Popular Science Monthly/Volume 10/December 1876/What American Zoologists Have Done for Evolution: 1876 Speech II

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Popular Science Monthly Volume 10 December 1876  (1876) 
What American Zoologists Have Done for Evolution: 1876 Speech II
By Edward Sylvester Morse
Last in series
 

WHAT AMERICAN ZOÖLOGISTS HAVE DONE FOR EVOLUTION.[1]
By Professor EDWARD S. MORSE,
II.

IN the "Memoirs of the American Academy of Sciences" may be found a profound mathematical essay "On the Uses and Origin of the Arrangement of Leaves and Plants,"[2] by the lamented Chauncey Wright. After discussing the laws of phyllotaxy, and showing that the botanist is wrong in supposing this a law at the outset, Mr. Wright states "one of the utilities, so to speak, in the apparently undeviating arrangement of leaves, to be the distributing of leaves most rapidly and thoroughly around the stem, exposed more completely to light and air, and provided with greater freedom for symmetrical expansion, together with more compact arrangement of bud;" and he asks, "What has determined such an arrangement of vital forces?" Theory of types would say, their very nature, or an ultimate creative power. Theory of adaptation would say, the necessity of their lives, both outward and inward; or the conditions, both past and present, of their existence.

Whatever tends to show modification in the markings, color, size, food, or change in the variety of habits manifested by animals, furnishes just so many indications of the unstable character of what had before been considered stable, and gives an infinitely wider field for those unconscious selections whose operations are coincident with every change in the physical features of the earth. On the theory of derivation additional confirmation is given to the deductions of geologists based upon the stratigraphical and paleontological evidences of the rocks. The survival of a marine crustacean in the deeper waters of Lake Michigan, as discovered by Stimpson, coupled with similar occurrences in the lakes of Sweden, suggests the past connection of these waters with the ocean. In the same way the persistence of arctic forms on high mountain-tops indicates the existence in past times of wide-spread glacial fields. The interesting discoveries of Mr. Ernest Ingersoll, in the Rocky Mountains, of the occurrence of two species of marine mollusks and living crabs belonging to marine forms, and tiny air-breathing mollusks peculiar to the Gulf coast and West Indies, point as distinctly to the past connection of that region with the ocean as the records of marine life left in the rocks. And more than this, the survival of these few forms gives us a conception of the thousands of animals which have succumbed to the changed conditions. Connected with the evidences of recent elevation of this region are the discoveries of Marsh in finding that, when the gill-bearing salamander Siredon is brought down from the colder waters of the Rocky Mountains to the warmer waters below, a complete change takes place in a loss of the gills and the conversion of the animal into the air-breathing genus Amblystoma.

This exhibits on a wider scale the experiments often performed in keeping tadpoles in the dark and cold, and indefinitely retarding their development, thus forcing them, as it were, to retain their earlier condition. Among the many millions of individuals of Amblystoma, some must have presented the anomaly of a premature development of their ovaries before the larval stage had passed away (similar cases being observed among insects), and thus it has been possible for them to perpetuate their kind in this stage. The Axolotl, having the longest persisted in this mode of growth, has become, as it were, almost fixed in these retrograde characters, only a few examples being known in which the creatures have lost their gills and assumed the mature characters of Amblystoma, hut with Siredon a change takes place with a proper change of surroundings.

To American students we are indebted for most valuable contributions regarding the effect of cave influences on animals living within their boundaries. Looking at the cave fauna with its peculiar assemblage of animals, it would seem that here, at least, the question as to the effects of certain external influences, or the absence of others in modifying structure, might be found.

Many years ago the editors of Silliman's Journal addressed a letter to Prof. Agassiz respecting the blind fishes of the Mammoth Cave, and asked his opinion as to whether their peculiar structure was due to their cave life, or whether they had been specially created. Agassiz's[3] reply is consistent with his belief. He says, "If physical circumstances ever modified organized beings, it should be easily ascertained here." He then expresses his conviction that "they were created under the circumstances in which they now live, within the limits over which they range, and with the structural peculiarities which characterize them at the present day," adding frankly, however, that these opinions are mere inferences.

With the contributions on cave insects by the eminent zoölogist Schiödte, and our own naturalists as well, we have now overwhelming proof that the blind fishes and numerous other cave animals are marked with peculiarities impressed upon them by the unusual environments to which they have been subjected.

In a work on the animals of the Mammoth Cave, by Dr. A. S. Packard and Prof. Putnam, the first-named writer quotes the results of Schiödte, wherein he shows the existence of twilight animals in which but slight modification occurs, while in darker places the changes become more profound.

Dr. Packard[4] sums up the results of his work as follows: "We then see that these cave animals are modified in various ways, some being blind, others very hairy, others with long appendages; all are not modified in the same way in homologous organs, another argument in proof of their descent from ancestors whose habits varied as their out-of-door allies do at present."

