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Popular Science Monthly/Volume 40/January 1892/Tail-Like Formations in Men

< Popular Science Monthly‎ | Volume 40‎ | January 1892


TRADITIONS of tailed men are very old and wide-spread. Tailed races are told of in many countries, whose home is, however, usually placed in some little-known region; and the stories of individuals who had tails can hardly be counted. A number of legends on the subject have been collected by Mr. S. Baring-Gould, and published in his Curious Myths of the Middle Ages. This author himself was brought up in the belief that all Cornishmen had tails, and was not undeceived till a good Cornish bookseller, with whom he formed a warm friendship, assured him that this was not the case; after which he satisfied himself that the man had sat his tail off; and his nurse informed him that that was what happened to men of sedentary habits.

Certain men of Kent were said to have had tails inflicted upon them in punishment for their insults to St. Thomas à Becket. The story runs that when the saint came to Stroud on the Medway, the inhabitants of the place, being eager to show some mark of contumely to him in his disgrace, did not scruple to cut off the tail of the horse on which he was riding; and for this, according to Polydor Vergil, "it so happened, by the will of God, that all the offspring born from the men who had done this thing were born with tails like brute animals. But this mark of infamy, which formerly was everywhere notorious, has disappeared with the extinction of the race whose fathers perpetrated the deed." The story seems to have been applied, with variations, to other Englishmen, now here, now there, so that John Bale complained, in the time of Edward VI, "that an Englyshman now can not travayle in another land by way of marchandyse or any other honest occupyinge, but it is most contumeliously thrown in his tethe that all Englyshmen have tails."

A Polish writer tells of a witch who transformed a bridal company, stepping over a girdle of human skin which she had laid in the doorway, into wolves. She afterward, by throwing dresses of fur over them, gave them their human forms; but the bride-groom's dress was not long enough to cover his tail, and he kept it; whence it became hereditary in his family. John Struys, a Dutch traveler, who visited Formosa in the seventeenth century, relates that a member of his party got separated from the rest and was mangled and killed by a wild man, who was afterward caught and tied up for execution, when, says the traveler, "I beheld what I had never thought to see. Ho had a tail more than a foot long, covered with red hair, and very like that of a cow. When he saw the surprise that this discovery created among the European spectators, he informed us that his tail was the effect of climate, for that all the inhabitants of the southern side of the island, where they then were, were provided with like appendages." The cuneiform or Chaldean deluge tablet speaks of the gods, "with tails hidden," crouching down. A Culdee tombstone at Keills, in Argyleshire, Scotland, bears among its figures one of human form, sitting down, and sleeking with his left hand a tail that curls beneath his legs.

PSM V40 D362 Tailed moi boy.jpgFig. 1.—Tailed Moi Boy. Various stories have been told of the tails of the Niam Niams of Central Africa, who have also been asserted to be cannibals. Their tails have been described as smooth and as hairy, as peculiar to the men, and as possessed by the men and women both. The most interesting and circumstantial account of this feature is given by Dr. Hubsch, of Constantinople, who examined a tailed negress. Her tail was about two inches long, and terminated in a point. The slave-dealer who owned her said that all the Niam Niams had tails, and that they were sometimes ten inches long. Dr. Hubsch also saw a man of the same race who had a tail an inch and a half long, covered with a few hairs; and he knew at Constantinople the son of a physician who was born with a tail an inch and a half long, and one of whose grandfathers had a like appendage. The phenomenon, he said, is regarded generally in the East as a sign of great brute force.

The newspapers, many years ago, had a story of a boy, who was born at Newcastle-on-Tyne, with a tail about an inch and a half long, which, when sucking, he wagged as a token of pleasure.

Apparently well-authenticated instances of human tails are that of a Moi boy, twelve years old, who was found a few years ago in Cochin-China, and had a tail about a foot long—simply a mass of flesh—containing no bony frame (Fig. 1); and the case communicated to the Berlin Anthropological Society in July, 1890, by the Dutch resident at Ternate, of two natives of New Guinea, who had come on board his steamer in Geelvink Bay, in 1880—adult male Papuans, in good health and spirits, well shaped and muscular, who had coccygeal bones projecting four centimetres, or an inch and a half in length. Dr. O. W. Holmes says, in the Atlantic Monthly for June, 1890, that Dr. Priestley, of London, showed him, at the Medical Congress in Washington, a photograph of a boy who had "a very respectable tail."

