Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/766

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

the most delicate, are made of horny matter, though it splits up into so many shreds as it grows that they look like the finest hair, and Dr. Gadow has reckoned that there must he fifty-four million branches and threads upon one good-sized eagle's feather.

PSM V22 D766 The first known land birds.jpg
Fig. 6.

From their skeletons and feathers which we find, we know that the strange land-birds which perched on the trees at the time that large reptiles were so numerous had not a fan-shaped tail, made of feathers growing on one broad bone, as our birds have now, but they had a long tail of many joints like lizards, only that each joint carried a pair of feathers, and like lizards, too, they had teeth in their jaws, which no living bird has. They must have been poor fliers at best, these earliest known birds, for their wings were small and the fingers of their hand were separate more like lizards' toes, two of them at least having claws upon them, while their long, hanging tail must have been very awkward compared to the fan-shaped tail they now wear.

Our backboned animals have now traveled far along the journey of life. The fish, in many and varied forms, have taken possession of the seas, lakes, and rivers; the amphibia fill the swamps and the debatable ground between earth and water; the reptiles swarm in the