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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/463

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459
EVOLUTION OF THE HUMAN HAND.

of the locomotive organ and was accompanied by muscular and nervous developments which allowed greater definition and force in the reactions produced. Among these rods certain members outgrew the rest, a development which from mechanical causes alone would tend to survive in a bilateral form. The number of such points of origin of increased growth in the rods was finally reduced to two on each side of the body, after a series of forms which we may conceive to have presented a diminishing series of rods, as the lamprey and shark present numbers of gill arches intermediate between those of the lancelet and the perch. With the definition of these fore and hind pairs of axial spines a concomitant modification of the adjacent members of the system of parallel rods took place, in consequence of which, first, a differentiation in size arose among them, those in proximity to the axial spine increasing, those remote from it decreasing in length; secondly, changes in the points of their attachment to the body occurred, the system of secondary rods moving from the median regions in either direction toward the axial spines; and finally, these accessory rods arranged themselves in a radial relation to the central rib, thus giving anterior and posterior fan-like extensions connected by the remnants of the degenerating fold and rods in the intermediate body regions.

Further differentiation of the axial and neighboring spines, in which the latter were progressively affiliated upon the former and there appeared a definite point of articulation of the whole system with the body mass, gave rise to the bipinnate fin, a roughly symmetrical organ in which the main spine occupies a central position and is flanked by a group of supplementary rods on either side. From this form structural modification proceeded, first, by the reduction and disappearance of the accessory spines on one side of the main axis, giving the unilateral fin; and secondly, through a similar degeneration of those on the remaining side, by which the limb was reduced to a prong-like form represented in the lepidosiren. The limbs at this stage of development were in a condition which in general was more adapted to progression upon land than through the water, since the expansion upon which their propulsive action depended had ceased to be an element of importance, and all that was needed for terrestrial locomotion of a crude sort was a condition of sufficient rigidity in the limbs to allow of their use in dragging or pushing the body along, as the turtle does, but not necessarily of supporting its full weight as do the common quadrupeds. Before this final stage was reached, however, the animal had begun to practise land travel, using fins which were in the bipinnate condition as terrestrial limbs, as is the case with the Australian salmon, ceratodus.

From this primitive terrestrial vetebrate limb, through a series of cleavages of, or buddings from, its extremity, giving successively