Prof. E. D. Cope,[5] in an article on the fauna of Wyandotte Cave, in commenting on the loss of eyes in cave animals from absence of light, and consequent disuse, says that, to prove it, we need only to establish two or three propositions: 1. That there are eyed genera corresponding closely in other general characters with the blind ones. 2. The condition of the visual organs is in some cave type variable. 3. If the abortion of the visual organs can be shown to take place coincidently with general growth to maturity, an important point is gained in explanation of the modus operandi of the process." He then proceeds to point out a number of related genera in which the external ones present eyes, while the cave forms are blind. As to variability, he cites the blind siluroid fish from Conestoga, Pennsylvania, showing that, while all of several specimens were blind, the degree of atrophy was marked not only in different fishes, but even on different sides of the same fish. In some the corium was perforate, in others it was imperforate. In some the ball of the eye was oval, in others collapsed.

We have in the meagre fauna of the caves convincing proof of the gradual undoing of parts—so to speak—on the withdrawal of influences favorable to them; even so exquisite a structure as the eye as a result of selection almost inconceivable, yet not only becoming rudimentary, but almost disappearing, by the withdrawal of those influences which were in part conducive to its building up. So distinct are these undoing stages that, were we sure of the stable variability of all of them, we could with certainty indicate the relative age of each cave inhabitant.

Prof. Alpheus Hyatt and Prof. E. D. Cope almost simultaneously established a number of propositions relating to certain large groups of animals which had never been recognized before. The theory of acceleration and retardation in which certain groups acquire rapidly new characters, while corresponding groups acquire the same characters more slowly, forms a portion of the theory of these naturalists. Prof. Hyatt has shown among Ammonites a parallel between the life-stages of. the individual and similar stages in the group based upon an examination of suites of specimens as studied by him in Europe and America. It is utterly impossible to do the slightest justice to the thoroughly original views of these gentlemen without the aid of explanatory diagrams. While reluctantly abandoning the attempt, I must at the same time express the regret that neither of these investigators has seen fit to present to the public an illustrated and simple outline of the main features of their theories and the facts: Prof. Cope basing in part his propositions on groups of animals, many of which comprise fossil forms brought to light in the West, of which but few restorations have yet been made; and Prof. Hyatt basing his work on fossil Ammonites from the Jurassic and adjacent beds of Europe, of which but one complete collection is to be found in this country.

Surely, with this unfamiliar material, an excuse may be offered in not attempting a popular presentation of propositions and laws, some doctrinal and others theoretical, which must yet be looked upon as profound and permanent additions to the philosophy of evolution. A reference may be made to Prof. Cope's essays, entitled "Origin of Genera," "On the Method of Creation of Organic Types," "Consciousness in Evolution," "On the Theory of Evolution," and numerous other memoirs from which may be gathered the author's views on the subject. The essays of Prof. Hyatt, "On the Parallelism between the Different Stages of Life in the Individual and those in the Entire Group of the Molluscan Order Tetrabranchiata," "Reversions among Ammonites," "Evolution of the Arietidæ," "Genetic Relations of the Angulatidæ," "Abstract of a Memoir on the Biological Relations of the Jurassic Ammonites," are altogether too technical to condense into an address of this nature. It need hardly be mentioned that in these memoirs invaluable contributions are made to the doctrines of natural selection. And now we come to the most difficult part of our work: to compass within the limits of a few pages the magnificent discoveries of Leidy, Marsh, and Cope, in the rich fossiliferous beds of the West. The wonders are so unique and varied; they have been poured upon us with such prodigality of material and illustration, that one is baffled in an attempt to compass their characters, or to picture them as realities. When Darwin offered the imperfection of the geological record as possibly accounting for the absence of intermediate forms which might have existed, he was at once met by a series of protests so strenuous, and at the same time so specious, that they had their full weight in staying the force of that prophetic chapter. Darwin, in this chapter, distinctly stated that not only were there forms which had never yet been seen, owing to the imperfection of the geological record, but that time might possibly bring them to light, and, when discovered, we should have revealed to us intermediate characters which would connect widely-separated groups as they are recognized to-day.

Behold the prophet! Animals have been discovered, not only showing the characters of two widely-separated groups, but in some cases of three groups as they now appear. How distinct the hoofed quadrupeds, the carnivora, and the rodents, appear to-day! Yet here are discovered ancestors of these widely-separate groups, in which are contained in one individual the characters of all three! Of the ungulates with the perissodactyle foot, there have been discovered a large number of tapiroid forms allied to Paleotherium; others which, like Anchitherium, wonderfully fill the gap between the horse and forms lower down; a large suite of rhinocerotic creatures of strange character and enormous size; a great number of species of three-toed horse, some no larger than foxes, and with these a perplexing maze of deer, antelopes, sheep, camels, hippopotami, and pig-like animals, ruminant-like beasts, some of them not larger than an ordinary squirrel: a curious group, comprising a large number of species with characters intermediate between the pigs and ruminants. Prof. Flower, the great English osteologist, confesses that these forms completely break down the line of demarkation between them, and adds that "a gradual modification can be traced in the characters of the animals of this group, corresponding with their chronological position, from the earlier more generalized to the latest comparatively specialized forms, thus affording one of the most complete pieces of evidence that are known in favor of a progressive alteration of form, not only of specific, but even of generic importance through advancing ages." The probable home of the Camelidæ has been revealed in the discovery of llama-like creatures, gigantic mammals, in some cases exceeding the elephant in size, but with a diversity of characters hitherto unseen either in recent or fossil forms, combining as they did the characters of perissodactyle and proboscidian.

