Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 27.djvu/217
WHALES, PAST AND PRESENT.
tongue and the bone of the lower jaw. When the mouth is opened their elasticity causes them to straighten out like a bow that is unbent, so that, at whatever distance the jaws are separated, the strainer remains in perfect action, filling the whole of the interval. The mechanical perfection of the arrangement is completed by the great development of the lower lip, which rises stiffly above the jawbone, and prevents the long, slender, flexible ends of the baleen being carried outward by the rush of water from the mouth.
Fig. 6. — Rorqual.
Few points of the structure of whales offer so great a departure from the ordinary mammalian type as the limbs. The fore-limbs are reduced to the condition of simple paddles or oars, variously shaped, but always flattened and more or less oval in outline. They are freely movable at the shoulder-joint, where the humerus or upper-arm bone articulates with the shoulder-blade in the usual manner, but beyond this point, except a slight flexibility and elasticity, there is no motion between the different segments. The bones are all there, corresponding in number and general relations with those of the human or any other mammalian arm, but they are flattened out, and their contiguous ends, instead of presenting hinge-like joints, come in contact by flat surfaces, united together by strong ligamentous bands, and all wrapped up in an undivided covering of skin, which allows externally of no sign of the separate and many-jointed fingers seen in the skeleton.
The changes that have taken place in the hind-limbs are even more remarkable. In all known Cetacea (unless Platanista be really an exception) a pair of slender bones are found suspended a short distance below the vertebral column, but not attached to it, about the part where the body and the tail join. In museum skeletons these bones are often not seen, as, unless special care has been taken in the preparation, they are apt to get lost. They are, however, of much importance and interest, as their relations to surrounding parts show that they are the rudimentary representatives of the pelvic or hip bones, which in other mammals play such an important part in con-