In The Popular Science Monthly for October, 1884, an account was quoted from Mr. H. W. Eaton, of Louisville, Ky., of a female child that was born in that city with what appeared to be a rudimentary tail. It was visible as a "fleshy peduncular protuberance," about two inches and a quarter long, and measuring an inch and a quarter round the base, shaped like a pig's tail, but showing no sign of bone or cartilage, and was situated about an inch above the lower end of the spinal column. It had grown about a quarter of an inch in eight weeks.

The questions, whether there exists in the human body, in a rudimentary state, a real homologue of the tail of animals, and whether it may sometimes be developed into a member of somewhat similar outward form, have been much discussed by physiologists in recent years. Besides notes on the subject in anthropological, ethnographical, and geographical periodicals, four larger essays have been published upon it, viz.: Mohnike's pamphlet on Tailed Men (Münster, 1878); two papers by Prof. A. Ecker, in the Archiv für Anthropologie (vol. xii, 1879), and in the Archiv für Anatomie und Physiologie (1880, No. 6); and a paper by Dr. Max Bartels in the Archiv für Anthropologie (1880); all of which go into a searching consideration of the subject. The late German scientific journal Kosmos, reviewing these papers a few years years ago, deduced the following conclusions from the evidence then before the world:

The older anatomists treated the question in rather a matter-of-fact way. They regarded the prolongation of the human backbone beyond the os sacrum, by three, four, or five vertebrae, without much thought, as the analogous feature of the animal's tail, and called it the tail-bone (os coccygis). The phenomenon was not rare to them, nor did it seem wonderful that this part of the body could, contrariwise to its general rule, escape being grown over. and project free like an animal's tail, or that it might occasionally be prolonged through additions to the number of vertebræ; for they had a deeper insight into the normal agreement of the fundamental scheme in the structure of man and the animals most nearly related to him than some of the physicians and anatomists of our own time seem to have.

But after the great "fall of man," as Ecker expressively calls it, or after man had tasted the fruit of the tree of knowledge which Darwin offered to him, we apparently did not dare to call the thing any more by its right name. We did not venture, according to Prof. His, to speak of the tail of the human embryo, although we could still speak without hesitation of its gill-arch. Man was ashamed, as Ecker has humorously characterized the prudery of the learned, only of his nearer, not of his more distant, cousins. The older anatomists and artists—we name here, as typical representatives of these, only Harvey, Meckel, and Goethe—found it natural that this taillet, instead of bending inward, as usual, toward the pelvis, and being buried in the muscular part, as though that were, of course, one of man's particular characteristics, should occasionally project outward and assume the form of an external tail. They did not regard it as surprising that a formation of this kind should sometimes appear; and they found in the persons who possessed such growths, not, like the men of the preceding age, the consequences of a bestial intercourse or of a fault of the mother; not even a monstrous formation in the common sense of the word, but rather evidence of the adaptability of Nature and of a common type marking all the higher animals. Thus Goethe wrote on the 12th of September, 1787, from Rome: "The tailed men are no wonder to me; but are, according to the description, something quite natural. There are much more wonderful things before our eyes which we do not regard, because they are not so nearly related to us."

The brief essay of Dr. O. Mohnike is based on the fact that all the forms of the backbone of man are related to his erect posture, and that the prolongation is turned inward in order to afford a support to the viscera, which is not needed in animals that go on all fours. He therefore believes that a prolongation of the coccyx outside of the periphery of the rump, analogous to the tail of an animal, would be incompatible with the typical human form, all the parts of which collectively point to the erect gait, and contradictory to it.

A similar inversion is indicated in the anthropoid apes, that have no external tail and sometimes go erect, and is believed by Hyrtl to be produced gradually in dogs and bears that are taught to dance on their hind legs. All this goes to show, if there were any doubt on the subject, that the os coccygis of man is a real analogue of the animal's tail-root, while it also makes clear to us how the same has reached its special form. It is further confirmed by the fact that the inversion in which the coccyx takes part is not observed in the embryonal life of man nor in the earliest infancy, but first appears when the child begins to carry its body erect. The tail-like prolongation of the human vertebral column is evidently a rudimentary formation—an inheritance from the animal condition which, perhaps, persists simply because the inturned vertebra of the os coccygis has adapted itself to a new function, instead of becoming useless.

