lakes. Hence the interval between the flows in any locality was sometimes long enough for clays to gather in the lakes which filled depressions in the surface. Again and again the surface of the black basalt was reddened by oxidation and decayed to soil, and forests had time to grow upon it before the succeeding inundation sealed the sediments and soils away beneath a sheet of stone. Near the edges of the lava plain, rivers from the surrounding mountains spread sheets of sand and gravel on the surface of one flow after another. These pervious sands, interbedded with the lava, become the aquifers of artesian wells.

In places the lavas rest on extensive lake deposits, one thousand feet deep, and Miocene in age as their fossils prove. It is to the middle Tertiary, then, that the earliest flows and the largest bulk of the great inundation belong. So ancient are the latest floods in the Columbia basin that they have weathered to a residual yellow clay from thirty to sixty feet in depth and marvelously rich in the mineral substances on which plants feed.

In the Snake River valley the latest lavas are much younger. Their surfaces are so fresh and undecayed that here the effusive eruptions may well have continued to within the period of human history. Low lava domes like those of Iceland mark where last the basalt outwelled and spread far and wide before it chilled (Fig. 341). In places small mounds of scoria show that the eruptions were accompanied to a slight degree by explosions of steam. So fluid was this superheated lava that recent flows have been traced for more than fifty miles.

The rocks underlying the Columbia lavas, where exposed to view, are seen to be cut by numerous great dikes of dense basalt, which mark the fissures through which the molten rock rose to the surface.

The Tertiary included times of widespread and intense volcanic action in other continents as well as in North America. In Europe, Vesuvius and Etna began their career as submarine volcanoes in connection with earth movements which finally lifted Pliocene deposits in Sicily to their present height,—four thousand feet above the sea. Volcanoes broke forth in central France and southern Germany, in Hungary and the Carpathians. Innumerable fissures opened in the crust from the north of Ireland and the western islands of Scotland to the Faroes, Iceland, and even to arctic Greenland; and here great plateaus were built of flows of basalt similar to that of the Columbia River. In India, at the opening of the Tertiary, there had been an outwelling of basalt, flooding to a depth of thousands of feet two hundred thousand square miles of the northwestern part of the peninsula, and similar inundations of lava occurred where are now the table-lands of Abyssinia. From the middle Tertiary on, Asia Minor, Arabia, and Persia were the scenes of volcanic action. In Palestine the rise of the uplands of Judea at the close of the Eocene, and the downfaulting of the Jordan valley were followed by volcanic outbursts. In comparison with the middle Tertiary, the present is a time of volcanic inactivity and repose.

EROSION OF TERTIARY MOUNTAINS AND PLATEAUS. The mountains and plateaus built at various times during the Tertiary and at its commencement have been profoundly carved by erosive agents. The Sierra Nevada Mountains have been dissected on the western slope by such canyons as those of King's River and the Yosemite. Six miles of strata have been denuded from parts of the Wasatch Mountains since their rise at the beginning of the era. From the Colorado plateaus, whose uplift dates from the same time, there have been stripped off ten thousand feet of strata over thousands of square miles, and the colossal canyon of the Colorado has been cut after this great denudation had been mostly accomplished.

On the eastern side of the continent, as we have seen, a broad peneplain had been developed by the close of the Cretaceous. The remnants of this old erosion surface are now found upwarped to various heights in different portions of its area. In southern New England it now stands fifteen hundred feet above the sea in western Massachusetts, declining thence southward and eastward to sea level at the coast. In southwestern Virginia it has been lifted to four thousand feet above the sea. Manifestly this upwarp occurred since the peneplain was formed; it is later than the Mesozoic, and the vast dissection which the peneplain has suffered since its uplift must belong to the successive cycles of Cenozoic time.

Revived by the uplift, the streams of the area trenched it as deeply as its elevation permitted, and reaching grade, opened up wide valleys and new peneplains in the softer rocks. The Connecticut valley is Tertiary in age, and in the weak Triassic sandstones has been widened in places to fifteen miles. Dating from the same time are the valleys of the Hudson, the Susquehanna, the Delaware, the Potomac, and the Shenandoah.

In Pennsylvania and the states lying to the south the Mesozoic peneplain lies along the summits of the mountain ridges. On the surface of this ancient plain, Tertiary erosion etched out the beautifully regular pattern of the Allegheny mountain ridges and their intervening valleys. The weaker strata of the long, regular folds were eroded into longitudinal valleys, while the hard Paleozoic sandstones, such as the Medina and the Pocono, were left in relief as bold mountain walls whose even crests rise to the common level of the ancient plain. From Virginia far into Alabama the great Appalachian valley was opened to a width in places of fifty miles and more, along a belt of intensely folded and faulted strata where once was the heart of the Appalachian Mountains. In Figure 70 the summit of the Cumberland plateau (ab) marks the level of the Mesozoic peneplain, while the lower erosion levels are Tertiary and Quaternary in age.


VEGETATION AND CLIMATE. The highest plants in structure, the DICOTYLS (such as our deciduous forest trees) and the MONOCOTYLS (represented by the palms), were introduced during the Cretaceous. The vegetable kingdom reached its culmination before the animal kingdom, and if the dividing line between the Mesozoic and the Cenozoic were drawn according to the progress of plant life, the Cretaceous instead of the Tertiary would be made the opening period of the modern era.

The plants of the Tertiary belonged, for the most part, to genera now living; but their distribution was very different from that of the flora of to-day. In the earlier Tertiary, palms flourished over northern Europe, and in the northwestern United States grew the magnolia and laurel, along with the walnut, oak, and elm. Even in northern Greenland and in Spitzbergen there were lakes covered with water lilies and surrounded by forests of maples, poplars, limes, the cypress of our southern states, and noble sequoias similar to the "big trees" and redwoods of California. A warm climate like that of the Mesozoic, therefore, prevailed over North America and Europe, extending far toward the pole. In the later Tertiary the climate gradually became cooler. Palms disappeared from Europe, and everywhere the aspect of forests and open lands became more like that of to-day. Grasses became abundant, furnishing a new food for herbivorous animals.

ANIMAL LIFE OF THE TERTIARY. Little needs to be said of the Tertiary invertebrates, so nearly were they like the invertebrates of the present. Even in the Eocene, about five per cent of marine shells were of species still living, and in the Pliocene the proportion had risen to more than one half.

