A Wallace biography

4 Wallace’s travels in the tropics

Wallace travelled extensively in two biologically rich, tropical regions of the world, and this provided him with numerous insights into natural history and a range of material for his publications. 

Commenting on his four years in the Amazon, Wallace would write how the diversity of life in the tropics especially impressed him (My Life; p.149):

“The first [feature] was the virgin forest, everywhere grand, often beautiful and even sublime. Its wonderful variety with a more general uniformity never palled. Standing under one of its great buttressed trees – itself a marvel of nature – and looking carefully around, noting the various columnar trunks rising like lofty pillars, one soon perceives that hardly two of these are alike.”

“This extraordinary variety of the species is a general though not universal characteristic of tropical forests, but seems to be nowhere so marked a feature as in the great forest regions which encircle the globe for a few degrees on each side of the equator. An equatorial forest is a kind of natural arboretum, where specimens of an immense number of species are brought together by nature.”

“The second feature, that I can never think of without delight, is the wonderful variety and exquisite beauty of the butterflies and birds, a variety and charm which grow upon one month after month and year after year, as ever new and beautiful, strange and even mysterious, forms are continually met with.”

A collection of butterflies from the Northern Territory Museum, Darwin.
A collection of butterflies from the Northern Territory Museum, Darwin.

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