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- The Evolution of Man, V.1. - 50/54 -

structures which we call the gill-arches and gill-clefts (Figures 1.167 to 1.170 f). They belong to the characteristic and inalienable organs of the amniote-embryo, and are found always in the same spot and with the same arrangement and structure. There are formed to the right and left in the lateral wall of the fore-gut cavity, in its foremost part, first a pair and then several pairs of sac-shaped inlets, that pierce the whole thickness of the lateral wall of the head. They are thus converted into clefts, through which one can penetrate freely from without into the gullet. The wall thickens between these branchial folds, and changes into an arch-like or sickle-shaped piece--the gill, or gullet-arch. In this the muscles and skeletal parts of the branchial gut separate; a blood-vessel arch rises afterwards on their inner side (Figure 1.98 ka). The number of the branchial arches and the clefts that alternate with them is four or five on each side in the higher vertebrates (Figure 1.170 d, f, f apostrophe, f double apostrophe). In some of the fishes (selachii) and in the cyclostoma we find six or seven of them permanently.

These remarkable structures had originally the function of respiratory organs--gills. In the fishes the water that serves for breathing, and is taken in at the mouth, still always passes out by the branchial clefts at the sides of the gullet. In the higher vertebrates they afterwards disappear. The branchial arches are converted partly into the jaws, partly into the bones of the tongue and the ear. From the first gill-cleft is formed the tympanic cavity of the ear.

There are few parts of the vertebrate organism that, like the outer covering or integument of the body, are not subject to metamerism. The outer skin (epidermis) is unsegmented from the first, and proceeds from the continuous horny plate. Moreover, the underlying cutis is also not metamerous, although it develops from the segmental structure of the cutis-plates (Figures 1.161 and 1.162 cp). The vertebrates are strikingly and profoundly different from the articulates in these respects also.

Further, most of the vertebrates still have a number of unarticulated organs, which have arisen locally, by adaptation of particular parts of the body to certain special functions. Of this character are the sense-organs in the episoma, and the limbs, the heart, the spleen, and the large visceral glands--lungs, liver, pancreas, etc.--in the hyposoma. The heart is originally only a local spindle-shaped enlargement of the large ventral blood-vessel or principal vein, at the point where the subintestinal passes into the branchial artery, at the limit of the head and trunk (Figures 1.170 and 1.171). The three higher sense-organs--nose, eye, and ear--were originally developed in the same form in all the craniotes, as three pairs of small depressions in the skin at the side of the head.

The organ of smell, the nose, has the appearance of a pair of small pits above the mouth-aperture, in front of the head (Figure 1.169 n). The organ of sight, the eye, is found at the side of the head, also in the shape of a depression (Figures 1.169 l and 1.170 b), to which corresponds a large outgrowth of the foremost cerebral vesicle on each side. Farther behind, at each side of the head, there is a third depression, the first trace of the organ of hearing (Figure 1.169 g). As yet we can see nothing of the later elaborate structure of these organs, nor of the characteristic build of the face.

(FIGURE 1.174. Development of the lizard's legs (Lacerta agilis), with special relation to their blood-vessels. 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11 right fore-leg; 13, 15 left fore-leg; 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12 right hind-leg; 14, 16 left hind-leg; SRV lateral veins of the trunk, VU umbilical vein. (From F. Hochstetter.))

When the human embryo has reached this stage of development, it can still scarcely be distinguished from that of any other higher vertebrate. All the chief parts of the body are now laid down: the head with the primitive skull, the rudiments of the three higher sense-organs and the five cerebral vesicles, and the gill-arches and clefts; the trunk with the spinal cord, the rudiment of the vertebral column, the chain of metamera, the heart and chief blood-vessels, and the kidneys. At this stage man is a higher vertebrate, but shows no essential morphological difference from the embryos of the mammals, the birds, the reptiles, etc. This is an ontogenetic fact of the utmost significance. From it we can gather the most important phylogenetic conclusions.

There is still no trace of the limbs. Although head and trunk are separated and all the principal internal organs are laid down, there is no indication whatever of the "extremities" at this stage; they are formed later on. Here again we have a fact of the utmost interest. It proves that the older vertebrates had no feet, as we find to be the case in the lowest living vertebrates (amphioxus and the cyclostoma). The descendants of these ancient footless vertebrates only acquired extremities--two fore-legs and two hind-legs--at a much later stage of development. These were at first all alike, though they afterwards vary considerably in structure--becoming fins (of breast and belly) in the fishes, wings and legs in the birds, fore and hind legs in the creeping animals, arms and legs in the apes and man. All these parts develop from the same simple original structure, which forms secondarily from the trunk-wall (Figures 1.172 and 1.173). They have always the appearance of two pairs of small buds, which represent at first simple roundish knobs or plates. Gradually each of these plates becomes a large projection, in which we can distinguish a small inner part and a broader outer part. The latter is the rudiment of the foot or hand, the former that of the leg or arm. The similarity of the original rudiment of the limbs in different groups of vertebrates is very striking.