A numberless variety of Carnivora, many of them embracing the most generalized groups, have been brought to light, such as creatures between the wolf and the opossum, generalized dogs, and sabretoothed cats.

A great many species belonging to the Rodentia, Insectivora, and Chiroptera, have been identified; still more wonderful is a group of creatures so unlike any beast heretofore known that Prof. Marsh has made a new order to include them under the name of Tillodontia. They combine the characters of several distinct groups, namely, the carnivores, ungulates, and rodents, and some of them in size equaling the tapir. Of great interest also is the discovery of fifteen new genera, belonging to low forms of primates. All of these creatures, embracing hundreds of species, are generalized in a high degree. New orders have been erected to embrace some of them. One has only to understand the specialization of modern animals to appreciate the generalized character of these early forms.

Prof. Marsh has shown that all the ungulates in the Eocene and Miocene had upper and lower incisors; and, again, that all the Eocene and Miocene mammals, including the Carnivora, had two of the wrist bones, the scaphoid and lunar, as distinct bones.

The class of birds so long represented as a closed type can no longer occupy that isolated position. The proper interpretation of archaeopteryx has, in the discoveries of Marsh, new interest. He has discovered a number of species of birds, for which a new sub-class is made. This sub-class will embrace two sub-orders, one in which the creatures had teeth contained in grooves in the jaws; the other bad true teeth in the sockets. The first were swimming-birds of gigantic size, with rudimentary wings; the second embraced small birds, with powerful wings and bi-concave vertebræ.

Prof. Cope has also brought to light a remarkable gigantic bird from the Eocene of New Mexico; its size indicates a species with feet twice as large as those of the ostrich. He shows it to be distinct from any of the genera of Struthionidæ or Dionornithidæ. Besides all these wonders, a host of new forms of reptiles and fishes have been discovered by these indefatigable explorers—huge pterosauria discovered by Marsh with a spread of wing of twenty-four feet; and of more special interest is the fact that no trace of teeth can be found in the jaws.

It is impossible for me to more than allude to these remarkable additions to our knowledge of these early forms, and until they have all been figured with natural outlines, and perplexing questions as to priority in discovery rectified, it will be difficult in some cases to accredit individual work. But in the light of these profound revelations, how blind seem the attempts to establish a classification on the forms heretofore familiar to us, and to rear these into circumscribed groups between which it was asserted no forms of intermediate kinds were to be expected! With the twenty-five or thirty species of fossil horses at our command, some with four toes, others with three, in various stages of reduction, it is interesting to bring back to mind the earnest Geoffroy St.-Hilaire painfully endeavoring to trace the genealogy of the horse, with a few widely-separated forms of extinct mammals as his only guide in the work.

The special investigations of Marsh and Leidy reveal an almost unbroken line from our present horse with its simple toe, and two rudimentary metatarsals in the shape of the splint-bones, to a creature in which metatarsals support rudimentary toes, and still other forms in which these rudimentary toes are working-toes, and below that again another form in which a fourth toe is seen as a rudiment, till forms are reached in which all the toes rest on the ground. It is still more striking to study attentively those earlier generalized horses with four toes, and follow the successive reduction in the number of toes as the later formations are reached, till in the latest deposits and at present we have the modern specialized horse with but a single toe, the lost toes represented by two slender bones hidden beneath the flesh. And now comes crowning proof that our modern horse has been derived from some three-toed progenitor, for in certain instances horses have come into existence with splint-bones developed into sturdy bones sustaining at the extremities phalangeal bones, and outside accessory hoofs! Such freaks of Nature demand an explanation. They receive a rational one through the theories of Darwin. Without the law of reversion, we are left in blind bewilderment.

While all these facts in overwhelming array testify to the extreme mutability of forms, induced oftentimes by apparently the most trivial of causes, and set at rest the question as to the fixedness of species, they show at the same time the richness of that store from which by natural selection forms may be selected.

Realizing the uniformity of Nature's laws, the human mind bravely asks, "Do these wonderful interpretations throw any light upon the origin of man?"

Rigidly adhering to the inductive method, science is prepared to show that man did not appear suddenly and free from those animal proclivities and passions which make him a sinful creature, but that he has risen from a lowly origin, and his passions and desires, but feebly repressed, may be as surely traced to ancestral traits, as the aberrant muscles in his structure may be recognized in some degraded progenitor. And in proof of this there is established a series of facts of precisely the same nature as is seen in those discoveries which link the horse in an almost unbroken line to earlier and more generalized animals.