There is found in the human embryo, in the first stage of its embryonal life, just as in other vertebrates, a considerable and conformable tail-structure, which it is not hard to interpret according to biogenetical principles. The length of this taillet, in proportion to that of the rest of the body, is at first considerable. In embryos that have completed their third week the tail is, perhaps, about twice as long as the lower limbs. It is one of the pruderies that still live to vex us that some anatomists. Prof. His, PSM V40 D365 Lower part of an embryo with tail.jpgFig. 2.—Lower Part of an Embryo 15·5 mm long with Tail. From Ecker. of Leipsic, for example, object to calling this appendage a tail. But Prof. Ecker unequivocally upholds this designation, and in the Archiv für Anatomie und Physiologie (1880, No. 6, p. 442) formulates the following principles in elucidation of the matter:

1. The name "tail" can only be applied to the part of the hinder end of the body projecting over the cloacum.

2. In embryos of the second class—that is, those which are from eight to fifteen millimetres long—the "tail" overtopping the cloacum appears as a free pointed projection upward and forward.

3. This tail consists of a vertebra-containing and a vertebra-free section, the latter of which contains only a chorda and a marrow-tube.

4. Only the latter section suffers a reduction, by the chorda dorsalis being mostly converted into a knot, while the rest disappears.

5. The vertebra-containing section persists for a longer time than the so-called coccygeal lump. The latter disappears gradually under the surface, chiefly in consequence of the gradually stronger curvature of the os sacrum and os coccygis, and partly of the more prominent development of the pelvic band and its musculature.

We should also distinguish two processes in the gradual disappearance of the embryonal tail of man: an atrophy of the tail-point and a shrinking of the tail-root. The former process, the wasting of the hindermost section, takes place, according to the later researches of M. Braun in Dorpat, not only in the human embryo, but also in other vertebrates. "I find," says this naturalist, in his Researches in the Development-History of Parrots (Transactions of the Physico-Medical Society of Würzburg, new series, vol. xv), "in the embryos of swine, cats, sheep, rabbits, mice, and dogs, a long thread at the hinder end of the tail which is sharply distinguished by its tenuity from the rest of the member. The spinal or parted chorda end lies in it in the earlier stage; later it consists only of epidermis cells; and finally it disappears altogether. By this, proof is given that in mammalia as well as in birds the chorda, if I may use the expression, has been carried out too long, and no more vertebræ are formed around its hinder end. It is a striking fact that the long-tailed mammalia are also in this category,"

According to Ecker, who confirms the other features of these observations, this attenuated prolongation, designated as a tail-thread, no longer appears in man;[1] the tail is reduced, much more, PSM V40 D366 Embryos in the coccygeal lump period.jpgFigs. 3 and 4.-Embryos in the Coccygeal-lump Period. Fig. 3, 4·1 cm. long; Fig. 4, 14·8 cm. long. From Ecker. according to him, than appears in the sketch, into a conical form. The further wasting process has proceeded so far by the seventh week of the human embryonal life that a tail can no longer be fitly spoken of. Instead of it there is to be seen on the hinder end of the body only a roundish process, the coccygeal lump (Figs. o and 4), on which a few minute excrescences, perhaps rudiments of the atrophied invertebrate part of the tail, are visible. This coccygeal lump retains to the end of the third month the form of an acute isosceles triangle, the broad base of which rises in the region of the coccyx without a clear dividing line, while its point ends over the rectum. Two converging shallow furrows define the lateral boundaries between the coccygeal lump and the buttock, over the level of which it plainly rises. Beyond the rectum begins in the continuation of the median line of this triangle the suture, which in the male embryo extends as a plainly marked selvage over the perinæum. What is called the coccygeal lump in the human fœtus is a prominence so brought forward that the point of the nearly straight-running coccyx is pushed against the skin and lifts it up. Inversion has at this time not yet taken place.