(FIGURE 1.175. Human embryo, five weeks old, half an inch long, seen from the right, magnified ten times. (From Russel Bardeen and Harmon Lewis.) In the undissected head we see the eye, mouth, and ear. In the trunk the skin and part of the muscles have been removed, so that the cartilaginous vertebral column is free; the dorsal root of a spinal nerve goes out from each vertebra (towards the skin of the back). In the middle of the lower half of the figure part of the ribs and intercostal muscles are visible. The skin and muscles have also been removed from the right limbs; the internal rudiments of the five fingers of the hand, and five toes of the foot, are clearly seen within the fin-shaped plate, and also the strong network of nerves that goes from the spinal cord to the extremities. The tail projects under the foot, and to the right of it is the first part of the umbilical cord.)

How the five fingers or toes with their blood-vessels gradually differentiate within the simple fin-like structure of the limbs can be seen in the instance of the lizard in Figure 1.174. They are formed in just the same way in man: in the human embryo of five weeks the five fingers can clearly be distinguished within the fin-plate (Figure 1.175).

The careful study and comparison of human embryos with those of other vertebrates at this stage of development is very instructive, and reveals more mysteries to the impartial student than all the religions in the world put together. For instance, if we compare attentively the three successive stages of development that are represented, in twenty different amniotes we find a remarkable likeness. When we see that as a fact twenty different amniotes of such divergent characters develop from the same embryonic form, we can easily understand that they may all descend from a common ancestor.

(FIGURES 1.176 TO 1.178. Embryos of the bat (Vespertilio murinus) at three different stages. (From Oscar Schultze.) Figure 1.176: Rudimentary limbs (v fore-leg, h hind-leg). l lenticular depression, r olfactory pit, ok upper jaw, uk lower jaw, k2, k3, k4 first, second and third gill-arches, a amnion, n umbilical vessel, d yelk-sac. Figure 1.177: Rudiment of flying membrane, membranous fold between fore and hind leg. n umbilical vessel, o ear-opening, f flying membrane. Figure 1.178: The flying membrane developed and stretched across the fingers of the hands, which cover the face.)

In the first stage of development, in which the head with the five cerebral vesicles is already clearly indicated, but there are no limbs, the embryos of all the vertebrates, from the fish to man, are only incidentally or not at all different from each other. In the second stage, which shows the limbs, we begin to see differences between the embryos of the lower and higher vertebrates; but the human embryo is still hardly distinguishable from that of the higher mammals. In the third stage, in which the gill-arches have disappeared and the face is formed, the differences become more pronounced. These are facts of a significance that cannot be exaggerated.* (* Because they show how the most diverse structures may be developed from a common form. As we actually see this in the case of the embryos, we have a right to assume it in that of the stem-forms. Nevertheless, this resemblance, however great, is never a real identity. Even the embryos of the different individuals of one species are usually not really identical. If the reader can consult the complete edition of this work at a library, he will find six plates illustrating these twenty embryos.)

If there is an intimate causal connection between the processes of embryology and stem-history, as we must assume in virtue of the laws of heredity, several important phylogenetic conclusions follow at once from these ontogenetic facts. The profound and remarkable similarity in the embryonic development of man and the other vertebrates can only be explained when we admit their descent from a common ancestor. As a fact, this common descent is now accepted by all competent scientists; they have substituted the natural evolution for the supernatural creation of organisms.


Among the many interesting phenomena that we have encountered in the course of human embryology, there is an especial importance in the fact that the development of the human body follows from the beginning just the same lines as that of the other viviparous mammals. As a fact, all the embryonic peculiarities that distinguish the mammals from other animals are found also in man; even the ovum with its distinctive membrane (zona pellucida, Figure 1.14) shows the same typical structure in all mammals (apart from the older oviparous monotremes). It has long since been deduced from the structure of the developed man that his natural place in the animal kingdom is among the mammals. Linne (1735) placed him in this class with the apes, in one and the same order (primates), in his Systema Naturae. This position is fully confirmed by comparative embryology. We see that man entirely resembles the higher mammals, and most of all the apes, in embryonic development as well as in anatomic structure. And if we seek to understand this ontogenetic agreement in the light of the biogenetic law, we find that it proves clearly and necessarily the descent of man from a series of other mammals, and proximately from the primates. The common origin of man and the other mammals from a single ancient stem-form can no longer be questioned; nor can the immediate blood-relationship of man and the ape.

(FIGURE 1.179. Human embryos from the second to the fifteenth week, natural size, seen from the left, the curved back turned towards the right. (Mostly from Ecker.) II of fourteen days. III of three weeks. IV of four weeks. V of five weeks. VI of six weeks. VII of seven weeks. VIII of eight weeks. XII of twelve weeks. XV of fifteen weeks.)

The Evolution of Man, V.1. - 50/54

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