Fishes were of modern types. Teleosts were now abundant. The ocean teemed with sharks, some of them being voracious monsters seventy- five feet and even more in length, with a gape of jaw of six feet, as estimated by the size of their enormous sharp-edged teeth.

Snakes are found for the first time in the early Tertiary. These limbless reptiles, evolved by degeneration from lizardlike ancestors, appeared in nonpoisonous types scarcely to be distinguished from those of the present day.

MAMMALS OF THE EARLY TERTIARY. The fossils of continental deposits of the earliest Eocene show that a marked advance had now been made in the evolution of the Mammalia. The higher mammals had appeared, and henceforth the lower mammals—the monotremes and the marsupials—are reduced to a subordinate place.

These first true mammals were archaic and generalized in structure. Their feet were of the primitive type, with five toes of about equal length. They were also PLANTIGRADES,—that is, they touched the ground with the sole of the entire foot from toe to heel. No foot had yet become adapted to swift running by a decrease in the number of digits and by lifting the heel and sole so that only the toes touch the ground,—a tread called DIGITIGRADE. Nor was there yet any foot like that of the cats, with sharp retractile claws adapted to seizing and tearing the prey. The forearm and the lower leg each had still two separate bones (ulna and radius, fibula and tibia), neither pair having been replaced with a single strong bone, as in the leg of the horse. The teeth also were primitive in type and of full number. The complex heavy grinders of the horse and elephant, the sharp cutting teeth of the carnivores, and the cropping teeth of the grass eaters were all still to come.

Phenacodus is a characteristic genus of the early Eocene, whose species varied in size from that of a bulldog to that of an animal a little larger than a sheep. Its feet were primitive, and their five toes bore nails intermediate in form between a claw and a hoof. The archaic type of teeth indicates that the animal was omnivorous in diet. A cast of the brain cavity shows that, like its associates of the time, its brain was extremely small and nearly smooth, having little more than traces of convolutions.

The long ages of the Eocene and the following epochs of the Tertiary were times of comparatively rapid evolution among the Mammalia. The earliest forms evolved along diverging lines toward the various specialized types of hoofed mammals, rodents, carnivores, proboscidians, the primates, and the other mammalian orders as we know them now. We must describe the Tertiary mammals very briefly, tracing the lines of descent of only a few of the more familiar mammals of the present.

THE HORSE. The pedigree of the horse runs back into the early Eocene through many genera and species to a five-toed, [Footnote: Or, more accurately, with four perfect toes and a rudimentary fifth corresponding to the thumb.] short-legged ancestor little bigger than a cat. Its descendants gradually increased in stature and became better and better adapted to swift running to escape their foes. The leg became longer, and only the tip of the toes struck the ground. The middle toe (digit number three), originally the longest of the five, steadily enlarged, while the remaining digits dwindled and disappeared. The inner digit, corresponding to the great toe and thumb, was the first to go. Next number five, the little finger, was also dropped. By the end of the Eocene a three-toed genus of the horse family had appeared, as large as a sheep. The hoof of digit number three now supported most of the weight, but the slender hoofs of digits two and four were still serviceable. In the Miocene the stature of the ancestors of the horse increased to that of a pony. The feet were still three-toed, but the side hoofs were now mere dewclaws and scarcely touched the ground. The evolution of the family was completed in the Pliocene.

The middle toe was enlarged still more, the side toes were dropped, and the palm and foot bones which supported them were reduced to splints.

While these changes were in progress the radius and ulna of the fore limb became consolidated to a single bone; and in the hind limb the fibula dwindled to a splint, while the tibia was correspondingly enlarged. The molars, also gradually lengthened, and became more and more complex on their grinding surface; the neck became longer; the brain steadily increased in size and its convolutions became more abundant. The evolution of the horse has made for greater fleetness and intelligence.

THE RHINOCEROS AND TAPIR. These animals, which are grouped with the horse among the ODD-TOED (perissodactyl) mammals, are now verging toward extinction. In the rhinoceros, evolution seems to have taken the opposite course from that of the horse. As the animal increased in size it became more clumsy, its limbs became shorter and more massive, and, perhaps because of its great weight, the number of digits were not reduced below the number three. Like other large herbivores, the rhinoceros, too slow to escape its enemies by flight, learned to withstand them. It developed as its means of defense a nasal horn.

Peculiar offshoots of the line appeared at various times in the Tertiary. A rhinoceros, semiaquatic in habits, with curved tusks, resembling in aspect the hippopotamus, lived along the water courses of the plains east of the Rockies, and its bones are now found by the thousands in the Miocene of Kansas. Another developed along a line parallel to that of the horse, and herds of these light-limbed and swift-footed running rhinoceroses ranged the Great Plains from the Dakotas southward.

The tapirs are an ancient family which has changed but little since it separated from the other perissodactyl stocks in the early Tertiary. At present, tapirs are found only in South America and southern Asia,—a remarkable distribution which we could not explain were it not that the geological record shows that during Tertiary times tapirs ranged throughout the northern hemisphere, making their way to South America late in that period. During the Pleistocene they became extinct over all the intervening lands between the widely separated regions where now they live. The geographic distribution of animals, as well as their relationships and origins, can be understood only through a study of their geological history.

THE PROBOSCIDIANS. This unique order of hoofed mammals, of which the elephant is the sole survivor, began, so far as known, in the Eocene, in Egypt, with a piglike ancestor the size of a small horse, with cheek teeth like the Mastodon's, but wanting both trunk and tusks. A proboscidian came next with four short tusks, and in the Miocene there followed a Mastodon (Fig. 346) armed with two pairs of long, straight tusks on which rested a flexible proboscis.

The DINOTHERE was a curious offshoot of the line, which developed in the Miocene in Europe. In this immense proboscidian, whose skull was three feet long, the upper pair of tusks had disappeared, and those of the lower jaw were bent down with a backward curve in walrus fashion.

In the true ELEPHANTS, which do not appear until near the close of the Tertiary, the lower jaw loses its tusks and the grinding teeth become exceedingly complex in structure. The grinding teeth of the mastodon had long roots and low crowns crossed by four or five peaked enameled ridges. In the teeth of the true elephants the crown has become deep, and the ridges of enamel have changed to numerous upright, platelike folds, their interspaces filled with cement. The two genera—Mastodon and Elephant—are connected by species whose teeth are intermediate in pattern. The proboscidians culminated in the Pliocene, when some of the giant elephants reached a height of fourteen feet.