From the third to the fourth month the human fœtus receives its clothing of wool-hairs, which penetrate obliquely through the skin, and form hair-lines converging against the tips of the coccygeal lump, and represent there a vertebra. This vertebra—vertex PSM V40 D367 Coccygeal hair tuft.jpgFig. 5.—Coccygeal Hair-tuft. From Ecker. coccygeus—constitutes in several cases observed and described by Ecker and other investigators (Fig. 5) an evident pencil of longer hairs, a real hair-taillet, such as Grecian art gave at the same point to fauns and satyrs. It has already been shown by Eschricht that the converging hair-tuft in the region of the coccyx is analogous to the similar arrangement of hairs on the tails of the mammalia. Chr. A. Voight has expressly noticed the same relation in his treatise on the direction of hairs on the human body (Denkschrift of the Vienna Academy, 1856). "The parts of the skin on which converging tufts are formed," he says, "are either places which were quite bare in the earlier periods of development, or they are spots that covered the prominent bones (or cartilages), the strongly growing parts, like the coccyx, the elbows, and the tip of the ear in animals, or every place toward which an extension of the skin was taking place or had taken place at the time of the development of the hair." This author remarks especially of the coccyx-tuft that, as the hairs become longer, they rise over the surface and form spiral-shaped hair-tufts, like the brushes on the tips of the tails of animals. There is thus again shown a plain original connection between the formation of the tail-shaped attachment and the coccygeal hair-tuft.

There is usually found in the human foetus, above the coccygeal vertebra, a hairless spot, the glabella coccygea, under which often appears later, and is even perceptible in persons of middle age. a depression of greater or less depth, the foveola coccygea, over the origin and significance of which many and often curious hypotheses have been set forth. It was described by Lawson Tait, in a paper read before the Anatomical and Physiological Section of the British Association in 1878. He had found from the examination of several hundred persons that only fifty-five per cent of them were without traces of the depression or "sacral dimple," while it was faintly marked in twenty-two per cent, and well marked in twenty-three per cent. But it seemed to become imperceptible again after the thirtieth year of age. Mr. Tait believes that the hollow is associated with the embryonal process connected with the neural canal and its closure. He referred to the tailless cats of the Isle of Man, and tailless guinea-pigs which, like man, possess only an os coccygis with three pronged centra infolded in the skin; and thought that he might conclude from certain indications that some of these animals, and perhaps also the predecessors of man, may have lost the tail in consequence of a malformation, probably in man through the not rarely appearing spina bifida. We well know how such malformations tend to become hereditary; and the sacral dimple might be called the scar of the lost tail. The hereditability of such malformations is well marked. When Dr. Wilson crossed a Manx tomcat with a common cat, seventeen out of twenty-three kittens were tailless; but when female cats of the Isle of Man were crossed with common tomcats all the kittens had tails, though somewhat shortened. Prof. Ecker has suggested a less fanciful explanation of the origin of the sacral dimple. He supposes that the later inward curving of the tip of the much straighter coccyx in the fœtus—which is connected with the skin by the caudal ligament—draws the corresponding spot on the skin into a funnel shape of greater or less depth. On the other hand, Ecker would rather regard the glabella coccygea as the lower fontanel, or later point of closure of the sacral canal.

The embryonal processes and normal conditions of formation thus briefly sketched are sufficient in general to permit most of the cases of so-called tail-formations in men, which occur with tolerable frequency, to be recognized as easily explainable irregularities of natural growth. The case deviating least from the normal condition concerns only the skin-covering, and exhibits itself in an excessive hairiness of the sacral and coccygeal region (trichosis sacralis). We have seen above that this spot in the embryo reo-ularly bears a hair-twirl, which is not rarely prolonged into a hairy pencil or taillet. We can hardly consider it an important variation if this hairy taillet is exceptionally not absorbed, but endures and grows stronger after birth. In the so-called hairy men we evidently have persons in whom, according to all appearance, the wool-hair of the fœtus has grown to a far greater extent, or at least possesses the same properties of alignment and direction. The chief physician of the Greek army, Dr. Bernhard Ornstein, having observed several cases of extraordinarily abundant hairiness in the sacral region among Grecian recruits, has given continued attention to this phenomenon, and has determined some very remarkable cases of it. The most striking of these cases was that of the twenty-eight-year-old recruit Demeter Karus, of the eparchy of Corinth. The whole sacral region appears to be covered with a thick, dark-brown hairy growth, about three inches in length, which spreads over on to either side. The hairs lie more smoothly on the border of the skin covering the sacrum, while in the middle they curl out into two strong tufts. The man is about five feet two inches high, and his yellowish-brown skin shows elsewhere on his whole body less than the usual hairiness. The recruit said that he was born with this unusual hair on his back, and that he had even in youth suffered on account of it from the curiosity of the people of his native village. He said also that the growth had once been so strong that he had braided the hair into queues and tied it in front, but that since then he had preferred to cut it from time to time. To test the accuracy of this assertion, Dr. Ornstein forbade his cutting the hair for a considerable period; and eight months afterward (December, 1875) the sacrum-hair had grown to double its former length, or to six inches; so that the recruit's assertions respecting it were shown not to be incredible.

