During his travels in America in 1841-1842 and 1845-1846, Charles Lyell was impressed by the difference of the living flora and fauna of North America from those of Europe. The fossil shells of the Cretaceous strata of New Jersey and of the Tertiary formations of the Atlantic Coastal Plain of the United States showed that North America had also constituted a separate biological region during the Cretaceous and throughout the Tertiary. By contrast, the fossil plants of North American coal formations were so closely similar to those of Europe that Lyell concluded that during the Carboniferous, Europe and North America must have formed a continuous land area. As evidence of a former land connection between North America and Europe, Lyell observed that the distribution of sediments among the strata of the Appalachians indicated that the Carboniferous strata of North America had been derived from land lying to the East — where the Atlantic Ocean now is. Similarly, the North American Silurian and other Paleozoic systems contained fossils similar to those of Europe, and their sediments were so distributed as to suggest that they had been derived from land lying to the East. Lyell pointed out the ancient uniformity of European and American fossil life, without being able to explain it.

This content is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.