Online Encyclopedia

LATREILLE

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V23, Page 140 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Spread the word: del.icio.us del.icio.us it!
LATREILLE, who commenced the study of reptiles as early as 18or, had kept pace with the progress of science when he Latreilte. published, in 1825, his Families naturelles du regne animal (Paris, 1825, 8vo). He separated the Batrachians as a class from the Reptiles, and the latter he divides into two sections only, Cataphracta and Squamosa—in the former Crocodiles being associated with the Chelonians. He bases this view on the development of a carapace in both, on the structure of the feet, on the fixed quadrate bone, on the single organ of copulation. None of the succeeding herpetologists adopted a combination founded on such important characters army. except J. E. GRAY, who, however, destroyed Latreille's idea of Cataphracta by adding the Amphisbaenians2 as a third order. A mass of new materials now began to accumulate from all parts of the world in European museums. Among others, Spix had brought from Brazil a rich spoil to the Munich Museum, wegler. and the Bavarian Academy charged Joss. WAGLER to prepare a general system of reptiles and batra- chians. His work,3 the result of ten years' labour, is a simple but lasting monument to a young naturalist,4 who, endowed with an ardent imagination, only too frequently misinterpreted the evidence of facts, or forced it into the service of preconceived ideas. Cuvier had drawn attention to certain resemblances in 'Bull. Sci. Soc. Philomat., July 1816. 2 Catalogue of the Tortoises, Crocodiles and Amphisbaenians in the Collection of the British Museum (London, 1844, 16mo), p. 2. ' Natiialiches System der Amphibien mit vorangehender Classification der Saugethiere and Vogel—ein Beitrag zur vergleichenden Zoologie (Munich, 183o, 8vo). 4 Wagler was accidentally killed three years after the publication of his System.some parts of the osseous structure of Ichthyosaurus and Pterodactylus to dolphins, birds, crocodiles, &c. Wagler, seizing upon such analogical resemblances, separated those extinct Saurians from the class of Reptiles, and formed of them and the Monotremes a distinct class of Vertebrates, intermediate between mammals and birds, which he called Gryphi. We must admit that he made free use of his imagination by defining his class of Gryphi as " vertebrates with lungs lying free in the pectoral cavity; oviparous development of the embryo (within or) without the parent; the young fed (or suckled?) by the parents." By the last character this Waglerian class is distinguished from the reptiles. Reptiles (in which Wagler includes Batrachians) are divided into eight orders: Testudines, Crocodili, Lacertae, Serpentes, Angues, Caeciliae, Ranae and Ichthyodi. He has great merit in having employed, for the subdivision of the families of lizards, the structure of the tongue and the mode of insertion of the teeth in the jaws. On the other hand, Wagler entirely failed in arranging snakes in natural families, venomous and non--venomous types being mixed in the majority of his groups. L. FITZINGER was Wagler's contemporary; his first work .5 preceded Wagler's system by four years. As he says in the preface, his object was to arrange the reptiles in Fitz- " a natural system." Unfortunately, in order to finger. attain this object, Fitzinger paid regard to the most superficial points of resemblance; and in the tabula affinitatum generum which he constructed to demonstrate " the progress of nature " he has been much more successful in placing closely allied generic forms in contiguity than in tracing the relationships of the higher groups. That table is prepared in the form of a genealogical tree, but Fitzinger wished to express thereby merely the amount of morphological resemblance, and there is no evidence whatever in the text that he had a clear idea of genetic affinity. The Batrachians are placed at the bottom of the scheme, leading through Hyla to the Geckos (clearly on account of the digital dilatations) and through Caecilia to Amphisbaena. At the top Draco leads through Pterodactylus to the Bats (Pteropus), Ichthyosaurus to the Cetaceans (Delphinus), Emys to the Monotremes, Testudo to Maths, and the Marine Turtles to the Divers and Penguins. In Fitzinger's system the higher groups are, in fact, identical with those proposed by Merrem, while greater originality is shown in the subdivision of the orders. He differed also widely from Wagler in his views as to the relations of the extinct forms. The order of Loricata consists of two families, the Ichthyosauroidea and Crocodiloidea, the former comprising Iguanodon, Plesiosaurus, Saurocephalus and Ichthyosaurus. In the order Squamata Lacertilians and Ophidians are combined and divided into twenty-two families, almost all based on the most conspicuous external characters: the first two, viz. the Geckos and Chameleons, are natural enough, but in the three following Iguanoids and Agamoids are sadly mixed, Pterodactyles and Draco forming one family; Megalosaurus, Mosasaurus, Varanus, Tejus, &c., are associated