THE ARTIODACTYLS comprise the hoofed Mammalia which have an even number of toes, such as cattle, sheep, and swine. Like the perissodactyls, they are descended from the primitive five-toed plantigrade mammals of the lowest Eocene. In their evolution, digit number one was first dropped, and the middle pair became larger and more massive, while the side digits, numbers two and five, became shorter, weaker, and less serviceable. The FOUR-TOED ARTIODACTYLS culminated in the Tertiary; at present they are represented only by the hippopotamus and the hog. Along the main line of the evolution of the artiodactyls the side toes, digits two and five, disappeared, leaving as proof that they once existed the corresponding bones of palm and sole as splints. The TWO-TOED ARTIODACTYLS, such as the camels, deer, cattle, and sheep, are now the leading types of the herbivores.

SWINE AND PECCARIES are two branches of a common stock, the first developing in the Old World and the second in the New. In the Miocene a noticeable offshoot of the line was a gigantic piglike brute, a root eater, with a skull a yard in length, whose remains are now found in Colorado and South Dakota.

CAMELS AND LLAMAS. The line of camels and llamas developed in North America, where the successive changes from an early Eocene ancestor, no larger than a rabbit, are traced step by step to the present forms, as clearly as is the evolution of the horse. In the late Miocene some of the ancestral forms migrated to the Old World by way of a land connection where Bering Strait now is, and there gave rise to the camels and dromedaries. Others migrated into South America, which had now been connected with our own continent, and these developed into the llamas and guanacos, while those of the race which remained in North America became extinct during the Pleistocene.

Some peculiar branches of the camel stem appeared in North America. In the Pliocene arose a llama with the long neck and limbs of a giraffe, whose food was cropped from the leaves and branches of trees. Far more generalized in structure was the Oreodon, an animal related to the camels, but with distinct affinities also with other lines, such as those of the hog and deer. These curious creatures were much like the peccary in appearance, except for their long tails. In the middle Eocene they roamed in vast herds from Oregon to Kansas and Nebraska.

THE RUMINANTS. This division of the artiodactyls includes antelopes, deer, oxen, bison, sheep, and goats,—all of which belong to a common stock which took its rise in Europe in the upper Eocene from ancestral forms akin to those of the camels. In the Miocene the evolution of the two-toed artiodactyl foot was well-nigh completed. Bonelike growths appeared on the head, and the two groups of the ruminants became specialized,—the deer with bony antlers, shed and renewed each year, and the ruminants with hollow horns, whose two bony knobs upon the skull are covered with permanent, pointed, horny sheaths.

The ruminants evolved in the Old World, and it was not until the later Miocene that the ancestors of the antelope and of some deer found their way to North America. Mountain sheep and goats, the bison and most of the deer, did not arrive until after the close of the Tertiary, and sheep and oxen were introduced by man.

The hoofed mammals of the Tertiary included many offshoots from the main lines which we have traced. Among them were a number of genera of clumsy, ponderous brutes, some almost elephantine in their bulk.

THE CARNIVORES. The ancestral lines of the families of the flesh eaters—such as the cats (lions, tigers, etc.), the bears, the hyenas, and the dogs (including wolves and foxes)—converge in the creodonts of the early Eocene,—an order so generalized that it had affinities not only with the carnivores but also with the insect eaters, the marsupials, and the hoofed mammals as well. From these primitive flesh eaters, with small and simple brains, numerous small teeth, and plantigrade tread, the different families of the carnivores of the present have slowly evolved.

DOGS AND BEARS. The dog family diverged from the creodonts late in the Eocene, and divided into two branches, one of which evolved the wolves and the other the foxes. An offshoot gave rise to the family of the bears, and so closely do these two families, now wide apart, approach as we trace them back in Tertiary times that the Amphicyon, a genus doglike in its teeth and bearlike in other structures, is referred by some to the dog and by others to the bear family. The well-known plantigrade tread of bears is a primitive characteristic which has survived from their creodont ancestry.

CATS. The family of the cats, the most highly specialized of all the carnivores, divided in the Tertiary into two main branches. One, the saber-tooth tigers (Fig. 351), which takes its name from their long, saberlike, sharp-edged upper canine teeth, evolved a succession of genera and species, among them some of the most destructive beasts of prey which ever scourged the earth. They were masters of the entire northern hemisphere during the middle Tertiary, but in Europe during the Pliocene they declined, from unknown causes, and gave place to the other branch of cats,—which includes the lions, tigers, and leopards. In the Americas the saber-tooth tigers long survived the epoch.

MARINE MAMMALS. The carnivorous mammals of the sea—whales, seals, walruses, etc.—seem to have been derived from some of the creodonts of the early Tertiary by adaptation to aquatic life. Whales evolved from some land ancestry at a very early date in the Tertiary; in the marine deposits of the Eocene are found the bones of the Zeuglodon, a whalelike creature seventy feet in length.

PRIMATES. This order, which includes lemurs, monkeys, apes, and man, seems to have sprung from a creodont or insectivorous ancestry in the lower Eocene. Lemur-like types, with small, smooth brains, were abundant in the United States in the early Tertiary, but no primates have been found here in the middle Tertiary and later strata. In Europe true monkeys were introduced in the Miocene, and were abundant until the close of the Tertiary, when they were driven from the continent by the increasing cold.

ADVANCE OF THE MAMMALIA DURING THE TERTIARY. During the several millions of years comprised in Tertiary time the mammals evolved from the lowly, simple types which tenanted the earth at the beginning of the period, into the many kinds of highly specialized mammals of the Pleistocene and the present, each with the various structures of the body adapted to its own peculiar mode of life. The swift feet of the horse, the horns of cattle and the antlers of the deer, the lion's claws and teeth, the long incisors of the beaver, the proboscis of the elephant, were all developed in Tertiary times. In especial the brain of the Tertiary mammals constantly grew larger relatively to the size of body, and the higher portion of the brain—the cerebral lobes—increased in size in comparison with the cerebellum. Some of the hoofed mammals now have a brain eight or ten times the size of that of their early Tertiary predecessors of equal bulk. Nor can we doubt that along with the increasing size of brain went a corresponding increase in the keenness of the senses, in activity and vigor, and in intelligence.



The last period of geological history, the Quaternary, may be said to have begun when all, or nearly all, living species of mollusks and most of the existing mammals had appeared.