It is instructive to read the discussions in relation to man's position in Nature as represented by Agassiz, Morton, and others.

The position that these eminent men were justified in taking shocked the Church, and received from her the same vigorous denunciations that Darwin was forced to bear at a later day.

The systematist, in formulating the separate species and genera of the apes and monkeys, was early led to see that man also in various parts of the world presented differences quite as striking, and if it were assumed, as indeed it was, that the peculiarities among men were only varietal, then it could be claimed with equal emphasis that the differences among apes were only varietal. Agassiz, in his keen grasp of things, readily saw this, and, since the races of men revealed differences just as specific in their characters as the animals immediately below them, he was forced to admit the plurality of origin of the human race. He says:

"Unless we recognize the differences among men, and we recognize the identity of these differences with the differences which exist among animals, we are not true to our subject, and, whatever be the origin of these differences, they are of some account; and if it ever is proved that all men have a common origin, then it will be at the same time proved that all monkeys have a common origin, and it will by the same evidence be proved that man and monkeys cannot have a different origin."

He confesses that he "saw the time coming when the position of the origin of man would be mixed up with the question of the origin of animals, and a community of origin might be affirmed for them all." With these convictions it is not surprising that he should have been led to express the opinions regarding the diversity of the human race that we find recorded.

Agassiz, in the meetings of the American Academy, repeatedly and in various ways illustrated the diversity of the human race. In one place he alludes to the difficulty in defining the species of man, and says the same difficulties occur in defining the species of anthropoid apes. We quote from the records:

"The languages of different races of men were neither more different nor more similar than the sounds characteristic of animals of the same genus; and their analogy can no more be fully accounted for on any hypothesis of transmission or tradition than in the case of birds of the same genus uttering similar notes in Europe and America."—("Proceedings of the American Academy," vol. iii., p. 6.)

Again, in a later volume, he expresses a general disbelief in the supposed derivation of later languages from earlier ones. He regarded each, language and each race as substantially primordial, and ascribed their resemblances to a similarity in the mental organization of the races.

This extract illustrates the extremity to which one is logically driven if he accepts the hypothesis of special creation, and these words are quoted, not with the belief that at the present time they would have been uttered, but as illustrating the necessary admissions with the theory of plurality of origin. In precisely the same manner that Whitney, Müller, and other eminent philologists, have shown the outgrowth of present existing languages from primitive forms of language, so science is prepared to show the outgrowth of present men from primitive forms of animals. Agassiz was bitterly assailed by the Church for the bold attitude he assumed regarding the plurality of origin of the human race, though now that science will show that after all man has originated from a common centre, it seems no better satisfied. The facts bearing on man's lowly origin have been fully contributed by American students, and, as all intelligent men understand the bearing of these facts on the question, it is only necessary to allude to them here. If man has really been derived from an ancestor in common with the ape, we must expect to show—1. That in his earlier stages he recalls certain persistent characters in the apes; 2. That the more ancient man will reveal more ape-like features than the present existing man; and, 3. That certain characteristics pertaining to early men still persist in the inferior races of men.

Prof. Wyman[6] points out certain resemblances between the limbs of the human embryo and the permanent condition of the limbs of lower animals. In some human embryos about an inch in length he found that the great-toe was shorter than the others, and, instead of being parallel to them, projected at an angle from the side of the foot, thus corresponding with the permanent condition of this part in the Quadrumana.

In some observations made on the skeleton of a Hottentot, Prof. Wyman[7] calls attention to the complete ossification of the nasal bones, no trace of a suture remaining. This was more noticeable as the individual was young, and the other bones were immature, and had an interest "in connection with the fact that the nasal bones are coössified at an early period in the monkeys and before the completion of the first dentition in gorillas and chimpanzees." Careful measurements of the pelvis also revealed quadrumanous features, though "the resemblance is trifling in comparison with the differences."

In a study of the crania, Wyman[8] found differences in the relative position of the foramen magnum. In the North American Indian this opening was farther back than in the negro, while some crania from Kauai presented this opening still farther back than in the Indian; and more than half the lot from Kauai had the peculiarity in the nostrils first pointed out in the negro by Dr. John Neil, of Philadelphia, namely, the deficiency of the sharp ridge which forms the lower border of the opening. In its place is a rounded border, or an inclined plane.

