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 Home » Tutorials » Zoology » Evolution of Man

Evolution of Man


Structure of Man

Examining the structure of man more closely, we find this strong suggestion of relationship greatly confirmed. It is now well known that the human body contains a number of vestigial "organs"--organs of no actual use, and only intelligible as vestiges of organs that were once useful.

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Whatever view we take of the origin of man, each organ in his frame must have a meaning; and, as these organs are vestigial and useless even in the lowest tribes of men, who represent primitive man, they must be vestiges of organs that were of use in a remote pre-human ancestor. The one fact that the ape has the same vestigial organs as man would, on a scientific standard of evidence, prove the common descent of the two. But these interesting organs themselves point back far earlier than a mixed ape-human ancestor in many cases.

The shell of cartilage which covers the entrance to the ear--the gristly appendage which is popularly called the ear--is one of the clearest and most easily recognised of these organs. The "ear" of a horse or a cat is an upright mobile shell for catching the waves of sound. The human ear has the appearance of being the shrunken relic of such an organ, and, when we remove the skin, and find seven generally useless muscles attached to it, obviously intended to pull the shell in all directions (as in the horse), there can be no doubt that the external ear is a discarded organ, a useless legacy from an earlier ancestor. In cases where it has been cut off it was found that the sense of hearing was scarcely, if at all, affected. Now we know that it is similarly useless in all tribes of men, and must therefore come from a pre-human ancestor. It is also vestigial in the higher apes, and it is only when we descend to the lower monkeys and femurs that we see it approaching its primitive useful form. One may almost say that it is a reminiscence of the far-off period when, probably in the early Tertiary, the ancestors of the Primates took to the trees. The animals living on the plain needed acute senses to detect the approach of their prey or their enemies; the tree-dweller found less demand on his sense of hearing, the "speaking-trumpet" was discarded, and the development of the internal ear proceeded on the higher line of the perception of musical sounds.

We might take a very large number of parts of the actual human body, and discover that they are similar historical or archaeological monuments surviving in a modern system, but we have space only for a few of the more conspicuous.

The hair on the body is a vestigial organ, of actual use to no race of men, an evident relic of the thick warm coat of an earlier ancestor. It in turn recalls the dwellers in the primeval forest. In most cases--not all, because the wearing of clothes for ages has modified this feature--it will be found that the hairs on the arm tend upward from the wrist to the elbow, and downward from the shoulder to the elbow. This very peculiar feature becomes intelligible when we find that some of the apes also have it, and that it has a certain use in their case. They put their hands over their heads as they sit in the trees during ram, and in that position the sloping hair acts somewhat like the thatched roof of a cottage.

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