in another named Ameivoidea ; the Amphisbaenidae are correctly defined ; the Colubroidea are a heterogeneous assemblage of thirty genera; but with his family of Bungaroidea Fitzinger makes an attempt to separate at least a part of the venomous Colubrine Snakes from the Viperines, which again are differentiated from the last family, that of Crotaloidea. If this little work had been his only performance in the field of herpetology his name would have been honourably mentioned among his fellow-workers. But the promise of his early labours was not justified by his later work, and if we take notice of the latter here it is only because his name has become attached to many a reptile through the pedantic rules of zoological nomenclature. The labours of Wiegmann, Muller, Dumeril and Bibron exercised no influence on him, and when he commenced to publish a new system of reptiles in 1843,6 of which fortunately one fasciculus only appeared, he exhibited a classification in which morphological facts are entirely superseded by fanciful ideas of the vaguest kind of physiosophy, each class of vertebrates being divided 6 Neue Classification der Reptilien nach ihren natiirlichen Verwandtschaften (Vienna, 1826, 4th). 6 Systema Reptilium (Vienna, 1843, 8vo). Merrem. into five " sense " series, and each series into three orders, one comprising forms of superior, the second of medium and the third of inferior development. In the generic arrangement of the species,. to which Fitzinger devoted himself especially in this work, he equally failed to advance science. We have now arrived at a period distinguished by the appearance of a work which superseded all its predecessors, which formed the basis for the labours of many succeeding years, and which will always remain one of the classical monuments of descriptive zoology—the Erpetologie generale ou histoire Dumeril naturelle complete des reptiles of A. M. C. DuMERIL and and G. BIBRON (Paris, 8vo). The first volume appeared in Bibron. 1834, and the ninth and last in 1854. No naturalist of that time could have been better qualified for the tremendous undertaking than C. Dumeril, who almost from the first year of half a century's connexion with the then largest collection of Reptilia had chiefly devoted himself to their study. The task would have been too great for the energy of a single man; it was, therefore, fortunate for Dumeril that he found a most devoted fellow-labourer in one of his assistants, G. Bibron, whose abilities equalled those of the master, but who, to the great loss of science, died (in 1848) before the completion of the work. Dumeril had the full benefit of Bibron's knowledge for the volumes containing the Snakes, but the last volume, which treats of the Tailed Batrachians, had to be prepared by Dumeril alone. The work is the first which gives a comprehensive scientific account of reptiles generally, their structure, physiology and literature, and again each of the four orders admitted by the authors is introduced by a similar general account. In the body of the work 121 Chelonians, 468 Saurians, 586 Ophidians and 218 Batrachians are described in detail and with the greatest precision. Singularly enough, the authors revert to Brongniart's arrangement, in which the Batrachians are co-ordinate with the other three orders of reptiles. This must appear all the more strange as Von Baer'. in 1828, and J. Muller2 in 1831, had urged, besides other essential differences, the important fact that no Batrachian embryo possesses either an amnion or an allantois, like a reptile. 4. Period of the Separation of Reptiles and Batrachians as Distinct Classes or Subclasses.—In the chronological order which we have adopted for these historical notes, we had to refer in their proper places to two herpetologists, Blainville and Latreille, who advocated a deeper than merely ordinal separation of Reptiles from Batrachians, and who were followed by J. Mailer F. S. Leuckart. But this view only now began to find and more general acceptance. J. MULLER and STANNIUS stannius• were guided in their classification entirely by anatomical characters, and consequently recognized the wide gap which separates the Batrachians from the Reptiles; yet they considered them merely as subclasses of the class Amphibia. The former directed his attention particularly to those forms which seemed to occupy an intermediate position between Lacertilians and Ophidians, and definitely relegated Anguis, Pseudopus, Acontias to the former, and Typhlops, Rhinophis, Tortrix, but also the Amphisbaenoids to the latter. Stannius interpreted the characteristics of the Amphisbaenoids differently, as will be seen from the following abstract of his classification: 3 SuBCLASSIS: AMPHIBIA MONOPNOA (Leuckart).
End of Article: LATREILLE
[back]
HYACINTHE JOSEPH ALEXANDRE THABAUD DE LATOUCHE
[next]
PIERRE ANDRE LATREILLE (1762–1833)

Additional information and Comments

There are no comments yet for this article.
» Add information or comments to this article.
Please link directly to this article:
Highlight the code below, right click and select "copy." Paste it into a website, email, or other HTML document.