This feature occurs very frequently in different races, but more rarely in Europeans. It is, however, never absent in the apes. Prof. Wyman, in studying the characters of certain ancient crania from a burial-place near Shell Mound, Florida, observed the foramen magnum quite far back, and remarks on the massive character of the bones composing the skull, the parietal being nearly twice the thickness of ordinary parietals, while the general roughness of the surfaces for muscular attachments on the hinder part of the head is very striking.[9]

In certain measurements of synostotic crania, Prof. "Wyman found that the length of the parietals was twenty-four millimetres above the average, the parietals being lengthened from before backward, the frontal and occipital being but slightly augmented. Now, in the much-discussed Neanderthal skull, wherein it is urged by Dr. Davis that it is a synostotic skull, though denied by Huxley, Wyman shows that the parietals measure nine millimetres below the average, which is certainly against the view that the Neanderthal skull is synostotic.[10]

In an essay entitled "Observations on Crania and Other Parts of. the Skeleton," Prof. Wyman shows that the relative capacity of the skull "is to be considered merely as an anatomical and not as a physiological characteristic,"[11] a most important distinction certainly in considering the large capacity of certain ancient skulls, since we must know the quality as well as the quantity in order to assume the intellectual position of the races. In this essay are also quoted the results of a large series of measurements made by Dr. B. A. Gould, in which it is shown that the arms of the blacks are relatively longer as compared with the whites, in this respect approaching the higher animals, a confirmation of the observations made by Broca, Pruner Bey, Lawrence, and others.

The perforation of the humerus, which occurs in the apes quite generally, was found to occur rarely in the white race. Of fifty humeri, Wyman found but two perforated, while of Indian humeri he found thirty-one per cent, perforated. In some of the remains of ancient men there has been found a remarkable lateral flattening of the tibia, unlike anything found at present, but always characteristic of the earliest races. These tibiæ have received the name of platycnemic tibiæ.

Wyman[12] quotes Broca as saying that the measurements of these tibiæ resemble the ape, and, what is more striking, in a small number of instances "the bone is bent and is strongly convex forward, and its angles so rounded as to present the nearly oval section seen in the apes." The occurrence of these platycnemic tibiæ has been noticed by several investigators. They have been obtained from the mounds of Kentucky by Mr. Carr, Mr. Lyon, and Prof. Putnam. Prof. Wyman found them in Florida mounds. To Mr. Henry Gillman, of Detroit, science is indebted for the discovery of the flattest tibiae ever recorded, exceeding even those discovered in Europe. Mr. Gillman has opened a number of mounds along the Detroit and Rouge Rivers in Michigan, and assiduously studied the characters of these remains, which indicate a very ancient race of men. Many of these tibiæ he has sent to the Peabody Archæological Museum at Cambridge. Associated with these remarkable tibiæ he found large numbers of perforated humeri.

At the Detroit meeting of the Association, Prof. W. S. Barnard showed that the muscles which move the fingers and toes have been developed from one common muscle, and, in studying the various degrees of specialization of the muscles which move the hand and foot in the gorilla and lower apes, he finds that in the foot "man remains a creature of the past not modified by that which makes him a man, the brain. The hand has been modified and perfected by its services to the brain." Prof. Barnard also contributed another essay, entitled "Comparative Myology of Man and the Apes." From very careful studies he is led to believe that the relative position of the origin of the muscles is more constant than that of their insertions. In this examination he brings to light a muscle which Traill dissected in the higher apes, and which he called the scansorius, and this was supposed to have no representative in man.

Traill was followed by Wyman, Owen, Wilder, and Bischoff, who, in a controversy with Huxley, argued from this muscle against the simian origin of man. Mr. Barnard now shows that Traill was mistaken, and that other naturalists were misled by the weight of his authority. What Traill interpreted as the gluteus minimus is the piriformis, and what he figured as a new muscle separating the apes from man, the scansorius, is the homologue of our gluteus minimus.

From gradually accumulating data, in regard to microcephalic skulls, it would seem as if Carl Vogt were right in judging them to be cases of reversion. Prof. Wyman says, in regard to a microcephalic skull from Mauritius, that, "taking together the high temporal ridges, the union of the temporals with the frontals, the projection of the jaws, the narrow and retreating forehead, the small capacity, and the form and proportions of the nasal openings, the general resemblance to that of an ape is most striking, and seems to justify Vogt's expression of a man-ape, it being understood that the skull we are describing is not a natural, but an anomalous formation."[13]

It would be difficult to imagine, indeed, that mere reduction in the size of the brain, through arrest of development, should produce a series of characters so closely resembling the apes as is found to be the case in so many widely-separated examples. Thus, in the Mauritius microcephalic skull the capacity is only twenty-five cubic inches. The jaws are extremely prognathous, the zygomatic arches stand out wide and free, and the temporal ridges approach within one and a quarter inch. If such examples should prove to be veritable cases of reversion, then we have a parallel in the startling appearance of the long-lost rudimentary toes of the horse, traces of which are only seen in the hidden splint-bones. In the "Seventh Annual Report of the Archæological Museum," Prof. Wyman describes a microcephalic skull from the ancient huacals of Peru. Its capacity is only thirty-three cubic inches; "the frontal bone is much slanted backward, has a decided ridge corresponding to the frontal suture, and is slightly concave on each side of it."

Wyman states that the bones of the head are well formed, though, from the diminutive size of the brain, idiocy must have existed.