It is divided into two great epochs. The first, the Pleistocene or Glacial epoch, is marked off from the Tertiary by the occupation of the northern parts of North America and Europe by vast ice sheets; the second, the Recent epoch, began with the disappearance of the ice sheets from these continents, and merges into the present time.


We now come to an episode of unusual interest, so different was it from most of the preceding epochs and from the present, and so largely has it influenced the conditions of man's life.

The records of the Glacial epoch are so plain and full that we are compelled to believe what otherwise would seem almost incredible, —that following the mild climate of the Tertiary came a succession of ages when ice fields, like that of Greenland, shrouded the northern parts of North America and Europe and extended far into temperate latitudes.

THE DRIFT. Our studies of glaciers have prepared us to decipher and interpret the history of the Glacial epoch, as it is recorded in the surface deposits known as the drift. Over most of Canada and the northern states this familiar formation is exposed to view in nearly all cuttings which pass below the surface soil. The drift includes two distinct classes of deposits,—the unstratified drift laid down by glacier ice, and the stratified drift spread by glacier waters.

The materials of the drift are in any given place in part unlike the rock on which it rests. They cannot be derived from the underlying rock by weathering, but have been brought from elsewhere. Thus where a region is underlain by sedimentary rocks, as is the drift-covered area from the Hudson River to the Missouri, the drift contains not only fragments of limestone, sandstone, and shale of local derivation, but also pebbles of many igneous and metamorphic rocks, such as granites, gneisses, schists, dike rocks, quartzites, and the quartz of mineral veins, whose nearest source is the Archean area of Canada and the states of our northern border. The drift received its name when it was supposed that the formation had been drifted by floods and icebergs from outside sources,—a theory long since abandoned.

The distribution also of the drift points clearly to its peculiar origin. Within the limits of the glaciated area it covers the country without regard to the relief, mantling with its debris not only lowlands and valleys but also highlands and mountain slopes.

The boundary of the drift is equally independent of the relief of the land, crossing hills and plains impartially, unlike water-laid deposits, whose margins, unless subsequently deformed, are horizontal. The boundary of the drift is strikingly lobate also, bending outward in broad, convex curves, where there are no natural barriers in the topography of the country to set it such a limit. Under these conditions such a lobate margin cannot belong to deposits of rivers, lakes, or ocean, but is precisely that which would mark the edge of a continental glacier which deployed in broad tongues of ice.

THE ROCK SURFACE UNDERLYING THE DRIFT. Over much of its area the drift rests on firm, fresh rock, showing that both the preglacial mantle of residual waste and the partially decomposed and broken rock beneath it have been swept away. The underlying rock, especially if massive, hard, and of a fine grain, has often been ground down to a smooth surface and rubbed to a polish as perfect as that seen on the rock beside an Alpine glacier where the ice has recently melted back. Frequently it has been worn to the smooth, rounded hummocks known as roches moutonnees, and even rocky hills have been thus smoothed to flowing outlines like roches moutonnees on a gigantic scale. The rock pavement beneath the drift is also marked by long, straight, parallel scorings, varying in size from deep grooves to fine striae as delicate as the hair lines cut by an engraver's needle. Where the rock is soft or closely jointed it is often shattered to a depth of several feet beneath the drift, while stony clay has been thrust in among the fragments into which the rock is broken.

In the presence of these glaciated surfaces we cannot doubt that the area of the drift has been overridden by vast sheets of ice which, in their steady flow, rasped and scored the rock bed beneath by means of the stones with which their basal layers were inset, and in places plucked and shattered it.

TILL. The unstratified portion of the drift consists chiefly of sheets of dense, stony clay called till, which clearly are the ground moraines of ancient continental glaciers. Till is an unsorted mixture of materials of all sizes, from fine clay and sand, gravel, pebbles, and cobblestones, to large bowlders. The stones of the till are of many kinds, some having been plucked from the bed rock of the locality where they are found, and others having been brought from outside and often distant places. Land ice is the only agent known which can spread unstratified material in such extensive sheets.

The FINE MATERIAL of the till comes from two different sources. In part it is derived from old residual clays, which in the making had been leached of the lime and other soluble ingredients of the rock from which they weathered. In part it consists of sound rock ground fine; a drop of acid on fresh, clayey till often proves by brisk effervescence that the till contains much undecayed limestone flour. The ice sheet, therefore, both scraped up the mantle of long-weathered waste which covered the coun try before its coming, and also ground heavily upon the sound rock underneath, and crushed and wore to rock flour the fragments which it carried.

The color of unweathered till depends on that of the materials of which it is composed. Where red sandstones have contributed largely to its making, as over the Triassic sandstones of the eastern states and the Algonkian sandstones about Lake Superior, the drift is reddish. When derived in part from coaly shales, as over many outcrops of the Pennsylvanian, it may when moist be almost black. Fresh till is normally a dull gray or bluish, so largely is it made up of the grindings of unoxidized rocks of these common colors.

Except where composed chiefly of sand or coarser stuff, unweathered till is often exceedingly dense. Can you suggest by what means it has been thus compacted? Did the ice fields of the Glacial epoch bear heavy surface moraines like the medial and lateral moraines of valley glaciers? Where was the greater part of the load of these ice fields carried, judging from what you know of the glaciers of Greenland?

BOWLDERS OF THE DRIFT. The pebbles and bowlders of the drift are in part stream gravels, bowlders of weathering, and other coarse rock waste picked up from the surface of the country by the advancing ice, and in part are fragments plucked from ledges of sound rock after the mantle of waste had been removed. Many of the stones of the till are dressed as only glacier ice can do; their sharp edges have been blunted and their sides faceted and scored.

We may easily find all stages of this process represented among the pebbles of the till. Some are little worn, even on their edges; some are planed and scored on one side only; while some in their long journey have been ground down to many facets and have lost much of their original bulk. Evidently the ice played fast and loose with a stone carried in its basal layers, now holding it fast and rubbing it against the rock beneath, now loosening its grasp and allowing the stone to turn.

Bowlders of the drift are sometimes found on higher ground than their parent ledges. Thus bowlders have been left on the sides of Mount Katahdin, Maine, which were plucked from limestone ledges twelve miles distant and three thousand feet lower than their resting place. In other cases stones have been carried over mountain ranges, as in Vermont, where pebbles of Burlington red sandstone were dragged over the Green Mountains, three thousand feet in height, and left in the Connecticut valley sixty miles away. No other geological agent than glacier ice could do this work.