Prof. Virchow accompanied the detailed communication of this case to the Berlin Anthropological Society[2] with a few wellchosen words prefacing the opinion that we have perhaps to deal here with a spina bifida occulta, which is indicated exteriorly, as occurs often in the case of moles, mother's marks, etc., by augmented growth of hair. There has existed, he said, for a considerable time, a doctrine—we might call it a superstition—in pathological anatomy, which is called the law of the duplication of cases. "On the same morning that I received the letter from Athens, it was told me that there was a corpse in the Pathological Institute which exhibited an unusual hairiness on the back." Since we had to do in this case with a spina bifida occulta, there might perhaps be a similar pathological cause in the case of the Greek recruit. But the hair on the Berlin woman's back sprang from a higher spot, and did not denote the more thickly haired coccygeal region of the human embryo. In continuation of these efforts of Virchow to follow up these abnormal formations in the human body resembling animal shapes to their pathological causes, and in order to learn how to obviate them, Surgeon-General Ornstein kept watch upon the parts of the body concerned in the eruption, and in the next year (1876) succeeded in establishing a second case of well-defined sacral trichosis, marked by thick, dark-brown hair, extending to the coccygeal region. In the next year (1877) ten other cases fell under his attention, by which it became evident that this sacral hairiness was not rare in Greece and the islands of the Ægean Sea; and he was convinced that in all the cases the basis of it was normal and there was no question of a spina bifida. Virchow's law of the duplication of the cases had not maintained itself under the first test. Of the various other persons of this kind whose photographs Dr. Ornstein took, we mention the recruit Q. G. Nikephorus, of Siphno, twenty years old, in whom the thick brown hair of the sacral trichosis is very sharply defined, and quite covers the sacrum. The hairs were in this case from one and a half to two and three quarter inches long, while no abnormal hairs were visible on the rest of his somewhat slender body.

It requires no particular gift for adapting evidence or of divination to infer from these cases of sacral trichosis, so frequent in Greece, which are easily explained by reference to the embryonic hairy covering, that the representations of Silenus and the fauns in ancient Grecian art, in which this part of the body is furnished with a tail-tuft of hair, may be traced back to casual observations of such cases in real life. A strikingly naturalistic illustration PSM V40 D370 Back view of the silenus with the bacchus in the louvre.jpgFig. 6.-Part of the Back View of the Silenus with the Infant Bacchus, in the Louvre. From a Drawing by F. Schãfer. of this view is afforded by the Silenus with the Bacchus child in the Louvre, in which, instead of the isolated horse-tail-like pencil rising from the sacrum, characteristic of most figures of the kind, the whole sacral region is represented as well haired, while the central lock is simply more strongly prominent (Fig. 6).

What might be called "hide-bound tails," of which Dr. Bartels describes a Well-marked case that occurred in his own medical practice, incline more decidedly to the order of real malformations. In a three-days-old child, the skin over the coccyx formed a three-sided lump of about the shape of the tail-termination of the embryo. This lump was about seven eighths of an inch long, rose several lines above the rest of the skin, and was separated from it by a plainly defined groove. The pointed lower end of the swelling seemed to lie directly over the anal orifice, which was very narrow, and must have been operatively enlarged after the point of the excrescence had been loosed from that part. The formation did not contain any vertebra; the coccyx lay rather PSM V40 D371 Three days old boy with hide bound tail.jpgFig. 7.—Three-days-old Boy, with Hide-bound Tail. From Dr. Max Bartels. beneath, and there was evidently in this, as in a similar case observed by Labourdette, a question of a so-called intercepted formation from the coccygeal lump period. The hide-bound tail offers an enlarged copy of the embryonal coccygeal lump, and exhibits that lump, which in the normal development reverts and is merged in the buttock, apparently maintained and associated, as a rule, with an imperfect development of the anal orifice (Fig. 7).

