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EQUATORIAL

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V14, Page 270 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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EQUATORIAL ZoNE.—Roughly speaking, the borders of this zoological zone coincide with the geographical limits of the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn; its characteristic forms, however, extend in undulating lines several degrees both north-wards and southwards. Commencing from the west coast of Africa, the desert of the Sahara forms a boundary between the equatorial and northern zones; as the boundary approaches the Nile, it makes a sudden sweep towards the north as far as northern Syria, crosses through Persia and Afghanistan to the southern ranges of the Himalayas, and follows the course of the Yang-tse-Kiang, which receives its contingent of equatorial fishes through its southern tributaries. Its continuation through the North Pacific may be indicated by the tropic, which strikes the coast of Mexico at the southern end of the Gulf of California. Equatorial types of South America are known to extend so far northwards; and, by following the same line, the West India Islands are naturally included in this zone. Towards the south the equatorial zone embraces the whole of Africa and Madagascar, and seems to extend still farther south in Australia, its boundary probably following the southern coast of that continent; the detailed distribution of the fresh-water fishes of south-western Australia has been little studied, but the tropical fishes of that region follow the principal water-course, the Murray river, far towards the south and probably to its mouth. The boundary-line then stretches to the north of Tasmania and New Zealand, coinciding with the tropic until it strikes the western slope of the Andes, on the South American continent, where it again bends southward to embrace the system of the Rio de la Plata. The four regions into which the equatorial zone is divided arrange themselves into two well-marked divisions, one of which is characterized by the presence of Cyprinid fishes, combined with the development of Labyrinthic Percesoces (Anabantidae and Ophiocephalidae) and Mastacembelids, whilst in the other these types are absent. The boundary between the, Cyprinoid and Acyprinoid division seems to follow the now exploded Wallace's line—a line drawn from the south of the Philippines between Borneo and Celebes, and farther south between Bali and Lombok. Borneo abounds in Cyprinids; from the Philippine Islands a few only are known, and in Bali two species have been found; but none are known from Celebes or Lombok, or from islands situated farther east. The Indian region comprises Asia south of the Himalayas and the Yang-tse-Kiang, and includes the islands to the west of Celebes and Lombok. Towards the north-east the island of Formosa, which also by other parts of its fauna shows the characters of the equatorial zone, has received some characteristic Japanese freshwater fishes. Within the geographical boundaries of China the freshwater fishes of the tropics pass gradually into those of the northern zone, both being separated by a broad, debateable ground. The affiuents of the great river traversing this district are more numerous from the south than from the north, and carry the southern fishes far into the temperate zone. Scarcely better defined is the boundary of this region towards the north-west, in which fishes were very poorly re-presented by types common to India and Africa. The African region comprises the whole of Africa south of the Sahara. It might have been conjectured that the more temperate climate of its southern extremity would have been accompanied by a conspicuous difference in the fish fauna. But this is not the case; the difference between the tropical and southern parts of Africa consists simply in the gradual disappearance of specifically tropical forms, whilst Silurids, Cyprinids and even Anabas penetrate to its southern coast; no new form, except a Galaxias at the Cape of Good Hope, has entered to impart to South Africa a character distinct from the central portion of the continent. In the north-east the African fauna passes the isthmus of Suez and penetrates into Syria; the system of the Jordan presents so many African types that it has to be included in a description of the African region as well as of the Europaeo-Asiatic. The boundaries of the Neotropical or Tropical American region have been sufficiently indicated in the definition of the equatorial zone. A broad and most irregular band of country, in which the South and North American forms are mixed, exists in the north. The Tropical Pacific region includes all the islands east of Wallace's line, New Guinea, Australia (with the exception of its south-eastern portion), and all the islands of the tropical Pacific to the Sandwich group.
End of Article: EQUATORIAL
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