The bowlders of the drift are often large. Bowlders ten and twenty feet in diameter are not uncommon, and some are known whose diameter exceeds fifty feet. As a rule the average size of bowlders decreases with increasing distance from their sources. Why?

TILL PLAINS. The surface of the drift, where left in its initial state, also displays clear proof of its glacial origin. Over large areas it is spread in level plains of till, perhaps bowlder- dotted, similar to the plains of stony clay left in Spitzbergen by the recent retreat of some of the glaciers of that island. In places the unstratified drift is heaped in hills of various kinds, which we will now describe.

DRUMLINS. Drumlins are smooth, rounded hills composed of till, elliptical in base, and having their longer axes parallel to the movement of the ice as shown by glacial scorings. They crowd certain districts in central New York and in southern Wisconsin, where they may be counted by the thousands. Among the numerous drumlins about Boston is historic Bunker Hill.

Drumlins are made of ground moraine. They were accumulated and given shape beneath the overriding ice, much as are sand bars in a river, or in some instances were carved, like roches moutonnees, by an ice sheet out of the till left by an earlier ice invasion.

TERMINAL MORAINES. The glaciated area is crossed by belts of thickened drift, often a mile or two, and sometimes even ten miles and more, in breadth, which lie transverse to the movement of the ice and clearly are the terminal moraines of ancient ice sheets, marking either the limit of their farthest advance or pauses in their general retreat.

The surface of these moraines is a jumble of elevations and depressions, which vary from low, gentle swells and shallow sags to sharp hills, a hundred feet or so in height, and deep, steep- sided hollows. Such tumultuous hills and hummocks, set with depressions of all shapes, which usually are without outlet and are often occupied by marshes, ponds, and lakes, surely cannot be the work of running water. The hills are heaps of drift, lodged beneath the ice edge or piled along its front. The basins were left among the tangle of morainic knolls and ridges as the margin of the ice moved back and forth. Some bowl-shaped basins were made by the melting of a mass of ice left behind by the retreating glacier and buried in its debris.

THE STRATIFIED DRIFT. Like modern glaciers the ice sheets of the Pleistocene were ever being converted into water about their margins. Their limits on the land were the lines where their onward flow was just balanced by melting and evaporation. On the surface of the ice along the marginal zone, rivulets no doubt flowed in summer, and found their way through crevasses to the interior of the glacier or to the ground. Subglacial streams, like those of the Malaspina glacier, issued from tunnels in the ice, and water ran along the melting ice front as it is seen to do about the glacier tongues of Greenland. All these glacier waters flowed away down the chief drainage channels in swollen rivers loaded with glacial waste.

It is not unexpected therefore that there are found, over all the country where the melting ice retreated, deposits made of the same materials as the till, but sorted and stratified by running water. Some of these were deposited behind the ice front in ice-walled channels, some at the edge of the glaciers by issuing streams, and others were spread to long distances in front of the ice edge by glacial waters as they flowed away.

ESKERS are narrow, winding ridges of stratified sand and gravel whose general course lies parallel with the movement of the glacier. These ridges, though evidently laid by running water, do not follow lines of continuous descent, but may be found to cross river valleys and ascend their sides. Hence the streams by which eskers were laid did not flow unconfined upon the surface of the ground. We may infer that eskers were deposited in the tunnels and ice-walled gorges of glacial streams before they issued from the ice front.

KAMES are sand and gravel knolls, associated for the most part with terminal moraines, and heaped by glacial waters along the margin of the ice.

KAME TERRACES are hummocky embankments of stratified drift sometimes found in rugged regions along the sides of valleys. In these valleys long tongues of glacier ice lay slowly melting. Glacial waters took their way between the edges of the glaciers and the hillside, and here deposited sand and gravel in rude terraces.

Outwash plains are plains of sand and gravel which frequently border terminal moraines on their outward face, and were spread evidently by outwash from the melting ice. Outwash plains are sometimes pitted by bowl-shaped basins where ice blocks were left buried in the sand by the retreating glacier.

Valley trains are deposits of stratified drift with which river valleys have been aggraded. Valleys leading outward from the ice front were flooded by glacial waters and were filled often to great depths with trains of stream-swept drift. Since the disappearance of the ice these glacial flood plains have been dissected by the shrunken rivers of recent times and left on either side the valley in high terraces. Valley trains head in morainic plains, and their material grows finer down valley and coarser toward their sources. Their gradient is commonly greater than that of the present rivers.

THE EXTENT OF THE DRIFT. The extent of the drift of North America and its southern limits are best seen in Figure 359. Its area is reckoned at about four million square miles. The ice fields which once covered so much of our continent were all together ten times as large as the inland ice of Greenland, and about equal to the enormous ice cap which now covers the antartic regions.

The ice field of Europe was much smaller, measuring about seven hundred and seventy thousand square miles.

CENTERS OF DISPERSION. The direction of the movement of the ice is recorded plainly in the scorings of the rock surface, in the shapes of glaciated hills, in the axes of drumlins and eskers, and in trains of bowlders, when the ledges from which they were plucked can be discovered. In these ways it has been proved that in North America there were three centers where ice gathered to the greatest depth, and from which it flowed in all directions outward. There were thus three vast ice fields,—one the Cordilleran, which lay upon the Cordilleras of British America; one the Keewatin, which flowed out from the province of Keewatin, west of Hudson Bay; and one the LABRADOR ice field, whose center of dispersion was on the highlands of the peninsula of Labrador. As shown in Figure 359, the western ice field extended but a short way beyond the eastern foothills of the Rocky Mountains, where perhaps it met the far-traveled ice from the great central field. The Keewatin and the Labrador ice fields flowed farthest toward the south, and in the Mississippi valley the one reached the mouth of the Missouri and the other nearly to the mouth of the Ohio. In Minnesota and Wisconsin and northward they merged in one vast field.

The thickness of the ice was so great that it buried the highest mountains of eastern North America, as is proved by the transported bowlders which have been found upon their summits. If the land then stood at its present height above sea level, and if the average slope of the ice were no more than ten feet to the mile,—a slope so gentle that the eye could not detect it and less than half the slope of the interior of the inland ice of Greenland,—the ice plateaus about Hudson Bay must have reached a thickness of at least ten thousand feet.

In Europe the Scandinavian plateau was the chief center of dispersion. At the time of greatest glaciation a continuous field of ice extended from the Ural Mountains to the Atlantic, where, off the coasts of Norway and the British Isles, it met the sea in an unbroken ice wall. On the south it reached to southern England, Belgium, and central Germany, and deployed on the eastern plains in wide lobes over Poland and central Russia (Fig. 360).

