But I have explained in the second edition of my Variation under Domestication why I now place little reliance on the recorded cases of such regrowth. Nevertheless it deserves notice, inasmuch as arrested development and reversion are intimately related processes; that various structures in an embryonic or arrested condition, such as a cleft palate, bifid uterus, etc., are frequently accompanied by polydactylism. This has been strongly insisted on by Meckel and Isidore Geoffroy St.-Hilaire. But at present it is the safest course to give up altogether the idea that there is any relation between the development of supernumerary digits and reversion to some lowly organised progenitor of man.) There are other cases which come more strictly under our present head of reversion. Certain structures, regularly occurring in the lower members of the group to which man belongs, occasionally make their appearance in him, though not found in the normal human embryo; or, if normally present in the human embryo, they become abnormally developed, although in a manner which is normal in the lower members of the group. These remarks will be rendered clearer by the following illustrations.

In various mammals the uterus graduates from a double organ with two distinct orifices and two passages, as in the marsupials, into a single organ, which is in no way double except from having a slight internal fold, as in the higher apes and man. The rodents exhibit a perfect series of gradations between these two extreme states. In all mammals the uterus is developed from two simple primitive tubes, the inferior portions of which form the cornua; and it is in the words of Dr. Farre, "by the coalescence of the two cornua at their lower extremities that the body of the uterus is formed in man; while in those animals in which no middle portion or body exists, the cornua remain ununited. As the development of the uterus proceeds, the two cornua become gradually shorter, until at length they are lost, or, as it were, absorbed into the body of the uterus." The angles of the uterus are still produced into cornua, even in animals as high up in the scale as the lower apes and lemurs.

Now in women, anomalous cases are not very infrequent, in which the mature uterus is furnished with cornua, or is partially divided into two organs; and such cases, according to Owen, repeat "the grade of concentrative development," attained by certain rodents. Here perhaps we have an instance of a simple arrest of embryonic development, with subsequent growth and perfect functional development; for either side of the partially double uterus is capable of performing the proper office of gestation. In other and rarer cases, two distinct uterine cavities are formed, each having its proper orifice and passage. (39. See Dr. A. Farre's well-known article in the 'Cyclopaedia of Anatomy and Physiology,' vol. v. 1859, p. 642. Owen, 'Anatomy of Vertebrates,' vol. iii. 1868, p. 687. Professor Turner, in 'Edinburgh Medical Journal,' February, 1865.) No such stage is passed through during the ordinary development of the embryo; and it is difficult to believe, though perhaps not impossible, that the two simple, minute, primitive tubes should know how (if such an expression may be used) to grow into two distinct uteri, each with a well-constructed orifice and passage, and each furnished with numerous muscles, nerves, glands and vessels, if they had not formerly passed through a similar course of development, as in the case of existing marsupials. No one will pretend that so perfect a structure as the abnormal double uterus in woman could be the result of mere chance. But the principle of reversion, by which a long-lost structure is called back into existence, might serve as the guide for its full development, even after the lapse of an enormous interval of time.

Professor Canestrini, after discussing the foregoing and various analogous cases, arrives at the same conclusion as that just given. He adduces another instance, in the case of the malar bone (40.

The Descent of Man Page 27

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

Free Books in the public domain from the Classic Literature Library ©

Charles Darwin

All Pages of This Book