Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/213

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OUR SIX-FOOTED RIVALS.

If we compare the zoölogical rank of our "six-footed rivals" with our own, we must, from one point of view, concede them a higher position. The more perfectly developed is any animal the more do we find it possessed of an especial organ for the discharge of every function. In like manner it may be contended that, as a species rises in the scale of being, duties once indiscriminately performed by all the species are assigned to distinct individuals. Among the humbler groups of the animal kingdom the whole reproductive task is performed by all members of the species. In other words, hermaphroditism prevails. As we ascend to higher groups the sexes are separated, and the species becomes dimorphous. This arrangement prevails among all vertebrate animals, and among a large majority of annulose species. We find here already, however, one of those contrasts which so often prevail between these two great series of beings. Among vertebrates, and especially in mankind, the function of the female sex seems limited to the nurture—intra-and extrauterine—of the young. Were man immortal and non-reproductive, woman's raison d'être would disappear. Among Annulosa the very reverse holds good; the females are as a rule larger, stronger, and more long-lived, while the task of the male seems limited to the fecundation of the ova. This being once performed, his part is played. Among butterflies, moths, and ants, his death speedily follows, while among spiders he is generally killed and devoured by his better-half. This predominance of the female sex seems to prepare the way for the phenomenon which we recognize among the social Hymenoptera. Here the species become no longer dimorphous, but polymorphous. In other words, in addition to the males and females, whose task is now exclusively confined to the mere function of reproduction, there are, as we have seen, one or more forms of females, sexually abortive, but so developed in other respects as to form the castes of workers and fighters, upon whom the real government of the ant-hill devolves, who provide for its enlargement, well-being, and defense.

It may, we think, be legitimately contended that the development of a distinct working order is a step in advance similar to that taken by the distribution of the sexual functions among two different individuals—that the polymorphic species is higher than the dimorphic, just as the dimorphic is higher than the monomorphic.

Of the development of a neuter order among vertebrate animals, and especially among mankind, we know nothing which can be fairly called a trace. But, in comparing the two civilizations, that of man and that of the ant, we must be struck with the fact that the former has from time to time imitated this peculiar feature. The attempts, however, whether made by the devotion of certain classes to celibacy or by actual emasculation, have been as unsuccessful as the sham elephants of Semiramis. Celibates retaining the sexual appetite, but