This book deals with the Physical Geography of the West Indies. (With illustrations).
"The study of the geographical distribution of plants and animals has revealed facts almost as enigmatical as the origin of life itself.... The first Spanish explorers of the Antilles were, in fact, so amazed at the apparently complete absence of quadrupeds that their only explanation was a conjecture that the beasts of the forest must have been exterminated by order of some native potentate, perhaps the great Kubla Khan, whose possessions they supposed to extend eastward from Lake Aral to the Atlantic. The chronicle of Diego Columbus says positively that San Domingo and San Juan Bautista (Porto Rico) were void of mammals, but afterward modifies that statement by mentioning a species of rodent, the hutia, or bush rat, that annoyed the colonists of Fort Isabel, and caused them to make an appropriation for importing a cargo of cats.Bush rats and moles were, up to the end of the sixteenth century, the only known indigenous quadrupeds of the entire West Indian archipelago, for the "Carib dogs," which Valverde saw in Jamaica, were believed to have been brought from the mainland by a horde of man-hunting savages.But natural history has kept step with the advance of other sciences, and the list of undoubtedly aboriginal mammals on the four main islands of the Antilles is now known to comprise more than twenty species. That at least fifteen of them escaped the attention of the Spanish Creoles is as strange as the fact that the Castilian cattle barons of Upper California did not suspect the existence of precious metals, though nearly the whole bonanza region of the San Joaquin Valley had been settled before the beginning of the seventeenth century. But the conquerors of the Philippines even overlooked a variety of elephants that roams the coast jungles of Mindanao.Eight species of those West Indian incognito mammals, it is true, are creatures of a kind which the Spanish zoölogists of Valverde's time would probably have classed with birds-bats, namely, including the curious Vespertilio molossus, or mastiff bat, and several varieties of the owl-faced Chilonycteris, that takes wing in the gloom preceding a thunderstorm, as well as in the morning and evening light, and flits up and down the coast rivers with screams that can be heard as plainly as the screech of a paroquet..."