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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/466

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462
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

have taken place by a process which involved simultaneous changes in both fore and hind limbs. The support of the body, hitherto laid upon all four limbs, could not have been taken over at once in its final adequacy and security by the legs alone, unless we conceive of a spontaneous variation of improbably large extent. The animal at first raised itself hesitatingly upon its hind limbs, supporting its weight in part by the grasp of the hands upon higher portions of the trunk and branches, thus distributing the function as heretofore among the whole set of limbs, but in such a way that the fore limbs were adapted to their new specific use while performing their old generic function. The body, in this stage of development, was sustained in part by support from beneath and in part by suspension from above. Either of these factors may be conceived as appropriating a chief place in the locomotive function; and in different animal species these divergent directions of development are both presented, progression by swinging from limb to limb in the long-armed apes, and by the sole use of the legs in man.

It is probable that the progenitor of man, together with the whole group of anthropoid apes to which he belongs, maintained the quadrupedal position longer than those types which, like the Cebidæ, e. g., the tee-tees and Capuchin monkeys, present no opposition in the members of the fore limbs. If we conceive the semi-upright position to have been assumed at a time anterior to the development of opposition in the hind limb, say at the beginnings of arboreal existence, so that from the outset each pair of limbs was modified under different conditions of function, it will be found difficult to imagine the causes which under these unlike circumstances brought about a similar modification in each set of limbs. If, on the other hand, both fore and hind limbs were used to support the animal in a quadrupedal position upon the branch beneath it during the early period of arboreal life, it will be as difficult to imagine a reason why both sets of limbs should not present the same type of adaptation. The condition which predisposes to conservation of the phenomenon of opposition is support, not suspension; it is peculiarly a modification of the foot. All that is involved in successful adaptation to the function of suspension is the existence of sufficient elongation in the digits, flexibility in the joints and strength in the muscles—the development of a strong and supple member, but not necessarily one possessing an opposable thumb. Even a single series of joints may form an efficient instrument of suspension, as in the case of the prehensile tail of the monkey tribe. For support upon the rounded branch beneath, on the other hand, some sort of forking is almost the only modification which could give security, and in the man-like ape this has taken the form of an opposition between a single member and the rest of the group.

We may therefore conceive that the progenitors of the Capuchins