Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 33.djvu/852

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
832
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

the same kind. I can not imagine an animal with hoofs, walking only on the ends of its toes, having metatarsi joined, lengthened, and raised up, with the four limbs brought close to the body, and moving nearly always in the same parallel plane—that is, adapted to a terrestrial, measured, and rhythmical locomotion—giving birth to an animal with nails, plantigrade, having movable fingers made to fit themselves around trees, to hook on to branches, with limbs endowed with the most unrestricted movements of abduction and adduction. But it requires no mental effort to conceive an adaptation already begun in this direction with the lemurs, and having only to continue and specialize itself still further in the monkeys.

 

BIRD COURTS OF JUSTICE.

SEVERAL writers have given descriptions of proceedings of assemblies of birds of various species which they regarded as formal "trials in court." While this view of the nature of the transactions noticed can not yet be accepted as established by competent observation, they are certainly of an interesting character, and reveal a peculiar phase of bird-life. Dr. Edmondson describes regular assemblies of crows of the hooded species—"crow-courts" they are called—which are held at certain intervals in the Shetland Isles. A particular hill or field suitable for the business is selected, but nothing is done till all are ready, and consequently the earlier comers have sometimes to wait for a day or two till the others arrive. When all have come, the court opens in a formal manner, and the presumed criminals are arraigned at the bar. A general croaking and clamor are raised by the assembly, and judgment is delivered, apparently, by the whole court. As soon as the sentence is given, the entire assemblage, "judges, barristers, ushers, audience and all, fall upon the two or three prisoners at the bar, and beat them till they kill them." As soon as the execution is over, the court breaks up, and all its members disperse quietly.

The Rev. Dr. J. Edmund Cox has given the particulars of a trial by rooks which he witnessed between fifty and sixty years ago. He was riding along a quiet road in the vicinity of Norwich, England, when he was startled by sounds of an extraordinary commotion among the inhabitants of an adjacent rookery. Securing his horse to a gate, he cautiously crawled for a hundred feet or so, to a gap in the hedge of a grass-field, to investigate proceedings. A trial by jury was seemingly going on. The criminal rook "at first appeared very perky and jaunty, although encircled by about forty or fifty of an evidently indignant sable fraternity, and as-