At the same time the Alps supported giant glaciers many times the size of the surviving glaciers of to-day, and a piedmont glacier covered the plains of northern Switzerland.

THE THICKNESS OF THE DRIFT. The drift is far from uniform in thickness. It is comparatively thin and scanty over the Laurentian highlands and the rugged regions of New England, while from southern New York and Ontario westward over the Mississippi valley, and on the great western plains of Canada, it exceeds an average of one hundred feet over wide areas, and in places has five and six times that thickness. It was to this marginal belt that the ice sheets brought their loads, while northwards, nearer the centers of dispersion, erosion was excessive and deposition slight.

SUCCESSIVE ICE INVASIONS AND THEIR DRIFT SHEETS. Recent studies of the drift prove that it does not consist of one indivisible formation, but includes a number of distinct drift sheets, each with its own peculiar features. The Pleistocene epoch consisted, therefore, of several glacial stages,—during each of which the ice advanced far southward,—together with the intervening interglacial stages when, under a milder climate, the ice melted back toward its sources or wholly disappeared.

The evidences of such interglacial stages, and the means by which the different drift sheets are told apart, are illustrated in Figure 361. Here the country from N to S is wholly covered by drift, but the drift from N to m is so unlike that from m to S that we may believe it the product of a distinct ice invasion and deposited during another and far later glacial stage. The former drift is very young, for its drainage is as yet immature, and there are many lakes and marshes upon its surface; the latter is far older, for its surface has been thoroughly dissected by its streams. The former is but slightly weathered, while the latter is so old that it is deeply reddened by oxidation and is leached of its soluble ingredients such as lime. The younger drift is bordered by a distinct terminal moraine, while the margin of the older drift is not thus marked. Moreover, the two drift sheets are somewhat unlike in composition, and the different proportion of pebbles of the various kinds of rocks which they contain shows that their respective glaciers followed different tracks and gathered their loads from different regions. Again, in places beneath the younger drift there is found the buried land surface of an older drift with old soils, forest grounds, and vegetable deposits, containing the remains of animals and plants, which tell of the climate of the interglacial stage in which they lived.

By such differences as these the following drift sheets have been made out in America, and similar subdivisions have been recognized in Europe.

5 The Wisconsin formation 4 The Iowan formation 3 The Illinoian formation 2 The Kansan formation 1 The pre-Kansan or Jerseyan formation

In New Jersey and Pennsylvania the edge of a deeply weathered and eroded drift sheet, the Jerseyan, extends beyond the limits of a much younger overlying drift. It may be the equivalent of a deep- buried basal drift sheet found in the Mississippi valley beneath the Kansan and parted from it by peat, old soil, and gravel beds.

The two succeeding stages mark the greatest snowfall of the Glacial epoch. In Kansan times the Keewatin ice field slowly grew southward until it reached fifteen hundred miles from its center of dispersion and extended from the Arctic Ocean to northeastern Kansas. In the Illinoian stage the Labrador ice field stretched from Hudson Straits nearly to the Ohio River in Illinois. In the Iowan and the Wisconsin, the closing stages of the Glacial epoch, the readvancing ice fields fell far short of their former limits in the Mississippi valley, but in the eastern states the Labrador ice field during Wisconsin times overrode for the most part all earlier deposits, and, covering New England, probably met the ocean in a continuous wall of ice which set its bergs afloat from Massachusetts to northern Labrador.

We select for detailed description the Kansan and the Wisconsin formations as representatives, the one of the older and the other of the younger drift sheets.

THE KANSAN FORMATION. The Kansan drift consists for the most part of a sheet of clayey till carrying smaller bowlders than the later drift. Few traces of drumlins, kames, or terminal moraines are found upon the Kansan drift, and where thick enough to mask the preexisting surface, it seems to have been spread originally in level plains of till.

The initial Kansan plain has been worn by running water until there are now left only isolated patches and the narrow strips and crests of the divides, which still rise to the ancient level. The valleys of the larger streams have been opened wide. Their well- developed tributaries have carved nearly the entire plain to valley slopes (Figs. 50 B, and 59). The lakes and marshes which once marked the infancy of the region have long since been effaced. The drift is also deeply weathered. The till, originally blue in color, has been yellowed by oxidation to a depth of ten and twenty feet and even more, and its surface is sometimes rusted to terra-cotta red. To a somewhat less depth it has been leached of its lime and other soluble ingredients. In the weathered zone its pebbles, especially where the till is loose in texture, are sometimes so rotted that granites may be crumbled with the fingers. The Kansan drift is therefore old.

THE WISCONSIN FORMATION. The Wisconsin drift sheet is but little weathered and eroded, and therefore is extremely young. Oxidation has effected it but slightly, and lime and other soluble plant foods remain undissolved even at the grass roots. Its river systems are still in their infancy (Fig. 50, A). Swamps and peat bogs are abundant on its undrained surface, and to this drift sheet belong the lake lands of our northern states and of the Laurentian peneplain of Canada.

The lake basins of the Wisconsin drift are of several different classes. Many are shallow sags in the ground moraine. Still more numerous are the lakes set in hollows among the hills of the terminal moraines; such as the thousands of lakelets of eastern Massachusetts. Indeed, the terminal moraines of the Wisconsin drift may often be roughly traced on maps by means of belts of lakes and ponds. Some lakes are due to the blockade of ancient valleys by morainic delms, and this class includes many of the lakes of the Adirondacks, the mountain regions of New England, and the Laurentian area. Still other lakes rest in rock basins scooped out by glaciers. In many cases lakes are due to more than one cause, as where preglacial valleys have both been basined by the ice and blockaded by its moraines. The Finger lakes of New York, for example, occupy such glacial troughs.

Massive TERMINAL MORAINES, which mark the farthest limits to which the Wisconsin ice advanced, have been traced from Cape Cod and the islands south of New England, across the Appalachians and the Mississippi valley, through the Dakotas, and far to the north over the plains of British America. Where the ice halted for a time in its general retreat, it left RECESSIONAL MORAINES, as this variety of the terminal moraine is called. The moraines of the Wisconsin drift lie upon the country like great festoons, each series of concentric loops marking the utmost advance of broad lobes of the ice margin and the various pauses in their recession.

