Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/510

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494
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

man did I find a separation of four millimetres at the base of the first two toes. The École d'Anthropologie has several traces of feet taken by M. Manouvrier among Fuegians, Araucanians, Omahas, and Arabs of Algeria and Morocco, in none of which is there any example of this anatomical peculiarity. I have not observed it in any European or in any white child.[1] The habit of walking barefooted may produce a slight divergence of the great toe, but not at the base. The function of prehensibility must therefore be considerably developed for such a divergence to exist. Still, PSM V41 D510-The First and Second Toes of the Annamite Van.jpgFig. 6.—The First and Second Toes of the Annamite Van. heredity appears to have a part in it; for we do not observe it except among peoples who have exercised the function from a remote antiquity. It would be interesting to dissect a foot presenting this formation and compare it with the foot of a white. "We should most likely find the oblique and transverse abductor muscles very highly developed. It is a current fact that exercise strengthens the muscles. It would also be desirable to learn the origin of the separation at the base of the first and second toes. It can not be caused, as in the monkey, by the head of the first metatarsal playing on that of the second, for there is no movement of opposition here. It all takes place in the metatarso-phalangeal articulation. M. Testut, in a work on the Quaternary skeleton of la Chancelade, remarks that the anterior articular surfaces of the metatarsi which are destined for the phalanges are more extended, in length as well as in breadth, than those which have been observed on the metatarsi of European races. Unfortunately, we have data only for the articular surfaces of the last four metatarsi—the first, the one that interests us, having probably been suppressed. M. Testut concludes that this disposition is related to the mobility of the toes on the metatarsus—a mobility which has probably been considerably diminished in man since he has made his foot exclusively an organ of support. Whether the skeleton of the Indian is like this, and whether the separation of the base of the toes can be explained in this way, suggest hypotheses which dissection alone can verify.

The examination of the prehensile foot suggests forcibly the thought of comparing it with the foot of the monkey. The difference between the opposable foot of the monkey and the foot of man has been variously explained. The non-transformists base


  1. The movements of the toes are well developed in new-born children; but I have never observed, in children's hospitals, any trace of opposition.