Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/445

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By A. R. GROTE, A. M.

AN average coroner's jury might sit on the skeleton of an anthropoid ape and return a verdict that the deceased came to his death at the hands of parties unknown, with the sublime consciousness of having performed their duty and earned their fees. The suspicions of the more intelligent jurymen might easily be allayed by the common conception of what the word "monstrosity" will cover, and the similarity is indeed so great that I see no reason why the verdict should not be unanimous.

The gorilla has no more tail than a professor, while the knowledge that monkeys have tails, and the idea that these external appendages are a badge of general monkeyhood, are deeply rooted in the popular mind. But the apes are as tailless as man is, and no more so. I might say even less so, for the gorilla seems to have one caudal vertebra less than man; but we must give more weight to the head than the tail in matters of classification. In this world heads win throughout the game of life. Certainly, the bones of a gorilla, for instance, may be readily distinguished from those of a man, but certain bones in woman differ also slightly from the corresponding ones in man, and it is a recorded fact that juries have in this way mistaken the sex of the human subject of their deliberations. In England, in 1839, a double jury sat on the skeleton of a woman accidentally found, and upon which a man had been arrested for the supposed murder of his brother, for whose remains the bones had been mistaken. Their real nature fortunately transpired before a verdict was rendered. It is evident, however, that the bones of extinct animals have been mistaken for human remains, and so have inspired accounts of prehistoric giants; while it is certain that the bones of fossil mammalia have been revered as relics in Europe during the middle ages, and even up to the time of Cuvier. The correct determination of bones is, indeed, a more difficult matter than may be supposed from the readiness with which naturalists sometimes deal with the subject. A great deal depends on the state of preservation of the bone; and, again, what particular bone it is. Certain single bones, as the tooth, or one of the bones of the feet or hands, are much more decisive in their character than the ribs or vertebræ. The structure of the teeth shows a relation to the character and consistency of the food, and there is no doubt that, so long as the lion has his present dentition, and while his appetite remains, he will always lie down with the lamb—inside of him. In land-animals the bones of the limbs have more play in their sockets than in air or water animals, because flexibility is necessary to

  1. From a lecture delivered before the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences, March 9, 1878.