A third class is composed of the "soft tails," which depend freely from the sacral and coccygeal region and are the most frequent. They have sometimes the form of a swine's tail drawn out to a point; sometimes that of a thicker fleshy appendage only slightly rolled at the end. Such soft tails, PSM V40 D371 Amputated tail of an eight week old boy.jpgFig. 8.—Amputated Tail of a Boy Eight Weeks Old. From Greve. which belong to the largest of their kind and are both naked and hairy, have been observed and described, among others by Blancart, König, Elsholtz, Schenk, von Grafenberg, and Greve. The last author sent a tail three inches long (Fig. 8), which he had amputated from a boy eight weeks old, to Prof. Virchow for a more thorough examination, and he found that it was not a simple case of skin formation, but that there lay within the inner cell-texture of the skin a fatty bundle penetrated by large vessels. In this species of malformation—to which the case delineated in Virchow's Archiv für pathologische Anatomie, vol. Ixxxiii, No. 3, seems to belong—we have to do, not with a simple impeded formation, such as the last-mentioned case is considered to be, but with the outgrowth of a part existing in the embryonic plan, which, however, disappears in regular growth, into a monstrosity per excessum, as was the old form of expression. In many respects these cases are atavistic. The surplus length of chorda persists without there being any vertebræ formed upon it.

Real vertebral tails, in which the vertebra-containing part of the embryonal tail remains without being grown over and the coccyx preserves its original straighter direction, have been, if we may trust the older anatomists and physicians, not very rarely observed. Surgeon-General Ornstein, a few years ago, carefully studied such a case in Athens in a Greek from Livadia, twenty-six years of age. There was in this case a conical tail, free only at the tip, about two inches long, within which three vertebræ might be felt by pressing upon it. It did not, however, hang perpendicularly down, but the coccyx was slightly, though less than in normal cases, bent inward. Notwithstanding its apparent firmness, this little movable tail was not distinguishable by the color of its skin from its surroundings. It was hairless, although the sacral region was very hirsute. The free part was not half as long as the whole.[3] While only three shrunken vertebral fragments could be felt in this case, free tails of like character have been described by several of the older authors in which the normal number of vertebræ appears to have been exceeded by four. Dr. Thirk, of Broussa, in 1820, described the fattail of a Kurd, twenty-two years old, which formed a thick lump and contained four surplus vertebræ. Thomas Bartholinus, also, told in the seventeenth century of a tailed boy who had more than the regular number of vertebræ in the coccyx. Such cases represent true atavistic formations, but have never been verified with as much exactness as is desirable, although the possibility of an appearance of the kind does not admit of reasonable doubt. The phenomena might, in fact, be more frequently recorded were it not that such formations, so long as they do not occasion distress, are carefully concealed for fear of reproach falling upon those who bear them and upon their mothers.

Dr. Bartels makes some pertinent remarks concerning the bearing of these exceptional but not at all rare tail formations among men upon the myths of "tailed races"; and Mohnike has made a valuable collection of the travelers' stories on the subject from the most ancient times. Mohnike believes that the older myths generally relate to apes; but this is not very probable, for the erect anthropoids, which most resemble man, are as tailless as he. The derivation from the custom of many savages of wearing animal skins with the tail hanging down upon the right side is more probable. Schweinfurth also observed among the women of the Bongos a custom of wearing a palm-leaf tail, bound on so as to produce a naturalistic appearance.

The myths of tailed human races constantly revert to the East Indian islands; and the Dutch captain, L. F. W. Schulze, sent communications to the Berlin Anthropological Society in 1877 concerning cases[4] partly observed by himself, which were regarded by Dr. Bartels as fully trustworthy. These communications tell us nothing new, for the phenomena occur in cultivated Europe as well as in remote deserts and lone islands. Other reports, like that, for example, of Julius Kögel concerning the Dyaks of Borneo, speak of the frequent occurrence of tailed individuals. Hence a low, beastly race has been supposed, in which atavistic formations occur still more frequently than among' higher races further removed from the original condition. Still other reports, and more recent, mention fully tailed human races.

Even if a phenomenon of this kind were established we need not, as Dr. Bartels has justly remarked, conceive of a still living middle form between man and beast. "We must consider," he says, "that we are all the time dealing with insular populations who have been crowded out of the possession of their coast and harbor regions by people of other races and driven into the hardly accessible interior of the country, where they have been compelled to practice, for a length of time we can not estimate, a constant inbreeding—a regular series of marriages within their own tribe. In this case there might, at some time in the past, as has happened with other men, have occurred an external tail, as a casual abnormity at first, but which might afterward, in the course of generations, become transmitted to many persons by inheritance. For it has been shown by researches in this interesting field of pathological anatomy that nothing is more easily transmissible than malformations. In illustration of this fact we need only mention here the well-known inclination to the inheritability of what are called mother's marks and hare-lips, and the large teeth of the Melanesians of the Admiralty Islands and the island of Agome, which have been described by Mr. Miklucho-Maclay.[5] In a similar manner Lord Monboddo, in the last century, explained the tailed men of Borneo as a people afflicted with a hereditary malformation, and compared them with sixfingered families.[6]