Behind the terminal moraines lie wide till plains, in places studded thickly with drumlins, or ridged with an occasional esker. Great outwash plains of sand and gravel lie in front of the moraine belts, and long valley trains of coarse gravels tell of the swift and powerful rivers of the time.

THE LOESS OF THE MISSISSIPPI VALLEY. A yellow earth, quite like the loess of China, is laid broadly as a surface deposit over the Mississippi valley from eastern Nebraska to Ohio outside the boundaries of the Iowan and the Wisconsin drift. Much of the loess was deposited in Iowan times. It is younger than the earlier drift sheets, for it overlies their weathered and eroded surfaces. It thickens to the Iowan drift border, but is not found upon that drift. It is older than the Wisconsin, for in many places it passes underneath the Wisconsin terminal moraines. In part the loess seems to have been washed from glacial waste and spread in sluggish glacial waters, and in part to have been distributed by the wind from plains of aggrading glacial streams.

THE EFFECTS OF THE ICE INVASIONS ON RIVERS. The repeated ice invasions of the Pleistocene profoundly disarranged the drainage systems of our northern states. In some regions the ancient valleys were completely filled with drift. On the withdrawal of the ice the streams were compelled to find their way, as best they could, over a fresh land surface, where we now find them flowing on the drift in young, narrow channels. But hundreds of feet below the ground the well driller and the prospector for coal and oil discover deep, wide, buried valleys cut in rock,—the channels of preglacial and interglacial streams. In places the ancient valleys were filled with drift to a depth of a hundred feet, and sometimes even to a depth of four hundred and five hundred feet. In such valleys, rivers now flow high above their ancient beds of rock on floors of valley drift. Many of the valleys of our present rivers are but patchworks of preglacial, interglacial, and postglacial courses (Fig. 366). Here the river winds along an ancient valley with gently sloping sides and a wide alluvial floor perhaps a mile or so in width, and there it enters a young, rock-walled gorge, whose rocky bed may be crossed by ledges over which the river plunges in waterfalls and rapids.

In such cases it is possible that the river was pushed to one side of its former valley by a lobe of ice, and compelled to cut a new channel in the adjacent uplands. A section of the valley may have been blockaded with morainic waste, and the lake formed behind the barrier may have found outlet over the country to one side of the ancient drift-filled valley. In some instances it would seem that during the waning of the ice sheets, glacial streams, while confined within walls of stagnant ice, cut down through the ice and incised their channels on the underlying country, in some cases being let down on old river courses, and in other cases excavating gorges in adjacent uplands.

PLEISTOCENE LAKES. Temporary lakes were formed wherever the ice front dammed the natural drainage of the region. Some, held in the minor valleys crossed by ice lobes, were small, and no doubt many were too short-lived to leave lasting records. Others, long held against the northward sloping country by the retreating ice edge, left in their beaches their clayey beds, and their outlet channels permanent evidences of their area and depth. Some of these glacial lakes are thus known to have been larger than any present lake.

Lake Agassiz, named in honor of the author of the theory of continental glaciation, is supposed to have been held by the united front of the Keewatin and the Labrador ice fields as they finally retreated down the valley of the Red River of the North and the drainage basin of Lake Winnipeg. From first to last Lake Agassiz covered a hundred and ten thousand square miles in Manitoba and the adjacent parts of Minnesota and North Dakota,—an area larger than all the Great Lakes combined. It discharged its waters across the divide which held it on the south, and thus excavated the valley of the Minnesota River. The lake bed—a plain of till—was spread smooth and level as a floor with lacustrine silts. Since Lake Agassiz vanished with the melting back of the ice beyond the outlet by the Nelson River into Hudson Bay, there has gathered on its floor a deep humus, rich in the nitrogenous elements so needful for the growth of plants, and it is to this soil that the region owes its well-known fertility.

THE GREAT LAKES. The basins of the Great Lakes are broad preglacial river valleys, warped by movements of the crust still in progress, enlarged by the erosive action of lobes of the continental ice sheets, and blockaded by their drift. The complicated glacial and postglacial history of the lakes is recorded in old strand lines which have been traced at various heights about them, showing their areas and the levels at which their waters stood at different times.

With the retreat of the lobate Wisconsin ice sheet toward the north and east, the southern and western ends of the basins of the Great Lakes were uncovered first; and here, between the receding ice front and the slopes of land which faced it, lakes gathered which increased constantly in size.

The lake which thus came to occupy the western end of the Lake Superior basin discharged over the divide at Duluth down the St. Croix River, as an old outlet channel proves; that which held the southern end of the basin of Lake Michigan sent its overflow across the divide at Chicago via the Illinois River to the Mississippi; the lake which covered the lowlands about the western end of Lake Erie discharged its waters at Fort Wayne into the Wabash River.

The ice still blocked the Mohawk and St. Lawrence valleys on the east, while on the west it had retreated far to the north. The lakes become confluent in wide expanses of water, whose depths and margins, as shown by their old lake beaches, varied at different times with the position of the confining ice and with warpings of the land. These vast water bodies, which at one or more periods were greater than all the Great Lakes combined, discharged at various times across the divide at Chicago, near Syracuse, New York, down the Mohawk valley, and by a channel from Georgian Bay into the Ottawa River. Last of all the present outlet by the St. Lawrence was established.

The beaches of the glacial lakes just mentioned are now far from horizontal. That of the lake which occupied the Ontario basin has an elevation of three hundred and sixty-two feet above tide at the west and of six hundred and seventy-five feet at the northeast, proving here a differential movement of the land since glacial times amounting to more than three hundred feet. The beaches which mark the successive heights of these glacial lakes are not parallel; hence the warping began before the Glacial epoch closed. We have already seen that the canting of the region is still in progress.

THE CHAMPLAIN SUBSIDENCE. As the Glacial epoch approached its end, and the Labrador ice field melted back for the last time to near its source, the land on which the ice had lain in eastern North America was so depressed that the sea now spread far and wide up the St. Lawrence valley. It joined with Lake Ontario, and extending down the Champlain and Hudson valleys, made an island of New England and the maritime provinces of Canada.

The proofs of this subsidence are found in old sea beaches and sea-laid clays resting on Wisconsin till. At Montreal such terraces are found six hundred and twenty feet above sea level, and along Lake Champlain—where the skeleton of a whale was once found among them—at from five hundred to four hundred feet. The heavy delta which the Mohawk River built at its mouth in this arm of the sea now stands something more than three hundred feet above sea level. The clays of the Champlain subsidence pass under water near the mouth of the Hudson, and in northern New Jersey they occur two hundred feet below tide. In these elevations we have measures of the warping of the region since glacial times.

