Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/704

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

sented on the part of the bones of the fossil birds in Prof. Cope's collection. It occurred only in specimens of swans, geese, and ducks, and consisted in a more or less abundant exudation of spongy, osseous material that appeared upon the proximal part of the first or pollex metacarpal of the carpo-metacarpus (Fig. 2, a). It was present in a good many specimens of all the families enumerated above; it was entirely absent in a lesser number of specimens of two or three of the same groups. It would seem to me that such a condition could only be brought about by some blow or other given at the point in question, which point is one in the wing of those birds that is quite superficial, in so far as the bone is concerned, and might, upon receiving a square rap of sufficient force, injure its periosteum to such an extent as to have a subsequent osseous exudation result there. The vast majority of those fossil anserine birds of that region were identical with those species now in existence in our avifauna, and, it is but fair to presume, possessed habits similar to them. Yet in Pliocene time they may all have had some different habits: it occurred to me that they may have fought each other with their wings—or, may be, fought some common enemy as yet unknown to us. The fossil bones exhibiting this disease may have belonged only to the males, and they may have fought during the breeding season; or it may have occurred only in the females, who for some reason may have been called upon to fight with their wings in defense of their young. Some existing birds have large spurs upon certain bones of their hands, and they are known to fight with their wings at the present time; but in some future epoch, if the descendants of those forms persist, the necessity for such an armature may pass away, and with it the spurs themselves. Modern swans are known to strike a blow with their wings in defending themselves or their young. With these thoughts in my mind I asked Prof. Cope for his opinion in the premises, and, without hesitation or hint from me as to my own musings, he answered, "Why, possibly, they fought each other with their wings." I have never observed any similar pathological condition in our modern Anseres, and I have both made and examined skeletons of a great many of them.

 


 
A Danish archæologist, G. V. Smith, has been experimenting upon the practicability of using the simpler forms of flint implements for working in wood. He fitted handles of various forms to the flints and worked with them on pine with complete success. He was in some cases convinced that the same flint hatchet would serve equally well for working harder wood than pine. With these primitive tools it would be possible to bring down large trees and execute all kinds of simple carpentry work.