But a naturalist would undoubtedly have ranked as an ape or a monkey, an ancient form which possessed many characters common to the Catarrhine and Platyrrhine monkeys, other characters in an intermediate condition, and some few, perhaps, distinct from those now found in either group. And as man from a genealogical point of view belongs to the Catarrhine or Old World stock, we must conclude, however much the conclusion may revolt our pride, that our early progenitors would have been properly thus designated. (16. Haeckel has come to this same conclusion. See 'Uber die Entstehung des Menschengeschlechts,' in Virchow's 'Sammlung. gemein. wissen. Vortrage,' 1868, s. 61. Also his 'Naturliche Schopfungsgeschicte,' 1868, in which he gives in detail his views on the genealogy of man.) But we must not fall into the error of supposing that the early progenitor of the whole Simian stock, including man, was identical with, or even closely resembled, any existing ape or monkey.


We are naturally led to enquire, where was the birthplace of man at that stage of descent when our progenitors diverged from the Catarrhine stock? The fact that they belonged to this stock clearly shews that they inhabited the Old World; but not Australia nor any oceanic island, as we may infer from the laws of geographical distribution. In each great region of the world the living mammals are closely related to the extinct species of the same region. It is therefore probable that Africa was formerly inhabited by extinct apes closely allied to the gorilla and chimpanzee; and as these two species are now man's nearest allies, it is somewhat more probable that our early progenitors lived on the African continent than elsewhere. But it is useless to speculate on this subject; for two or three anthropomorphous apes, one the Dryopithecus (17. Dr. C. Forsyth Major, 'Sur les Singes fossiles trouves en Italie:' 'Soc. Ital. des Sc. Nat.' tom. xv. 1872.) of Lartet, nearly as large as a man, and closely allied to Hylobates, existed in Europe during the Miocene age; and since so remote a period the earth has certainly undergone many great revolutions, and there has been ample time for migration on the largest scale.

At the period and place, whenever and wherever it was, when man first lost his hairy covering, he probably inhabited a hot country; a circumstance favourable for the frugiferous diet on which, judging from analogy, he subsisted. We are far from knowing how long ago it was when man first diverged from the Catarrhine stock; but it may have occurred at an epoch as remote as the Eocene period; for that the higher apes had diverged from the lower apes as early as the Upper Miocene period is shewn by the existence of the Dryopithecus. We are also quite ignorant at how rapid a rate organisms, whether high or low in the scale, may be modified under favourable circumstances; we know, however, that some have retained the same form during an enormous lapse of time. From what we see going on under domestication, we learn that some of the co-descendants of the same species may be not at all, some a little, and some greatly changed, all within the same period. Thus it may have been with man, who has undergone a great amount of modification in certain characters in comparison with the higher apes.

The great break in the organic chain between man and his nearest allies, which cannot be bridged over by any extinct or living species, has often been advanced as a grave objection to the belief that man is descended from some lower form; but this objection will not appear of much weight to those who, from general reasons, believe in the general principle of evolution. Breaks often occur in all parts of the series, some being wide, sharp and defined, others less so in various degrees; as between the orang and its nearest allies--between the Tarsius and the other Lemuridae--between the elephant, and in a more striking manner between the Ornithorhynchus or Echidna, and all other mammals.

Charles Darwin

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