Associated with the remarkable collection of platycnemic tibiæ and perforated humeri discovered by Mr. Henry Gillman, we should have expected some anomalous forms of crania, and in this expectation we are not disappointed.

In company with two skulls which appear to be normal, Mr. Gillman discovered one of most remarkable proportions. Wyman considers it a case of extreme individual variation, and not the result of artificial deformity. The skull in question has only a capacity of fifty-six cubic inches. The average capacity of Indian crania, according to Morton's measurements, being eighty-four cubic inches, and the minimum capacity being sixty-nine cubic inches, the skull of Gillman is therefore thirteen cubic inches less than the smallest Indian skull heretofore described. But more extraordinary still is the approximation of the temporal ridges. While in ordinary crania the separation of these ridges is usually from three to four inches, and never less than two inches, in this unique skull from the Detroit River mound the ridges in question approach within three-quarters of an inch, in this respect, as Wyman says, presenting the same condition as that of the chimpanzee. A rounded median crest can be distinctly seen and felt between these ridges, and the skull is markedly depressed on each side for the passage of the powerful mastoid muscles.

Is this, too, a case of partial reversion? Such extraordinary forms as the Neanderthal and Engis skulls, and the one above cited, with the La Naulette and other lower jaws, could not have been uncommon in those early days, since the chances against finding them would be simply enormous, unless, indeed, they were of common occurrence. Looking at these remains as at the remains of other mammals, we must admit either that these low characters represent retention of ancestral peculiarities, or that they are cases of reversion. In considering the Neanderthal skull, with its retreating frontal, its enormous frontal crest, and other anthropoid characters, Huxley is led to say that at most there is "demonstrated the existence of a man whose skull may be said to revert somewhat toward the pithecoid type."

To a mind unbiased by preconceived opinions, and frankly willing to interpret the facts as they stand revealed by the study of these ancient remains the world over, the evidence of man's lowly origin seems, indeed, overwhelming.

Looking at the whole question impartially, we find that among recent men there are high types as well as low types, with a variation so great as to have induced Agassiz, Morton, and others, to consider them specific. And while, as Wyman asserts, no one race possesses all the low characters, yet with the relatively long arms, the tendency of the pelvis to depart from the normal proportion, and numerous other facts of like significance, there are yet retained among some of them more resemblances to the higher apes than can be found among others.

Prof. Cope, not content with tracing man back to some ape-like progenitor, has, in a suggestive way, considered man's relations to the Tertiary mammalia. In a communication to the Association at Detroit, on this subject, he prefaced his paper by saying that in the doctrine of evolution two propositions must be established: 1. That a relation of orderly succession of structure exists, which corresponds with a succession in time; 2. That the terms (species, genera, etc.) of this succession actually display transitions or connections by intermediate forms, whether observed to arise in descent, or to be of such varietal character as to admit of no other explanation of their origin." He shows that the primary forms of mammalia are strongly indicated in the structure of the feet, and also in the character of the teeth. In recent land-mammals there are several types of foot to be recognized, the many-toed plantigrade, the carnivorous, the ox, and the horse types. Among the earlier types of the Eocene, he finds the most generalized type in the Coryphodon of Owen (Bathmodon of Cope). This creature was plantigrade, with a short calcaneum, and an imperfect hinge for the foot. From this generalized form he traces a line of succession of intermediate forms to the horse on the one hand, and the ox on the other.

The Coryphodon was one of the earliest known mammals, while the horse and the ox preceded man by a single geological period. Without entering into a technical description of the successive forms presented by Prof. Cope, we may quote his words wherein he shows that "the mammals of the Lower Eocene exhibit a greater percentage of types that walk on the soles of their feet, while the successive periods exhibit an increasing number of those that walk on the toes; while the hoofed animals and Carnivora of recent times nearly all have the heel high in the air, the principal exceptions being the elephant and bear families." After presenting the gradual osteological changes of the foot, from the earlier types to the later ones, through several lines of descent, considering also the teeth as well, he says: "The relation of man to this history is highly interesting. Thus, in all generalized points, his limbs are those of the primitive type, so common in the Eocene. He is plantigrade, has five toes, separated tarsals and carpals, short heel, rather flat astragalus, and neither hoofs nor claws, but something between the two; the bones of the forearm and leg are not so unequal as in the higher types, and remain entirely distinct from each other, and the ankle-joint is not so perfect as in many of them. In his teeth his character is thoroughly primitive. . . .

"His structural superiority consists solely in the complexity and size of his brain. A very important lesson is derived from these and kindred facts. The monkeys were anticipated in the greater fields of the world's activity by more powerful rivals. The ancestors of the ungulates held the fields and the swamps, and the Carnivora, driven by hunger, learned the arts and cruelties of the chase. The weaker ancestors of the Quadrumana possessed neither speed nor weapons of offense and defense, and nothing but an arboreal life was left them, where they developed the prehensile powers of the feet. Their digestive system unspecialized, their food various, their life the price of ceaseless vigilance, no wonder that their inquisitiveness and wakefulness were stimulated and developed, which is the condition of progressive intelligence "—adding that "the race has not been to the swift, nor the battle to the strong." Prof. Cope shows in this case that "the survival of the fittest has been the survival of the most intelligent, and natural selection proves to be, in its highest animal phase, intelligent selection."

