Page:Darwinism by Alfred Wallace 1889.djvu/158

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
136
CHAP.
DARWINISM

Bronn relates to this very point. He states that the length of these organs differ in the various species of hares and of mice, and he considers that this difference can be of no service whatever to their possessors. But to this objection Darwin replies, that it has been shown by Dr. Schöbl that the ears of mice "are supplied in an extraordinary manner with nerves, so that they no doubt serve as tactile organs." Hence, when we consider the life of mice, either nocturnal or seeking their food in dark and confined places, the length of the ears may be in each case adapted to the particular habits and surroundings of the species. Again, the tail, in the larger mammals, often serves the purpose of driving off flies and other insects from the body; and when we consider in how many parts of the world flies are injurious or even fatal to large mammals, we see that the peculiar characteristics of this organ may in each case have been adapted to its requirements in the particular area where the species was developed. The tail is also believed to have some use as a balancing organ, which assists an animal to turn easily and rapidly, much as our arms are used when running; while in whole groups it is a prehensile organ, and has become modified in accordance with the habits and needs of each species. In the case of mice it is thus used by the young. Darwin informs us that the late Professor Henslow kept some harvest-mice in confinement, and observed that they frequently curled their tails round the branches of a bush placed in the cage, and thus aided themselves in climbing; while Dr. Günther has actually seen a mouse suspend itself by the tail (Origin, p. 189).

Again, Mr. Lawson Tait has called attention to the use of the tail in the cat, squirrel, yak, and many other animals as a means of preserving the heat of the body during the nocturnal and the winter sleep. He says, that in cold weather animals with long or bushy tails will be found lying curled up, with their tails carefully laid over their feet like a rug, and with their noses buried in the fur of the tail, which is thus used exactly in the same way and for the same purpose as we use respirators.[1]

Another illustration is furnished by the horns of deer which, especially when very large, have been supposed to be

  1. Nature, vol. xx. p. 603.