In agreement with this is what the Wesleyan missionary George Brown related in 1870 con(;erning a formal breeding of a tailed race of men in Kali, off New Britain. "Tailless children," he says, "are slain at once, or they would be exposed to general ridicule."[7] A tailed family of princes have borne rule in Rajpootana and are earnestly attached to the ancestral mark. Dr. Quatrefages also speaks of the appearance of such varieties of men as very probable. The care just mentioned as having been taken of the malformation is all the more striking because the tail, as has been shown in the European cases, is in sitting and riding no very pleasant feature. They tell of canoes in the East Indies that have holes made in the benches of the rowers. But it is not an idle thought in this matter to suppose that the benches, like the old German stools, were furnished with holes for ornament, or in order that they might be more easily handled and disposed of, and the incident can not be regarded as confirming the popular legend. The result of these investigations is, as a whole, that a formation, homologous even in outside appearance with an animal's tail, is originally present in the human fœtus, and loses its external characteristics at a later period of life through arrest of growth, inversion, and waste. If these processes occasionally fail to take place, the tail-feature is nevertheless not visible in the grown man, and we can not draw from such malformations, even if they appear frequently in a single race, any one-sided conclusions respecting there having existed a former animal-like condition. For it may be supposed with much more probability, from the similarity of the forms in this feature of man and the anthropoid apes, that their common ancestor had already shed the external tail; and hence that the prolongation of the chorda in the embryo, with no vertebra contained in it, may be regarded as a reminiscence of a still earlier ancestral form.


A discussion in the International Geological Congress at Washington, on correlation of strata, was opened by Mr. G. K. Gilbert, of our Geological Survey, who spoke first of local methods, where one rock lies upon another. Physical continuity was a means of correlation, and perhaps the best method, but was subject to limitations. Traces were rarely possible for great distances. Indirect methods must be resorted to. Beds of similar lithologic formation could be regarded as chronologically similar. Another method was the sequence with which the deposits were laid. Layers following in sequence in different localities argued the same conditions. There were limitations, however, to the use of both these methods. Physical breaks afforded a fourth method of correlation, to which the limitation would probably be distance. Simultaneous relations of bodies to some physical event often afforded valuable evidence. This method had been useful, both at Salt Lake and on the Atlantic coast. Other aids in correlation were the relation of deposits to some geological climate and the evidence of similar physical changes. The similar action of gases in different beds showed chronological similarity. This method was largely limited by local climatic changes, and generally the physical methods mentioned were all valuable at short range but of little use at long range. The theoretical methods, in which floral and animal life are called in, are perhaps more accurate. Of these are divergence from a status at a fixed date, and the relations of the fauna contained in the deposits to climate. The value of a fossil species for purpose is dependent greatly on the length of its life and the range of its space. Long life is a drawback, that makes the correlation vague. Prof. Zittell, of Munich, did not think the method of correlation by plants accurate. Of animals, those of the land were most valuable. He spoke of the difficulty of correlation in some countries where vertebrate animals are not found in many of the deposits. Prof. Marsh agreed with the other speakers that vertebrate animals afforded the best and most accurate material for correlation. Prof. Charles D. Walcott spoke of the advances that had been made in the study of correlation, and illustrated his positions by reference to the Cambrian strata of North America. Prof. James Hall begged that geologists in search of correlations should not neglect physical methods, and described an early attempt at correlation made by himself in trying to connect the rocks of western New York with the deposits of the West.

  1. In mammals Ecker sometimes found the tip of the tail-thread so sharp and horny that the name tail-spine seemed to be more appropriate, and he suggests that possibly the well-known tail-spine of the lion is nothing else than the persistent embryonal tail-thread.
  2. Sitzungsberichte der Berliner anthropologisclier Gesellsehaft in der Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, 1875, pp. 91 and 279.
  3. A fuller description may be found in the Zeitsehrift für Ethnologie, vol. xi, 1879.
  4. See Kosmos, vol. i, p. 166.
  5. Bartels, p. 4.
  6. Kosmos, vol. v, p. 449.
  7. Mohnike, p. 3.