Prof. Fiske has in a clearer way shown that when variations in intelligence became more important than variations in physical structure, then they were seized upon, to the relative exclusion of the latter.

It is intelligent strength, other things being equal, that conquers the savage, and the gradual selection of the best and biggest brains is not seen alone in man.

In one of the most significant discoveries of Prof. Marsh, the mammalia are found to show an increase in the size of the brain coincident with their succession in the rocks.

One of the most extraordinary mammals from the Tertiary beds of the West is the Dinoceras, with its rhinoceros and elephant characters, its skull ornamented with prominent tubercles, its unique dentiton, embracing large cutting tusks, and altogether forming a beast like the fabled monsters of old.

A study of its cranial cavity, made by Prof. Marsh, shows that its brain was proportionally smaller than that of any known mammal. Indeed, it was almost reptilian, and of such diminutive size that it could have been drawn through the neural canal of all the presacral vertebræ. Prof. Marsh has followed up this discovery with the most important results, and is now prepared to state the following conclusions:

1. That all the Tertiary mammals had small brains.
2. There is an increase in the size of the brain during this period.
3. This increase was mainly confined to the cerebral hemispheres or higher portion of the brain.
4. In some groups the convolutions of the brain have gradually become more complicated.
5. In some the cerebellum and olfactory lobes have even diminished in size.

He also finds some evidence that the same general law holds good for birds and reptiles from the Cretaceous to the present time.[14]

Thus we have in other groups as well as man convincing proof that, with successive survival of forms, there is a corresponding survival of larger brains.

Prof. Shaler[15] has offered some suggestive thoughts in showing the intense selective action which must have taken place in the shape and character of the pelvis in man, on his assumption of the erect position—the caudal vertebræ turning inward; the lower portion of the pelvis drawing together to hold the viscera, which had before rested on the elastic abdominal walls; the attending difficulties of parturition, and other troubles in those parts—all pointing to the change which has taken place.

In this connection Prof. Shaler remarks that the question of labor in woman must not be overlooked from this standpoint.

In a memoir on the shell-heaps of Florida, by Prof. Wyman, wherein he describes a number of low characters in man already alluded to, he gives the following conclusions: "The steady progress of discovery justifies the inference that man in the earlier periods of his existence, of which we have any knowledge, was at most a savage, enjoying the advantage of a few rude inventions. According to the theory of evolution, which has the merit of being based upon, and not inconsistent with, the observed analogies and processes of Nature, he must have gone through a period, when he was passing out of the animal into the human state, when he was not yet provided with tools of any sort, and when he lived the life of a brute.[16]

These words have no obscure significance, and when we regard the character of the one who wrote them, his cautious methods of research, and the long deliberation he was wont to give to all such questions, then they become doubly important.

Recognizing clearly the existence of these lower and earlier stages in man, it has been one of the most difficult problems to solve the first steps toward his society and family relations. Prof. John Fiske, in his "Outlines of Cosmic Philosophy," has given for the first time a rational explanation of the origin and persistence of family relations, and thence communal relations, and, finally, society.

Never before has there been presented so clear an idea of man's physical changes, and the effects of natural selection in seizing upon attendant or correlated nervous changes, as in the work of this author.

Prof. Fiske says: "Civilization originated when in the highest mammals variations in intelligence became so much more important than variations in physical structure that they began to be seized upon by natural selection, to the relative exclusion of the latter."[17]

Starting from the researches of Sir Henry Maine, Lubbock, and others, he finds social evolution must have originated after families temporarily organized among the higher mammals had become permanently organized. But how this step was effected has been an insoluble problem. Bagehot, in his remarkable work on "Physics and Politics," says: "It is almost beyond imagination how man, as we know man, could by any sort of process have gained this step in civilization." Darwin supposes that men were originally weak and inoffensive creatures, like the chimpanzee, and were compelled to band together to make up in combined strength what they lacked as individuals.

That man, for his age, is a weak animal physically, there can be no doubt. Fiske shows that "increase of intelligence in complexity and specialty involves a lengthening of the period during which the nervous connections involved in ordinary adjustments are becoming organized." From these conditions arose the phenomena of infancy, and he shows that with increase of intelligence infancy becomes longer. In the human race it is longer than in any other mammal, and much longer in civilized man than in the savage.

In the orang-outang the infant does not begin to walk till it is a month old, and in performing this act it holds to various objects for support, as in the human infant. Previous to that time it reposes on its back, and becomes absorbed in gazing at its hands and feet. Now, still lower down among the monkeys, at the age of one month the young are fully matured so far as walking and prehension are concerned. It is shown, furthermore, that where infancy is very short, parental feeling maybe intense for a while, but soon dies out, and the offspring of one becomes of no greater interest than those of a stranger, "and in general the duration of the feelings which insure the protection of the offspring is determined by the duration of the infancy. . . .