THE WESTERN UNITED STATES IN GLACIAL TIMES. The western United States was not covered during the Pleistocene by any general ice sheet, but all the high ranges were capped with permanent snow and nourished valley glaciers, often many times the size of the existing glaciers of the Alps. In almost every valley of the Sierras and the Rockies the records of these vanished ice streams may be found in cirques, glacial troughs, roches moutonnecs, and morainic deposits.

It was during the Glacial epoch that Lakes Bonneville and Lahontan were established in the Great Basin, whose climate must then have been much more moist than now.

THE DRIFTLESS AREA. In the upper Mississippi valley there is an area of about ten thousand square miles in southwestern Wisconsin and the adjacent parts of Iowa and Minnesota, which escaped the ice invasions. The rocks are covered with residual clays, the product of long preglacial weathering. The region is an ancient peneplain, uplifted and dissected in late Tertiary times, with mature valleys whose gentle gradients are unbroken by waterfalls and rapids. Thus the driftless area is in strong contrast with the immature drift topography about it, where lakes and waterfalls are common. It is a bit of preglacial landscape, showing the condition of the entire region before the Glacial epoch.

The driftless area lay to one side of the main track of both the Keewatin and the Labrador ice fields, and at the north it was protected by the upland south of Lake Superior, which weakened and retarded the movement of the ice.

South of the driftless area the Mississippi valley was invaded at different times by ice sheets from the west,—the Kansan and the Iowan,—and again by the Illinoian ice sheet from the east. Again and again the Mississippi River was pushed to one side or the other of its path. The ancient channel which it held along the Illinoian ice front has been traced through southeastern Iowa for many miles.

BENEFITS OF GLACIATION. Like the driftless area, the preglacial surface over which the ice advanced seems to have been well dissected after the late Tertiary uplifts, and to have been carved in many places to steep valley slopes and rugged hills. The retreating ice sheets, which left smooth plains and gently rolling country over the wide belt where glacial deposition exceeded glacial erosion, have made travel and transportation easier than they otherwise would have been.

The preglacial subsoils were residual clays and sands, composed of the insoluble elements of the country rock of the locality, with some minglings of its soluble parts still undissolved. The glacial subsoils are made of rocks of many kinds, still undecayed and largely ground to powder. They thus contain an inexhaustible store of the mineral foods of plants, and in a form made easily ready for plant use.

On the preglacial hillsides the humus layer must have been comparatively thin, while the broad glacial plains have gathered deep black soils, rich in carbon and nitrogen taken from the atmosphere. To these soils and subsoils a large part of the wealth and prosperity of the glaciated regions of our country must be attributed.

The ice invasions have also added very largely to the water power of the country. The rivers which in preglacial times were flowing over graded courses for the most part, were pushed from their old valleys and set to flow on higher levels, where they have developed waterfalls and rapids. This power will probably be fully utilized long before the coal beds of the country are exhausted, and will become one of the chief sources of the national wealth.

THE RECENT EPOCH. The deposits laid since glacial times graduate into those now forming along the ocean shores, on lake beds, and in river valleys. Slow and comparatively slight changes, such as the warpings of the region of the Great Lakes, have brought about the geographical conditions of the present. The physical history of the Recent epoch needs here no special mention.


During the entire Quaternary, invertebrates and plants suffered little change in species,—so slowly are these ancient and comparatively simple organisms modified. The Mammalia, on the other hand, have changed much since the beginning of Quaternary time: the various species of the present have been evolved, and some lines have become extinct. These highly organized vertebrates are evidently less stable than are lower types of animals, and respond more rapidly to changes in the environment.

PLEISTOCENE MAMMALS. In the Pleistocene the Mammalia reached their culmination both in size and in variety of forms, and were superior in both these respects to the mammals of to-day. In Pleistocene times in North America there were several species of bison,—one whose widespreading horns were ten feet from tip to tip,—a gigantic moose elk, a giant rodent (Castoroides) five feet long, several species of musk oxen, several species of horses,— more akin, however, to zebras than to the modern horse,—a huge lion, several saber-tooth tigers, immense edentates of several genera, and largest of all the mastodon and mammoth.

The largest of the edentates was the Megatherium, a. clumsy ground sloth bigger than a rhinoceros. The bones of the Megatherium are extraordinarily massive,—the thigh bone being thrice as thick as that of an elephant,—and the animal seems to have been well able to get its living by overthrowing trees and stripping off their leaves. The Glyptodon was a mailed edentate, eight feet long, resembling the little armadillo. These edentates survived from Tertiary times, and in the warmer stages of the Pleistocene ranged north as far as Ohio and Oregon.

The great proboscidians of the Glacial epoch were about the size of modern elephants, and somewhat smaller than their ancestral species in the Pliocene. The MASTODON ranged over all North America south of Hudson Bay, but had become extinct in the Old World at the end of the Tertiary. The elephants were represented by the MAMMOTH, which roamed in immense herds from our middle states to Alaska, and from Arctic Asia to the Mediterranean and Atlantic.

It is an oft-told story how about a century ago, near the Lena River in Siberia, there was found the body of a mammoth which had been safely preserved in ice for thousands of years, how the flesh was eaten by dogs and bears, and how the eyes and hoofs and portions of the hide were taken with the skeleton to St. Petersburg. Since then several other carcasses of the mammoth, similarly preserved in ice, have been found in the same region,— one as recently as 1901. We know from these remains that the animal was clothed in a coat of long, coarse hair, with thick brown fur beneath.

THE DISTRIBUTION OF ANIMALS AND PLANTS. The distribution of species in the Glacial epoch was far different from that of the present. In the glacial stages arctic species ranged south into what are now temperate latitudes. The walrus throve along the shores of Virginia and the musk ox grazed in Iowa and Kentucky. In Europe the reindeer and arctic fox reached the Pyrenees. During the Champlain depression arctic shells lived along the shore of the arm of the sea which covered the St. Lawrence valley. In interglacial times of milder climate the arctic fauna-flora retreated, and their places were taken by plants and animals from the south. Peccaries, now found in Texas, ranged into Michigan and New York, while great sloths from South America reached the middle states. Interglacial beds at Toronto, Canada, contain remains of forests of maple, elm, and papaw, with mollusks now living in the Mississippi basin.

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