"Hence if long infancies could have suddenly come into existence among a primitive race of ape-like men, the race would have quickly perished from inadequate persistence of parental affection." Prof. Fiske, in a most reasonable way, shows that "the prolonged helplessness of the offspring must keep the parents together for longer and longer periods in successive epochs; and when at last the association is so long kept up that the older children are growing mature while the younger ones still need protection, the family relations begin to become permanent. The parents have lived so long in company that to seek new companionships involves some disturbance of ingrained habits, and meanwhile the older sons are more likely to continue their original association with each other than to establish associations with strangers, since they have common objects to achieve, and common enmities bequeathed, inherited or acquired with neighboring families."

In his chapter on the moral genesis of man Fiske maintains that "the prolongation of human infancy accompanying the development of intelligence, and the correlative extension of parental feeling, are facts established by observation wherever observation is possible; and to maintain that the correlation of these phenomena was kept up during an epoch which is hidden from observation, and can only be known by inference, is to make a genuine induction, involving no other assumption than that the operations of Nature are uniform. To him who is still capable of believing that the human race was created by miracle in a single day, with all its attributes, physical and psychical, compounded and proportioned, just as they now are, the present inquiry is of course devoid of significance. But for the evolutionist there would seem to be no alternative but to accept, when once propounded, the present series of inferences."

Recalling now the various evidences educed by Wyman, Giman, and others, regarding the anomalous characters of the remains of primitive man, it seems impossible that a mind unbiased by preconceived opinion should be able to resist the conviction as to man's lowly origin.

If we take into account the rapidly-accumulating data of European naturalists concerning primitive man, with the mass of evidence received in these notes, we find an array of facts which irresistibly point to a common origin with animals directly below us, and these evidences are found in the massive skulls with coarse ridges for muscular attachments, the rounding of the base of the nostrils, the early ossification of the nasal bones, the small cranial capacity in certain forms, the prominence of the frontal crest, the posterior position of the foramen magnum, the approximation of the temporal ridges, the lateral flattening of the tibia, the perforation of the humerus, the tendency of the pelvis to depart from its usual proportions, and, associated with all these, a rudeness of culture and the evidence of the manifestation of the coarsest instincts. He must be blind indeed who cannot recognize the bearing of such grave and suggestive modifications. But what application are we to make of such revelations if we vividly receive them as such? We are no longer to rest with the blind fatalism of the Turks, or listless resignation of the masses, but are to. make a living use of them. We are to trace evil and corrupt passions to their source. The dreadful outrages which shock us from time to time in the public prints are not instigated by an evil spirit, but are outbursts of the same savage nature which found more frequent expression years ago, and which are still present with the lower races of to-day. When the study of heredity reveals the fact that even the nature of vagabondage is perpetuated; when the surprising revelations of Margaret, mother of criminals, from whose loins nearly a thousand criminals have thus far been traced, are considered, common-sense will ultimately recognize that the imprisonment of a criminal for ten or twenty years is not simply to punish him or relieve the public of his lawless acts, but to restrain him from perpetuating his kind. No sudden revulsion of feelings and amended ways is to purify the criminal taint, but he is to be quarantined in just the same way that a case of the plague might be, that his kind may not increase. With these plain facts thoroughly understood, men high in authority must find some other excuse for the exercise of their pardoning power, and other reasons be given for allowing so large a proportion of criminals to go free. With the monstrous blot of Mormonism and free-love in our country, the statute-books are to be again revised from the standpoint of science, with its rigid moral and physical laws, and not from the basis of established usage or long-continued recognition.

 
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  1. An address delivered at the meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Read at Buffalo, New York, August, 1876, by Edward S. Morse, Vice-President of Biological Section.
  2. "Memoirs of the American Academy,"
  3. American Journal of Science, second series, vol. xi., p. 128.
  4. "Life in the Mammoth Cave," p. 27.
  5. American Naturalist, vol. vi., p. 415.
  6. "Proceedings of the Boston Society of Natural History," vol. x., p. 185.
  7. Ibid., vol. ix., p. 352.
  8. Ibid., vol. xi., p. 447.
  9. "Fourth Annual Report of the Peabody Archæological Museum. Cambridge."
  10. "Proceedings of the Boston Society of Natural History," vol. xi., p. 455.
  11. "Fourth Annual Report of the Peabody Archæological Museum."
  12. "Fourth Annual Report of the Peabody Archæological Museum."
  13. "Seventh Annual Report of the Peabody Archæological Museum."
  14. American Journal of Science, vol. xii., July, 1876.
  15. "Proceedings of the Boston Society of Natural History," vol. xv., p. 188.
  16. "Memoirs of the Peabody Academy of Sciences," vol. i., part iv.
  17. "Cosmic Philosophy," vol. ii., p. 340.